Back On The Bank

Well it’s been a long time since I last updated my blog, and I have been putting it off due to circumstances which took place over the past six months.  My father, Peter, was diagnosed with Motor Nueron Disease  in November and passed away in January. To say it was a shock was an understatement as he was such a fit and energetic man who really lived his life to the fullest.

I am not going to go into the details of his illness or how incredibly brave he was, as he documented this himself in an article that was published in the Irish Times before his untimely passing. What I would like to do in the coming months is write about some of our fishing adventures together, which spanned 25 years here in Ireland. We had so many good times on the bank, and it would be a shame not to share them  here. It is going to take me some time to scan in the old photos to really do them justice, but I look forward to relaying some of our eventful fishing trips on these pages.

I seem to have had a mental block with my writing since losing dad and have not had the passion to put words down, but I know if he was looking down, he would want me to carry on with the blog because he said he really enjoyed some of my articles. The one thing he didn’t like was the title, which was a bit tongue in cheek, but he reckoned it lowered the tone of the page. I decided to take his advice and use one of the suggestions he put to me, so now the blog will be known as Running Ledger.

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On the angling front, I have been making quite a few trips out this year, and found my time at the waterside really helps with getting over dads loss, however my catch returns have not made pleasant reading. My pike fishing trips were barren to say the least and apart from some welcome jack pike, I didn’t really connect with anything substantial apart from one mid-double girl early in the season.

Unlike last year where I stuck it out on a couple of waters, I decided this winter to put on my exploring hat and ended up doing a lot of river fishing. I spent hours gleaning over ordinance survey maps looking for interesting back waters, marinas and likely looking pike hotspots. Did I uncover any? well I may have possibly, but the pike certainly weren’t in a biting mood, the days I visited.

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As quickly as winter had arrived, it was gone again and my thoughts turned to the usual summer species. I had been pondering about targeting some big hybrids and roach for a while and over the winter months I decided on a new venue to work on in between tench sessions. I didn’t have much info to go on apart from some water framework directive reports and a gut feeling.

To tackle a decent sized water, you really need to give it at least season of proper fishing, if you want to try and crack its code.  There are some waters I have been fishing for quite a few years yet I still feel I haven’t even scratched the surface with them. They all have their moods, and fish differently in certain conditions. Keeping a diary is a good start and the more information you enter the better the chances are that you will find a trend.

prebait2prebaitMy plan was to get as much feed as humanely possible into the lake to try and get the fish into the area I planned to concentrate on. This can be time consuming, costly, and a lot of hard work, but if you want to do something properly, a lot of effort and drive is needed.  I set about a prebaiting campaign which involved a lot of spombing and spodding and long range catapulting. A boat is really the best tool for the job but if you are organized you can manage to get a good amount of bait into a swim without one.

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I started to do some short morning and evening sessions around St Patricks day and although I did get some fish, I didn’t land anything special. However I was in this for the long haul and nothing good ever comes easily. It wasn’t until April that some better fish started to come out and although I was getting plenty of shoal sized hybrids in the 2-3lb bracket, it was some big roach that I caught that gave me an inclining that I might be on the right track. Fish to a few ounces shy of 2lb made a welcome appearance and gave me the confidence to carry on baiting the lake up for the remainder of the season.

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It was also during April that my Aunt and Uncle came over from the UK to visit for a long weekend. It was lovely seeing them again after far too long.  Since the last time I had seen my uncle he had also caught the fishing bug. Living where he does in Suffolk, didn’t give him much best scope to fish for Salmon or Sea Trout, two species he had never caught before, and it was agreed we would hit one of my local marks to try and right that.

On the Sunday morning we headed off to a local spot on the beach armed with a fly rod and a drop shot rod, hedging our bets that one method would work. This was earlier in the season than I would normally go after them but I had heard reports that there fish were about and being caught. We hit the beach ninety minutes before low tide and spread out to try and find some bars of silver hiding between the sandbars and kelp strewn rocks.

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My uncle, Tim, had travelled some distance the year before with a friend of his, to fish the famous river Towey in Wales, home to enormous sea trout.  When planning those trips you can never negate for weather conditions, and hundreds of miles of driving were wasted when the river turned out to be in flood. This made me all the more determined to try and put us on some fish, but forty five minutes into the session, things weren’t looking too good as I hadn’t seen anything move.

The tide was moving out quite quickly and as the sand bars got bigger, the remaining water gathered into smaller pools and it was in one of these that I spotted my first trout. Not one to miss a chance, I called Tim over to where I had seen it, and as luck would have it a few more started to show. I soon noticed that the widely spread out sea trout were now confined to these smaller pools and this would give us our best chance of connecting with some.

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The first cast into the spot saw me connect with a super fish of about 2lb which fought like a tiger in the shallow clear water. Next cast saw Tim hook a fish and after a couple of nerve biting minutes of acrobatic flips, jumps and powerful runs,  he was proudly holding his first ever Sea Trout. The huge smile on his face made the experience all the better. He couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have such amazing fishing on my doorstep coupled with the breathtaking scenery that surrounded us.

For the next half an hour we managed to land seven good sea trout and lose as many again, with one or two really good fish spitting the hook mid fight. It was a perfect session and one of those red letter days that come along once every so often. I was just glad he was there to enjoy it.

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As May came around the corner, I deviated from the trout and silvers and made my way back out for my first tench session of the season. All winter I had been musing over various lakes which needed to be fished along with reading up on new and improved tactics and of course fine tuning the tench gear.

My aim this year is to beat my personal best of 7lb10ozs but to be honest, catching any decent tench is a pleasure, especially ones as beautiful and hard fighting as the wild ones we have here in Ireland. I kicked off my season at a social for the Tenchfishers club of Ireland on a quiet lake in Longford. It was great to catch up with the who’s who of Irish tenchers, even if the weather was more suited to Pike angling. With howling gale force winds and pummeling hail and snow it was no surprise that the tench didn’t pop out for a meet and greet.

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My next few trips saw me head back to a lake I had been fishing on and off for the past couple of years. The water is a real ballbreaker and blanks are the norm, but there is always a chance of a decent fish if you put the hours in. It wasn’t until my fourth trip till I managed to get my first bite of the year. With the light fading and thoughts turning to the long trip home after another fishless session, my float bobbed then lifted right out before sailing away.

As I struck, the power of the fish as it tore out from the swim, reminded me what I had been missing all through the cold winter months. As with most battles in this lake, it was all about brute force as I gave everything to stop it getting deep into the jungle of weed. The fights always seem to last for ages but in reality, they are normally over in less than ninety seconds. They are a far cry from winching them in from distance on heavy rods, as you get to feel every lunge and surge as you both try to second guess each other.

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As soon as I lifted the landing net, I realised I had just caught an old friend again from last year, what were the chances. The distinct chunk missing from her tail meant it was the 7lb 8oz fish I had caught last May. I zeroed the scales against the sling and popped her in. The initial reading on my Avon dial scales was 7lb 12ozs. I decided to check it again with my Rueben flywieights, and these gave me a reading of between 7lb 6ozs and 7lb 8ozs. I rechecked the Avons and this time they gave me a reading of 7lb 6oz, so I settled for that.

7lb6oz girth

I had remembered to bring a measuring tape with me, as I had not got any details from her last time. From the tail to snout she measured 59cms or just shy of 23 inches in old money. Around her belly her circumference went 44cms or just over 17 inches. It was interesting to see she is a longer fish than my personal best and I have no doubt later in the season would be close to 8lb. However there was slight disappointment that I had caught the same Tench again and not a new one. My thoughts about the lake having a small stock of fish may run true.

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I managed three more sessions there in the past 10 days and I have managed just one more fish which was a lovely male of 5lb 3oz. Both fish came on the float and took corn and maggot cocktail. I have another lake I have been meaning to fish for a while, with the only thing putting me off being the long walk.  I think now is the time to bite the bullet, travel light to see what she has to offer. I will also be back out after the big perch that I was targeting during the Autumn. Suffice to say I have my eye on a fish which was far bigger I caught in September, watch this space.

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Keeping It Local – Part two

Part two of the ‘Keeping it Local’  sees me hit the high seas, well the local beach to be more precise, doing some light lure fishing. I picked up a light drop shot recently to target perch and because of its size, I have kept it in the car, ready to use at the drop of a hat.

Living in Sligo, I have so much outdoors to explore and much to the annoyance of the family, our family walks tend to revolve around water of some description. During the summer months we like to get down to the beach as often as possible to do the sand castle thing and collect shells with my daughter Pippa.

