Archive for August, 2011

Boat Fishing off Greystones, Screaming Reels.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Reilly’s Ridge south of Greystones was a premier large plaice mark until the mussel dredgers got at it. Back in the day specimen plus plaice were a regular feature from this tide swept mussel bank along with good sized codling. Only interested in the “clean” fish then we never targeted tope, based on yesterday’s experience why did we leave it so long? A weather window allowed Jean Anne, my 19′ lake boat the opportunity to take Gary and I out on another tope hunt. With light variable winds forecast another session in the deep channel was on the cards.

Gary Robinson displays a Greystones, Co. Wicklow, tope caught on whole mackerel.

A four meter tide full in at 13.00pm meant for a strong south run. Timing our arrival on the tope grounds for the turn of the tide, about 11.00am,  Gary and I initially made for Bray Head and a supply of mackerel for bait. Drifting off the cable we hit fish from the first drop, mainly two’s and three’s of a good stamp. In jig time the bait bucket was full and firing up the motor I pointed the bow south to a mark on the inside of the Moulditch, a strong north west breeze necessitating a change in plan, safety being paramount. Not the ideal location, but with conditions to improve through the day it would be a good jumping off point.

Playing a tope off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Anchoring up on slack water I used whole mackerel, with the tail cut off to prevent spinning, while Gary presented a mackerel flapper. Our traces were 6 foot running ledgers incorporating 18 inches of wire to 7/0 Sakuma hooks connected to five foot of b/s mono rubbing leaders. Attracting LSD’s every drop Gary switched over to whole mackerel very quickly. The day started Grey, however within half an hour of anchoring what could only have been a weak front passed over us and suddenly we were bathed in blue skies,  and with the prevailing north west breeze dying away we decided to steam south and try a mark where Gary had caught a tope while kayaking the previous week.

A twenty pound plus tope for Ashley Hayden off Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Dropping the hook at our chosen spot, I remarked to Gary that below us was Reilly’s Ridge, once a great plaice mark which had seen better days. By now the south run was well picking up and our traces were having to be cleaned of floating wrack every five minutes. Half an hour in and hungry I decided to prompt a fish by eating a ham roll. It always works, noticing my rod top dip, then dip again, suddenly the ratchet is screaming, FISH AWAY!! Thump thump thump I feel the powerful tail sweep from side to side as the tope heads towards Wicklow. Doubling back now I reel to regain line, then off again to port before sulking. A quick dip is transmitted through the rod and then nothing. B####r that the hook has fallen out, so I reel in re bait and try again. Almost immediately a repeat, this time the fight lasts ten minutes before freedom. I can only assume that the strong current is putting pressure on the hook hold, any slack and the hook is shaken free.

A specimen forty pound plus tope caught off Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

An hour passes, the tide is really racing now, out of nowhere my ratchet sings again, this time there is going to be no mistake. Keeping pressure while the tope bombs southwards, Gary simultaneously weighs anchor. Negating the tide run we are now drifting towards the fish and the cards are stacked towards a successful conclusion. Spirited though the tope is she is soon alongside and swung aboard. Hooked in the lip, pliers, quick photo and away. Motoring up tide we re anchor and within minutes Gary is off, with the tide easing quickly this fish is manageable however on seeing the boat she took off like a bat out of hell. Eventually boated after a spirited ten minute fight, she too is released unharmed to swim away having also been lip hooked.

Motoring home, Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

On slack water around 17.00pm another flurry of runs occur resulting in the biggest tope of the day pushing close to if not over forty pounds. This sister really gave a good account, running left and right, sulking before coming to life and rocketing off again, a real power house. All told Gary and I experienced eight runs with five hook ups and three fish boated. The two fish lost in play came off the hook leaving traces in tact and the tope free of impediment, which was nice to know. A red letter session on our fifth attempt, so achieving my goal of boating a tope in the Jean Anne before the end of August. Mission accomplished two happy anglers headed for home and a celebratory pint in the Beach House, sure hadn’t we earned it.

Click on: Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Sea Angling Information.

Click on: Tope Alley.



