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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.

mullet location

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.

sligo sunset mullet

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.

mullet 1

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.

mullet final

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.

Double Trouble

Well it’s been a grueller of a couple of weeks with a succession on blanks on the pike front. They say effort equals reward and if that was the case I should have a volley of big fish to my name, but that’s the mystery of fishing for you and if it was easy it definitely would not be fun.

I have been fishing a variety of waters in search of some decent fish which goes against my new found mantra after my tench fishing this year. I promised I would pick a decent water and stick with it, but with various invitations and opportunities arising I have been galavanting around various counties.

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On one hand I suppose it breaks up the monotony of blanking when you are doing it on different venues but am I really learning anything about these waters when making fleeting visits ? I suppose you do learn something when you fish a lake even the once, be it plotting depths and finding swims, to noting feeding times and of course through conversations with other anglers.

I have been teaming up with angling buddy Craig Murphy quite a lot this winter and although things have been slow the fishing has been eventful, be it smashing rods or injuring myself. The couple of times he has been out on his own, he has managed to get a few fish making me conclude I must have had some piking curse bestowed on me.

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Luckily my piking hoodoo lifted yesterday when I made an early morning visit to another lake I have had on the radar for a number of years. During a recent visit to Dublin with the family I did my back in badly, so my venue options were restricted to an easy access lake with little or no walking with my tackle. This spot conveniently had waterside parking, so with heat patches on my back and a couple of painkillers I made the short enough journey to Mayo to see if I could winkle one out.

I am not a big fan of lakes that have easy access as they tend to attract lazy anglers who don’t know what bins or black sacks were made for. Because these places are naturally busy places for anglers of all sorts, the fishing can be a hit and miss affair too for a variety of reasons, so my expectations were not too high. However on arrival at the lake and a recci along all the fishable spots I was pleasantly surprised to find little or no rubbish which always gives you heart. Either the anglers that had been fishing there use some sort of common sense or it hadn’t been getting much attention at all. Either way the day had started on a positive note.

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My bait selection was pretty poor to be honest, comprising of 90% sea baits as I hadn’t had a chance to replenish my freezer. I did have a packet of pollan though which is a good all round bait to try on a new venue as they are highly visual and of course pop up naturally if they are packed properly. Sadly mine didn’t pop up so I used a trick Craig showed me of bait flossing the gills and just above the anal cavity to make an air tight chamber and then injected the culprit with air to give it some buoyancy. The other rod was sent out with a fresh half herring which was also popped up with a polyball a foot or so of the clean lake bed.

With the baits out I got the coffee on and settled down for another blank. On the subject of coffee, I find it a godsend on cold mornings when pike fishing and the stronger the better. It may sound like over kill but I nick the percolator from the kitchen while she is still in bed so I can make a decent brew. I came across a new coffee (to me) in the local supermarket recently and it certainly keeps you alert when you have only had a couple of hours sleep prior to a session. When I noticed it was numbered 6++ on the ‘coffeeometer’, it went straight into the basket and then onto the bank.

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Another reason to bring the percolator is it takes that bit more effort and time to make the coffee and invariably it’s when you are in the process of doing so that a run usually occurs. I don’t know how many times the aptly named ‘sandwich trick’ has saved a blank session. My dad and I came up with the name when we used to fish the canals and things would be quiet. Once you opened up your sandwich the fish would see this and nab the maggots and you would strike whilst your lunch ended up in the water. A great trick that used to have my poor mother busy making the heaps of sandwiches needed to get a good net together, but was well worth it.

As I was pouring my first cup of the day, right on cue the delk gave a couple of bleeps on the pollan and I struck into my first pike in what seemed like an eternity. After a couple of head shakes the fish came in easily enough and my hoodoo had been broken. Never had I been so happy to see a jack pike.

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I have been using quick links to attach my traces this year as I find it is easier to just un-clip it from the mainline to deal with the fish and to also attach another baited trace to the rod to get your bait out again quickly. When pike fishing, I find you may only get one or two feeding windows in a day and if you are not prepared correctly, you may miss out on another bite, faffing about with rebaiting traces and such. Any fish landed though, no matter how small should never play second fiddle, so always make sure you have dealt with any pike with hooks in their mouth before you’re looking to catch another.

After returning the jack my rod was back out on the same spot in double quick time with another arse injected pollan and I returned to my colder than hoped coffee with renewed optimism. Within a minute my alarm let out another couple of bleeps and I thought it was just settling. Another beep and I was onto the rod to see it nearly getting pulled in as I had forgotten to open the bail arm. So much for pike not liking resistance.

The fish gave the same few head shakes and I thought another jack until it got to the margins and she thundered up and down the swim for a minute or two. Slipping the net under my first double of the season more than made up for the long line of blanks of previous weeks.

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She was hooked nicely in the scissors and went back strong after a couple of quick self takes on the camera. Sadly the pictures didn’t come out as well as I had hoped due to the light and angle of the camera. A workman and his tools etc etc.

By the time I got back to my coffee it was stone cold but there was plenty more in the packet and things were looking good for the day. The session was cut short though when I got a text from the wife telling me the little one and her had woken up with chest infections. The gear was packed up quick smart so I could get home to look after the girls, but with a couple of fish and the curse lifted I was happy with my mornings work.

