Friday 15 April 2016

First sessions - first bass of 2016

It has been a while since I last did a post. My fishing for 2016 got off to a slow start, I didn't have my first session until late March. Normally I would do a lot of fishing in Jan-Feb but I couldn't be bothered to go out in the cold wet weather. Eventually on a dry mild day in March I got organized, dug some lug at low tide and later headed to flat beach that can fish well in daylight in the 2.5 hours before high water on big tides. I was not too hopeful of catching anything big so scaled down my hook sized to 2/0 circle hooks on one rod and 1/0 J-hooks on the second baited with lug. After about half an hour I had a good tug on the rod with the circle hooks and felt a strong fish on the end which put up a good fight all the way in. It was a plumb 4.5 lb bass, my first fish of 2016 !!

I had a couple of tugs after that but the fish were not hooked. Close to dusk small coalfish came on the feed and I had about six in quick succession, all but one on the rod with the circle hooks.

I had some lug left so the following day I headed back to the same beach for a couple of hours. I got there at about the same stage of the tide although this time the surf was much weaker. I fished about 200 m farther along in a location I had spotted the previous day before the tide came in. A trough had developed behind a sand bank, and was drained by a shallow channel that cut through the sand band. I thought it looked a like a good mark. The first fish was a small flounder quickly followed by a small bass.

Again small coal fish appeared close to dusk. I caught five before all the lug was used up. I had some old refrozen razor but the fish were not interested in that so once the worms were gone I packed up about an hour before high tide.

I returned to the same mark last Saturday to fish the big tides. I got there just was the tide was filling in over the flats. I used the same set-up with 2/0 circle and 1/0 J-hooks. The surf was weak and the fishing was slow. I got two flounder and a coalfish before dusk. As there was a storm forecast for the following day I decided to save what lug I had left and head out early in the week after the storm had passed.

On Tuesday evening (12th April) I ventured out. It had been fairly calm all day and when I got to the chosen beach I was surprised that there was still such a big surf, probably too big as the scent of the bait would just get lost in the cauldron of churning surf. But since I was there I reckoned I would give it a go regardless.

I got set up and had only been fishing for about 10-15 minutes when there was a good tug on the rod with the circle hooks. At first I thought I had a small bass but when I hauled it out of the surf I found it to be a 35 cm flounder.

About 15 minutes later I had a stronger knock on the same rod. There was no mistaking it this time; it definitely felt like a bass, pulled strongly and thrashed about on the surface as I got it into the shallows. It was a 3 lb fish, but a fairly energetic one which gave a stronger fight that you might expect from its size.

As the light faded I had a flounder-coalfish double followed by another four coalfish after dark.

All fish were taken on the circle hooks which were baited with lug. I was using razor on the other rod but did not have a single tap on it all night. When the lug was used up I switched to razor on both rods but the bites eased off. I got one more coalfish, again on a circle hook, but as the tide began to drop the fishing died off so I packed up about an hour after high tide.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

A break from the wind and rain

It has been a poor year for fishing hence my lack of updates. I did very little fishing over the Summer and Autumn and was hoping for a good cod season. However, the 2015 is proving to be my worst cod season since I started fishing. In early November before all the wet weather I did fish a favourite cod mark in the Youghal area. I fished from low to high tide without a single bite, normally at that time of year I would expect to get a minimum of 10 cod.

There was almost incessant rain for over a month following that session.  As a result there has been a torrent of fresh water flowing down the Blackwater which has most likely flushed the few cod that were about well out into Youghal Bay.

With the strong winds/gales and rain I didn't fancy a beach session until last Sunday when the winds finally eased and the skies cleared, coinciding with a change to cooler fresher conditions. I decided on a beach mark which is well away from a river/estuary and one which which commonly produces cod at this time of the year.

I got to the beach just at dusk about 2.5 hours before low tide, checked it for weed. It seems clean apart from a few clumps of kelp attached to bounders strewn high on the gravel at the back of the beach. With fresh peeler crab been extremely scarce this winter I just had some razor and frozen crab, although I brought a fork with me so I could dig a few lug at low tide.