Running with the Hounds.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Beach fishing for smooth hounds on a particular mark that I frequent is all or nothing, long periods of inactivity punctuated by moments of magical mayhem. Not having visited the location in over a month and with bait left over from the night before, the decision was a no brainer. Six bells saw me setting up as the evening sun started to cast long shadows over the shingle from the low cliffs behind. Armed with big yellow tail lug and peeler crab, I cast twin two hook paternosters sixty meters out into the falling neap tide and waited.

Popping out a bait for smooth hounds, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

An hour went by and not a touch. Up to last year rods would be kept nodding at this venue, with species like flounder and codling filling in the gaps between the hounds and occasional bass. This season they have been noticeable by their absence, although bass do show when there is a roll on the sea from the south. The quietness though enhances the moment when a hound makes its presence felt, and how. I’m looking at the motionless rod tip, momentarily it quivers then bam over it goes, no need to strike just lean in the opposite direction, fish on. Running hard swimming left then right, quick silver turns a smoothie for sure. Eventually beached, in the four to five pound range, boy do these fish fight, defying their size, real athletes.

An average Wicklow smoothie tempted by lugworm.

Fishing two rods and varying the distance, what the hell this time they’re both going out to the same place. Ten minutes later bang over goes the right, a better fish running hard towards the shallow reef. A crash behind me, tripod in a heap and my second rod heading towards the tide. Rod in hand hooped over I pick up number two and wedge the reel behind  a now collapsed tripod leg, the reel line taught and zig zagging, my gear is going nowhere get this fish in quick. Hound number one hits the beach, now for number two. Still on and pulling, this is some craic, everything now under control. Number two hits the surf line, both are bigger 5/6 lbs, quick double snap then away, out go new baits, the pack has moved on.

A brace of Wicklow smooth hounds, one to lug and the other on crab.

That was it, another fifteen minutes passed with only the waves lapping on the beach breaking the silence. Time to go, the mark has delivered. Stopping to take photos, even for that minute loses a fish or two for sure, but hey it’s not a competition, it’s about capturing the moment. Three fish of that calibre, magical mayhem, quality fishing.

South Wexford Flounder.

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Ordering crab off Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies we arranged to meet at a designated spot close to the venue that I had planned to fish. Besides sourcing top quality bait Joe is also an avid shore angler, and a conversation quickly sparked up which had us pouring over ordnance survey maps of South Wexford discussing various marks and how they might fish. Joe quickly put me right on my chosen spot, one which I had never fished but was scoping out, directing me to an alternative instead.

Sunset at a favoured flounder venue in South Wexford, Ireland.

Targeting bass and flounder Joe gave me a heads up that the rain over the last twenty four hours would affect the bass element of the equation. In his experience a flood of freshwater tends to push the bass off the inner estuary marks. Allied to the current set of neaps I would definitely catch flounder but bass may be thin on the ground. Local knowledge, you just can’t beat it.

Peeler crab and lugworm, top baits for estuary bass and flounder.

Armed with freshly dug lugworm and Joe’s crab I planned to commence fishing around 19.00pm, three hours before high water, and fish until an hour and a half after. What an evening, the sunsets down here are spectacular and with a light variable breeze it was shirtsleeves weather. Curlews called as they flew by their curved beaks silhouetted against the golden red horizon, and to cap it all as darkness fell an occasional shooting star lit up the sky. People wonder why we fish, yesterday evening’s backdrop provided the answer.

Estuary flounder, South Wexford, Ireland.

As to the fishing, well Joe got it on the money. My timing was perfect coinciding with the first push of the tide, as the salt wedge made its presence felt flounder came on with for a short period regular leaning bites and hook ups. Lug was the favoured bait and as had been predicted the bass did not show. Heading towards eleven and now black dark I decided to quit just before high tide. It had been quite for nearly an hour now so I decided to save my remaining bait, tomorrow’s another day.

Mike’s Specimen Mullet

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Forrest Gump may well have said, “sea fishing is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get“, after all he was a shrimp fisherman. The same could be said for a certain beach that both Mike Wright and I fish, for never having met until last night, we both agree that this favoured venue always has the capability of producing quality fish across a variety of species. Mike will remember Wednesday evening the 17th August for a long time, as while jigging feathers for mackerel he hit into what he felt was a solid wall until it started to run and thrash about not thirty meters out from the shoreline.

