Sunday 18 December 2016

It's Spawning Time...

2016 is winding down and drawing to a close. As we can see 2017 on the horizon, plenty of anglers will be looking forward to their first casts on the Drowes. A beautiful little river draining Lough Melvin, it often produces the first Irish spring salmon. Many of us will be looking on in anticipation to see how sport unfolds. With a lack of late running fish and an improved spring run this year, will we see a better spring again next year? Only time will tell but we can hope...

February springer on the Drowes; a fishery every angler should try and visit.

Bass fishing wound down for me in late November as I cast a lure only once this month, to no avail. The Bandon has been in great shape for spawning so far, with no major floods to report. What has been extremely noticeable is the growth of ranunculus, due to the low water conditions. There is more in the river now than there has been all summer, which is extremely beneficial for water quality and juvenile salmonid survival. One of my primary work duties at this time of year is redd counting and I've been surveying the catchment to see where trout and salmon have been spawning. I'm happy to report, recordings for both have been extremely encouraging and I'm optimistic that we are looking at a very successful spawning season indeed (providing we avoid any major deluge).

A cock salmon which has spawned successfully and completed it's life cycle. 

One of three otters patrolling the margins one frosty November morning. Wildlife on the river bank is plentiful during these quite winter months. 

Luckily, conditions for observing trout spawning activities were exceedingly favourable this year. Last year it was impossible to record anything! Fortunately, I managed to capture some nice footage and have stitched clips together to create an educational video detailing the process. The first complete trout redds I observed were on October 12th, with the bulk of activity occurring in November. A video on salmon will be coming along shortly but for now, I hope you enjoy this video and find it informative.

'Trout on the Redds'.

Finally, for those who may not have seen it yet, the Celtic Sea Trout Project Technical Report has just been published. Full of detail and insightful graphs, a wealth of information on Irish sea trout stocks is at hand. For anyone with an interest in sea trout and sea trout fishing, it is a must read. 

Celtic Sea Trout Project Technical Report.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

From Salmon to Bass

As winter begins to creep in on us with the ever increasing frequency of frosty mornings, now is a good time to reflect on the last month of the salmon season just past and the bass fishing which is still in full swing. Fishing on the Bandon was very good for the remainder of September, with water levels ensuring excellent angling conditions on many occasions. All summer, patchy rain led to small floods which lasted only a day or two but the final four weeks saw more consistently good fishing water. Many nice salmon were landed by anglers and it was great to see that most of these were returned to continue their upstream migration. The vast majority of fish caught were stale with only the odd fresh salmon encountered. This trend has established itself over the previous five years, where autumn runs of fresh, sea liced salmon have dwindled to a trickle. However, the river did witness a significant improvement in the number of spring salmon running this season, so hopefully this upturn will continue.

Iconic, rich autumnal colours line the riverside as trees begin to lose their leaves.

Spey casting on the Bandon. (© Ebor Benson @

A nice fish taken on a single handed fly rod, slow sinking tip and small, sparsely tied Willie Gunn in low water.

Fly fishing provided the best sport for myself and most others in September. Using my switch rod or single hander, I enjoyed catching a few salmon to around seven pounds. All sport came to slow sink tip lines and as the final few days approached faster sink tips and short leaders worked better. As most salmon seemed to be stale and leaves were a bit of a nuisance at times, a nice few fish came to a small Willie Gunn tied by Denny Brennan on a single hook. Chucking lures elicited a few more takes from salmon, one of them being a nice fish between twelve and fifteen pounds. Alas, every fish shook the hook and sprinted for freedom. The DUO Realis Rozante  63SP accounted for all hook ups and my fingers are crossed that better water conditions coincide with runs of fresh salmon in the 2017 season, so I can get the best out of these lures.

A salmon with a belly as gold as my reel!!

Last day fish chilling out.

Bar one visit to the Argideen in October, all my attention has now turned to bass. It has to be said, October is probably the best month of the year for bass if the weather remains relatively settled. A convenient time for transition from salmon to bass fishing! Last year the southern coast line fished its socks off. Would 2016 be the same? It has to be said that bass fishing this autumn has also been spectacular for many whilst roaming the shoreline for Dicentrarchus  labrax.