I set up two rods, one with a two hook flapper with 2/0 circle hooks baited with razor, the second with a three hook flapper with size 1 and 2 hooks with razor and crab. I don't normally use such small hooks but it has been so long since I caught a fish that I was determined to catch something, size didn't matter.

It was a nice night, a bright half moon illuminated the beach with a moderate southwesterly wind which was not too cold.

About half an hour after casting out I had a a strong tug on the two hook flapper, as I retrieved it was fighting strongly then surged in with the surf so I had to rapidly reel in the slack. It was behaving more like a bass than a cod and sure enough after a few minutes I could see the glint of silver in the moonlight as I landed a plump 3.25 lb bass on the beach.

About half an hour later I had another good knock this time on the other rod. Again it gave a good fight and I has very happy to see a second bass, slightly smaller at 3 lbs. It had taken the middle hook which was baited with a small frozen crab.

Close to low tide there was another strong knock on the first rod. I was convinced I had a third bass until I landed an angry seagull on the beach. It had got a leg and wing tangled in my line, but I managed to free it without too much damage and it flew off after giving a loud angry sounding squak.

I had hoped some cod might show up with the rising tide but my baits remained untouched. The only other fish was a good size coalfish about 2.5 hours into the rising tide.

The lack of cod suggests that they have probably moved well out of the bay and I would not be too hopeful of them making a return for a late run in the New Year. I packed up shortly before high tide, happy enough with the night's fishing after a long period of blanks.

Tuesday 31 March 2015

First Bass of the year - March 2015

I was off to a slow start with the bass fishing this year. As I was very busy with work I did no fishing at all apart from a short session in early January. The cold weather was not too enticing either. Having cleared the work backlog I had some free time coinciding with the big tides a few weeks ago so made my way to a beach that usually produces bass at this time of the year close to high tide given the right conditions. I arrived about three hours into the rising tide but found that the northerly wind had totally flattened the surf, there was hardly a ripple on the sea. That, combined with bright sunny day and hardly a cloud in the sky, did not seem too promising for bass fishing. So I started off with small hook (size 2) three hook flappers baited with freshly dug lug to target flounder.

After about half an hour I noticed a large splash out about 50 m. Then a few minues later a fish arched out of the water. Could it be a bass or sea trout I wondered. It was unlikely to be mullet as the water still felt very cold. I changed over to my usual 4/0 pennel pulley rigs and cast one rod out to roughly where I had seen the fish activity and cast the second in the direction of a submerged depression which would be a likely bass foraging spot.

Maybe 20 minutes later there was a sharp knock on the first rod, I grabbed it, struck as a fish burst on to the surface. It put up a good struggle as it thrashed about on the surface before I glided it into the shallows and on to the beach. It was my first bass of the year, not big, about 2.5 lbs, so I was delighted particularly as I had not been too hopeful at the start of the session.

About half and hour later there was a strong tug on the other rod, the one that was targeting the gulley. Again the fish broke the surface as I began to retrieve. This looked a bigger fish and was certainly putting up a stronger fight, pulling strongly to the right as I tried to land it on the beach. It was indeed a bigger bass, a well fed stocky fish just under 5 lbs.

I continued on fishing for another hour and a half but the bass had moved on. I did have one strong tug but the fish wasn't hooked. But after that it got quiet so I packed up just after high tide.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Some recent cod sessions - Winter 2014

This is the first post I have done in a long time. The summer fishing was so poor that it was hardly worth the effort of reporting. Most of my regular marks appeared to be devoid of fish, not just bass but the normally ever present small pollock at dusk were extremely rare. Fish were absent from a few deep water marks that I would normally expect to get some good pollock and wrasse over the summer and autumn. I spent a lot more time working in the garden this year, grew a lot of vegetables and had a good crop of potatoes plus lots of tomatoes and cucumbers from the new polytunnel that was erected the previous autumn. It felt a lot more productive to be in the garden than out on the coast fishing into a void. So with such poor fishing over the summer I was looking forward to the cod season and was hopeful that it would make up for the dreadful summer fishing and apparent total collapse of the bass stock.