Having the rod in the car – set up – means if we do come across a beach that looks like it might be worth a cast I can make my excuses and grab the gear from the car and have a few casts to see if anything is doing.

It is through these excursions I have come across some real gems that rarely see anyone fishing. It is not uncommon to be in the middle of digging some sort of trench with the bucket and spade and hearing a splash not ten yards away from a high flying sea trout and me scrambling up the beach to the rod.

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A recent trip saw us head to a new beach we hadn’t ventured to before as it is slightly off road to say the least. The girls told me to go and have a wander with the rod while they explored some rock pools. The sea here is half estuary, half proper beach, in a sense that if you were to look to the far bank it would be a good five miles across.

The water is shallow and the terrain ranges vastly with the tide. At high water, it looks just like the ocean, but once it gets under half way, the sand bars reveal themselves and an influx of channels and back pools form, not unlike a delta. Looking at the ordinance survey map you can see which way the main river channel travels and this I think is key to finding where the fish move at different times of day.

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From reading my previous blog on fishing for sea trout, you will have seen the lures I tend to use, all with various levels of success. This year I have added some new ones to the arsenal and found one or two that really stand out.

After buying a 3-10gram drop-shot rod, I wanted to try a technique that revolved around that method but with some sand eel imitations.  My thought process here was to use it on the dropping tide at an area where the water moves between a couple of sandbars, causing a tide rush. The sand eel imitation could be bounced around in the tide where hopefully some bait fish and other feed would be washed through, and the sea trout would in theory be looking to ambush some food.

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With a few fish showing themselves I felt confident that this method could work and on my fifth cast I was proved right when a small but acrobatic sea trout of 10ozs took the sand eel just at the end of the ‘run’.  The method worked, but was not without its shortcomings. It was very hard to keep the line from snagging up on floating and underwater weed. However after a while I was able to gage where was the safest area to cast and let the bait drift through a snag free area.

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These fish do feed incredibly close in sometimes, and like to come in and around the rocky and weedy shoreline. It was not 10 feet from the shore that I had my next take and straight away I knew I had hooked into a completely different beast to the usual 1lbers. The fish stayed deep and didn’t jump like they usually do. The runs were slow and ponderous but the hairy part was the fish seemed to want to keep in close to where every snag was. My line was getting caught in kelp and around rocks but somehow I was able to keep in contact with the fish.

I had my long match landing net with me and I went into the water to try and get a better angle on the fish to net it. Each time it came close, it would then head off through another kelpy snag. Just when I thought I was close enough to net it, and waist deep in water my net snapped at the joint. The spoon net sank but the carbon pole was starting to drift out into the current.

The only thing was to go out into the water to try and grab both the fish and pole before it headed out to Greenland. After a couple of minutes of cat and mouse I was able to chuck the pole up the bank and grab the fish on its flank and cradle it in my arms.

I quickly got the fish onto terra firma and lay it on some soft sea weed to get a proper look at it. It had some lovely big dark spots and a golden flank and wouldn’t have looked out of place coming from one of the western trout lakes.  The girls had seen the commotion from a distance and by the time I had landed the fish, were on hand to take some quick snaps. I popped the fish in a sling and on the scales it went 4lb 8ozs which was a new personal best sea trout for me.

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It was only when I got home and shared the picture with some friends that the prospect of it not being a sea trout came up.  The colour of the fish didn’t match it being a true sea trout and the general consensus was that it was an estuarine trout more commonly known as the unflattering ‘slob’ trout.

I did some research into this as I wasn’t quite sure. I had always envisaged a slob trout to be a fish that lived in dank dark polluted estuaries, and have the appearance of a dark fat not very appealing creature. The fact that I was fishing in the cleanest of waters in a vast expansive bay also didn’t add up.

After a bit of reading I learned that the term slob trout had originally come from fish caught in the brackish waters of the Wexford Slobs many years ago. Indeed some slob trout do have a dark appearance and do frequent the not so nice surroundings of river mouths, but can also be found in the many inlets and creeks found around our coasts.

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They grow large because of the abundant rich food that can be found in these areas and are a highly sought after fish by certain anglers. Looking at the specimen reports, they are rarely claimed and have a much higher specimen weight of 10lbs in contrast to a sea trout which is 6lb.

They apparently don’t venture out to the open sea to feed but stay in the close to the shore and estuaries where they have ample food to eat. It is a subject that I will look further into over the winter as I find it fascinating how in essence, the same strain of fish vary so much due their surroundings and take completely different journeys during their lives.

After my initial success at this new found spot I decided to make a few more trips out there before the season closed on October 1st. I decided to try a bit more spinning and found this method to be even more productive than the drop-shotting and I managed to get some good catches of fish on fairly short sessions. The best times to fish seemed to be in and around low tide.  Getting there two hours before low meant I could fish the dropping tide and intercept fish that may have gone up as far as the river mouth but were coming back out to sea as the tide receded having decided not to run upstream.

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I had set myself a target to get a 5lb fish but never quite managed it, although I did see fish jump that were far in excess of that weight. The fish did vary in colour and it was hard to tell what were slobs and what were sea trout. The general stamp was around the 1lb mark, with plenty of 2-3lb fish. I don’t know how big they grow here but I have heard reports of double figure fish.

The winners on the lure front were ones called magic minnows that a mate Ollie had put me onto. I also had great success on a variation of the silver toby. The fish as far as I could figure out, were feeding on a variety of baby herring, baby Pollock and sand eel, along with the various shrimps and prawns that lived around the rocks and weed.

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It is great to see such a healthy population of fish around the coast, which really benefit from the lack of Salmon farms in the area.  However a lot of the smaller sea trout did have large numbers of sea lice on them, and not being an expert, I am not sure if the levels are something to worry about.

With the season closed now, I will go back to the fresh water and concentrate on the perch and pike. In my last part of keeping it local you can read a bit about the parch fishing I have been doing in the local lakes and rivers. Thanks for reading.

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Keeping It Local – Part one

Well it has been a while since I put up a blog post and apologies for that. A combination of laptop failures and other matters has seen me somewhat neglectful on the blog front. I have however managed to sort a new computer and have plenty of stories to write about, so expect a lot of content over the coming weeks.

My fishing during the latter part of the summer had to take a bit of a back foot due to time constraints which was a shame as I had a couple of targets I wanted to try and reach. However since September I have been able to get some time on the bank again and although my autumn plans do differ somewhat, I have been successful in some of my fishing endeavours.

Due to my limited hours available for fishing, I had to have a think about how I approached things and how best to utilise my short time on the bank. Looking at the fishing I have closer to home was one thing I did and I made a plan to target a couple of species that I know are quite abundant in the area.

The first fish I decided to go after were the mullet which I had seen swimming around the local bay and harbour. With a bit of planning I could head out and be fishing within minutes. The first thing to do was to make sure I was fishing the optimum times which would vastly help my chances of hitting these hard fighting, shy biting torpedoes.

locating mullet

I marked a couple of spots on the map and decided to investigate where these fish were visiting at the different stages of the tide. My first mark was just outside the town and not where they seemed to go at full tide to feed. The area was more of an interception point for travelling fish. In doing this I felt I could have a chance of catching them whilst they were both moving in and out of the river, thus giving me a chance to fish for them when it was not full tide.

I then decided on a spot where some of the shoals actually halted their progress up the river at high tide, an area where they seemed to stop for an hour or so to play and feed.

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Tackle was simplicity itself and kept to a minimum. The rod was a 14 foot Abu Conolon im8 match rod which I had gotten for tench fishing. The rings have a decent diameter so any floating weed getting caught on the line didn’t cause too much of a problem. The extra length also helped me mend the line when trotting it down the small stream at one mark and help control the float presentation.

The reel was one of my trusty Spro Red Arcs spooled with some prototype 8lb.  A crystal waggler which took 4aaa was enough to get the decent cast needed in one of the spots. A size 10 and 12 Pallatrax ‘hook’ finished the set up and with a loaf of bread in my tackle bag I was sorted.

Anyone who has fished for mullet will know how shy biting and easily spooked they are, and even though some of the shoals are vast, getting them to take your bait is another story altogether. The first couple of trips ended up fairly fruitless and apart from a couple of missed bites and some stunning sunsets, I couldn’t seem to hook into them.

