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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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Going With The Flow

Kicking Off The Pike Season

I have had a fairly uneventful past week on the fishing front though not through the lack of trying. I have done four half day sessions spread out around the county of Sligo without much return, but it has been most enjoyable searching out some new spots and earmarking some for later in the winter.

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One thing I wanted to do more of this season is river piking as there is quite a bit of running water near me and it’s fairly unexploited apart from the trout and salmon guys. Without much info to go on, the trick is to pack light and travel as much as possible to search out a hidden gem or two. This is never easy for me as I always cram as much gear as I ‘think’ I might need, but in reality a quarter of it is necessary and probably less than that is used on a day session.

So after a trial run on the first day, I slimmed down my gear to the bare essentials and kept luxuries to a minimum. I dumped the chair and substituted it with my unhooking mat. With the changeable weather I wear waders or salopettes so getting damp when sitting on it isn’t a problem. When I am river fishing, I like to keep as busy as possible anyway, so there isn’t much sitting between leap frogging deadbait rods to working pools with a float fished dead to chucking some lures into some likely areas.

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I pack whatever gear I need into a carryall which isnt too bad on the back and is big enough for stuff like my tacklebox, lure box, camera bag, lunch, jacket, bait and scales. The only other thing I have to take then is my rod quiver which can take five rods, but I usually just pack a couple of deadbait rods and and a lure rod. These coupled with bank sticks, a brolly and landing net and I am ready to head off into the wilderness like Bear Grylls.

With nearly all the rivers in Sligo getting a run of migratory fish, these are the favoured quarry by locals, so I don’t hear of much on the pike grapevine, and in a way this is the beauty of the fishing. The couple of stretches I fished over the week really hadn’t had any serious attention from anglers. There were numerous swims where I had to hack my way through the undergrowth to get near the waters edge and a bit more work to make it safe enough to land any possible fish hooked. A boat would be perfect but a lot of the stretches are not navigable, so your only option is to put the miles in.

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When river fishing especially in winter you have to take into account the water levels. Apart from the obvious effects of flood water, like flow, colouration and debris causing obstruction to your fishing, sometimes you just can’t get near the banks to fish at all. This has been the case over the past few winters, so I have been making the best of the opportunity to get out there and test out new swims while the rivers are at near summer levels.

Even though the fishing has been slow, I am happy with what I have found through these reccies and I have some spots that will be fished again throughout the winter when conditions allow and hopefully I will encounter some angry river crocs.

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Another water I tried in the past week was a small lough in Leitrim which I sometimes pop by on my travels. The owners of the lake allow me to do the odd fishing session on it as long as I don’t annoy the sheep to much. I have only fished it really in the winter for the pike but I do know it holds good bream and a couple of other species….. The problem I had when I rocked up last week was that the cold weather had not yet killed off the massive weed population the lake has. In the winter it always had some weed, but this was well over the top and I was forced to fish the few margins that were clear to try and winkle one out.

The outcome was pretty predictable and I didn’t see a fish but I will be back in the new year for a session or two as I know it holds the odd good pike. From doing research with college, I found some old papers dating back to the 60’s of surveys that were carried out on the lake and even then some big girls turned up in the nets. Sadly one fish I caught last year there was quite heavily covered in cancerous tumours on it’s head and mouth which were quite shocking to look at. Hopefully it was just an isolated incident.

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The month has not been a complete disaster though and I have been catching some perch along the way as I hone my skills with the jigs. Although I have not hit any monsters, it has been interesting to see what patterns work in different swims, depths, colours etc and as I keep a fishing diary I can read back and see what worked when. What I also do before I head out on each session is to take a screen grab picture on my iphone of the days weather picture on XCWeather. The picture gives me the hourly weather and I can correlate all the information into my diary when I get back home.

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The rivers have been a lot kinder to my pal Mark Harrigan though this week, who I think I have mentioned in this blog before. The man giant has a knack of winkling out the bigger ones and he continued his hot streak at the weekend with a brace of twenties from the river. The first one of the day took a liking to his popped up roach and hit the scales at 20lb 9ozs. An hour later and his float fished roach sailed away on his other rod and this resulted in a fine 24lb 8oz lady. He narrowly missed out on breaking the 30lb barrier last year with a 29lb+ fish and I have no doubt he will manage it this year if he keeps up this form.

