Archive for June, 2012

Fly Fishing in Wicklow, After the Flood

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The river ran peat stained but clear, prone to spates evidence of a recent deluge was littered everywhere along the banks where mats of  broken twigs and branches lay among the fast growing bracken. The flood must have been a big one for this flotsam lay in one instance ten feet above the rivers normal height and on lower stretches 20 meters from the now babbling stream, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How the trout survive is beyond me but they do, down stream my leader swung around, feeding a yard the line pulls sideways and I set into an eight inch brownie.

Downstream wet fly fishing on a Wicklow mountain stream, southern Ireland.

Taking a bead head pheasant tail on the point my first trout of the afternoon dips and dives in the current as I work it towards my hand. Quickly released the brownie scoots off towards a suitable lie while I continue to wade downstream. The air is humid and midges make me itch, a breeze develops from the south west giving relief from the little beggars and the sun shines brightly. Farmers shear sheep in an adjacent field, good idea as it’s too hot for a jumper.

A small well marked Wicklow mountain trout.

The trout are not giving themselves up today although enough snatch and pull to make my wade interesting. By now it’s very bright and hot. Doubling back I cast my bead head upstream searching the seams, every so often a forward movement or stop of the fly line is met with a simultaneous left hand pull and right hand lift of the rod, actually more a twist of the wrist, end result being a miss, a rock, or a trout. In jig time afternoon rolls into evening, eight or nine of the smaller brethren is my lot, wild and beautifully marked, on a four weight set up, magic…..

Summer Piking

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

David Murphy loves to catch predatory fish, especially pike, bull huss, and conger, goes with the territory I suppose given that he is the bass guitarist with up and coming metal band AeSect. Ledger fishing a local pond with frozen roach bait David was initially pestered with small jack pike, then he got a more purposeful run.

David Murphy with a nice summer pike tempted by frozen roach.

Biding his time David struck and connected with a lively fish which gave him the run around before being netted. Close to ten pound weight the pike was carefully unhooked and released, swimming off to fight another day.

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Reef Fishing off Kilmore Quay.

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Drifting east, pushed by an ever increasing tidal flow, a lazy swell lifting and rolling under charter vessel “Autumn Dream”, eighty feet below three black pollack  feathers worked their magic over the boulder fields and kelp beds close to the Conningmore rock, south west of the Saltee Islands. A lask of fresh mackerel adorned the bottom hook blood and juices wafting down tide, letting out line to remain in contact with the bottom, thump, thump, striking and reeling in unison a head shaking ferocity transmitted through the braid indicating a ling or maybe a good cod, I began the long retrieve.

A nice reef ling boated off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Pumping my catch towards the surface its dogged resistance never relenting, twenty feet below a long whitish shape comes into view, skipper Eamonn Hayes readies the net and does the honours swinging a reef ling topping eight pounds+ over the rail. “Good man Ash, bait that lower hook up and get it down again”. Turning his attention to all on board Eamon advises, “bait the bottom hook only with fresh mackerel, changing every drop down lads”, then further quips in his broad south Wexford accent, “and remember boys every time you get hung up in a rock and lose a rig you’re keeping a nice Asian girl in a job”. Autumn Dream is a happy boat and the party of Welsh anglers who kindly invited me out are having a ball.

Fighting a pollack up from below aboard Autumn Dream, off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Some of the party are regular visitors, although ten in the total contingent of twenty on this visit are first timers. They come for the variety and quality of species present and are certainly getting value for money over the Kilmore reefs today. Pollack, coalfish, cod, ling, ballan and cuckoo wrasse, pouting, mackerel, and launce continuously keep rods bending, smiling faces populate the deck, ribald jokes and laughs are a constant, the chaps are having fun. “We’ll be crossing kelp beds now lads, there might be a few cod” advises Eamonn, on cue over go a couple of rods. Straining to lift up from the depths, class rods in their fighting curve, codling up to 6.lbs a welcome sight.

A happy Welsh angler with a brace of codling boated off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

The group are divided equally between “Autumn Dream” and Kilmore Quay based charter vessel “Enterprise” skippered by Eamonn’s brother Dick Hayes. Both men offer a wealth of sea going experience stretching back over thirty years and know the inshore reefs, shoals, and banks off Kilmore Quay intimately. With unseasonal storms over recent days having dirtied the water and scattered fish, both Eamonn and Dick communicate returns throughout the day resulting in fine catches aboard both vessels. Pollack predominate with coalfish making an appearance now and again.