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I am not a seasoned mullet angler by any stretch of the imagination, so I decided to do a bit of research on them and see if I could glean some tips which would help put the odds in my favour. One thing I did was look at the best way of presenting the bread on the hook. Whenever I have fished bread for coarse species, I have always pinched it around the eye of the hook and left the bottom part fluffy with the hook exposed slightly.

From the information I looked at from various places, there seemed to be a lot of conflicting ideas and varieties with how mullet fishermen presented their bait. I decided on the ‘pasty’ approach which basically meant encasing the hook completely. The idea was the mullet did take more confidently when no hook was showing and who I am I to argue with the experts. Moulding the bread around the hook and crimping the sides to make it look like a Cornish pasty gave really good presentation, but also let the hook ease through the bread on the strike.

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My normal hook presentation on the left, and the ‘pasty’ on the right

Another thing I wanted to improve on was how I ground baited for them. I had tried various concoctions from the fishing shed which I don’t think helped my fishing, but after some trial and error I came up with a messy solution which to my mind helped  get the fish feeding on the bread more confidently.

The simple mix was a loaf of sliced pan mashed up in a bucket into a glue-like consistency, but with a few bits of larger bread kept to mimic the free offerings. To this I added some tinned tuna which would also give some added feed and attraction. The final part was some mackerel oil I use for my winter piking.  I felt this would send a bit of the scent trail down the tide and hopefully draw the fish onto the feed.

I tried two different approaches with how I applied the ground bait to the spots. The first was to add some gravel to the mix to try and get it down deep in the ‘interception swim’ as just lobbing the feed in saw it disperse relatively quickly and take it out of casting range. This seemed to work well and I could see the fish genuinely interested in the bait on the bottom.

On the second mark I went for the onion bag approach. This saw me mix the ground bait into an old onion sack which I then tied to a bank stick. I then dug the bank stick into the stream bed on the second mark at low water and this meant I had a tight feeding patch exactly where I wanted it once the water rose with the tide. The bag would continuously give off a stream of small particles and slick and the mullet really seemed to home in on it.

My next evening out for them saw me adopt this subtle difference to my fishing and sure enough I managed to land two lovely conditioned fish. The other satisfying part of the trip as that I managed to land a mullet from both my chosen spots, one on the rising tide and another at their high tide feeding ground.

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Although I didn’t latch into any monsters, I did manage quite a few over the coming weeks in the 3-4lb bracket and they all fought like tigers.  As I am writing this at the start of October the mullet have in the past few days moved out from their usual feeding grounds and maybe sport will have finished for the year. I think next year I will aim to single out the larger fish as god knows what a 6 or 7lber would go like on light tackle. I also think trying for them on the fly rod would be something interesting and over the winter I will take a look at some of the mullet fly patterns that I am sure are out there.

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In the coming days I will be posting part two and three of my ‘Keeping it local’ blogs to try and get everything up to date. Many thanks for reading.

A Right Pair…

After an awful couple of weeks of mishaps and scares it was great to get the chance of an early morning session on a new water. My first hiccup was a busted knee which kept me house bound for over a week. Who thought slipping in your sitting room could cause so much damage. Top Tip – don’t wear Crocs with worn soles anywhere near a wet patch on the ground. This was followed the next week with the awful drama of seeing my daughter admitted to hospital with a meningitis scare. That was one experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and something I hope I never have to go through again. Thankfully both are on the mend and this gave me a small window to get a quick session after my beloved tench.

I had been priming a new lake for a while now with some bait. Its one of those lakes that is off the beaten track and as far as I know, not been tench fished before. The information I had gathered from the landowner was that he had never heard of a tench being caught from it and had never had anyone ask to fish it. The only information I had was of some old stocking records from the 1960s that mentioned some tench had gone into the lake.

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With severe rain forecast I grudgingly got out of bed a 3.45am to see the weather man had got it right for once. I was in two minds about leaving the house, but after a quick coffee I snapped myself out of it and was splashing down the back roads in the car for 4.15am with the thoughts of ‘I must be mad’.

Arriving at the lake, there seemed to be no let up with the rain, so I grabbed the wet gear and trudged the 400 or so metres through fields with all my tackle to my swim. The water levels had risen since my last prebait session, but I was able to set up in the swampy margins and settle in for what I thought would be a blank.

My first rod was to be my sleeper outfit and this was tackled up with a large method feeder to a small braided hooklink and a size 12 Pallatrax ‘hook’. The mix consisted of VDE Beet, some Maggot and Bloodworm crush and frenzied hemp feeder groundbait. Hookbaits would be alternated till I found something that they took a liking to, but was initially a large grain of enterprise pop-up corn.

I decided to fish the lift method on my float outfit and set up one of my 12-inch Robert Lancaster floats at a depth of 13 foot, with a couple of shot round the float and an SSG a couple of inches from the hook. There are still a large amount of weed in the swim and this way I would be sure the hookbait would be where I wanted it to be. Mainline was 10lb Daiwa Sensor straight through to a size 12 hook which I baited with 6 red maggots which were sprayed with Winter Almond, and a grain of semi fermented corn which had been stewing in some Honey Yucatán glug. If I hadn’t brought some croissants with me I would have probably eaten them, they smelled that good.

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Whilst the wind had dropped somewhat the rain was still very heavy, making it hard to notice any signs of fish activity in my swim, but this didn’t worry me too much as the temperature was quite warm for the time of year and rain has never been a problem when targeting tench.

The first hour or so went by without so much as a bleep on my alarm or a blip on my float. I kept my feeding to a minimum with a couple of golfball sized balls of groundbait and some loose feed of pellet, corn and maggot.

I had just looked at my watch to see the time hit 7am when I looked back at my float to see a slight quiver on it. Were there fish in my swim, or were the small rudd that live there, knocking it about? I was answered a second later when the float dipped again then rose 6 inches out of the water and I hit into a fish. The rod hooped over and the fish felt very heavy and stayed deep with a slow ponderous boring run to my right where there was a bed of rushes. Piling on the pressure as hard as I dared , the fish kept going for them but just couldn’t seem to find the safe haven of the roots for itself. After what seemed like over a minute of real tug of war stuff the fish decided to try its luck in the lillies in another part of the swim. With the underwater weed growth only in its infacy for the time of year and not fully developed, the fish was smashing them up and they were popping up on the surface whilst the tench went head first through them. I knew at this stage that it was a sizeable male with a bone to pick or a big female with attitude but with faith in my tackle I really gave it as good as it was giving. It’s quite a surreal feeling sitting there in the wilderness early in the morning having a fight with a fish, and I always find that a type of calmness comes over you until you get a glimpse of your competitor then. The fight went on for a few more seconds and was quite brutal but I managed to surface her and slid her into the net first time.

Lifting her ashore, I looked down to see her for the first time and was immediately gobsmacked at her frame and I instantly knew it was another fish which could be over the 7lb mark. She didn’t look fat and full like the lady from last year, and didn’t have her looks either, but had a real presence about her.

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In all my hast early that morning, I had left my scales in the car, so I decided to sack her in the deep margins for a while so I could get myself together and have a cigarette. I baited up the float rod and cast it back out and sat back with a smile on my face. At the start of the season, I had promised myself to not get too ambitious and to enjoy whatever fish came along, all the while, fishing spots where I thought I could catch some good-sized tench. I suppose it’s all you can do really, work hard to put the odds in your favour. If I didn’t catch any monsters, I was still on the bank enjoying the fresh air and not stuck on the couch with a bandy knee or seeing my daughter hooked up to a machine in the hospital.

A few minutes passed and I was not really concentrating on my float and was in a bit of a bubble when the tip rose again right out of the water. I struck and felt a heavy resistance and again it felt very strong. This one was not so interested in the bullrushes and just kept deep, most likely thinking to herself she didn’t need the assistance from her weedy friends to outwit me. She charged around the swim for a few minutes and seemed to uproot whatever lilies where left in the vicinity. I finally managed to get her up to the surface and she swirled, saw the net, then charged off again and I knew it was another good one. My tackle stood up to whatever she could throw at me and I didn’t have any worries on that front. After another few moments I managed to scoop her into the net at the second time of asking.

Looking down at her, she looked to have a larger girth on her than the last one and was in fin perfect condition. Her frame wasn’t that of the first one but still looked a very good fish that I thought would be an upper six at least.

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I quickly unhooked her and got her into another sack which I had packed instead of a keepnet and got myself off to the car to retrieve the Avon scales. It was only as I was walking up through the marshy fields that I noticed the rain had stopped and the sun was poking through the clouds. What a morning this was turning out to be.