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Tomorrow sees me get my first boat session in for the pike and I will be hitting a lake I have not fished for a couple of years. The water does do some big girls on occasion and although the sport is never hectic, the chance of a better one is on the cards. I have just spooled up two reels with some brand new braid as I hadn’t yet changed it for this season and didn’t have full confidence in my last stuff. I picked up 600 yards of 50lb Berkley Whiplash in green which has a really thin diameter of 0.17mm. The funny thing is I have never used this braid before even though I think it was one of the first ones to come on the market donkeys years ago. I will keep you updated on its performance through the winter. I also grabbed some big cheap as chips high visibility sea floats from the local tackle shop which I prefer to use on big waters as they are less prone to breaking on the cast, and double up as cracking pike floats.

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A chance family outing to the local farmers market on Saturday morning turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The fish monger who travels down from Donegal every weekend for the market liked a bit of pike fishing himself, and after chewing the cud with him for half an hour he did me a great deal on some bulk herring and mackerel. I managed to fill half the freezer for pennies with enough sea baits to keep me going for a while. Now I just have to look after the freshwater side of bait and I should be ok for the forseeable future.

On another note, I was delighted to get an unexpected text from my pal Paul McCreivy who told me I had won an award for my tench from earlier in the season. I would like to thank the guys from the Anglo-Irish Tench Group who have a page on facebook and awarded me the best tench of 2013. They posted me out a certificate and a print out of my picture with the fish which I didn’t have. The funny thing is that I have not been on facebook for a few years so I don’t know how they got the picture, but it is always nice to win something, especially when it’s not expected.

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To keep with the moving times, I have set up a Twitter account for this blog and will be setting up a Facebook page too in the next week so I can post updates. I will also be doing a competition shortly on the blog for a great tackle bundle. To be in with a chance to win the goodies, be sure to check in for further details.

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.

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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.

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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.

Getting Jiggy With It

Well Autumn is here and my general tench fishing is slowing down with maybe a couple of short sessions left before I pack it in. I have been trying for the bream on my local water but have not had much over 3lb after a lot of prebaiting and night fishing which is quite disheartening. When I first moved to Sligo five years ago they were so abundant and even fishing in bright sunshine you could still quite easily mount up a 100lb bag if you had put some feed in. Since then I have noticed that the roach have exploded and really made a difference to the make-up of the lough.

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The sessions now seem to be dominated with roach and hybrids averaging 1lb and topping out at 3lb or so. This would be fun fishing if you were looking for a relaxing day out but when you are targeting larger specimens, it is frustrating.

This week also saw the family come down with the annual September sniffles so I had to abandon a trip to Leitrim in favour of something local. I have a small lake which is close by and is handy for a spot of rudd bashing and in the winter also gives up reasonable sport for pike. Although I have not had any monsters from it, you will get a run or two over the course of the day with fish to mid doubles which is fun when I fancy popping out for a few hours.

The lake also holds some perch which I have not fished for before so I thought this would be an interesting little exercise for an afternoon. I planned to fish two rods. One was to be set up with a free running feeder set up and the other a light spinning outfit with some rubber plastics to see if that stirred some interest.

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The lake in question is lightly fished as it is on private land and takes quite a bit of work to get to the waters edge let alone make a swim. It is surrounded with tall rushes so a bit of hacking is required to get you close to the very deep margins which slope off to 15ft or so within a foot or two of the reeds. This I thought would suit some jigging and I had ample depth to work some movement into the plastic worms and hopefully invoke a strike from a perch.

I would usually use the ledger set up on a feeder rod but seeing as I was spinning too, I decided to place the rods on the sticks with the lightest bobbin I had in the box coupled with the Delkim set up on the highest sensitivity to register any movement. Groundbait was simple enough crumb with some worm extract mixed into a fluffy consistency and used to plug each end of the feeder filled with chopped worm. I made a couple of casts to get a small bit of feed in just off a point in the rushes then left it there to do it’s work.

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The Spinning rod was cracked out and a selection of worms and grubs were laid out on the mat ready for any chopping and changing. I loaded the rod with the trusty nanofil which I have actually become a fan of over the past few weeks after an initial scepticism. I have some tungsten jig heads which are heavier than your standard ones and looked to be the ticket to get the light plastics out any distance without it looking too gaudy.