A Kilmore Quay coalfish for Welsh angler Alan Duthie.

Reef fishing off Kilmore Quay requires anglers to be vigilant, the ground is rough, boulder strewn and kelpy. With depths ranging from 30 – 100 foot plus (16 fathoms+), averaging 60 foot, allied to rolling seas and the need to keep hard on the bottom tackle losses are unavoidable. Bring lots of leads ranging in size from eight ounces to a pound and stock up on various hokai and feather rigs suitable for pollack, cod, and ling. I find black , white, and purple colours work well off Kilmore in hook sizes 3/0 and 4/0. Keeping in contact with your lead by not letting too much of an angle develop, maintaining more or less straight up and down reduces losses. Create a mental picture of the sea bed by touch, it requires concentration, lifting and dropping the lead, winding and releasing line to work the undersea troughs and rises, however the effort pays off in terms of fish and retained rigs.

Returning home after a day fishing the reefs, Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Lines up was signaled at 16.00pm, Eamonn pointed the bow north east towards Kilmore and accompanied by Enterprise we headed for harbour, a shower, pints, and dinner in that order. Lots of fish were caught with many released to fight another day, whatever fish retained being gutted and filleted as we motored back. Gulls followed, swooped, squawked, and fought for pieces of offal in that age old tradition associated with returning fishing boats, there is no doubt it was a great day. Thank you to Alan Duthie and the boys for inviting me, and to Eamonn for his professionalism, warmth and fun approach…..

The Quay House Bed and Breakfast, Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Footnote: We stayed at The Quay House Bed and Breakfast, Phone, +353 (0)53 91 29988, located on the left as you drive down the main street of Kilmore Quay, just up from Kehoe’s public house. A fine establishment well run by husband and wife team Pat and Siobhan McDonnell, the Quay House caters for anglers providing equipment storage, bait refrigeration, and catch freezing facilities. Full Irish breakfasts set up the day, hot showers are ready on return, and bait can be ordered in advance and during your stay through Joe Carley of South East Bait Supplies, phone +353 (0)87 944 0945. Fresh mackerel is the top bait off Kilmore with ragworm necessary if targeting wrasse.

For Further Reading Click On: Sun, Sea, it’s Kilmore Quay.

Sea Fishing in Ireland, Flounder on the Float

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Decided to have a crack at the mullet which frequent a local harbour. Weather wise things couldn’t have been better, sunny with just a light variable easterly breeze, warm but only just. Visiting various known mullet haunts around the harbour and up along the river feeding bread, waiting awhile before rechecking previous ground baited locations not a mullet was to be seen, maybe the heavy rain over the last few days pushed them out? Spying a couple of anglers I walked over and introduced myself. Both equipped with coarse float set ups and feeding bread mash they too were after mullet and also having no joy, that was to change though with a slight twist.

Francisc Szilaghyi with a nice estuary flounder caught float fishing.

Francisc Szilaghyi hails from Romania and has lived in Ireland for many years, fishing is his favourite pastime and he’s very good at it, believe me a half hour in his company established that fact clearly. With the mullet not playing ball and having landed a six pounder at this location last year, Francisc was not deterred “I’ll try for the flounder instead“. With that he reeled in his trotting float slightly lengthened the drop and baited up with earth worm. A controlled underarm flick placed his rig in flat water along the edge of a seam, two minutes later the float bobbed before sliding under whence Francisc’s float rod took on a nice curve.

Another nice Arklow flounder for Francisc Szilaghyi.

Flapping and diving while swimming in circles the flounder really put up a good fight unhindered by a five ounce weight and a heavy beach rod. My eyes had been opened, angling is all about having fun and cutting your cloth to suit conditions on the day, Francisc did both and within a half hour landed three flounder to over a pound, all lip hooked. Sometimes we forget that it’s not just about the biggest fish or the new sexy method of fishing, underneath all the marketing and celebrity b####x that’s pervading everything first principles will always stand tall. Nice meeting you Francisc, our interaction showed me the joy of fishing, simple is best……..

Dry Fly Fishing the River Liffey, Lessons from Liam

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The River Liffey is a prolific trout fishery its source high up in the Wicklow Mountains above Sally Gap, it flows down youthful past the Coronation Forest and Manor Kilbride whence it meets the vast expanse of Blessington Reservoir, before re-emerging as a young adult and entering the rich agricultural plains of Kildare, where she sweeps in a great arc through villages and towns such as Ballymore Eustace, Kilcullen, Newbridge, and Clane, then in her maturity pushes on for suburbia, Dublin city, and the sea. Providing a wealth of fly fishing opportunities from rushing mountain stream to glassy flats, north country spiders to a delicately placed dry black gnat, Co. Kildare holds the cream and June is a great month to taste it.