Getting back to the swim, I decided to weigh the smaller of the fish first so I could get a feeling for what the larger one might go. I zeroed the sling and popped her into it and the dial went round past 6lb and quivered between 6lb7oz and 6lb8ozs. After a bit of flapping around it settled on 6lb7ozs. A fine fish for Irish waters and I was delighted. So what would the next one go ? I made sure the first one was secured back in the sack and got the bigger one out. It was certainly a larger fish and also had a bit of old damage to her fins which had healed well but she had certainly been in the wars at some stage. I put her in the sling and she was very well-behaved. The scales went round past the 7lb mark and onto 7lb8ozs dead. Wow, I had done it again, I thought to myself, another 7lber. I decided to get some snaps done straight away as I didn’t want to mess them about even though I was potentially missing out on the prime feeding time.

Looking at the bigger fish, she certainly had room to grow more and put on some extra weight over the next six to seven weeks, but how much ? Then I had the dilemma going through my head of whether I would be happy catching her again at a larger weight ? Would it not be nice to catch a different fish that could be bigger or smaller. I suppose if I continued to fish the same lake, the chances are that I could come across her again, but then again I may not. Specifically going out to fish for her later in the year at a heavier weight is not something I think I would really enjoy. I think it takes the magic away of wild fishing in Irish waters where the fish have never seen a hook before and the unknown is what makes it so special.

After the palava of trying to get some respectable self takes whilst not being able to bend my knee and slipping on my bum on the practice run, I finally got some done which I thought would be good enough for the photo album and blog. I got the fish back to the water and watched as they skulked back off  to the weedbeds none the worse for their endeavours.

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After all that excitement I felt slightly drained, but got myself back into the chair to see if I could nab another fish before I had to leave. It stayed quiet for another hour and just as I was about to call it a day, the float bobbed again, rose and sailed away. I hit it and felt something good at the other end, but before I could settle into another battle, it was gone. Maybe I had used all my luck for this trip so I cut my losses and settled on a score of 2-1 in my favour. It had turned out to be a very productive morning and I really enjoyed my encounter with that right pair of tincas.

Early Season Tench

After all the preparation of the past couple of weeks, I finally got to get the rods out for my first overnight tench session at the weekend. Although the weather has been perking up in the past ten days it had still been chilly through the nights and venue selection was based on this. I know a lot of the deeper lakes I fish do not wake up too quickly, so a water with a history of early season tench was on the cards.

My fishing pal Craig Murphy had got a head start on me, venturing out on the Thursday afternoon and he reported that although the fishing wasn’t hectic, bites were coming in fits and bursts. That news was all I needed to hear and plans were made to make the trip to the midlands and hook up for his second night there late on Friday evening.

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Being the brilliantly organised fellow I am, there was not too much preparation needed and I had the car packed in no time and was on the road for 7pm excited with the prospect of latching into my first tinca of the year. The forecast for the night wasn’t too special for camping with heavy rain expected along with a biting east wind, but temperatures were to stay steady enough for the fish to hopefully get their feeding heads on. The expected rain would also give me a chance to see if the new brolly would stand up to the elements and justify my decision to banish my bivvy to the back of the shed except for some long haul sessions or family outings.

On arrival at the venue, Craig said things had been a bit quiet in the past few hours and this sometimes happens on the lake, so it at least gave me time to get the kit out and rods in. I decided to vary the approach and went with an inline maggot feeder on one rod and a large korda method feeder on the other. My method mix was made up in advance and consisted of some Pallatrax maggot and bloodworm crush bulked out with a mix of Vde’s – Beet and a crushed hemp method mix. Into this I popped some particles, micro pellets and dead red maggot and castor. Hookbaits were simple enough to start off with and I stuck with the Enterprise red maggots on one and some pop-up white corn on the other. I had a whole host of other baits with me but thought I would start with the tried and tested and if the fish were on the feed then I could try out a few different hook samples and rigs as that’s half the fun.

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I managed to get the rods out before dark and settled into my first tench session of the spring with an extra strong coffee followed by a very welcome jumbo-size kebab which was delivered to the swim. Thanks Glen you’re a legend, even though I think I got more of the kebab on my face and clothes than down my belly. The swim stayed eerily quiet for the next few hours and there wasn’t much movement or sounds from the lake, but it’s always good to catch up with mates and chew the cud whilst waiting for the first run of the evening, however it never came..

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Past experience told us that the fish were likely to come on at some stage during the night, so instead of sitting up and waiting for them, we decided to grab a few hours shut-eye and hopefully get woken at some stage to the sound of our buzzers screaming off. The Fox Supa brolly did all it was meant to do and easily took my bed chair and tackle. With the mozzi infill, it felt pretty much like being in the bivvy except I felt that bit closer to my surroundings and not cocooned away. You can buy the brolly system, but for my needs, I just don’t see the point. The mozzi mesh gives me enough protection from anything that buzzes and bites, plus they are a damn slight cheaper with Dublin Angling Centre doing them for around €45.

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I thought I had only dozed off when I heard my left hand delkim give a couple of bleeps. I checked my watch thinking it was a liner and it said 3am, so I must have been in the land of nod for a while. The next minute I got a full-blown run and was straight into my first fish of the session. I was using my Harrison 2lb tench rods which have softened up over the years and they give me the perfect balance for bullying tench from underwater nasties and yet have a nice through action curve so you can enjoy the fight from even modest sized tench. After a spirited fight a nice 4lb tinca lay in my landing net mesh just as the heavens opened and the anticipated rain started to fall.

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There is nothing better than lying in your bedchair with a stench of tench slime off you, enjoying a smoke after your first one of the year listening to the rain patter off the brolly above your head. Some people must think us anglers are mad, my wife certainly does, but until you experience it yourself, then you can’t really relate to it.

The expected rush of bites never materialised and it wasn’t until a couple of hours later when the sun was just poking its head through the misty morning that the other rod went off again and I was battling with another tench. This one was slightly larger and had decided the method mix combo was to its liking. In between these fish Craig as usual was getting his fair quota of runs and adding to his already impressive tally of tench. As the morning rain finally abetted and we managed to sit out from under our bivvies and brollies to enjoy some coffee and change round our baits and rigs.

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I had decided a few days previously that I wanted to try out some of the pastes I had, so had come up with a rig that I thought would work. With the lake having a fair bit of silt I thought it would be best to try and balance out the heavy paste somehow. The first idea was to wrap it round a pop-up boilie but I wanted to keep the paste size down to 8-10mm. So I decided on using some small wire bait coils I found in my tackle box and fix this onto the end of my hair rig. I then opened up the coil and inserted some wittled down cork ball. When I wrapped the paste round the coil, the bait wouldn’t pop up, but balance itself out and sit nicely in the upper layers of the silt. I don’t know if there is a name for this rig so we decided to call it the CP rig or critical paste rig. When tested in the margins they seemed to work, so it was just a matter of whether the tench liked the paste.

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One rod got the strawberry paste and the other coil was wrapped in the pungent smelling crave. 20 minutes passed and I was just thinking about the breakdown times of the pastes when the crave rod ripped off and I winkled out another fine early season tench. None of the fish were going to break records but were super fish to catch in the 3-5lb bracket. After not getting any joy on the strawberry paste, I switched over to the scopex flavour and this resulted in another couple of fish for me. Craig had a mess around with some of the flavours and managed a fish or two on the crave. I have had some great results fishing some homemade paste on the float last year and although it might not be my first choice bait, it is always nice to have something in your armoury to switch to when things aren’t happening and also have a method which you know will at least work.

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The morning continued with a few more fish but as always happens the session comes to a halt way before you want it to. I am a devil for ‘one last cast syndrome’ however the little one at home had to be at a birthday party so with her relying on me I had to call it a day. The beauty of not having the cumbersome bivvy with me was the relative ease the whole packing up process took and I had my minimal amount of gear back in the car in no time at all. My final tally for the session was a respectable ten tench with Craig having more than double that for his couple of nights on the bank. So with a successful first session under the belt it looks like the tench season is under way but with other species on the feed at the moment too, its decision time on what to go for next. Not a bad dilemma to have I must say. Till next time…

Tinca Time

With spring upon is, there is only one thing on my mind and that is the tench will be waking up from their winter slumber and soon be getting their heads down and feeding themselves up. With such a short season to fish for the big ones, I like to be properly organised for the months ahead and have everything carefully prepped.