First cast sent the jelly out to the depths and a couple of seconds saw it hit the deck. I started to put some action into the worm type jig and straight away the rod hooped over and initial thoughts were weeds until something cruised off away for a few seconds then nothing. If it was a perch it was a damn big one, but reeling in saw a clean break and I kicked myself for not putting on a wire trace.

So I set up again but this time with six inches of wire and worked the swim for a couple of casts to try and search out a hungry shoal of stripeys. Fourth cast and the rod hooped over again but this time the line didn’t part. After a spirited fight I landed a jack of 6-7lb. Popping him on the mat I noticed when opening his mouth my other jig was just inside his lip. Thank god for that, there is nothing worse than leaving a hook in a fish especially from a school boy error. He went back none the worse for his double hook-up and I set out working the jig again.

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Fanning the casts over the bay meant covering as much water as possible. I soon was hitting some small perch which were fun on the light rod but not what I was after. With no action to the sleeper rod I decided to up sticks and move round to make another swim at the far end of the lake.

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When I got round the far bank the first thing I noticed was the ancient old tree which I have bivvyed under in the winter, cracked in half and laying completely horizontal on the bank. The strong winds from the night before had obviously been a hell of a lot heavier than I had noticed and this great tree had bore the brunt. Thank god I wasn’t snoring underneath.

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I set up again with both rods and worked as much of the lake as I could with my double pronged attack. For the next hour the alarm didn’t register a single beep yet bouncing the plastics in the same area produced take after take. Although I didn’t hit any monsters it was a lot of fun and definitely interesting seeing how the perch reacted to different jigs. Without doubt the king of the day was a small maggot like imitation with a tail that fluttered inticingly with every dip and rise of the rod.

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I must have had 20 odd perch and managed another small jack on the jigs with nothing to the real deal on the feeder.

I did wonder why they didn’t take an interest in the natural as I and I am sure all you have been pestered by perch on worms in the past. A comment by Gary Robinson on one of the forums made some sense to me when he advised using some jigs for the perch. He reckoned that they are primarily feeding on fry and small shoal fish in Autumn and his theory certainly seemed to have some weight behind it. Cheers Gar for saving a blank.

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Sadly due to my location in Sligo, I am limited to what tackle and bait I can get my hands on hence my somewhat crap selection of plastics. This is something I hope to rectify in the next week or so and maybe I will find the perfect jig to snare a proper sergeant.

Another trip for the perch so next week as this warmer weather has put a halt to any notions of an early season pike outing. Then again if this Indian summer persists, I may have a dabble for a late tench too… decisions decisions.

Until next time.

Urban Warfare

I am mainly a coarse angler, however over the years I have done quite a bit of both game and sea angling and really enjoyed a lot of it. I have had some wonderful outings on some really out of the way lakes and rivers in deepest Connemara fishing for salmon and sea trout along with days afloat on the great trout loughs of the midlands and west. When I lived in Dublin I used to do quite a bit of flyfishing on my localish rivers Avonmore and Dargle for small wild brownies and the odd sea trout.

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Also living on the east coast we used to rent boats quite regularly from Bullock Harbour in Dalkey and catch a huge array of sea species in the summer months from cod to wrasse, spurdog, pollock, whiting and lots of mackeral. I have dabbled in some deep sea fishing on the Kish bank in the Irish Sea and also out of Westport fishing off Clare Island with mixed results.

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My current location of Sligo also see’s me living on the coast and surrounded by some magnificent game fisheries that to be honest I really should visit more. One of the handiest and probably most unlikely venues for good fishing is in Sligo town itself. This is where the river Garavogue enters the Atlantic Sea and the estuary provides some cracking sport for sea trout and mullet (more about them in another post).

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This type of fishing is a far cry from what I am used to when filling up the car and heading to one of my coarse lakes with a mountain of gear. When I hit the ‘town’ all I bring is a small bag containing a box of lures, leaders and other essentials along with a rod and reel. Job done. Tackled up like this I can walk fair distances and cover quite a bit of water and fish!

The rod I use for this fishing is a reasonably priced Abu Garcia Vendetta 10ft spinning rod coupled with a 4000 sized Spro Red Arc reel spooled up with some 11kg Nanofil line. 24lb you may hark, what you fishing for shark ? However this line which is a mix between mono and braid in this strength has a diameter of mono that would be around 4-5lb. This enables me to cast small lures and spinners a fair distance along with getting back 99% of my lures when they get caught in kelp etc. There is zero stretch in this stuff much like braid which magnifies takes from delicate biting fish all the better.

