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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.

hooklink mullet1

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.

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.

pippa may 027

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.

brace

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.