I initially try to make a firm plan on where I will be fishing over the season and see if these spots need some work done with them. I have an early season water that I fish and this usually gets my tench head on as it’s quite an easy lake for small to medium fun sized tench. It’s a lovely little lake that sort of eases me into the season, a place where I can get my eye in and iron out any changes I need to make with my tackle. I do make fleeting visits back over the season too when I need a boost of confidence if things get tough, but I do tend to get easily distracted from it very quickly when the urge of bigger fish from the lower stock waters arise.

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Although I may not fish some of the harder waters for a few weeks, this does not mean I forget about them. Clearing a suitable swim and getting some feed in is just as important as fishing them I find. As some of the lakes I fish see no angling pressure, it is imperative to get the fish feeding in your desired area on a regular basis with some free grub if you want to stand a chance of catching them later in the season. My first port of call is to decide on which swim i fancy and give it a rake. Having stupidly lost my old rake through negligence, it was recently time to rustle a new one together.

They are not too complicated to make and with the help of a mate (thanks Ollie), some scrap metal and a soldering kit we managed to piece together a rather barbaric looking contraption with ease. Although it may look a bit medieval, I can confirm it does work a treat and with a decent knot on the rope this time, will hopefully come back to me every time its thrown into the wet stuff.

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Next on the list is to get some prebait on the go. Unlike Bream fishing where sacks of stuff is used to lure the slabs into your swim, I find the little and often approach for tench is by far the best. The feed I use is not expensive and is readily available in most pet stores or co-ops. Having had quite a bit of uncooked pigeon conditioner along with a sack of wheat left over from last year helped the cause and a big bag of uncooked hemp along with another bag of red dari seed, both of which are cheap were added to the arsenal. I will also use quite a bit of sweetcorn, pellet and dead maggot in my baiting approach but these can be picked up as needed.

The pigeon mix really is a good one to use and doesn’t need much preparation. I have a few different buckets filled with water and seed mix going in the shed and these are soaked for a minimum of 24-48 hours, but can be left longer. After a soak they go into my big boiling pot which was masterfully pinched off the wife a couple of years ago and is unfit for human use at this stage so is a full-time member of the bait club. I cook the mix off for around an hour as the bigger maize particles do need a good zap. When they are cooked I then add in some more liquid which is usually watered down molasses (also cheap from the co-op) or a bottle of cream soda fizzy drink, which has a real scopexy smell and taste to it. Popping in a litre of this to the particles when cooked seems like a lot, but overnight night the mix will continue to absorb the flavour and in the morning will have swelled even more and smell delicious.

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As long as the particles are kept airtight and covered in liquid, you can keep these buckets in a cool area of the shed for a few weeks or more if you are brave and they will mature nicely. Some baits that have been left a little longer than planned and can nearly climb out of the buckets on their own accord can sometimes prove even more irresistible to fish, but then again, they don’t look out for a best before date.

Other cheap baits I have picked up recently that work great for prebaiting have included some Turkey finisher from the local pet shop. At 6 euro for a 20 sack, this is real value and a couple of sacks kept in a bait bin will last a season when used with other feed. It comes in pellet form and takes little to no time to prepare. Whack a couple of kilo into some buckets and add some water and particles, and you have some great bulk feed which can be moulded into balls and applied to you chosen swims. Another great particle bait which the tench seem to love is wheat. This can also be bought in bulk and I still have half a sack left over from last year. This is prepared the same way as the pigeon mix, but doesn’t take as long to boil. Loose fed into your swim with other baits and the tench really home in on it and I find it doesn’t fill then up as much as stuff like halibut pellets or make them get preoccupied with smaller seeds like hemp. There are no hard and fast rules though and half the fun is finding your own winning combination and messing around with the various different ingredients.

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Getting down to the nitty-gritty of fishing, I will turn to the more specialised baits available in the tackle shops but this is just a confidence thing. Early in the season, feeder fishing is my preference for tench. My two main methods would be using an inline maggot feeder with a couple of fake grubs on the hair. The other is the method feeder approach using a fairly active mix which can get the inquisitive tench really rooting around and if they are in a hungry mood competing for the feed. My favourite mix to use at this time of year is the ‘Bloodworm and maggot crush method mix’ from Pallatrax. This really is an active mix with all sorts of mini particles and natural invertebrates that won’t over feed the tench. The dried maggots and bloodworm along with other goodies will rise up of the method ball even in colder temperatures whilst it breaks down and form an attractive cloud which the tench can home in on.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTP3ASJsveA

A quick video on how the method mix works

Hookbaits I tend to use in the early months don’t differ too much from later in the season, but I find you can get away with a lot more when they first go on the feed and prespawning. After tench have gone through their spawning ritual and the summer really kicks on we all know scaling down everything is the key to finicky fish. However, as I have already mentioned, early season fish will take much larger foods and when they are really on the feed will hoover up quite a wide selection baits if they are presented correctly. Natural favourites like worms and especially lobworms really do turn the tench on and whilst other favourites like corn, maggots and castor are all in my armoury. These days though more and more of my fishing will see me using plastic imitation baits. When I first delved into the world of plastics maybe ten years ago I was usually just tipping off other baits like stacks of corn or boilies. As my confidence grew through the years with them, I found myself using them more or less exclusively on the hair and with really good results. With such an array of imitations to choose from the possibilities are endless.

My three favourites are maybe the most obvious but none the less they do seem to really work. Fake maggots can be used in so many ways, but are lethal in conjunction with maggot feeders both inline and the popular blacktop which I fish helicopter style. Along the same lines are fake castors and these are another killer tench bait. Three stacked sideways on the hair with a pva bag of real ones fished on an inline set-up can snare the wariest of tench. I have in the past always used the floating ones made by Enterprise and these pop up nicely leaving the hook just hovering on the lake bed. I recently got some sinking ones which have just been released and I am looking forward to using these with the floating ones to critically balance my set-up and vary the way they fish at different heights on the lakebed.

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The last and probably the most commonly used are the plastic corn and larger maize. These will always be fished on one of my rods and have accounted in a lot of tench and other species. They come in a wide range of colours these days and I have had great results on both the yellow white and pink ones. I have dabbled in the flouro ones too at night and these have produced some results too but who’s to say if they did give an edge or not. I have messed about with flavouring them over the years and always have some glugged in various scents with my favourite three being pineapple, esterberry or winter almond.

On the subject of end tackle I will always have a selection of hook lengths made up ready on the bank so I can chop and change as quickly as possible if I am faced with different situations on the lake bed. When I am fishing a lake I know quite well, I will already know exactly how to approach it and have already decided on which hooklengths to use. But when fishing a new water or even a different swim, the make-up of the bottom can vary drastically and I might need to changes tactics completely. 80% of my hook lengths these days are braided ones and I find the various Kryston braids can cover most of my needs be it a soft supple braid like Silkworm or a coated material like Super Mantis. I have also been dabbling with the steamlink which Pallatrax do and have been very impressed with the many applications the one material can do.

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On a more traditional front, I have been getting some floats together for the coming season. I find floats quite a personal thing and everyone has their own favoured types for different situations. On wild Irish loughs it is quite hard to use very delicate floats with a lot of finesse and I for one have never been one for using really small patterns. Whether this has caused me to miss out on fish, I don’t really know. There have been some situations again later in the season when I have had to really scale down to connect with a bite and I have adapted to the situation to the best of my ability, but my main floats of choice when tench fishing are quite bulky things. Just recently I got some floats made by a gentleman in the UK called Robert Lancastor and they really are things of beauty. I asked for a range of floats ranging from 9 inch up to 12 inches as they suited what I needed for a couple of swims. They will work well for the lift method but also for laying on but while have enough to hold station in a big wave. I plan to get a few more done in the coming weeks in different patterns with his giant onion floats really catching my eye.

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Well this is just a part of my pre-tench yearly ritual, and in between getting all my bits and bobs together I did manage to get some time on the water. My first session was not for the tench but for roach on a local lake. Although I plan to do some proper roach fishing in the coming weeks on the rivers, I thought i would try to winkle a few out on the feeder as I know the lake in question has seen them increasing in number and size. I hoped to get anything over 1lb in weight but was secretly hoping for a 2lber. Well I wasn’t that lucky but did catch a few ranging from 1lb up to 1lb 8ozs in amongst a smattering of hybrids and perch. Tactics consisted of using a large black cap maggot feeder fished helicopter style in conjunction with a longer than usual flouro hooklength and a size 14 ‘the hook’ pattern. It took a while to get the bites going as I hadn’t done any prebaiting and I was fishing on a hunch but the fish seemed to be in the area and after half an hour or so of recasting to the same spot at 60 yards I started picking up a few decent fish. I was using a 12 foot Shimano Stradic heavy feeder rod as I wanted to try out some new braid for distance fishing and it was probably not the best rod to use in the situation as I did bump a few fish off, but it was good to see I could get some distance into a serious headwind that nearly blew me off my chair.