Mike Wright with his surprise specimen mullet weighing 2.oz from a Co. Wexford, Ireland, strand.

Hearing Mike shout and turning to notice his rod in a hoop and a very angry fish showing its presence in the surf, my first thought was “bass and a good one”. The fight was similar, head and tail swiping from side to side, the grey fading to white colours and broad tail completing the illusion. Imagine Mike’s, and all those present surprise, when on beaching the prize fish identified itself as a mullet. What a cracker, officially weighed on Penlan SAC member John Richards digital scales at 2.oz before being released, the mullet was well over the Irish specimen weight and a PB for Mike. Visibly shaking and chuffed at the same time Mike accepted our congratulations on his surprise catch. One for the winter evenings and that’s a fact.

Weed Frustrates along the Wexford Shoreline.

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

The South West Wales Association of Sea Angling Clubs or SWWASAC for short have a long tradition of visiting Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, enjoying both the fishing and the craic. Penlan SAC are the latest club to make the crossing, and I was really looking forward to spending a couple of days introducing John Richards, his father Dai, and  Dai Crocker to some quality Wexford shore angling. Ominously the southerly winds of recent days promised to spoil the show, uprooting tonnes of wrack and kelp and depositing it on the south facing beach and estuary venues which I had earmarked to fish.

Penlan SAC's John Richards lobbing a crab bait at Cullenstown, Co. Wexford.

Big tides signaled good fishing, and with the prevailing wind swinging around to the west and then subsequently the north east I genuinely thought that we might get a reprieve. Unfortunately though nature won out with mountains of floating seaweed, pushed along by the strong currents, wrapping around traces and masking baited hooks.

Dai Richards with a cracking beach caught Wexford flounder tempted by lugworm.

An evening on the Burrow shore east of Kilmore Quay hinted at what might have been given more favourable conditions. Although fishing was slow the two Dai’s in particular beached a number of good sized flounder up to 40 cms with Dai Crocker landing a small bass for good measure. The following day Cullenstown strand produced a few doggies but sadly Wexford’s finest bass, smooth hounds, and estuary flounders remained elusive due to the volume of weed present.

Dai Crocker displays a schoolie bass.

Staying at the Quay House B/B, Kilmore Quay, a family run business with a tradition of catering for anglers needs, the boat fishing members of the party enjoyed reasonable fishing catching eleven species of fish to include pollack, codling, ling, wrasse, and bass. All were in high praise for skipper Eamonn Hayes agreeing that given the prevailing conditions he worked hard to find and keep them over the fish.

Sunset on the Burrow Shore, west of Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

I would like to take the opportunity of thanking Siobhan, Pat, and Mick of the Quay House for their hospitality over the last three days, and most importantly Penlan SAC for contacting me. It was great to fish with you John, Dai and Dai, swapping stories, having the craic, and God bless your patience and understanding regarding the frustrating conditions. To Martyn, Ian, and all the traveling group, “it was nice to spend time with you, come over again and sample what fishing Wexford really can offer, and most importantly, here’s to Swansea City staying in the Premiership”.

Co.Wexford, a Shore Thing.

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

While placing an order for peeler crab with Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies conversation turned to fishing as you might expect. With strong southerlies most likely putting weed on the beaches either side of Kilmore Quay, I asked Joe about a sheltered alternative that might be on form. One  particular venue he mentioned intrigued me and never having fished it I laid plans accordingly. Digging lovely fleshy black lugworm close by I commenced fishing about two hours before high tide at 17.00pm.

An out of the way shore mark in Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A number of anglers were present at the mark on arrival, one having landed a bass to lug on his first cast. Call me superstitious, but my experience of scoring goals or catching fish in the first minute equates to eventually losing the match or a lean session. So it proved to be, an enjoyable but slow evenings fishing in good company, with enough quality fish landed to show the venues potential.

A nice Wexford flounder takes a late evening lugworm meal.

