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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.