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I plan to do my first proper tench this evening and will employ both feeder tactics and possibly try out one of my new floats. Hopefully the warmer weather of the past week will have them on the move and I will have something to report in the next blog. To all you tench anglers out there, I hope you have a cracking season and bag some crackers.

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In The Red Corner

As the fishing has been slow this past week or two, I would look at some tackle I have been meaning to review for the past while and in particular some reels. I really like to put my tackle through its paces before making judgement and over the past 12 months I have certainly done that.

The reel I am going to look at is the Spro Red Arc 10400. I got a pair of these at the start of the season after hearing numerous good reports from UK match anglers along with spinning enthusiasts from the continent. I wanted a reel that I could use for a multitude of fishing situations from float fishing to spinning and jigging.

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I have been a shimano user for as long as I can remember and always looked on with scepticism at other brands. With that in mind, it was a bit of a leap of faith for me to buy these bright red shiny reels from a company I had no prior dealings with. There was no real logic behind heading off in a different direction, however every time I read another glowing report on the reel the closer I was drawn into getting one.

First impressions when they arrived were that they were a lot more compact than my 4000 Stradics and I did doubt they would have the same Shimano toughness to them. My worries were short-lived though when I gave one its first work out feeder fishing on my local lough. Whacking out decent sized feeders and cranking them in from distance was a doddle and it balanced up nicely with a 12 foot feeder rod. There was no wobble or looseness and it felt really solid and robust.

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They would not be my first choice for heavier feeder fishing at distance as I feel more comfortable with a 5000 sized reel, but this isn’t a problem as I have specific tools for that job. My primary use for them was to be float fishing for tench, and I was looking forward to seeing how the clutch coped with some angry tincas ram-raiding through dense beds of lilies and potamogeton.

I managed to get four spare spools with them which was important to me as I don’t have the luxury of owning an army of reels, and this meant I could chop and change their uses in a heart beat. I decided to match them up with 4lb, 6lb, 8lb and 10lb mono and fill the other two spools with braid and nanofil.

Float fishing for general coarse fish with lighter strength lines is a delight as the excellent line lay means casting smaller floats is effortless. I am really looking forward to using it stick float fishing for roach in the coming months as it should be perfect for controlling line coming off the spool with my finger. It’s lightness should also work in my favour when holding a long trotting`rod for the day.

My float fishing for tench does not include too much finesse and would shock most match anglers. I use 8 or 10lb mono with a beefy power float rod and a decent size waggler depending on weather conditions. The main task is to get the fish turned and up in the water before it smashes head first into the nearest weedbed. When fishing tight swims surrounded by lilies it can be quite precarious and believe me tench know every trick in the book.

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A decent drag is a must and the Spro has one of the best I have used and matches reels of twice the price. I don’t like to give much line away in a fight but when needs must you want it to come off as effortlessly and controlled as possible so not to give your opponent the upper hand. The front drag on the Red Arc is silky smooth and has not let me down so far after some proper epic tussles.

I have also put the reel through its paces for various spinning scenarios. I matched it up with a light Abu Vendetta rod for sea trout fishing down the estuary and the smooth retrieve and casting ability made handy work of flicking out small Tasmanian Devils. It also helped with my light plastic jig work for perch and getting small baits out good distances was a walk in the park.

Are there any downsides to the reels ? Well yes, the colour is a bit garish for my liking, however this problem can be negated and you can quell your inner tackle tart by choosing one of its sister reels like the Gold Arc or the Zalt Arc. Another gripe I have is with the measly line clip on the spool which isn’t up to much. Although I don’t use the reel so much for feeder fishing, I would like something a bit more robust and line friendly.

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Weighing up the pros and cons of the Spro Red Arc after taking the plunge with it last year, I have to say I am mightily impressed with the little red reel. It packs a lot more punch that its looks give it credit for and still feels as tight as when I first took it out of the box. I have abused it in saltwater and bashed it around many a bankside and it shows no signs of wear and tear.

If you fancy something a little different then I would suggest having a look at the range. At a cost of around €100/£90 depending where you shop I think it is as good as any mid priced Daiwa or Shimano reel in its class.

If you want to check out more about these reels you can find more details on their website : http://www.spro.eu/nl_nl.aspx

I am not sure what shops stock them in Ireland, but Fishing-Mart do a wide range of them and postage is reasonably priced. http://www.fishing-mart.eu/sklep/en/spro-red-arc-tuff-body-g3-a17-p250-k1149.html

Here is the tech spec from the side of the box:

  • 9 Ball bearings + 1 needle bearing
  • One-way clutch anti-reverse system
  • TuffBody aluminum design
  • Wormshaft oscillation system
  • Extra strong bail system
  • Super stable support for the Twist-free line roller
  • 2 Aluminum spools with line clip
  • Balanced rotor
  • CNC aluminum handle with aluminum handle knob
  • Finely adjustable multi-disc Front drag system
  • Special protection cover for the dragwashers
  • Comfi-cover for handle knob

Wet Wet Wet

Well what a grueling winter we are having weather wise. The rain has not stopped here in Sligo for it seems an eternity but I have to spare a thought for those in some other areas of the country who seem to have been hit a lot worse with major flooding and damage done to property and businesses.

Although the weather has been atrocious here, it has only really affected me on the fishing side of things luckily with rivers looking like something out of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and lakes doubling in size in some cases. I have never really been too worried about arctic conditions when winter fishing as I luckily don’t feel the cold too much but this extra water has really slowed the pike down considerably on the few venues I can actually get near. I have made it out twice in the past fortnight and it has been very slow going. The deadbaits have not been touched at all and I have had to turn to doing some lure fishing to pick up the odd fish here and there.

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My first trip was to a backwater on the Shannon and I planned to mix the fishing up a bit with one rod out for pike whilst doing some feeder fishing for some perch. My hope was that the perch would like the shelter of the backwater and would probably be quite happy to follow the bait fish there whilst in turn the pike would not be too far behind. The theory was good but the conditions just wouldn’t allow for proper fishing with 60-70mph winds causing mayhem all around me. I had just purchased a Fox Supa Brolly as I felt it would be useful for the winter pike sessions plus be handy for the overnighters I would start in spring. If nothing else was gleaned from the session, at least I got to test the brolly out in some serious conditions and it held up admirably thank god. It fits nicely into my quiver and will be a godsend for my tench fishing as I really am sick of dragging the bivvy out for short sessions. I didn’t bother going for the overwrap or choose the  brolly system as I don’t think they were necessary, but have got a mozzi panel for it to get away from the biting midges we get here in Ireland on certain waters when the weather warms up that can really be a pain the arse.

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I managed another short afternoon session at the weekend and decided to head to a local enough lake that usually produces a fish or two for me when the going is tough. On arrival I was met by high water levels and a muddy bankside, but not so bad that I couldn’t set up and get the rods into a suitable area. I decided to mix it up a bit with deadbaits both popped up and on the bottom and chopped and changed with a variety of baits. After a fruitless couple of hours I changed my set up to a drifter float, as the wind was coming from behind me and I could get the bait into some fishy looking areas. This along with some sink and draw with a smelt didn’t even get a sniff. The sight of my second otter this winter was a bit of a surprise. It spent the afternoon working the lake in search of its lunch and was soon joined by a cormorant who seemed to be faring better on the hunting front, popping up with small roach and rudd every few minutes. Knowing that there were some decent perch in the lake I decided to give the rubber jigs ago before darkness fell but to my dismay I had left my lure boxes back at the house…. clutz.

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Rooting through my ruck bag I did find an unopened lure still in its box under all the unnecessary clutter I had brought with me. It was another of the lures I had won in a competition early last year with the fishingtackleireland.com crew but had not had a chance to use yet. On having a look at it, I remembered I had seen it before in one of Dermot Ogle’s excellent posts on his Lureguide.net blog. He seemed to really rate it and the guy knows his stuff, so I made up a wire trace and put the Iron Claw – Phanto Glide through its paces.