James Barry with a pristine bass from the West Cork coastline.

Paddy Thompson holds aloft a fish in prime condition (© James Barry @

Speaking to friends and reading reports, bass behaviour has been slightly different this year compared to last. Whilst night fishing last year accounted for the lion’s share of fish, this year has seen a shift to better day time sport. My own experience this year saw good night fishing in the first half of October but even then bass seemed to be a little tentative at times. Hard and soft plastics attracted fish for friends and I off rocks and beaches but sometimes they were a tad reluctant. Fishing Wave Worms off sandy beaches enticed some fish but there were many more nips and plucks than actual hook ups. Water temperatures remained unusually high, but maybe the lower air temperatures and the greater difference between the two put them off a little.

One of only a few bass taken at night time, a white Wave Worm proving to be the downfall of this fish. 

Many of the bass my friends and I have caught have been scale sampled for the National Bass Programme, established by Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Moving into the end of the month and into November, day time fishing proved to be very productive! My best lures were the ever reliable IMA SF-125 and DUO Terrif. Both of these fished over very shallow ground accounted for plenty fish with the best session seeing seven fish come to hand in a short two hour excursion. Sport with these fish was exceptional as they are in absolute mint condition after feeding on the abundance of herring present. Even now, bass are still chasing lures as this weekend I had some more fish employing the same tactics- a slow, steady retrieve interspersed with pauses. As the water temperature is still around 12 degrees Celsius, there is no reason why we won’t see sport continuing for another while longer. 

A bass from icy waters last weekend.

The DUO Terrif was responsible for many bass landed along the southern coastline this autumn.

To end this blog, a further two issues of 'Off the Scale' has been released jam packed with brilliant articles on game, sea and coarse angling. A big well done to all the contributors and especially to the editor Bill Brazier. Every issue released is bigger and better than the one before and Bill's effort, skill and dedication to the publication is hugely evident to all. Check it out and enjoy!!

Issue 12 'Bass in the Bay' with Peter Aspinwall in Clonakilty.

Issue 13 'Trout on Lures'.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Salmon A Plenty

As the Bandon waves goodbye to August and says hello to September, we reflect on what has been a fairly productive month for salmon fishing. Since my last update, the river has been cleansed by the highest flood of the summer on the 22nd. This shifted a lot of the algae which had built up on the lower river and ensured anglers were fishing a pristine river on the 23rd. Many salmon were forthcoming, however many of these were stale fish.

James Barry throwing a line across the Bandon after a small rise in water levels.

Nevertheless, fishermen enjoyed very good sport and a few fresh autumn salmon to twelve pounds were also among the catches. On the 23rd, I had the pleasure of guiding Mr. Dominic Moseley on his first day out fly fishing for salmon and after a couple hours tuition he was delighted to catch his first ever salmon of four pounds. What great sport on a light single handed rod!

Mr. Dominic Moseley with his first ever salmon, a 4lb grilse on the fly.

It must be be one of the most satisfying feelings watching everything click into place for a fisherman and Mr. Moseley went home a very happy man. Venturing out myself during the week whenever the time came my way, salmon showed interest in the fly and lure but just weren't sticking. One fresh grilse of five to six pounds hammered my DUO Realis Rozante 63 SP lure in the Komochi colour. I knew the fish wasn't hooked very well when it kept on shaking vigorously and after five minutes we unfortunately parted company.

On its first outing the DUO Realis Rozante 63 SP grabbed the attention of a fresh salmon. Hopefully the next one sticks!

As shrimp and worm fishing is prohibited on Bandon Angling Association club waters in September, I took the opportunity and fished worms last Sunday. Fishing a light line and keeping direct contact between myself and the bait, a hasty strike resulted in a coloured grilse of four pounds or so. A couple of silver bars were in evidence however these remained very quite and seemed to be uneasy as they were preoccupied with migrating further upriver.

A bronze beauty ready for release.

