Posts Tagged ‘St. Mullins’

Tail Walking at Dawn

Sunday, May 9th, 2021

Hard to believe that it has been eight years since I last made the early morning trip to St Mullins, Co. Carlow with shad in mind. Cousins of both herring and tarpon, this anadromous species (born in freshwater, lives and grows in seawater, spawns in freshwater) enters the river Barrow over the first and second spring tides of May to spawn below the weir upstream of St Mullins.

Setting the alarm for I arrived just as light was beginning to show about more or less bang on high tide. A neap tide in between the two springs the bush telegraph had told me there were fish in the river albeit in ones and twos the previous week being unseasonably cold with ground frosts every morning. That said, a few lucky anglers had made contact with the main shoal over the week which resulted in catches of 30 – 60 fish over a session, all catch and release.

Setting up a seven foot light spinning rod, reel loaded with six pound nylon attached to a 13 gram blue/silver tazmanian devil I walked up the tow path a wee bit and cast towards the far bank. It being high tide I let the lure sink before engaging the reel and applying a quick slow retrieve. A fisher upstream landed a fish about an hour in, by now the tide was starting to fall. The water was crystal clear so I could observe my lure as it came into view a few metres out.

I cast and retrieve for the umpteenth time, a bump simultaneously pulls the rod tip over but no connection. There is something out there showing interest. Another cast, another bump. I cast again, let the lure sink and begin retrieving, bang fish on, skittering left and right then up on its tail, a few more dashes then in the net, wet hands, hook out and release. No messing these fish are fragile and do not survive long out of water. Next cast a shad follows and turns away at the bank, a brief flurry of action peters out. It is now and I am hungry. With a good number of anglers now arriving I up sticks but already have a plan for next weekend when a big spring tide will find me yet again on the bank at dawn………….

The Elusive Shad and other Stories

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Shad enter the three sisters river system in late April early May piggybacking on two sets of spring tides over a three to four week period. This year the main run has yet to materialise, probably down to our prolonged winter. Anglers however have been making their customary south east migration in anticipation of hooking up, but to date results have been more miss than hit.

Darren Snidall displays a rare 2013 River Barrow shad.

St Mullins in early summer is a special place though even when the shad are delayed and Sunday May 19th was no exception. Anglers lined the towpath, fish rolled and jumped, families enjoyed a leisurely walk down to the Island, stopping off on their return for a coffee or something more substantial at the Mullachain cafe adjacent to the old boat slip, while foxes, herons, and a host of other wild life went about their business, wonderously observed.

Leisurely sunday outside the Old Grain Store, St Mullins, Co. Carlow.

Having taken a run down more for the air than to fish it was nice to meet up with Gerry McStraw, Ian Warburton, Neville, Tadelis, and Declan, stalwart members of the Carlow Coarse Angling club who do a great job protecting and promoting fishing along the River Barrow from Athy right down to St Mullins. Coarse fishing, the lads encountered a steady run of fat roach, dace, hybrid, bream, and trout. I didn’t get to taste one of Gerry’s spicy scotch eggs even though I was offered, silly me, there’s one thing for sure though those boys  look after themselves and have the craic when their out on the river.

Carlow Coarse Angling Club Chairman Gerry McStraw displays a nice wee trout.

Taking a walk upstream casting a blue and silver Tazzie I happened upon a number of shad seekers fishing more in hope than with intent. Combining a spot of feeder fishing and shad searching Darren Snidall on cue banked a nice wee shad for the camera. Conversation, a feature of the day, surrounded the moment ranging from Newfoundland to Bell lake Waterford, such is the way with fishers.

Shad fishing close to the Island at St Mullins, Co. Carlow.

There is an affinity which goes beyond hooks, lines, and sinkers, an ice breaker common to anglers. On Sunday May 19th it was the dearth of shad, “anything happening?”, the door is opened and before you know it an hour has flown by. Early summer in St Mullins recharges the tired winter batteries everytime, what a grand day……….

Further reading: Shad Times at St Mullins.


Coarse Fishing in Ireland, River Barrow at St Mullins.

