An Irish Anglers World

Sea Angling, Community & Comradeship, a Worthwhile Tradition

See where the water is breaking on that offshore rock. That is called the Horse Rock. There is a patch of clean ground about two hundred meters inside of it upon which you will catch thornback ray”, stated Hank, a Dutchman who had came to Courtmacsherry, West Cork, many moons ago on a fishing holiday and caught more than he bargained for, eventually returning home with his wife Angela, a local girl.

Thirty five years hence the couple, now retired back to Ireland were standing chatting with me on Broad Strand attracted by the sight of numerous sea going kayaks preparing to compete in the inaugural Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015. They and other holiday makers present were fascinated by the various craft displayed and how the boats and their respective owners were equipped with echo sounders, cameras, VHF radios, rod holders, anchors and dry suits all as standard kit.

Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015, Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork.

Hank, joking about his large inboard motor powered “kayak” proceeded to further supply angling information based on years of fishing Courtmacsherry Bay and the Argideen estuary, upstream of Timoleague, all of which was greatly received by the kayak anglers readying to go to sea. Fishing is a passport to conversation, people are drawn by the activity and furthermore everyone from the old salt on the quay splicing a rope to the kayak fisher preparing to embark will almost always give a few minutes of their time to engage and have a chat.

Twenty one years previously back in June 1994 while on a family holiday I had watched Ireland play Italy in a tiny pub in Ring down the estuary from Clonakilty, Ray Houghton hit the net that night with Paul McGrath playing a stormer in a famous one nil World Cup win. Flounders, bass, mackerel and pollack were caught that week on my first foray to this part of West Cork and do you know what, I have not been back since, isn’t life strange.

Pints of Smithwicks, McCarthy's Bar, Castletownbere, West Cork, Ireland.

Yes, I have subsequently been down to West Cork many times; only further west to the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas, both wonderful places. However, yours truly had forgotten how beautiful the coastal area between Kinsale and Rosscarbary is, I will never leave it so long again. Fuchsia, multi coloured villages, lively pubs, restaurants selling the best of local produce and the most incredible indented coastline, a smugglers and anglers paradise.

Down for just a couple of days, supporting close friend Gary Robinson who organised and was running the Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015, I was using the time to scope out various marks with a view to a more determined effort over the next twelve months. Staying at Wood Point B/B, the accommodation arm of Mark & Trish Gannon’s Courtmacsherry Angling Centre, a sea angler could not ask for a better base.

Bass fishing, Inchydoney strand, West Cork, Ireland.

Between conversations with the hosts, their enthusiastic returning guests, many from Holland and England and welcoming, friendly locals such as Dutchman Hank the secrets of how to successfully fish Courtmacsherry, its offshore grounds and surrounding hinterland began to emerge.

Those chats allied to coastal drives, a cast or two here and there and the returns posted by competitors in the Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015 began to build a picture which will be expanded upon over future trips. Within the estuaries it became apparent that timing is critical with mobility being a key to success. On a foray to Clonakilty I spied mullet and received local knowledge on bass movements and techniques. I was advised to commence fishing at the estuary mouth as the tide begins to flood and work progressively upstream, fish such as bass and gilt heads will move fast, staying no longer than twenty minutes in any one place.

Shore pollack fishing in West Cork, Ireland.

Working a plug close to the bar rock across from Inchydoney strand I met an English father and son, residents of West London and new to angling, they had caught pollack to three pounds off the rocks close to their holiday home and were hoping for a first lure caught bass as the tide began to push. Back in 1994 I had caught a specimen flounder from the same mark on peeler crab. With a view to targeting bass and the now resident gilt head bream I suggested that the lads might try bait fishing on the evening tide, it could be the game changer.

Subsequent to meeting the English tourist anglers a successful bass fishing approach using live sand eel was explained to me by one of the Irish Kayak Fishing Open competitors. Now call me a wuzz but live baiting no matter how lethal a method gives me the shivers, that said it really works, I can attest to that based on just one experience drift lining a shallow reef off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford.

Shore fishing in West Cork, Ireland.

Working a live joey mackerel on a flowing trace below a one ounce drilled bullet, vibrations of sheer panic transmitted through the braid seconds before BANG my rod heeled over to a savage take from a four/five pound bass. Guests from Kent south east of London holidaying at the Courtmacsherry Angling Centre attested to successfully using the method within the bay while fishing from one of three self drive boats available for hire to both resident and non resident anglers.

UK angling journalist Graeme Pullen has produced a number of videos available on YouTube under the “Totally Awesome Fishing Show” title highlighting amongst a range of species and methods small boat fishing for pollack up to ten pounds fifty meters outside the aforementioned “Horse Rock” Courtmacsherry. Frustratingly a strengthening offshore breeze kept the competing kayakers inside the Horse Rock on this occasion. That said they still caught seven species to include pollack, whiting, pouting, scad, mackerel, dogfish and thornback ray.

Kayak fisherman Gary Robinson displays a nice ballan wrasse (image courtesy of Gary Robinson).

Graeme Pullen has also produced an interesting video on shore lure fishing the Seven Heads area south west of Courtmacsherry for bass. Between this town land ten minutes drive from Wood Point B/B and my estuary reconnaissance exercise, I most certainly have enough information to piece together a successful plan of action the next time I visit Courtmacsherry.

A charter boat trip after reef fish such as ling, pollack and cod, small boat fishing as previously described, shore and boat bass fishing along with discovering the local estuary secrets gives one more than enough scope for a successful long weekend’s fishing and the weather can do what it likes because shore fishing always provides an option.

Irish Kayak Fishing Open 2015, Courtmacsherry, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Successful angling is all about a confident approach to the task in hand, knowledge being key to this state of mind. Over a life time spent fishing sharing information through word of mouth both spoken and written has enhanced and enriched the hobby I have chosen. Not only have others through sharing their experiences provided me with more and larger fish, knowing that somebody out there is equally enjoying their sport because of information or advice that I passed on is equally satisfying. More importantly, that sense of community has made me many friends over the years and continues to do so. Courtmacsherry last August 2015 over the weekend of the Irish Kayak Fishing Open furthered that tradition, long may it continue………….

Ashley Hayden © August 2015