Indeed it did, this year is proving to be one of the best cod seasons in a long time. There seems to be a multitude of cod about mostly in the 2 - 3.5 lb range with a few up to 4.25 lbs. So while fish are much more plentiful the better ones are smaller than those of the last few years. Last year I had a couple of 6.5 lb cod, several 5-6 lb fish and a number in the 4-5 lb range.

I had heard reports that the cod were already in for a week or so before I had my first session which was on the 24th October. I headed to a reliable mark and caught 8 cod all of which were keeper size (2 lbs or more) with the largest fish weighing 4.25 lbs.

Good fishing persisted; my next session was on the 28th October and produced 9 keepers including a few in the 4 - 4.25 lb range.

I returned the following day. The fishing was slow initially with a flounder and an eel caught before the cod showed up. I ended up with 7 keepers up to 4.25 lbs.

My next session was on 31st October and was a good one with a total of 25 cod. I kept 19 of those, most were in the range 2 - 4.25 lbs but also included a few smaller fish that were too deeply hooked to go back. There was a lot of seaweed as well that night and the following day my elbow was quite painful due to a combination of hauling in fish and large clumps of weed.

It took a while for my elbow to get back to normal so I didn’t do any fishing on the following weekend. Then we had some extremely heavy rain on 13th November and as a result there was a torrent of fresh water coming down the Blackwater which ruled out fishing for another four or five days until the flood subsided. My next session was on 18th November. The fish were back, although not in the numbers of my last session. I caught 13 cod, including 10 keepers.

I was back out again on 22nd November. It was a new moon with a bigger tide which made fishing more difficult. Shortly after setting up I had an eel but the fishing was slow after that with just a couple of small cod of a pound or so. However, when the tidal current began to ease off there was a dramatic improvement with another 9 cod, all of which were keeper size and included two of about 4 lbs.

I had five crabs remaining from the last session so headed out on 26th November to use them up on a short session. I arrived about 5.00 pm, it was quiet until about 6.00 pm then in the space of 50 minutes I had 7 good fish, all keepers in the 2.5 - 4.25 lb range. I put my last crab on, cast out and after a few minutes there was a strong tug. It felt a fine fish, at least as large as the 4.25 pounder if not bigger. I had it in close but then it dived into a snag. I couldn’t budge it so I left the line go slack for about 10 minutes before trying again. I pulled hard, thought I felt a bit of movement but then the line snapped at the shockleader knot. So that was the last of my bait and time to pack up.

My next session was on 29th November. The conditions were ideal; mild, calm night, slack tide, little or no weed and I had a bucket of 24 crabs so I reckoned it would be a good night. It was with a total of 30 cod of which 18 were keepers ranging from 2 - 3.75 lbs. There were plenty of fish in the 2 - 3 lb range but nothing above 3.75 lbs.

I had 10 crabs left over so I headed out again on the 1st December. It was not such a nice night, a fairly strong NNW/northerly wind with light rain was blowing down the channel. But that made little difference to the cod. I had 21 fish, kept 19 although I lost one of those to a fox that ambled along the shore, grabbed one and made off with it. That was fine, I had plenty of fish and didn’t mind sharing with a hungry animal. Close to packing up I had the largest fish of the night, just over 4.25 lbs and another 2 pounder a few minutes later.

For all sessions I was using 4/0 pennel pulley rigs (with upper 3/0 hooks) baited with whole fresh crab. I usually used two rods unless the weed was bad. When the fishing was hectic I would have one rod ready baited on the stand, haul in the fish on the other rod and then cast out the second. So I had one bait in the water at all times apart from the few seconds between changing over rods.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Easterly wind bass - 21st April 2014

Having got over the worst of a bad flu and chest infection I was eagar to get out fishing. However, the warm light southerly breezes of the past week were replaced by rather cold east/east southeast winds. One of my favourite marks for this time of year does not fish well if there is an easterly wind blowing so I made my way to an alternative venue. I got to the beach at about 8.30 pm which gave me 2.5 hours fishing to high tide, the optimum interval to fish this mark, although I would have preferred to fish it on a bigger tide. There was a weak to moderate surf with closely spaced waves breaking on the beach. So it looked promising. I set up my usual format for bass beach fishing, two rods with 4/0 pennel pulleys with large lug baits.