Monday, May 30th, 2011

A month ago in the heat of April St Mullins was alive with bream and hybrids, today in late May Gary and I struggled. With high water at 16.00pm, Gary’s particle mix, red maggots courtesy of Carlow Coarse Angling Supplies, “thanks for the ice pops Gerry“, we were confident of bagging up. The day was dry with a strong chilly breeze from the west, having chosen our swim we commenced fishing about 11.00am. Employing a 30 gram open ended feeder and a size 14 hook to a two foot tail I built up the swim with about ten consecutive casts of ground bait before starting to fish.

Casting the feeder at St Mullins, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

A good bite early on resulted in a spirited fight from a three quarter pound brownie, a welcome fish but not what I was after. Gary like wise was connecting with trout, coarse fish being noticeable by their absence. Around 14.00 pm with the tide pushing over the scar, a set of rapids downstream of St Mullins, bites started to pick up. I connected briefly with a good fish before Gary landed a hybrid on four red maggots. We continued feeding regularly however for whatever reason the fish were not playing ball. By 16.00pm with only a few roach and hybrids to our names Gary and I called it a day.

A brace of River Barrow hybrids for Gary Robinson.

It had been an enjoyable although unproductive session in a cracking location, last month the keep net bulged today it stayed dry, Gary and I sharing his. We speculated as to the cause in the end putting it down to just fishing, the diaries show good results for last June, it’s just swings and roundabouts. The bream had a day off or just were not interested in feeding, who knows? Better luck next time.

Shadless at St Mullins.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The alarm rang at 04.30am and through the fog of sleep I heard wind driven rain bouncing off the window. Is this a good idea, do I really want to go? The bed felt warm but the arrangements had been made so up I got, a brew of coffee and away, the car having been packed a few hours before. Six thirty saw me on the river bank at St Mullins greeting a small cohort of equally determined anglers who made the trip, hoping not only to land a shad or two but to claim that elusive specimen.

Ken Murphy from the rebel county displays a shad for the camera.

Anglers from counties Cork, Kildare, Dublin, Wicklow, and Wexford bore testament to the popularity of the annual shad run. Blue and silver Tasmanian devils, some modified by replacing the central wire spine with a length of nylon to which the swivel and treble are attached, were the main lure of choice. Immediately on my arrival Ken Murphy from Cork obliged with a nice shad for the camera, a great start but they were few and far between.

The Tasmanian Devil lure so popular with shad anglers.

On a bream fishing trip during late April I witnessed large shad being caught, that day was a spring tide the tides since then have been small until now. Did the run come early or will the Barrow see a late influx? Certainly reports this season lean towards an intermittent showing of shad with no large shoals materialising and anglers catching only one or two fish. A good year would see anglers returns over a session reaching well into double figures, this season has been a struggle.

The Blackstairs mountains close to the village of St Mullins, Co. Carlow.

That said I enjoy the drive down through towns and villages with place names such as Bunclody, Ballindaggin, Kiltealy, Ballymurphy, and Glynn. The sweep of the Blackstairs Mountains with Mount Leinster standing sentinal, deep greens, gorse yellows, and whitethorn softening the valleys in contrast to the grey scree slopes higher up.

Kevin McCrea an angler with a special passion for large trout.

By 09.30 only one or two shad had announced their presence but not to me. This could be the first year in a while that I remain shadless, hopefully it is just a temporary condition and that a large run of this endangered species occurs before the month is out. I enjoyed the morning making aquaintance with a number of fellow anglers while chewing the fat on various angling issues of importance. A big hello to Kevin McCrea, thanks for the cup of tea and the few tips, I’ll see you on the water before too long.

Fishing in Ireland, St Mullins, Co. Carlow.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A heat wave grips Ireland and a spring tide beckons from St Mullins, the 20th April is still a little early for shad but the advance guard of anglers is already in situe. Des Fraser of Southside Angling has made the journey along with Declan Roberts from Kilkenny. A few other hardy souls line the bank on a fabulous April morning all casting their pirkens and tasmanian devils. At 09.00am on full tide Declan Roberts nets a 1.30kg specimen shad. Weighed and returned to perform the nuptials, a good start to the day.