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set up

One thing I have to tell you here is that I am by no means an expert at this type of fishing and when I do get a fish or two I get quite a lot of satisfaction. I say this because they are quite visual, and you will see them leaping into the air letting you know they are there in numbers without getting many takes. I also get a bit disheartened with my skills after hearing stories of the locals coming back from their bagging-up sessions with reports of 20 and 30 fish a time.

The estuary where I fish runs from Sligo town centre for about 3 miles west out to the entry of Sligo bay where the Atlantic meets Rosses Point on the northern side and Strandhill to the south. The tide race can be quick in areas and there are numerous flat shallows coupled with deep gullies which give you somewhere to fish at every stage of the tide.

Rosses point

Rosses point

The numbers of trout that inhabit the bay are very good thus feeding must be good for them as the Garavogue river itself is not noted as a sea trout river. This means that shoals of fish enter the bay solely to feed before they head back to their natural spawning streams from other areas. Another factor that helps matters is that we are lucky that there are no salmon farms in the area. Indeed the coast north to Ballyshannon and Donegal, and south west to Killala Bay all benefit from a lack of these farms that have caused so much destruction to sea trout populations in other parts of the country due to sea lice.

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Fishing is far from easy, but you are always in with a chance and always spurred on with each leap, swirl or follow from a trout. They go big here too and a 4-5lb fish is not that uncommon but average size I would reckon is around the 1lb mark.

I mainly fish for them with an assortment of spinners and plugs but have dabbled on the fly and with sandeels and had success with both. On the spinning front my preferred baits are small Tazmanian Devils, Toby’s and a variety of other small spoons and spinners. The smaller the better as far as I am concerned for more bites and blues and greens seem to be the top colours.

As I mentioned earlier there are spots that fish at various states of the tide but the main spots i head too seem to be best a couple of hours before low tide and an hour or so after.

a seatrout, they are plentiful up here in the north-west.

Although fishing from the shore gives you a great chance of some fish a boat is king as you can easily head to various spots on a whim and cover far more water on the various drifts. As with sea trout fishing in rivers, a state licence is required to fish for sea trout at sea. The same regulations apply and although I find them better eating than salmon I only occasionally take one for the pot. If you have a go and get amongst them, please be sensible with what you take home and when releasing always handle with care.

Prebaiting for Bream

What strange weather for fishing as a whole we have experienced so far this year. It started off in glorious sunshine and warmer than usual weather in March, then April and May really were significantly a lot colder and wetter than usual. I had a carefully planned itinerary for the year targeting various species and waters, but that all went out the window as my planned attack had to be rethought.

My first port of call was for the bream, but as March was so warm I feared they might spawn early.  However the cold weather of April put the blinkers on that, and I saw a window of opportunity for May to do a serious pre-baiting session and hopefully nab a couple of big ones before they did the deed on a massive wild Irish Lough.

100lb bream

My plans seemed to be going well at first, 2 weeks of hard graft with a fishing pal, which saw a lot of miles put on the clock and a small mountain of bait distributed to the said water. Every third day we would boat out 30-40kg of various goodies, from flaked maize and ewe nuts, to catering cans of corn and prepared bird-food or as the uk carpers call it parti-mix, plus the usuals like dead maggots, pellets and wheat.

prebait1

This was distributed in an area the size of a tennis court where I know the bream congregate before spawning. Things looked good as bream were seen rolling in the evenings in our chosen spots as we piled yet more bait in, which showed us we weren’t wasting our time, or so I thought.

We planned a 2 night trip over a weekend, as I cant just up sticks and leave with kids and work commitments. Sods law saw the hottest 3 days of the year and the hundreds if not thousands of bream went into giggidy giggidy mode and wouldn’t look at a bait no matter what treat we had prepared for them

We did observe them from a boat as they courted each other right underneath us oblivious to our presence, but there wasn’t a hope they were going to be caught, so we cut our losses and let them have an early night.

hybrids and perch

I did have a cast for them the following week for a couple of hours, and had a few hybrids and a very welcome 2lb9oz perch, but the bream had moved off out of the area, most likely to a nearby river to clean themselves after spawning. Surprisingly, I had never caught a roach or hybrid in this water up until 3 years ago. It was bream after bream. The make up of the lakes biodiversity is obviously now changing since the roach introduction 8 to 10 years ago and they have made their mark, but hopefully the bream which do grow large there will still be available to anglers in years to come.

