An Irish Anglers World

A Tale of Two Sea Anglers

Ireland’s  varied coastline enables access to some first class sea angling opportunities from both boat and shore. Not immune from the ravages of marine mismanagement and over fishing, the following reflective piece seeks to illustrate the mix of inputs which collectively make the Irish sea angling experience when it is firing so worthwhile for both native and tourist alike.

A cautionary lesson though has to be considered by visitors, resident sea anglers, SME’s and service providers involved in tourism. Ireland’s marine resource, described in all its glory within the following paragraphs, is extremely fragile and vulnerable. It is incumbent on all who either use or rely on the resource as an element of their business or recreation to play their part in demanding protection for our inshore and offshore habitats as they currently present, and also to keep pressure on Government and relevant public service agencies and departments regarding future rehabilitation of what has been lost to date……….

Ashley Hayden, October 9th, 2013

A bucket of mackerel from a West Cork mark.

In the mid 2000’s Ashley travelled to the Atlantic fringes of West Cork for the first time in his life. Soaking in the beautiful rugged mountain and coastal vistas he pondered why he had waited until now to make the trip. A sea angler all his life, the area, remote and exposed with limited information regarding marks and angling opportunities screamed fish, he just had to return and cast a line.

In late spring early summer the following year Ash did just that, packing a ten foot pike rod, spinning reel, feathers and lures, enough gear to while away a few hours exploring before the birthday party festivities of a close friend who lived in Cork’s south western outpost kicked into gear. Driving to a location where the ebbing tide rushed through a narrow deep channel a few hundred meters wide Ash cast his 32 gram silver Kilty catcher letting it sink, and sink, and sink. At a count of forty still not on the seabed his rod top bounced to the pull of a fish. Darting and zig zagging the first of a dozen mackerel came to his hand.

Walking out onto the headland, West Cork, Ireland.

Deciding enough was enough it clear that the mackerel were not for turning, and sussing that any continuance would produce enough to fill a barrel, Ash ceased fishing then climbed up towards his car parked close to a viewing point. There he met a German couple beside their camper van who enquired where the bomber had crashed during WWII. Chatting for a time Ash offered them the fresh mackerel, the joy on their faces as they handled the fish; he proceeded towards the party in good spirits.

Back down a couple of months later, having sussed out a few marks and while test fishing a new location Ash heard a voice behind him, accented English with a hint of West Country, “have you caught any fish”. Turning he replied “no”, explaining that the session was exploratory due to the fact of his only discovering the area and its sea fishing potential within the last twelve months. The Englishman, who introduced himself as Roger, related that he and his wife holidayed in the area, doing so for a number of years and that he fished mainly for the mullet which were prodigious, along with occasional forays after pollack, mackerel and wrasse.

Quality Irish pollack from a West Cork mark.

Exchanging contact details, little did the pair know that a friendship would develop, forged in a love for sea fishing and the wild beautiful location where they had first met, which would result in a series of sea angling adventures that would open their minds as to the potential of this rugged piece of Ireland, and also expose them to the abundant healthy marine habitat surrounding it.

The following May couldn’t come quick enough, coinciding with the end of a busy work period a high pressure cell centred over South West Ireland. Planning to meet in a favourite hostelry, Roger and Ash exchanged hand shakes, bowls of hot creamy chowder accompanied by buttery cakes of brown bread were consumed, and Guinness fuelled banter flowed. Now heading towards the rented cottage a plan had been laid, catch a few mackerel this evening then early tomorrow morning off out onto the headland targeting wrasse and pollack.

Creamy pints of stout, MacCarthy's Bar, Castletownbere, West Cork, Ireland.

The mackerel obliged, enough for bait and tea, grilled partnered by stir fry vegetables, food of the Gods. At six the following morning Roger standing in the porch called “the mullet are in, let’s have a crack at them before breakfast”. There shoaling off the point, dimpling, turning and flashing swam a shoal of some forty or fifty thick lips. Grabbing assembled float rods, a landing net, and an already packed ruck sack containing a sliced pan, bottle of pilchard oil, along with a few random bits of tackle the lads made the steep descent down to the rocky point below.