Declan Roberts from Kilkenny with a specimen 1.30kg St Mullins, Co. Carlow, shad.

Having driven down with Carlow Coarse Angling Supplies Gerry McStraw to fish bream we were not disappointed. They did show but not in the numbers of recent trips. The tide was all wrong and the hot (reaching 22 degrees) cloudless day no doubt did not help. On the plus side Paul McLaughlin had made the trip down with his wife Jackie and we made acquaintance with Sergej a native of Siberia, who new to the sport of angling was enjoying the wonderful location that is St Mullins.

An early morning St Mullins bream.

Initially sport was slow then as the tide started to fall my rod signaled a purposeful bite from a heavy fish which stayed deep on striking. A bream for sure and one of two landed within the space of a minute as Paul simultaneously connected with a fish of similar size. So a pattern developed over the next hour with short slack periods interspersed with bites from trout, dace, hybrids, and bream.

Paul McLaughlin about to net a St Mullins, Co. Carlow, bream.

Joined by Dave Treacy to witness why St Mullins is a mecca for anglers at this time of year, we fished on until the early afternoon. As the tide dropped so the water became very clear and the air sultry. Activity tailed off and we decided to call it a day. The fishing had been successful with five species landed to include shad, trout, bream, hybrids, and dace. St Mullins is a brilliant unique fishery set in a gorgeous location. It’s a journey that I never tire of.

Paul McLaughlin with a fine St Mullins, bream.

For further reading click on: A Bream Day on the Barrow.

Coarse Fishing in Ireland, A Bream Day on the Barrow.

Monday, April 18th, 2011

It’s great when it all comes together, a scorching Sunday afternoon and the bream oblige. Making up a ground bait mix from horse feed, full of grains and mollases, I hit St Mullins around mid afternoon with high tide scheduled for seven pm. Setting up a pitch downstream of the platforms I fished a 30 gram round cage feeder with a two foot tail, cast about two thirds of the way across. Using treble red maggot bites commenced after about 15 minutes. Not frequent but steady, mainly from dace, trout, smolts, and small flounder.

A cracking River Barrow bream from the tidal stretch at St Mullins, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

The feeder would trundle slightly with the current then come to rest, bites occurred only when the bait was stationary. The green feathery weed was still present. Striking into a lift bite everything went solid, then the bottom kicked, a fish and a heavy one. Using its broad flank in the current the bream stayed deep and worked downstream. Using side strain the fish swam up along the bank still staying deep. Taking my time letting the fish kick away I eventually lowered the net and she slid over, a fine bronze bream. Landing another of a similar size along with some good dace and hybrids, bites came to a halt over the top of the tide. These fish are special, a night session is definitely on the cards.

Coarse Fishing in Ireland, River Barrow, St Mullins.

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

With all those bream being caught last weekend a trip to St Mullins was definitely on the cards. Picking up maggots and some bits and pieces of tackle from Gerry McStraw in Carlow town, I proceeded to drive through the south Carlow countryside on what was a beautiful spring day. On the way I passed through Leighlinbridge, Borris, and Graiguenamanagh, small towns along the Barrow that are synonymous with good fishing. Stopping briefly to take the generic Failte Ireland shot of Clashganny weir, I was in St Mullins for one o’clock.

Clashganny Weir on the River Barrow below Borris, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

Driving along the tow path I chose my swim and started to set up. The tide was making, due in around 17.00pm, which helps to slow down the river flow so making fishing easier, a feature of this stretch being green stringy weed carried by the current which tends to wrap around your line. Casting to a point about half way across I started building up the swim. Bites came quickly from trout and smolts. Some of the trout topped half a pound which was nice, the coarse fish however were slower to oblige.

Paul McLaughlin with a nice St Mullins roach.

Joined a while later by Paul McLaughlin who I had met a earlier in Gerry’s, he brought news of a few bream landed further down stream. Setting up and feeder fishing a line closer in then I Paul proceeded to catch dace, roach, hybrids, and trout. We agreed that night fishing was possibly better when targeting bream, and correspondingly as the evening drew in bites became more frequent. Over the top of the tide and as the river started to fall I began to land a few hybrids and roach to treble maggot.