With the recent rain, I have been mainly fishing lakes as the rivers have been high and dirty and only as I write this are they fining down and probably in perfect fishing condition. The plan is another visit to a lake in the morning as the feeling is the pike should feed up before this forecast cold front. When the weather does strike, I am going to turn to the rivers for a week or so as I don’t find they are as effected by severe drops in temperature as lakes are.

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Hopefully my next blog will bring more words on catching fish rather than pontificating about the positives of blanking. It would also be a bit special if my first 20 of the season was a hard fighting lady of the river. We live in hope.

On another note, I have set up a facebook page for this blog and you can find it at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wet-Dreams-Fishing-Blog/415013608599359

Perched On A Pier

I continued my search for some big perch this week. I was planning my first pike session as it is the start of October, but with temperatures in the mid teens, I think it is still just a little early for Esox. A change of venue was also decided but with no boat at the moment, I was restricted to a couple of areas where I could get access to deeper water to fish with jigs.

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Thankfully I have one such area not too far from me that has the potential to do some decent perch. Last year when bream fishing I managed a clonker of 2lb9ozs there on the worm so with that in mind I headed to the Leitrim border full of confidence.

The spot is majestically scenic and if I didn’t hook up with anything, the sights were enough to enjoy the few hours on the bank. The location is an old jetty which I presume was a spot for mooring boats in the past, however I have not seen a boat there in all my years visiting. It also gives me some nice depth close in. With a short enough cast I can find 30ft and being a little bit out in the lake I can cover a fair bit of water. In an ideal world I would be in a boat with an echo sounder finding features that might hold shoals of marauding perch but this was good enough for a few hours entertainment.

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Having not ventured far from Sligo recently, I haven’t had the chance to top up my plastic population, but having already had some success with what I have, I was sure if there were a few stripeys in the area I would be in with a chance.

Another plus of this type of fishing is the lack of equipment you have to bring and the ease of setting up quickly. A rod and reel, net, bag of lures and a mat are all that is needed along with my flask of coffee. This had me casting out a small white maggot jig in no time and it wasn’t long before I was getting the tell tail tap tap of something nibbling but not taking the lure. I might be completely wrong as I have not done any fishing with experienced ‘jiggers’ but through trial and error I found letting it sink to the bottom and then popping it back so it flutters up and sinks back to the bottom the best way to induce a take. If you get some nibbling but not a true take then keeping your cool and continuing the retrieve seems to keep them coming and its 50/50 whether you hook up. On other occasions and usually with the better fish you just get one decent snatch and striking into them usually does the trick.

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Over the first hour things remained slow but I did manage to land a couple of smaller perch but it was hard going and frustrating not being able to cover more water. The lake has minimal areas for bank fishing and even less spots with any depth close to the shore. After going through my less than vast collection of plastics, I found a spinner bait I was lucky enough to win in a competition from http://www.fishingtackleireland.ie. It was part of a selection of baits that Florian Peter kindly posted up from their Sanger range which is proving to be a popular line for them and has accounted for some impressive captures of both pike and perch.

I hooked it up and gave it a whirl. Letting it sink to the depths takes a few seconds and bouncing it off the bottom I got a much stronger take. It felt heavy and although it didn’t have the usual jagging fight that perch usually give, it was moving from left to right and coming up slowly. Thoughts turned to a lethargic pike sulking its way to the bank until it broke the surface and I came face to face with a new pb fruice orange juice bottle with added zebra mussels. Oh well. Getting it onto the unhooking mat I noticed that it wasn’t foul hooked and it had indeed taken in right in the mouth. I did think it was a strange occurence as from past experience in catching bottles, their prefered food was a static worm or maggot hard on the deck. Not being a litter bug, I knocked it on the head and put it into my bag. I do advocate catch and release but taking one for the bin is allowed.

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After a fruitless hour trying various spinners and plugs I went back to the soft jigs to see if any more perch had moved into the area or were passing through. Black and red has always been a favourite combination of mine in spinners and lures and a worm with a black body and red arse was slipped on and cast in anticipation. The change was a good one as I finally got amongst the better perch. It was great sport finally getting amongst the better fish and I had forgotten how well perch scrap on light gear. I didn’t manage any monsters but a couple were approaching the 2lb mark which is a respectable weight for a perch and the benchmark I had been setting myself for each trip.

perch

I hope to do a day or two from the boat in the coming weeks mixing up some piking with the perch fishing and hopefully will get among the bigger ones. A 3lber is the target and a realistic one too. The minimalistic approach to this method of fishing is appealing to me more and more and if I don’t reach my target, I am definitely learning through each trip and enjoying it too.

nice perch

Before I headed out this morning I did a clean out of the freezer too, to see what deadbaits I needed for the coming pike season. A bucket of not so fresh frozen fish was filled to make room for new arrivals and to prime a couple of spots on the lake with some prebait. Exploring a few spots you have never fished before is all part of the enjoyment of fishing and an afternoon doing this armed with just a marker rod is sometimes just as much fun. I did find a new area I was meaning to fish for a few years, but the walk put me off. I plumbed around the secluded headland and found some nice drop offs close enough to the bank which look good for a few sessions. A volley of defrosted baits were put in and I will continue to do so over the coming weeks. I don’t know if it will make that much difference but you have to try and stack the odds in your favour when fishing such a vast water. If the weather dictates and some cooler fronts come across in the coming days I might give it a go. Till next time, cheers.