Not long after low water Roger and Ash scrambled onto a barnacle covered ledge. Keeping low, pilchard oil impregnated mashed up bread was thrown towards the grey herd finning 20 feet off the point. Almost immediately the shoal as one conveyed interest in the slowly descending white particle cloud interspersed with larger morsels. Turning and mouthing the mullet picked off bits and pieces. Roger introduced his quill float and size 10 bread flake enveloped hook. Float cocking, two pairs of eyes trained on the white blob below, confident and torpedo like a mullet targeted swam and swallowed in one movement. Down went Roger’s float, a flick of the wrist, an explosion of foam and five yards of line melts off the Cornishman’s reel.

A nice West Cork mullet for UK tourist sea angler Roger Ball.

Eventually netted a great start to a fantastic day, mill pond calm the mullet obliged for a half hour or so within which time three more came to the net. Ireland’s answer to bone fish, and once conditions were not too choppy always available in and around the lads chosen location. This particular shoal had a habit of entering on most high tides the cove below, or failing that could be found swimming off particular rocky outcrops within a mile either side of their rented cottage.

Eagerly awaited bacon butties and tea now put away, Roger and Ash hoisted their rucksacks then trudged a mile or more out onto the headland to pulpit rock their destination, where a sixty gram barrel lead takes 26 seconds to hit bottom come high water. Ash cast his red Mr Twister jelly worm seventy meters off letting it sink on impact with the crystal clear azure blue sea. A dull thud and slack line signalling bottom he began to reel slowly, within six turns a heaviness transmitted through both line and lightly curved rod. Still reeling, suddenly in unison the reel screams and his rod arches over as a green backed, copper sided pollack crash dives towards Davy Jones locker.

Irish shore pollack.

Hanging on the first power dive absorbed Ash began to pump and reel, grudgingly the pollack came, lesser dives followed before after one last determined flurry of activity the great fish slipped into the net. By this stage Roger was indulging in another favourite Cornish pastime, wrassing. Impaling a hard back crab on a 2/0 forged round bend hook he lobbed the simple paternoster rig twenty meters off his rocky perch instantly engaging the reel so letting the crab drift back towards the swaying kelp covered wall. Bang, bang, strike, Rogers beachcaster whacks over, he winds hard as the thuggish fish seeks sanctuary in the weeds. Beaten, he hoists it ashore unceremoniously. Mottled brown and green, red, blue and white throated with rubbery lips and sharp crushing teeth, Roger acknowledges what an obliging wonderful sport fish the wrasse is.

Mullet, large pollack, and wrasse, the Cornish holy trinity ponders Roger, they are what draws him to this beautiful wild region every year. He shares the thought with Ashley who concurs while adding that he has noticed some clean patches amongst the rough, maybe there’s a few big flat fish mooching around, “you can take a man away from the east coast, but you cannot take the east coast out of the man”, Roger quipped.

A cracking Irish wrasse for UK tourist sea angler Roger Ball.

Later that evening as the sun dipped towards the horizon a school of bottle nose dolphins cavorted in the bay, gannets dived, and a lone basking shark mouth agape swished its great tail, lazily consuming plankton as he swam with the current. “This is a special place Ash”, “too right Roger, is it worth a 27 hour round trip to get here?” “Absolutely Ash, quality fishing and all that in front of us, the local tourist agency should consider developing a managed Marine Protected Area between the two headlands so preserving all this for future generations. What a tourist draw, sea angling, kayaking”, “diving also” interjected Ash, “along with bird and cetacean watching”. “Now there is an opportunity”, replied Roger enthusiastically, “come on lets pack up now we have had a good day and it is a long way back to the car”…………….

Ashley Hayden © September 2013