More rain is forecast this weekend in the south west and if it falls over the Shehy Mountains in Dunmanway then we could be in for some more great sport with salmon. Hopefully a more consistent run of fresh autumn salmon is around the corner and the next flood may be just what is needed to kick start fishing for the final month before the curtains draw on yet another season.

An autumn chill is now in the air. Will we see one more good run of fresh salmon before the season's end?

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Better Late Than Never!

A whole summer has elapsed and I haven't updated this blog! Well, what can I say... It has been an incredibly dry season on the Bandon, a stark contrast to 2015 but even drier than 2013 and 2014. Catchments to the west and east have recently received great falls of rain resulting in full spates but the Bandon has had to make do with a couple of small rises measuring a foot and half each. Luckily, this freshened up the river and helped spread out salmon and sea trout along its length but unfortunately each spate only lasted a couple of days.

The lower Bandon showing its bones, as has been the case for the majority of the 2016 season.

Besides the water levels, numbers of salmon migrating have been fantastic which is hugely encouraging. Thankfully, these observations have been echoed nationwide and will help make up for the lack of fish last year. Since April, good numbers have been consistently entering the system and making their way to the headwaters. The summer will be remembered as one favouring the bait angling enthusiasts as these have accounted for the lions share of fish. However, many have also come to the fly, especially in late spring and when water levels were conducive to good fly fishing conditions. A good range of sizes have been encountered with a few salmon in the fifteen to twenty pound category coming to the net and this has been further supplemented by an excellent run of grilse.

As fresh an Irish grilse as one could hope for. Hard fighting and covered in sea lice, fish have been in excellent condition. 

On the sea trout front, the best word I can use to describe the season is 'sporadic'. At times there have been decent numbers of fish present but good fishing has never really materialised. Contrary to the dire salmon fishing conditions, it has been a summer of ample opportunity to venture out on a midnight hunt for their smaller cousins. I enjoyed excellent sport on the Argideen at the beginning of the summer but could not quite replicate it on the Bandon. A couple of nice fish have turned up and smaller 'schoolies' have been present in good numbers, but on the back of the previous two seasons we were hoping for more.

A decent Bandon sea trout tempted by a surface lure in the small hours of the morning. This fly has proved to be particularly effective of late.

So far it has been a season of many highlights for me. These have included guiding an angler to his first ever Atlantic salmon on his first attempt, landing four salmon one day recently and catching a bass, salmon and sea trout in one evening. The last success is something I've always wanted to accomplish but never tried and I must say it caught me by surprise! An evening cast on the rocks produced a few bass to five pounds on lures and a night time sortie for sea trout resulted in a twelve pound salmon which is one battle I will not forget in a hurry!

A memorable evening of sport. That's the beauty of West Cork!

Bass fishing is an element of the sport which catches my attention in October when the rivers close but the Irish Bass Festival in July always captures a bass anglers imagination. 2016 was no different and we enjoyed a savage weekend roaming the Copper Coast on our quest for the festival winner or best three combined. It's such an excellent event and it offers the chance to meet up with great friends we don't see too often throughout the year. Conditions this year were excellent and the improved catches of bass were a reflection of this. It really was a festival of two halves as day time sport was best at the beginning and the end spiraled into all night madness, with barely a wink of sleep and too much Red Bull! A summary of the weekend, written by James Barry, can be read here

A hard fighting copper coast bass which fell to a Yum Lil Suzee soft plastic lure. 

Finally, two more issues have been released of Ireland's number one angling publication, "Off the Scale". It's hard to believe eleven issues have been published already! In May I wrote an article about Bandon Angling Association's fly fishing tuition day with the world renowned Glenda Powell and Bandon Scouts. The latest issue includes an informative article detailing how an angler can feel their way into the world of sea trout fly fishing at night time. A daunting prospect made easier with day time planning.

Issue 11 of "Off the Scale". Well done to all the great contributors!

P.S. The next update on this blog wont take as long!! Plus, you can see more photos on my Instagram account which can be found on the right hand side of this blog.