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First cast and I had a delicate take which let go almost immediately. Having not lure fished for a while I got my head back into it and told myself to strike at the next bit of interest. A couple of casts later and I got another opportunity and this time made no mistake hooking up to a feisty wee pike. Although it was under 10lb, it was more than welcome and gave a good account of its self on the light gear. With darkness nearing I decided to cover another bit of water with the lure which I noticed had a number of ball bearings in its body. Was this what was rousing the pike to have a snack ? After another few casts I got a take right at the margin and it was a much better fish but as quick as you like it let go and sunk back to the depths. I gave her a number of casts in the same area but she seemed put off by my presence. Once bitten, twice shy.

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Walking back to my gear I gave the lure a couple of casts along the way and did manage one more jack of about 8lbs  which felt like he was on steroids. I reckoned if I had got the lure out earlier I could have had a few more fish on the bank and it gave me something to ponder. How many fish have I missed out on whilst sitting behind my deadbait rods enjoying a coffee and catching up on some books when I could have been working harder for the fish. I do not do much lure fishing for pike apart from early in the season and maybe a bit in the spring. I seemed to have got myself into a rut of fishing with baits in the depths of winter as it has always been the way I had structured my pike season. Of course a lure angler is severely restricted when he fishes from the bank but quite a few of the waters I fish have some good depths close to the shore with quite a lot of bank space for lure fishing so there really is no excuse. It’s something I will definitely be doing more of in the coming weeks before I finish up my piking.

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Next weekend sees the National Angling Show taking place in Dublin at the Swords exhibition centre. I will hopefully be heading up for the event as it will be nice to catch up with a few fishing pals and also see what the show has to offer as I haven’t been to it since 2007. The same day sees the Irish Specimen Awards taking place too and I am due to collect an award for a tench I caught this year. I haven’t claimed a specimen for donkeys years as the whole process of getting scales certified and calibrated along with filling in all the paperwork never really interested me. However I have been fishing with my mate Craig Murphy who has the scales done and is a dab hand at going after specimens of a wide variety of species and as he was with me the day I caught the tench he said I should enter it in. It will be nice to get out for the day at the event and see some fellow fishermen and trade tales of fish caught and lost. A special congratulations must go out to Jason Dingle who broke the roach/bream hybrid record with a fine fish of 7.44lb which was caught in May of last year at the famous Monalty Lough in Monaghan.

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I received some tasty products from Pallatrax in the post this week and can’t wait for the weather to warm to try them out. I had asked Simon at head office to send on some of their pastes as I had quite a bit of success last year using some homemades ones for the tench and they got me some bonus fish when everything else failed. I had always associated paste with fishing at commercials or using it to boost my carp baits, but was really impressed with the way tench took my homemade concoctions when float fishing last summer. On one evening I had not had a touch on my usual maggot and castor hookbait and switching to a fishy pellet based mix I had made and landed four nice fish in the last hours of light. Since then I always carry some in my bait bag when going after the tench and it has proved to be succesful on a number of lakes that I am sure have never seen paste or pellets in any great numbers before.

I got a nice variety of flavours to try including the very aromatic ‘Crave’, and the ‘Jungle’ which has a nice nutty biscuit twang to it. The ‘Winter Almond’ flavour has been really producing this winter in the UK for carp and it is another which I think the tench might have a liking for whilst some old faithfuls like Scopex, Strawberry and Pineapple should also work a treat. The texture is such that it will definitely stay on the hook well enough to fish the margins and I have also made up some coil rigs to try on the feeder rods which should be interesting. Before the tench do walk up from their slumber though I hope to hit the Lough in Cork for some early season carping and I will certainly incorporate the them on one of my bottom baits.

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On a final note, I sent Korum a mail last week asking if they sold the locking nuts for the accessory chair attachments separately as I couldn’t find any online. I had lost a few on my travels last year somewhere along the line which rendered my attachments useless. I had tried with some bolts I got in the local hardware store but they didn’t work out. They asked my for my address and said they would send some of free of charge. The post man arrived to the door this morning with a pair of them in a jiffy bag which has saved me having to go out and buy new attachments for the chair. Big thumbs up to whoever it was in the Korum office who sorted that out for me. Cheers…

As I am writing this the forecast snow has just started and the temperatures have really dropped in the last 24 hours. This might slow the fishing down even further but as long as the rain stays away I don’t mind too much at all. I think we just need a week or two of dry weather and this could improve prospects no end.  At least my wee girl Pippa is happy at the sight of it arriving..

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2014, A Fresh Start

Well a new year is upon us and with that come new goals and targets for the coming season. 2013 was a better year for me fishing wise. I had some very enjoyable sessions on the bank and although some targets were not achieved others were and I had some great days out with some good fishing buddies along the way with a new personal best to show for it.

The highlight of the year for me was my new personal best tench, however as a result my other fishing suffered somewhat from my blinkered approach to the species. Not that I am compaining, as at the start of the year I had set my goal out to catch a seven pound fish and feel that if I was to gain my goal, I had to put the hours in. This did however see me not trying for other species as much as I wanted too. I also felt that once I had caught my target fish I took my foot off the gas a little fishing wise, and maybe this was because I was exhausted after trying to juggle early mornings and late evenings and all the driving that goes with it, with work and family commitments. I also think that I lost my mojo for a few weeks which is never a good thing for an angler who is trying to hunt for bigger fish.

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Other highlights of the year were getting to fish some new spots that I had earmarked for quite some time and although some of these excursions weren’t as fruitful as I would have liked some of the places will certainly be revisited this year with the hope that I can crack them.

For this season I have as always made a plan for my fishing and if I keep to it which isn’t always the case, then hopefully some more cracking fish will grace my landing net. The year has started off slowly for me with a culmination of adverse weather conditions and household chores and family matters that had to come first before I could continue with my search of some big pike. I have managed to get on the bank a couple of times but my camera has seen more action than my rods, after some breathtaking dawn and dusk scenes.

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My plan is to keep on hounding the pike until the cut off point which is usually around St Patrick’s day as it’s generally then the fish are spawning and other species start to make an appearance. I also plan to try and catch an elusive 2lb roach this winter/spring. This is a project that really does excite me as I will be planning some sessions on two new waters, that rarely see a coarse angler but definitely hold some absolute clonkers, and from what I have heard could do fish a lot bigger than my target. As with most fishing in Ireland, weather and water levels will dictate to when I get to approach these red finned beauties and all the action could come within a small window, so I plan to have everything packed and ready for them as I await a phone call to tell me they are on and I should get myself off down to the river for what could be all or bust.

Come spring I also hope to catch up with some specimen bream and hybrids which have eluded me for the past couple of years. If you have read previous blog posts, you will know it was not from a lack of effort but more – wrong place wrong time. Prebaiting is the name of the game here and a lot of it, which isn’t easy when some of the venues are not too close to home. However, if I keep an eye on the conditions and see a good opportunity coming my way, one big hit of bait and then fishing at the right time could see me hit the jackpot.

speci bream - monaghan

All this comes from reading some really interesting theories about big bream and their feeding habits a few years ago on some Irish fishing forums where people like Bill Collins have really opened the eyes to a lot of anglers on how to approach these fish. Keeping an eye out just for weather conditions alone is not enough, there is a lot more involved and learning to watch how air pressure rises and fall on a barometer and how it effects fish will certainly put you in with a better chance being on the bank when the fish are actually feeding. If you have the chance you should certainly do some googleing on the subject and you should come across the posts which are on certain forums and the information written in them is like gold dust for the serious angler.

As soon as the bream will have gone to their spawning grounds it should hopefully be time for the tincas to come out to play if winter doesn’t continue on until June like last year. Having noted a lake or two with some really good fish in I plan to carry on targeting these with the hope I can add to my pb from last year. It may sound like a cliche but it really is a joy sitting in a swim with the mist coming off the lake in the early morning in the hope that when your float next dips you will be attached to an angry tench bolting for the nearest reed bed. Although my target is to beat my pb, I don’t think it is beyond the realms of possibility that I could come a across an Irish 8lber and it is this incentive that will keep me plugging away.