Liam Stenson lives for fly fishing and his home patch is the river Liffey, however his passion takes him to various waters around the country from the River Suir to the great western lakes and numerous fisheries in between. This love of fly fishing is documented in a fantastic website, which Liam updates regularly. June bank holiday Monday was shaping up to be a belter of a day and with the river calling I gave Liam a quick tinkle and we arranged to meet around eleven. On arrival the Liffey looked in superb condition running clear with that peaty tinge, the bank side vegetation now in full summer bloom. The sun shone down from a blue sky and although a light warm north westerly breeze kept temperatures down a notch, it was still shirt sleeve weather.

Liam Stenson, Irish Fly Fisher, on the River Liffey, Co. Kildare.

On the water clouds of black gnat danced and resident trout were making hay, not everywhere but certainly in pockets right along the stretch that we intended to fish. Alongside the gnats were various olives and an occasional mayfly, but it was the little black fellas that were to provide the key to a wonderful afternoons fishing or should I say fishing lesson. They say that opportunity comes from adversity, and when you leave your dry fly fishing clobber behind when making a trip to the Liffey you are most definitely on the back foot. However being in the company of not only a top notch fly angler but a gentleman to boot, I not only got to cast a fly or two but came away a wiser angler courtesy of a true craftsman.

Liam Stenson playing a lively River Liffey brownie which came to a dry black gnat.

Using flies of his own creation Liam worked the runs and flats predominantly with a polystyrene foam based black gnat design. Casting upstream with an eight foot four weight set up, using a relatively short line and a longish leader to a two pound tippet, Liam controlled the fly beautifully as it drifted back towards him regularly connecting with hard fighting black and red spotted brownies in the 6 – 8 ounce bracket. They weren’t giving themselves up and being lightening fast many got one up on Mr. Irish Fly Fisher himself, but even so at days end Liam had a tally of eleven up to well over a pound in weight.

A beautifully spotted River Liffey brownie.

Having fished wets with not much success in the faster runs and contented myself with taking photos and learning, in the mid afternoon Liam set me up with a light leader and a black gnat which enabled me to fish the back end of the hatch whereupon I tempted two trout and rose another before everything went quite. Walking back to the cars we reflected on what a great fishery the Liffey is and also the wonderful afternoon we shared. A trout rose close to the bank and we marked its spot, next time Mr trout as dinner calls and I’ve a long drive home, thank you Liam again for a great day……

Kayak Fishing in Ireland, Craic on a Yak

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

West Cork has to be a kayak anglers paradise, what with all the bays, inlets, and little slip ways dotted around the place, sure you would be able to go fishing weather permitting whatever quarter the wind was blowing from. Also there are locations where rock hopping is completely out of the question due to sheer cliffs, so these marks would now become accessible. When one considers that depths can reach 100+ feet in places just yards from the shore, big deep water species like ling now become a real possibility.

Kayak angler Gary Robinson aboard his well kitted out yak.

Gary Robinson is a superb “thinking” angler who looked at the kayaks fishing capability about two years ago and subsequently has put together a formidable outfit kitted out with fish finder/echo sounder, anchor, rod holders, storage facilities, and all necessary safety features, an impressive piece of kit and no mistake. Our trip down to the south west offered Gary the first real opportunity to test his boat handling and angling skills over fishing grounds that are far from depleted. His first day on the water not only blew his mind but this seasoned anglers’ too.

Gary Robinson with two kayak caught West Cork pollack.

That day I was fishing for wrasse far out on a headland and could observe Gary, about a mile further into the bay, paddling and fishing away. At days end we met up and you just knew by his face and of course the two large pollack, one of which weighed plus, that his day had been a success. “Ridiculous” is how Gary described it, just fish after fish until his arms got sore. Initially using hokais searching for mackerel which were scarce, he did boat numerous big launce though, every time Gary hit bottom strings of three/four pound pollack would come up. Changing to a single 30 gram jig head he targeted larger stuff and boated pollack into double figures, all bar the two fish above being released. Gary said that he lost count of how many fish landed, now that is some day. Ground fishing at anchor with large fish fillets is the next logical step, I can’t wait to see the results of that exercise. Bugger it, I’m off to buy a kayak too…..

Read Gary Robinson’s account of the above trip in his excellent article titled; Pollack Perfection in South West Ireland.