90lb bream

After all the massive pre-baiting sessions, I decided to head for the Tench which are my favourite of all the warm weather species. I did some trips to local lakes and did bag up on loads of fun sized tench but it’s the bigger ones I have been after over the years and some the richer less populated lakes of Leitrim were on my list of targets this year.

Although the tench are one of the most frustrating fish known to man, there is something special camping up on a lakeside and getting up at 4am to watch nature wake up and see the mist or more recently rain on the water as the tell tail signs of tench feeding by the fizzing bubbles they produce as they scour the lake bed in search of their breakfast.

This can also be the most nervous of times too, as bubbles get closer to your float then head in a different direction and it’s a mind game of stick or twist as whether to follow them or keep your nerve. The latter usual works better for me if I feed properly and have my float set up right.

I usually couple the float rod with a ledger rod on the alarms to give me the best opportunity. On the sleeper rod I usually use a method feeder or a black cap maggot feeder with short hooklinks and either fake corn or fake castor hair-rigged for self hooking. On some of the weedier water I fish this also helps with presentation and sometimes helps with hooking as the buoyancy of the rubber bait and the weight of the hook make it more natural than plain old baited hooks, and less conspicuous on wary fish, and the bait is in their mouths before they now what to do with it.

A few spods of chosen bait are put over the area I fish as opposed to the hundreds I would use for bream if we didn’t have the use of a boat. I like to use castor, pellets, dead reds and hemp for my tench although I never leave home without the trusty can of sweetcorn.

Some people really like to pile the bait in for tench, but on some lakes I find this can put them off and I like to fish for a bite at a time when they are finicky. No doubt both methods work, but if the tench are not in large numbers I try and sit on my hands and keep the bait bowl as far away as possible and just give them enough attraction and food for one to slip up. But as always all lakes differ and tench never read the rule book.

fat roscommon tench - 5lb10 2

Again the rain has dictated the spots I could fish as a lot of lakes are flooded and unfishable, so some homework and guidance from some good people has seen me get onto a couple of waters to get some action from the tincas. I haven’t broken any records but have had some very respectable fish and would you believe it some bream when I wasn’t fishing for them. Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers.

As some of my fishing trips see me galavanting around on my lonesome, the dilemma of taking pictures for this article arose. Now I know there are experts in the field of self taking pictures but I am only scratching the surface this year with it. This coupled with the fact that I have a digital camera that only allows me a ten second delay when using the timer saw me in some funny moments. However I have managed to get a couple of pictures that just about did the job.

I use a screw in adapter that goes into the base of my camera, then screws into a bank stick, and all for the princely sum of a couple of euro. Next is to get yourself into the frame as best you can and to choose your background, (which is vitally important for all those secret squirrel specimen hunters).

I take a pic of me holding a pretend fish which a lot of the times is very optimistic looking on my part, then mark your spot with further banksticks so you know where you are meant to be for the all important money shot.

self take 1

Anyway I was out this morning and put this into practise and as you can see, the fake fish is a lot bigger than the real thing, but I was happy with the framing and picture. No doubt there are photo boffs reading this and laughing, but for a cheap simple set-up, it does the trick.

self take 2

And no I am not including the several outcuts of me juggling a bream at 6.30am for your amusement, they are getting sent to ‘You’ve been framed’.

Sligo Salmon

Well after spending the past 6 weeks moving house and waiting what felt like forever for broadband to be installed, I can finally write a another blog about all things fishy down this end of the country. One of the plus sides to the new house is the great Salmon River that flows 15 yards from my front door. The river in question is called the Ballisodare, and for its length of 4 miles, it meanders through pasture land and woods before hitting the town and cascading for half a kilometre down a series of magnificent waterfalls more akin to somewhere like the Zambezi than a limestone river in Ireland.

pippa 289

 The river is a true phenomenon and seems to be doing the exact opposite of most  other fisheries in this country. Before 1846, there were no Salmon running the river  as the falls at Ballisodare were impassable. Then the Cooper estate who owned the  rights to the river stepped in and developed Europe’s first fish ladders and seeded the  headwaters with brood stock from the Rhine and Moy among other rivers. The rest is  history as they say, and the river today is enjoying some of the best Salmon fishing in  Europe.