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Although I will continue to fish for tench throughout the summer once the prime months of May and June have passed I will not be putting in the same amount of time for them as I hope to really try and get back into some proper carp fishing this year. Location really is my main pit fall when it come to my carping as most of the north west of Ireland is barren of decent waters, but there are a couple of ultra low stock lakes that I have been fishing this past year or so with not much to show for. A handful fish in ten acres really is a challenge but they are catchable and if I do manage to land one, it will really make my year. I do however plan to do some travelling this season to some more productive fisheries both in Ireland and hopefully the UK to help put the odds in my favour.

17lb common

One of the fun things about writing a blog is it tends to kick my arse into diversifying somewhat to make it more interesting to read, and I will certainly be back out trying for some salmon and sea trout this year as it would be a sin not to target them when they are so plentiful in the waters where I live. But as with everything there is so much to do and so little time. If I manage to crack even a few of my targets this year then I certainly won’t be disappointed.

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On a different note, I am delighted to have been asked to join the Pallatrax team this year. Pallatrax are one of the most innovative and forward thinking fishing companies out there as far as I can see and 2014 really is going to be a busy year for us. If you have not come across them , they are responsible for products like the ‘Stonze’ range of weights which are patented worldwide and really are a one off system which are environmentally friendly. Their ‘The hook’ range have been a favourite of mine for quite a few years and is a pattern that has put a lot of fish on the bank for me and one I have complete faith in.

It is not just their end tackle they have become well known for though, their bait range is also one of a kind. Their ‘naturals’ range really caught my eye when I was doing my fisheries management course a couple of years ago and was learning about invertebrates and fly life which fish naturally feed on. The range includes a plethora of naturals like gammarus, daphnia, bloodworm which I am really looking forward to trying out this year in certain angling situations.

naturals range

Pallatrax also do a wide range of boilies, squabs, pellets, method mixes and quality glugs which have been responsible for some big catches all over Europe. For a full look at their range and to check out how some of their products work, check out their website at: http://pallatrax.co.uk as well as their facebook page for up to the minute reports at: https://www.facebook.com/pallatrax

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Pallatrax also expanded last year with the launch of their sister company ‘Lone Angler’. The company is fronted by barbel angling legend Trefor West and they do a great range of quality rods and luggage as well as some other interesting baits concepts. For a full low down on what ‘Lone Angler’ has to offer you can see their products on the website: http://www.loneangler.co.uk/

I would like to thank company head honcho Simon ‘Pom’ Pomeroy for asking me to join the team as well as big fish guru Jez Brown for his help and look forward to seeing how this exciting range of products work in my angling situations here in Ireland.

Well that’s it for today, I would just like to wish you all a happy new year and hope that you enjoy your fishing as much as possible and catch some whackers along the way.

On Your Pike

December has really crept up on me and if it wasn’t for the decorations sprouting up everywhere, I would have sworn it was still late October. Apart from a brief cold snap a couple of weeks ago, the weather has been unseasonably mild and I am not sure if this has been affecting the pike fishing or not. Well I say pike fishing in general, however some lucky anglers have been getting among the crocs so it has most likely just been me who was back to blank for the past couple of weeks.

After my last catch I thought I could really kick on and get among the fish, but as ever pike fishing has a cruel way of kicking you in the arse and just when you think you have got their number, they turn their nose up to every bait you offer them.  In all likely hood though the truth probably paints a different picture. The last couple of times I have been out the conditions have not been conducive to catching the bigger pike I yearn for.

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Bright cloudless skies with not a breath of fresh air don’t fill me with optimism when I am on the bank, and as I can’t just up sticks and hit the water when the conditions looks right, I have to take what cards the weather man deals me on my free days.

I know it is a cliché, but as I have said in previous blogs, fishing is not all about catching fish it’s about so much more. Each trip is a learning curve and even if I blank, I try to take something positive from the experience. I mentioned my scatterball approach in my last blog and since then I promised myself I would stick it out on a water, try and learn as much as possible about the place and hope that my time on the bank would in turn produce some fish.

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Well you guessed it my following three sessions didn’t produce a single bleep on my alarms, follow on a lure or bob on my float. I did however learn more about the water in question. A few hours plumbing around various swims and finding out the depths helped give me an idea of where the drop offs are and where the fish are likely to hold up at various times of year.

Another clue that helped somewhat was to keep my eyes peeled on the water to watch where shoal fish were topping in the mornings and evenings. Find the prey and the predators should not be too far away. I was also lucky to bump into a local angler known across the land as the ‘bream king’, but who also is a dab hand at tempting big girls from their lairs. He had spent some time on the water in the past and was very helpful in pointing out what he knew about the place. Cheers mate. All these things I find help put the odds in your favour for when you do get a good day to be out and help you make the right decisions on where best to fish.

So following on from the blanks, I got a pass to get out again this week and with things looking better weather wise I felt a lot more confident about my chances of getting a fish. From both experience and reading what the experts write, bigger pike do like to have a munch before a colder front arrives, and with such a system on the way coupled with a new moon, I was out the door this morning quicker than rat up a drain pipe.

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On arriving at the lake a stiff breeze was blowing right in my face and as it was not a cold one I hoped this might bring the silvers with it to my bank. On the downside casting any great distance wasn’t helped by the gusts. However this was not too much of a problem as a lob of thirty to forty yards is all that is needed in this swim to get a nice depth.

I set up two deadbait rods one with a smelt and the other with a roach. These were both popped up off the bottom about 18 inches to try and slow down the crays which can have a field day on your baits. Even though popping them up won’t stop them I find it does keep your baits intact a little longer which is helpful when trying to catch a pike.

Don't mess with the Crays, they'll mess you up

Don’t mess with the Crays, they’ll mess you up

Both baits were in the water by 8am which was pleasing as I feel a lot more confidence piking in the morning than the afternoon at the moment, plus I had an appointment with my three-year old and a Christmas tree at 4pm.  The first few hours went by like the past few sessions without as much as a murmur but I wasn’t too disheartened, as when the bigger fish are on the move the smaller ones sometimes make themselves scarce if they think they are on the menu. Well that was what I was hoping was happening out there. Cheeky 3lbers hiding in the weedbeds as their mothers went out to grab a bite to eat.

One thing I have been finding a lot of at the lake was crushed up crayfish shells and discarded claws on the shoreline. I had wondered if Mr Heron was to blame as I had seen him out on most trips poised silently waiting for a small roach to get within striking distance.

My question was answered in a more abrupt manor however when an otter hoped out of the water and onto the bank next to me with a mini lobster in his mouth. I don’t know who jumped highest as we both looked each in shock not expecting each others company. As quickly and quietly as he had arrived, he dived straight back into the water laughing at the fool on the bank covered in coffee. I know otters are not everyone’s cup of tea for various reasons but in deep rural Ireland on a vast loughs they are a sight to behold up close. I just wish I had my camera to hand at the time.

Back to the fishing and with not much happening I decided to crack out a chicken sandwich salvaged from the roast the night before in an attempt to trick the pike into following my lead. With just one bite left my left hand buzzer on the smelt gave a couple of beeps. Had the fish read the script ? I reached over and felt the faintest of movement on the braid, enough to reel down and strike. Solid resistance was met and it felt decent too, then within a split second the fish must have roared up from 14ft below to crash out of the water letting me know I had hooked a proper one.

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

battered trace after the fish, and small popped up smelt

The fight was fairly tame until she got within netting distance and started to show off again tailwalking out of the water. I got the net under within a few moments and that was when the real fun started. My 42inch landing net snapped at the spreader block and the fish somehow came out and tore up the bank wiping out my other rod in the process.

I managed to compose myself and kicked my other rod back out of the way whilst trying to lure her back into arms reach so I could chin her.  She had tangled herself in my other line but I managed to  slip the hand under her gill and got her out onto the unhooking mat with braid  wrapped around my feet nearly sending me flying. She was nicely hooked in the scissors and the hooks popped out with ease. On the zeroed scales she went 23lb on the nose and to say I was delighted was an understatement.

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I set up the phone for some self takes instead of the camera as I wanted to try out a new app which lets me shoot 10 shots in 30 seconds. With the phone balanced on my bag they went surprisingly well, apart from some gurning faces when she had a flap in my arms. She went back in the water none the worse for wear from her experience and gave me a soaking with a flick of her tail.

As with most big fish days that was the only bite of the session. If I had stayed on till darkness who knows what could have happened. However, I was more than happy with my mornings work and I drove back home a little earlier than usual so  I could spend a bit of extra time sorting out Christmas matters with my girl. It’s funny how a decent fish can turn a grumpy old sod into a happy chap in the space of a few moments.

 (Self Take – Out-take, don’t drop her)

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