A brace of hybrids for yours truly, St Mullins, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

It never ceases to amaze me how quick these fish can suck a maggot and not get hooked, you have to be lightening fast on the strike. As per usual when answering a call of nature the rod bucked over hard before straightening up. Reeling in my snood had snapped off, a good trout or a bream no less. Fishing on till seven I said my goodbyes to Paul, who was staying over night to give the bream a good crack. With bait left over I may return Sunday evening, the tide will be later and who knows the slimy lads might be in my swim.

Third time Lucky at St. Mullins

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

It was a case of third time lucky when visiting the Co. Carlow venue for some Shad fishing this morning. Not leaving anything to chance, the head was on the pillow at 10.30pm with the alarm set for 02.50am. The car was already packed, a quick bowl of cereal, a cup of scald, and on the way by 03.30am. Pulled up in the car park beside the old mill at 04.30am with the faintest of light beginning to show in the sky. It was noticeable that the car park was full and the flattened riverbank was testament to a lot of recent fishing activity. With a 3.83 metre tide full in around 06.00am there was sure to be Shad in the river.

Dave Shad fishing at St. Mullins

Blue and Silver Tazmanian Devils were cast towards the far bank in the early morning mist, the air was chill, and the dawn chorus was giving its all. For the first twenty minutes not a stir, then the river came alive. By this stage a number of anglers were on the bank, as if by magic practically everyone was into a fish. Rods were arching and landing nets were in hand.

Tazmanian Devil

Dawn and dusk are the best taking times for Shad and so it proved again. For about three quarters of an hour Shad hit the lures with regularity, many fell off due to their bony mouths, and numerous times the lure was hit but no hook up occurred. By about six thirty am the fish had moved through and takes petered out.

Dave with his first ever Shad

Dave and I called it a morning. The trip had been a success. The target had been for Dave to catch his first Shad, which he achieved. The short spell of activity had yielded five each on the bank, with a few hook ups and hits to add to the fun. Farewell to the elusive Shad for another year, the next trip down will be to target the Bream that frequent this stretch of the river Barrow.

Gary breaks his Shad duck.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Gary's first Shad

Paid a second visit to St. Mullins today, Tuesday 4th May, in search of Shad. Again like the previous day fishing was slow. A few Shad were making splashy rises to flies but interest in lures was minimal. John Griffin from Rathvilly landed three fish during the morning session on a small Pirken type lure fished deep. With the tide full in around midday there was always the possibility luck would change.

Gary netting his first Shad

Having driven down early that morning with a friend David Murphy it was funny to spy another compatriot Gary Robinson walking down the towpath around 11.00am. Greetings exchanged, Gary mentioned that he was hoping to add another species to the list. He did not have long to wait.

Twaite Shad

Around noon Gary uttered the words “fish on” and shortly after netted his first St. Mullins Shad. David, new to fishing and still Shadless will have to wait a little bit longer. However, with the second spring tides of May due shortly it cannot be long before he too breaks his Shad duck.

Dawn Chorus at St. Mullins, Co. Carlow

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Shad fishing, St. Mullins

Shad, an elusive anadromous sea fish, run the River Barrow during early May to spawn in gravel at the head of the tide below the village of St. Mullins, Co. Carlow. A consequence of this yearly migration are large numbers of anglers who flock to the venue in the hope of luring a specimen weight fish from the large shoals that pass through. It is not easy for at times the river can seem empty of fish, and on other occasions it can be a fish a cast. Dawn and dusk are good taking periods, so having established that the Shad were in, I hit the road early arriving at St. Mullins bang on 06.30am on Friday 30th April, 2010.

Eric Gosnell, Co.Cork, with Shad

With the bank holiday weekend ahead an advanced guard of anglers were already in situe. The spring tide was nearly full in and  one or two Shad had been landed. Casting a blue/silver, 13.5 gram Tazmanian Devil until 09.00am with no takes I called it a morning. Eric Gosnell, up from Co. Cork had better luck landing a couple of fish over the top of the tide. The next week will see shoals of Shad enter the system which warrants another visit or two once the bank holiday mayhem is over.