Fishing two rods, one in close and varying distance with the other, I baited up twin hook paternosters with lug and settled down. Bites were slow although chaps to my right reeled in a steady stream of small flounder as the tide rose. With most anglers I talked to along the shoreline using lug, there is no question that peeler crab will accompany me on my next visit here. Over the top of the tide however things picked up with a number of heavy leans signaling decent flounder, one of which is pictured above.

Sean Tobin of Wexford town with his tackle stealing bass.

A funny incident occurred an hour after high water, when a crashing sound to my left caused by a tripod and fishing rods falling over made me turn around. Neighbouring angler Sean Tobin had been chatting with his mates leaving his gear to fish unattended, a good bass had taken his ledgered lug bait and was now heading for the deep Sean’s rod in tow. With the rod snaking over a half submerged weed bed, Sean rapidly made up the ground grabbing the butt and lifting into what turned out to be a fine bass. A spirited tussle ensued before a happy Sean posed for the camera while being subjected to some light hearted mickey taking surrounding unattended fishing tackle and over enthusiastic bass. A great end to a lovely evenings fishing.

Record Fly Caught Sea Trout Graces The Avoca.

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Ace fly dresser and passionate salmon angler Denis O’Toole couldn’t believe his eyes at the end of a twenty minute battle with one of the Avoca Rivers migratory visitors. On reaching into the landing net to cradle his prize, incredulity took over on recognition of the heavy set head and broad shovel like convex tail, a sea trout of lifetime proportions, Denis was in dreamland. Experiencing all of the emotions, both Denis and his fishing partner Dean Kennedy (who netted the great fish) were shaking as they carefully removed the hook with a view to weighing and returning the superb specimen.

Game angler and top fly dresser Denis O'Toole cradles a Avoca Sea Trout tempted by one of his own creations, the "Lava Tail".

The needle bounced down to 16.75 lbs, taking into account the weigh net, officially the sea trout weighed in at, the largest recorded Irish fly caught sea trout and one which will be very hard to better. Denis has to be commended for releasing the fish, the action being a reflection of his passion and love for the sport, “Respect”. His fishing partner Dean Kennedy has to get special mention also, for it was he that netted the bruiser and did the photographic honours, for which I and many others who read this post are very grateful, “good job Dean”.

The very fly which tempted the record sea trout, the Lava tail tube, designed and created by Denis O'Toole.

For the record Denis’s sea trout of a lifetime was tempted by a 1.5 inch Lava tail aluminium tube fly designed and created by himself. He used an eight weight Partridge Switch rod, a large arbour Orvis Battenkill reel, and a weight forward 8 line.

This wonderful angling feat highlights the potential of the Avoca river as a game fishing location and hopefully will spur the decision makers, clubs , and stakeholders with an interest in the system to fast forward action plans regarding its restoration and future management. In the meantime lets celebrate Denis’s great feat, sea trout of this calibre usually only enter our lives in dreams. Denis O’Toole will dream happily for the rest of his life.

Click on: Salmo Spero Elite Salmon and Sea Trout Flies.

Footnote: Denis O’Toole is a professional fly dresser specialising in tying top quality salmon and sea trout flies. For advice and information email Denis at ,


A Passion For Sea Trout.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

It takes a Yorkshireman who lives and works in Holland to come to Ireland with the purpose of writing what will most certainly be the definitive book on Irish Sea Trout. Chris McCully lives and breaths this wonderful, mysterious, sporting, and ultimately fascinating species, and it is with real pleasure that I say, “thank you Chris for the last couple of days spent in your company. Your passion for white trout  has reinvigorated within me the reason why I took up fly fishing, and I look forward to exploring my local rivers and streams, on a regular and more diligent basis, with a view to hopefully encountering this most magical of fish”.

Chris McCully (on right) deep in conversation with Irish fly caught sea trout record holder Denis O'Toole.

Chris has spent three years on the project, visiting and fishing over sixty fisheries across the length and breadth of Ireland, north and south, meeting local characters, anglers, and clubs, garnering knowledge and making many new friends, the final draft will be worth waiting for. Until then I will visit the optician with a view to improving my night vision, and cast a line into that deep shadowy pool after midnight, letting it swing around before slowly figure of eighting that surface lure in the hope of, BANG, the stuff of dreams.

Thank you Chris, and best of luck with the book.