I have been pretty hopeless at updating the blog over the past few months, with my last post appearing here over 4 months ago, back in August 😦 A reasonable amount of angling was done in the meantime, mostly lure fishing, but towards the end of the year as the cod came in closer, I also fired out some baits from the beach.
In September I traveled to East Cork on a few occasions, trips which resulted in either no fish or a single fish only. On one such trip I arrived 2 hours after the low tide mark to find beautiful conditions with light/moderate onshore breeze, decent surf on the clear water and bright conditions overhead. I set about as ever moving from east to west over the rocky shore, trying a few casts here and there before moving along and trying another area for a time. Out of casting distance, I could see the gulls plummeting into the sea from high as they spied small bait-fish, most likely being forced up to the surface by other predators below.
Some time later 2 anglers arrived and setup their feathering rods close by, and after a time they were taking in mackerel in twos and threes. Everything seemed ideal for a small shoal of bass to come in, in search of some joey mackerel or sandeels for their appetites. I fished on through these conditions for hours moving up and down the shore and trying every lure in the box, from Feed Shallows, to Zonk Gaterides, Toby’s, Kilty’s, Xlayers, Slug-go’s – but it was no go. Sometimes it seems as though it’s just not going to happen and the confidence can take a knock as the hours tick by and the high water mark approaches.
I have found that as confidence ebbs away, often so does a chance of getting a fish. It is amazing how catching a fish can give a big confidence boost to a session, and the subtleties of tactics and enthusiasm of myself in the task in hand seem to be greatly enhanced by this. Having said this, when nothing is biting for hours on end, experience/obsession still drives one on to keep plugging away in hope/desperation! On this afternoon, as often goes with these kind of tales, it was on one of my ‘last casts’ (there can be anywhere between 2 and around 100 last casts) when finally I got the hit of a fish, around 30 yards out from the small pebbly beach on which I stood. The fish seemed well hooked on the Feed Shallow lure, and began his little dance as he tore off to the left, swung around and then headed off to the right. It was a spirited fish, but felt like a schoolie, and was happy to strip some line off the reel rather than laze his way inshore. After some further brief bursts the fish was landed, right before the high tide. I suspected that this fish had been around for a while and was following or watching the lure on previous casts when I had felt tentative plucks, before finally taking the bait. In any case, it is fantastic when persistence pays off, because there seem to be far more occasions when it doesn’t pay off and one heads home with a blank session after hours of angling.
Overall, 2012 was a disappointing enough year for me in terms of bass angling. I had to put in a lot of hours before my first bass of the year duly arrived in late June. Whilst fishing sessions were limited enough over the course of the year I did put in quite a few hours targeting bass, yet only caught around 14 bass in total, which is considerably lower than I would have hoped for. Much of this was likely down to the fact that I am forever learning the trade, and marks were possibly being fished in the wrong conditions or wrong tactics being used. There did however seem to be a general trend of lower numbers of bass being caught all round this year (based on other reports of other anglers).
As ever, the old reliable pollock made up for the lack of bass in spades, with some lovely fish caught over the year in Cork, Clare, Galway and the Aran Islands. In October of 2012, I returned to the islands for the third time in the year, this time back to Inis Oirr and just for a few days. Pollock and mackerel still showed up, although in far smaller numbers than earlier in the year.
Whilst on one fishing outing on this final trip to Inis Oirr, I got talking to a man from the island, who was also out pollock fishing on the day. This man had been fishing for pollock for decades from the shore, and obviously knew a thing or two about them and the best marks for them on the island. What immediately struck me however, was the method by which he caught his fish – he had a twine handline, at the end of which was a few feathers and a 2 or 3 oz. weight, and he would release a bunch of line at his feet before swinging the feathers around in circles at his side and then flinging them out into the depths. He then proceeded to slowly retrieve the line, careful not to let it sink too deep and thus get snagged.
Whilst watching this, he caught a number of pollock and by the end of the evening had caught around 15 fish (around three times more than myself!). It brought back to me that whilst fishing tackle and gear is becoming increasingly expensive and sometimes elitist, one really does not need sophisticated tackle at all to catch some species. However, when fishing for sport, rather than for the table, there is undoubtedly a lot more fun to be had using a light rod than a handline. All the same, I had to admire the simplicity and effectiveness of the approach taken. At the end of the evening, he offered us a lift home in the bucket of his tractor, travelling in style with bag of pollock in tow.
My final lure fishing trip of the year was in late October, back in Cork when I decided to try a pre-sunrise session at a pollock mark. The sky was beautifully clear, with the planet Venus shining brightly in the south-east. It was a bloody cold start to the day, and took some time to get all the knots and leaders tied with numb fingers. I had the mark to myself for the next few hours, but unfortunately it was one of those very quiet days when it just seems as though the fish are not there. I did have a small joey mackerel towards the end of the session, so at least it was not to be a blank.
The coming year 2013 is going to be a challenging one fishing-wise, with our second child due in March, the hours for fishing are likely to be few. With some luck there will still be plenty of fish to be had, and hopefully the bass will put in a better showing. My main challenge fishing-wise, is that I am going to try my hand at a bit of fly fishing for the first time in my life. This will probably be more at the coast than at rivers or lakes, but I would like to see what the whole fresh water fishing thing is about also, having exclusively fished at sea since I first took up a rod. Until then, Happy New Year to all and best wishes for 2013!