 The river is allowed to open for spring salmon fishing in February, but over the years  the forward thinking club have held back opening day to May to let the early fish  get into the river system. For the past couple of years it opened on April 1  day for some but for the lucky anglers who made the journey this year, they were  rewarded with 12 fresh run spring Salmon. The first fish of the season on the fishery  was caught by local angler John Connolly, weighing 6lbs 9oz and was taken on a  worm. The first fish caught on the fly was hooked by visiting angler Dennis Barrett,

 N.Ireland, who took the fish of 6lbs 6oz on a Willie Gunn. The heaviest catch of the  day was a fine 13lbs 1oz salmon caught by Francis Kearns, while the second heaviest  was taken by Richie Watters and weighed 12lbs for the spring run. In the past week  alone there has been a further 30 Salmon have been recorded, with nearly half of these  returned.

 The second Saturday of April saw myself get a chance to fish this wonderful river.  With most of my tackle geared towards coarse and carp angling, a bit of research had  to be done on fly patterns and to sort a suitable worm rod if the fly failed. I thought  I would have been competing with a lot of anglers seeing as it was Easter weekend,  but I was lucky enough to have a lovely stretch of river just below the town to myself  for most of the day, and what a fantastic looking place it is. Being just a couple of hundred yards from the sea, fresh fish arrive with each tide, so you always have a chance.

 The day in question had a severe north wind channelling right up the river which tested my limited fly casting skills. The club on the river promote catch and release, but this is only really possible when fishing the fly, as salmon do tend to swallow the bait when fishing the worm, therefore if you do catch one on this method your days fishing is over as to protect stocks. My plan for the day was to brave the elements with the fly even though I was having a torrid time trying to present my cascade shrimp imitation correctly with a 6# rod. I wanted to have as much time there as possible, even if that meant I might not catch a fish.

 After a while of thrashing the water to foam, thankfully the watchful eyes of the river staff and manager of Ballisodare fishing club Dermot Glennon came down to put me right with my casting and showed me where one of these spring fish might be lying and ready to have a nip at my fly.  5 hours came and passed all to quickly and with a prior engagement with fiancé and child looming, I set up one of my Harrison 2lb test rods, usually used for bolt-rigging for tench, with a couple of light bullets and a size 8 hook that looked like medusa’s head after I had crammed as many worms on as possible.

 Not 5 minutes of flicking the worms into a nice looking pool a sharp pull of a fish got the line whizzing from the clutch on my reel and tench rod doubled over. I have caught a few salmon over the years, but the strength of this fish in the fast flowing water was as thrilling as hooking any carp. A couple of minutes of heroic acrobatics

 from the fish and she was coolly netted by Dermot. At just a shade over 5lb it was one  of the smaller fish to be caught recently, but a fine fresh one with sea lice on its flanks  and a bar of silver. With tags inserted and pictures taken I sat down with the lads in  the hut for a cuppa tea and some talk of the river.

spring salmon ballisodare

Over the past few seasons, the short river has been producing well over 2000 fish a year and the numbers going through the fish counter are exceeding expectations.Although the river gets a great run of spring fish, it is the massive grilse run that starts in June that really has anglers flocking from far and wide. With the grilse averaging between 3-7lb, the sport can be hectic when the main run has started with multiple catches possible.

The fishing on the river is divided into two sections, the first being the butt of the falls, which is run on two sessions a day, from 6am to 2pm and from 2pm to 10pm, sunlight permitting. Above the main falls you have some lovely streamy water for  ½ kilometre up to the town then the river widens and flows with a more laid back  character, slower water with riffles, glides and some nice deep pools. The fishing  here extends upstream to where the Owenmore and Unshin river join to form the  Ballisodare river. Fishing here is from 7am to 10pm and you can fish right through  the system bar below the falls. Living so close I wish I could fish everyday there, but I  don’t think the family would be too impressed with me disappearing everytime I see a  Salmon jump from the bedroom window. So a stroll down the river in the evenings is enough to keep me happy when I am not casting for a any fish.

pippa salmon