Shore Fishing in Ireland, Pollack a Plenty

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Copper burnished sides, bottle green back, with their huge eyes and jutting jaw, pollack are a handsome predator designed to ambush small bait fish from below, swimming up from the dark depths at lightning speed akin to a fighter pilot attacking out of the sun. Present all around our coastline they are particularly numerous along our south western sea board and can grow to a very large size, double figure pollack on some deep water marks being a real possibility with the average size certainly running four pounds. A recent trip to a favourite West Cork haunt provided superb pollack fishing from a variety of shore locations along with an eye opening first kayak trip for close friend Gary Robinson.

An 4.oz shore caught pollack for UK angler Roger Ball.

Pollack like deep water kelp laden habitats where rock pinnacles or steep cliffs rise sharply upwards, the Beara peninsula in West Cork being home to an abundance of such marks. Jelly worming is a technique that lends itself well to these locations and over the last few days produced superb fishing for my friends and I. With depths ranging from 40 to 90 feet the experience is like gilling from a boat and equally as fun with on occasions a fish a chuck the order of the day. Rigs comprise Mr Twister worms threaded over 2/0 round bend hooks attached to 4/6 feet of amnesia line, swivel, main line, bead, and running 60 gram barrel lead, which are then cast out and allowed to sink until the lead hits bottom whereupon the retrieve commences.

UK angler Dave Hoskins casting jelly worms for pollack in deepest West Cork, Ireland.

Reeling slowly the jelly worm rises up at an angle from the sea bed imitating swimming sea worms or sand eels. The pollack see the silhouette rise up and engulf before kicking the tail, turning and swimming back down again. To the angler a first sign is a weight coming on the line as the pollack grabs hold of the worm tail, just keep reeling and don’t strike. Eventually the fish will have all the bait in its mouth whence it will crash dive for the bottom, that’s when the fun starts.

A nice pollack in the five pound bracket.

Have the drag set right and hold on, during this trip friends Roger Ball, Gary Robinson, and I got smashed by fish diving towards Neptune’s lair with incredible speed and power. Allowing for that we still landed shore caught pollack to 8.lbs 4.oz and kayak caught fish into double figures, we know this because Gary brought two fish home which were gut hooked, one weighed 4.oz hours after capture which was dwarfed by a fish he caught and released later. The shore pollack fishing we experienced this week was superlative and as for the kayak angling, “ridiculous” said Gary, he’d never caught so many large fish in his life. Without doubt big pollack are a sport fish to be reckoned with, in my opinion right up there with bass. They may not have the staying power, but that first crash dive, wow…….

Further reading, click on: Jelly Worms for Shore Pollack.


Shore Fishing in Ireland, Dab Hand

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Lugworm baited hooks flew through the air in an arc before splash landing 100 meters out from the rock platform that I was perched on, rig now resting on the clean sandy bottom a few turns of the reel handle tightened line against gripper and my rod tip curved over poised and ready for the anticipated bite. Ten minutes pass then tap, tap, tap followed by a heavy lean. Sitting on my hands quelling the desire to lift and strike, again the tip goes tap, tap, tap followed by a lean. Lifting with a backward sweep of the rod I now commence reeling and feel a solid resistance.

Double dab from a West Cork rock mark.

Winding and pumping hard I manage to raise both fish and trailing weight above the shallow reef in front of me. One quick dive down close in then its planing across the surface, phew, a cracking dab knocking a pound, the first of six landed in seven casts this evening to include the double header pictured above. Catching flatfish of this caliber in today’s over fished environment is something to be celebrated, roll on dinner time tomorrow evening.

Waiting for a flattie to bite in West Cork, Ireland.

Large dab are the nicest fish to eat, seasoned with sea salt then par fried back and front on the bone in butter, before removing to an oven dish and placing in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade. Squeeze some lemon juice over the top, cover with foil and leave cooking for about twenty minutes. They will come out steaming and the meat will lift off the bone, sweet and delicious with chips, mayo, and peas.

A pound plus dab from a rock mark in West Cork, Ireland.

On the evening in question I fished a two hook paternoster baited with two day old lugworm cast into a secluded sandy bay. The dab residing here are plentiful and consistently large with many topping a pound, having only fished the mark on three occasions I’ve landed or seen caught at least two specimens. Bites came thick and fast for a period of an hour as the tide rose then died. Hoping for a codling to bolster the catch, this evening they didn’t show, maybe later in the year when the coalfish will be present as well……

For further reading, click on: The Humble Flatfish.