However, it was quite for the first hour and a half. Then at about 10 pm there was a sudden tug on the rod to my left and the line went slack. I rapidly reeled in the loose line. The fish had carried the bait in a long way, it must have been only 15 out from the shore by the time I  connected with it. It was a small bass of 2.5 lbs with a length of 46 cm.

After that there was more activity, but mostly small flounder plucking on the bait. The first flounder I landed was about 32 cm. This was followed ten minutes later by another bass. It fought a little stronger than the first and was a just under 3 lb with a length of 48 cm.

After another ten minutes I thought I had another bass. There was a strong knock on the rod, but as I was hauling it in the fight didn't feel like a bass, more like a flat fish. It was a flounder, but my largest of the year so far at 43 cm.

Then at the top of the tide I had a very strong tug on one of the rods. I immediately grabbed it and could feel a good fish on the end. This was putting up a much better struggle and fought hard all the way in. It was a 4.25 lb bass, 54 cm in length.

I had planned to fish for an hour on the dropping tide until midnight. But after the third bass it quitened down apart from the occasional flounder nibble. I decided to pack up at about 11.40 pm. I reeled in one of the rods, dismantle it and reached for the second rod. But as I began to retrieve I could feel some weight on the end and then the pull of a fish. It was another large flounder, just over 42 cm.

So with three bass up to 4.25 lbs and three flounder up to 43 cm it turned out to be a better session than I anticipated given the slack tides and easterly wind.

Monday 21 April 2014

Couple of sessions from a few weeks ago

Early in the month I had a couple of beach sessions but didn't get a chance to post up a report as I was going on a week's holidays from 5th April and then on the flight home last week I was hit by a chest infection and bad dose of flu. I am just getting back to normal now.

Session 1
I got to a beach mark about 2.5 hours before high tide in the afternoon. There was a moderate surf and the water looked weed free. I set up the first rod and put a large lug bait on a 4/0 pennel pulley and cast out. Only a few minutes later, while I was still setting up the second rod I had a strong tug on the first then the line went slack. I grabbed the rod, reeled in the slack line and connected with a strong fish. It was pulling hard and fought strongly all the way in. It was a fine plump bass of about 4.25 lbs. That was a good start.

Less than 20 minutes later I had another tug on one of the rods. This felt to be another good fish and put up a similar fight. It was slightly smaller, just under 4 lbs.

A little later I had a third bass. This was a smaller fish with a weight of 2.5 lbs.

After that it got quite, apart from two flounder both of 40 cm. Not sure if it was the same fish I caught twice. On the photos they dont look the same but the light angle is different, the patterns on the second are much clearer than those on the first.

I also had a couple of small coalfish close to dusk.

Session 2
I had some lug left after the previous session so a couple of days later I finished work early and headed to the same mark, arriving about 2 hours before high tide. It was windier and there was a nuch bigger surf compared to the previous session. About half an hour after setting up I had the first bite, a 3 lb bass.

This was followed 15 minutes later by a second bass of 3.5 lbs. I noticed some subtle taps on the rod at first, I picked it up, held it until I felt a more substantial tug and then struck hooking into another strong fish. It surged to the right and put up a good struggle in the surf. When I eventually landed it I found that the lower hook of the pennel was embedded in the fishes gills. So thought it best to keep that one for dinner. It's egg sacks were exceedingly bloated so looks like it was very close to spawning time.

After about another 15 minutes I had a third bass, the smallest of the session at 2.75 lbs.

The bass appeared to move on after that. I was getting plenty of nibbles from small flounder which excelled at whipping the works off the hooks without been caught although I did manage to hook tow of them, both small fish under 20 cms in length. After dark I caught a small coalfish before packing up as the tide began to drop .

Tuesday 25 March 2014


Last week it came as a complete surprise that one of the guys behind the Ireland Fishing Diaries wanted to interview me.

I had previously noted that they had interviews with some eminent anglers such as Arthur Daly, Henry Gilbey, Graham Hill, Martin McGown and Terry Jackson among many others plus a bunch of Carp anglers who are probably equally famous in the realm of coarse fishing. So it was shock that they would want an interview from me. But I was happy to oblige.

You can read the interview here: