Sunday, 24 November 2013

Bass Still Chasing!!

It's late November and one notices a sharp transition into winter, with frost in evidence most nights. In contrast, sea temperatures have held up well and bass are still being caught on lures along our coast line. To be honest, I thought my last cast for a bass this year was back in October. However, a weekend of sport a buddy enjoyed up on the Copper Coast in Waterford recently spurred me on to give it another shot on one of my favourite marks in West Cork.

While bass hug the shore all year long, numbers are lower in the winter months and they are much less willing to give chase to a lure. This is mostly down to water temperature, with the magic measurement for lure anglers thought to be 10 degrees Celsius. At present, the temperature is between 11.5 and 12 meaning there is still time for a chuck and chance! The forecast for this week is for cloudy skies and less frost which will hopefully prolong the window of opportunity.

Not wasting any time, I decided to give last Monday evening a go as high tide was just approaching twilight. I spent a long time walking the rocks looking for some action in the water as there was very little swell. Luckily though, the swell was stronger the day before and the water was well fizzed up. With high tide nearing, water was beginning to rush in around some rocks at a distance and was now covering gullies which were high and dry earlier on. It was now or never, so on went my favourite shallow diving lure, the IMA Komomo SF-125. Within a few casts a fish hurtled towards it, revealing its presence by slashing the top of the water. 'Here we go', I hoped and 5 minutes later I struck silver! This lure is just the bomb... the lure doesn't find the bass, the bass find the lure!!

Rather than putting up a photo, I decided to upload a short video that I took of the release.

While on the topic of releasing bass, I recently received scale sample results from the IFI National Bass Programme. A scale sample was sent from a 69cm bass I caught during the Irish Bass Festival and it turns out the fish was 13 years old and was a fast grower. This underlines the fact that bass are extremely slow growers and the utmost of respect should be shown to these magnificent fish.

On the river front, spawning has now commenced on the Bandon. For the last couple of weeks trout have been busy on the redds in some of the tributaries. Due to the trout being mostly small down here, redds have proved hard to spot but here are a couple. When trying to find them the best areas to look are the edges and tails of pools. A patch of gravel lighter in colour should be evident, with a depression in the middle and a mound of stones at the tail of the redd.

Last Friday I spotted the first 2 salmon redds on the main river, no doubt spurred on by the frosty conditions. Thankfully these are a little easier to spot!

I also managed to capture a couple more snaps of wildlife on the river. The first couple are of an otter that was really gorging itself on small trout, taking no less than 6 in half an hour! Finally, the little egret, whose numbers have exploded in recent years along our rivers and coast lines.

As a parting note, we have had some great news on the salmon farming front in Ireland. The European Commission is to re-open its investigation into the negative effects of salmon farming on wild salmon. To read more on the issue, click here. News on this subject had been scarce for a while, so this is a very welcome advancement in the right direction.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Nature Through a Lens

So fishing on the river is finished again until next year , but its always good to keep an eye on how its ticking over through the autumn and winter months. I rarely go down to the river these days without my camera and with all the wild life around its great to get a few snaps.

At the start of the month we witnessed a good rise in water levels which was enough to encourage good runs of fish upriver. The first day saw the river extremely dirty, as was expected after such a long dry spell, but from then on salmon and trout migrated in numbers.

Throughout the spring and summer a dearth of sea trout was evident. Towards the end of the season runs were gradually building and last week I witnessed the best shoal all season, with at least 50 plus fresh run sea trout taking a brief rest in a pool. These silver tourists ranged in size from a quarter of a pound up to two pounds.

Before colder temperatures eventually grasp the country by the scruff of the neck I hope to get out and do some more bass fishing. 2 weeks into October and I thought I would have been out by now but I've just been too busy. One visit to the sea shore in September at an estuary mark resulted in no success on the bass front but I did manage a fiercely hard fighting 4lb pollack and a surprise turbot which just couldn't resist my Fiiish Black Minnow!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Like a Red Rag to a Salmon

What a dry end to the salmon fishing season that was! September departed the same way it arrived, with low water and not a single fresh drop. As the month progressed fishing became very tough on the Bandon. As well as the low water there was a profuse growth of algae to contend with. With these various elements combined, fly fishing was made extremely difficult in quite a few stretches, as there is only so much time you can spend taking the weed off of your fly!! However, approaching the end of the 1st week of September the river experienced a reduction in water temperature. This, mixed with the time of year, made resident salmon much more aggressive and willing to take.

Using my light spinning outfit I had great sport up until the final whistle. Try as I might with the fly, from size 15 shrimp flies to 3 inch sunray shadows, efforts proved fruitless. The only spinner that worked for me was a red and silver flying c, preferably in size 2 and 3. Red is a great late season colour, as can be seen from the flies we use; green/yellow dominates spring flies, yellow/orange for summer flies and orange/red/claret for autumn. Fish coming only to the red and silver combination underlines the importance of choosing the correct colour combination when spinning, rather than being content with just any colour.

Most days out saw salmon chasing the lure, nipping the end of it or boiling at the surface and completely missing it. Of course fish were lost also, one being around the 11 or 12lb mark which came off when she was half ways in the net only for the other 2 hooks to impale the mesh! No worries, as the fish would have been returned anyway! Up until the last day of the season I could see her in the same lie that she had been occupying for the last month.

Fresh salmon continued to run the river throughout the month but numbers were very low due to the low water. Unfortunately I only made contact with 2 of these, both grilse and they both shook the hook. However, fresh sea trout did make more of an appearance and although they weren't present in numbers there was enough to make night time fishing for them worthwhile when conditions suited.

At least these spirited little fighters gave some sport on the fly rod! As is usual for this time of year, most sea trout were small with only the odd larger specimen present. I used a floating line the whole time as the sink tip kept snagging the bottom and even a small aluminium tube fished off a full floater resulted in jagging the stones so small flies were the order of the night. The usual patterns worked, but the Bibio and Alexandra JC were the most successful patterns. 

At the time of typing this, October 1st, the season is now closed and we have had the first appreciable rise since the second week of August... typical! The river gauge yesterday read -0.21m and is now +0.62m and rising. This rise is a relief to the river and will now let the salmon loose from their shackles; free to swim closer to the spawning grounds.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Small Flies for Tough Conditions

The tough conditions which have persisted throughout this summer are still with us and there is no sign of a let up in sight. The Bandon river is now down to its bones again, practically as low as it was in late July/ early August making fishing difficult to say the least. During the past week I concentrated my efforts using the worm, as the worm is not allowed on Bandon Angling Association waters for the month of September. Takes were few and far between and I hooked just one fish on Saturday which unfortunately broke the line by wrapping it around a branch.
Sunday September 1st was very bright and hot, with temperatures in the low 20's, not exactly the best conditions for salmon fishing with the fly but you make do with the cards you are dealt. I set the trout fly rod up with a full floating line; the first time I have done so this year. To this I attached a tapered fluorocarbon leader 12 foot long and a size 15 Allys Shrimp.

With the bright conditions I wanted to fish fine and far off, maximising the distance between myself and the fish so I wouldn't spook them. Making my way down the pool I had two pulls which came to nothing. When approaching the tail, a fish jumped and rather than wading further down I lengthened my cast in order to cover it. A few casts later and the fish hammered the fly! A great fight ensued and 10 minutes later I had my prize in the net, a fish tipping the scales at 7lbs. 

The fish was fairly fresh, perhaps a week in the river and it was a very good test for my set up, making tearing runs up and down the pool. Fresh grilse are still entering the river at present. Hopefully these will provide more sport on the same set up until or if a flood comes before the seasons end.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Short Lived Action on the Fly

A nice little rise in river levels on the Bandon last weekend offered up the opportunity to take the fly rod out once again. I fished the fly less during low water as fish seemed a lot more reluctant to rise to a fly. It seems this is a trend for this time of year, with their noses seemingly stuck into the gravel at times. Many fish are now stale and past their best but a lift in the water brings them on the take as well as enabling fresh fish to run.
Saturday morning I spent a bit of time tying up a suitable fly to fish for the weekend. I opted for a Park Shrimp as lately all I had been using was a Green Butt Cascade.

In essence, this Park Shrimp isn't really a true Park Shrimp as I didn't use arctic runner. Mine uses the same colour scheme but uses a small pinch of bucktail at the base and more finn raccoon in the tail, tied very sparsely in this instance with plenty of fiery orange ice wing to set it off and catch the eye of the salmon. Heading out on the river to my spot of choice I tied on the new fly... 2nd cast and whallop fish on! 5 minutes later and I had a plump little 3 and a half pounder in the net. 

As it was a hen fish I returned her to continue her journey upriver and hopefully achieve her goal on the spawning beds. 
Sunday the water was even better, with a slight tinge of colour in it. The day was mostly overcast with a light southerly breeze causing a ripple on the water. I fished for 2 hours in the afternoon and managed one more fish on the Park Shrimp, another stale hen which I returned, weighing approximately 6lbs.

In the next spot I hit a second fish but I knew immediately that it hadn't taken the fly properly and it came off after a couple of minutes play. A fine fish by the looks of it too, 7-8lb weight and bright silver. 
The water level has now fallen once again and so has the fishes interest in the fly so I haven't been out much this week but I did have one more small grilse on the worm. My next plan of action is to tie some flies on size 15 hooks, incorporating more late season colours such as red and purple/claret. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Adapting Methods for Continued Sport with Salmon

Since the 4th of August the Bandon river has been dropping steadily, reaching a low summer level once again. However this hasn't deterred runs of fresh salmon into the river and luckily enough I managed consistent sport on a variety of methods. Despite low water and mostly bright conditions, I managed 3 fish in 3 days on 2 seperate occasions fishing for an hour or two in the late afternoon.

Both of the fish above were released.The first salmo salar was a coloured grilse of 3lbs or so which fell to a size 3 black and gold flying c cast upstream and retrieved fast. Retrieving faster than usual after trying the moderate to slow retrieve can sometimes make a salmon take the spinner as it has less time to see it, meaning less time to think. Slow retrieval in coloured water and moderate to fast in clear water has worked best for me this year. Previous to this I had fished the pool down twice with the fly but to no avail, underlining the advantage of having a "Plan B" to hand. 
The next day a sea liced grilse of 5lbs or so couldn't resist my size 13 green butt cascade. Since the water had fallen to a height I deemed too low for the 14 foot double hander I opted for the trout fly rod instead. My set up here is an Airflo Forty Plus Extreme 6/7 weight single handed fly rod matched with a Guideline 4Cast Sink 1 Line. This line consists of a floating running line and a 15' sinking tip Power Taper F/S shooting head. I can't speak highly enough of this line as it is a pure joy to use, whether I need to perform a snake roll, snap t, single spey or simple overhead cast it does it all. Attach a 3-4 foot leader of 8 or 12lb fluorocarbon and a fly you have confidence in, then you have a great set up for medium to low water. 
Over the coming days sport fizzled out on the fly with fish constantly coming up short. From short plucks to long, straight draws where I was full sure I had hooked up, all came to nothing. Spinning in the low water yielded little reaction either, only the odd half hearted follow, so next in line to use was the worm. Using light line, little lead and trotting the worm down the current I managed another 3 fish in 3 days.

The above fish were the 1st and 3rd bars of silver I managed to bank, the top fish weighing 5lbs and bottom 7.5lbs. Both were cock fish and again covered in sea lice. Unfortunately I didn't manage a photo of the 2nd as after another angler helped me land it, it quickly shed the hook and eagerly jumped off the bank and back into the river! It was easily the smallest salmon I've had this year, around 2.5lbs. 
Today the 16th of August we had a quick rise in the river of nearly 6 inches after yesterday evenings heavy downpours. With some more persistent rain leading to higher water levels we could be in for some great sport. Increased water could also mean fly fishing will be more effective, be it on the double or single handed rod. The runs coming up from Kinsale still seem to be mostly made up of grilse but the average weight of these fish is increasing. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Big Water Equals Big Fish on the Bandon

Last week the River Bandon experienced yo yo water levels as a result of heavy downpours. These rises were very small and short lived but fresh enough to wake up the odd fish from their lethargic moods. I managed one fish at the start of the week when the river was experiencing one of these freshets, a stale grilse of 3 to 4 pounds or so which succumbed to a trotted worm after twice following a flying c without taking it. Quick photo, quick return.

Come Thursday the river rose rapidly and by Friday it had peaked at 0.75m according to the gauge in Bandon. My uncle and I hit the river Friday afternoon as the river was after peaking and just starting to drop. Spinning a size 4 flying c we both missed fresh sea trout, mine shaking the hook at the bank. Half an hour in and Winston hooked a fish on a size 4 red and silver flying c out in the middle of the river. After an initial 10 minute fight and plenty of jumping the fish started tiring, but had another trick up its sleeve and proceeded to leave the pool! Many would not have followed in the torrent of water present that day but experience and knowledge of the river paid off and he managed to follow it downstream for 100 yards, getting absolutely soaked in the process. Another 10 minutes of trying to coax the fish out of the roaring white water saw our first attempt of landing the fish fail miserably as his net had a hole in it! Threading the rod though the hole I ran back up to the pool above to get the other net and eventually the fish was landed. Winston's first fish off the river in a while and what a way to get the ball rolling again! It brought the scales down to a hefty 16.5lbs.

I was away over the weekend but sport seemed to be consistent along the river with a lot of fisherman meeting a fish or 2. A good few grilse were caught along with some more bigger fish up to 13lb weight. Needless to say I couldn't wait to get out again to make the most of the rise after the drought and I was hoping to get a fish on the fly as so far any fish I've hooked on the fly this year have come off. With the morning proving fruitless I met up with a couple of friends and we headed further up river. Thankfully the sun was now partially covered by cloud increasing our chances further as the morning had been very bright. Rob was the first down the pool, with me following on behind and Fergal trying his luck with the worm. Half way down Rob had a pull which didn't stick, but at least we knew they were there even though they refrained from showing. Continuing down he had another draw on the line but this time the fish was on and 5 minutes later a scale perfect 10 pounder was on the bank, his first of the season, ably netted by Fergal.

Now, thinking I may have been fishing a little too deep I switched tips on my fly line from an s3/s4 to a s1/s2 and just as I was approaching the same spot as Rob had his fish my line came to an abrupt stop, I left a loop of line go and I was bent into fish number 2 of the afternoon. After a very strong fight the fish tired and at last I had one on the fly.

After another fruitless run down the pool by the 3 of us we decided on a change of location further up river again. Although we spotted quite a few fish, apart from a grilse being caught and released by Rob's uncle before we arrived, nothing more was to be tempted by our offerings. Flies that did the damage were both tied on size 13 salar hooks, bigger flies proving ineffective. Rob's came to a Ness C salmon fly, which also worked for others over the weekend, and mine to one of my own variations of the green butt cascade which I will put a photo up of in the future. Hopefully now the river will stay at a decent height and more sport can be had by all. With autumn now at our doorstep, a bigger stamp of fish akin to Winston's above will become a much stronger possibility.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Irish Bass Festival 2013

The Irish Bass Festival was set up by the lads at Absolute Fishing, James and Cian, last year. What started as an idea between the 2 of them in the shop snowballed into a roaring success and it was to be the first of its kind. Last year 120 anglers took part with a total of approximately 250 bass caught over the weekend. I was away travelling last year and so missed it but this year I couldn't wait for it and anticipation levels were going through the roof!
I met up with Paddy on Thursday and we spent the day looking around some marks before the festival begun on Friday. We fished 1 mark on the rising tide and although it usually fishes best on the drop we caught a couple of small schoolies which helped us get our bass fishing minds into gear.

Delighted with the results of our efforts we took it easy that evening as we were going to need all of our energy for the weekend ahead. We made a trip to the shop to stock up on some "festival winning" lures, created a plan of attack for Friday and set the alarms so we would be down to the shop and registered by 5 in the morning. 
Done and dusted with registering Paddy, James' friend Kenny and I made for a mark which had been kind to us before. Arriving on the mark conditions were much flatter and calmer than they had been the day previous, which was to be the theme for the weekend. Still we remained confident as the sun was just starting to rise and we knew these first few hours would be the most important of the day. Starting off on hard lures I got the ball rolling with a fish of 52cm's which hit the lure first before doing the decent thing and hooking itself. It's important that if you feel a fish hit the lure don't continue winding, instead stop the lure dead. This makes the prey look injured to the bass. Sure enough after stopping the lure for a moment, one turn of the reel and the fish was on. 

It was a great feeling, and a relief, to have the first fish under the belt. The aim of fishing this festival for us was to just enjoy our fishing and to hopefully get a fish or 2. Having sport so early was a bonus! As you can see above each fish is measured, photographed with your own individual I.D. and returned to the water.
Another 2 hours passed by with no hint of action for the 3 of us. Moving around the rocks trying to locate fish, everything was quite until we noticed disturbance to our right. All of a sudden the water was erupting with bass going crazy and bait fish flying everywhere! What an amazing sight!! I've heard of it seen plenty times by fisherman but I have not been bass fishing for very long and this was a first for me. No hanging about, the 3 of us set off on a sprint! Kenny was there first and on approaching saw 2 bass at his feet. 1st cast bang and Kenny was into his first fish of the weekend. The buzz about the place was now surreal! I was next up with a fish and this was on a surface lure, my first fish on off the top. Twice the fish came for it and as I mentioned above each time I stopped the lure. Luckily third time it engulfed the lure and the fight commenced. This was a good fish, certainly no schoolie and eventually, after a few heart stopping moments, I had my prize on the rocks. This was the biggest bass I had ever caught to date, talk about good timing! She measured 69cm on the ruler and brought Kenny's scales down to 6lb 12oz. 

Ecstatic was an understatement, it was probably the most exciting fish I ever caught, visual wise at least as by using the surface lure you get to see everything unfold in front of you. Paddy was beside me as we watched it take the lure, the air blue as we willed the fish on! Without further a do the fish went back. As soon as it went back Kenny was in again with another fish and then Paddy, after losing 3 fish one after the other, managed to register his 1st of the day. And then that was that! The frenzy switched off as soon as it switched on, the 20 frantic minutes had passed but we were very happy with our results. We fished on for a couple of hours more but at this stage we were hitting low tide and the sun was really beating down on us now. The best thing for us was to head back to the shop, get some rest and head out again for a night session. 
Kenny had to leave that evening and so myself and Paddy hit the rocks with another one of the lads, Ross. This was my first time night fishing for bass and I had been looking forward to it for a long time as I had heard how lethal it can be. Having the experience of sea trout fishing at night time helped me but unfortunately we drew a blank. An empty car park on the way back showed we probably weren't the only ones. Still we did manage to register a beast of a different kind on the way home!! Wave worm, slow retrieve did the trick!! ;)

With a couple of hours sleep myself and Paddy were out on the rocks again before day break, same mark that had been treating us so kindly. Its funny how fortunes change with hooking and losing fish as the pair of us switched roles! Paddy got the ball rolling with a 55cm bass and a while later beached a lunker which he needed help with; another 65cm plus lump of silver. What a fish this was too, coming to a shallow diving lure and a steady retrieve. I went on to lose 2 in quick succession, one which felt really good, and eventually I had one that stuck.

At this stage the sun was up again and it was Paddy's turn to leave, very happy with his results! We now had 3 fish each and were able to enter the best 3 fish section of the competition. I fished on for the remainder of the day with Ross and a couple of more lads at various marks, a few hours either side of high tide, but we didn't see as much as 1 fish. Talking to other lads the fishing was tough going, only results coming at night and first light. 
Evening approaching Kenny made it back and the plan for the final day was to hit the only mark working for us at 3 in the morning. Quick couple of hours kip and out to the rocks for one last throw of the dice. With confidence high we were expecting a nice bit of action, especially since we were fishing in the dark, but we didn't meet a single fish in 8 hours fishing. Everything but the kitchen sink was thrown at them and although plenty of baitfish were in evidence the bass had eluded us for the final day. But sure how bad, we had had great sport the previous 2 days and we felt even luckier to be in the right place at the right time when the frenzy of the first day had occurred. 
A great crowd turned out  for the evening prize giving. In a world of my own (as I was still hanging with the fatigue), I heard my name being called, as I had just picked up 3rd prize for 3rd biggest fish!! I was over the moon and received a great prize including new lures, costa del mar sunglasses, tshirts and a hoody. What a way to finish off an awesome weekend! 
Overall, 117 anglers participated with about 200 fish caught, although I don't know the final figure yet. Below is a photo of the 2 lures that did the damage.

The top lure is the IMA Salt Skimmer in the Bora colour and the bottom one is the IMA Komomo SF-125 in the Sardine Red Belly colour. The SF-125 really was on fire for the weekend and it took most of our fish. It was my first time catching on it as the shallow diving lure which had done most of the damage previously was the Tacklehouse Feedshallow. Here is a link to the Bora colour of the SF-125 that caught me a couple of fish the day before the festival also. 
Bring on the Irish Bass Festival 2014!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Summer Grilse and Bass

Well haven't updated this in ages as moved house recently and we didn't have broadband for a while but all is sorted now. To go with the lack of broadband I did also have a lack of fish which I have now thankfully put right! For the last month and a half I have stuck to the Bandon river and over that time the runs are slowly getting stronger. Low water dominated the end of May and start of June making fishing difficult. I hooked and lost one salmon on the last day of May on the fly that shook the hook after vigorous head shaking  and I lost a belter of a sea trout that came unstuck after 5 or so minutes of electric runs and jumping. Moving on from these 2 fish the river then experienced 3 rises in water in quick succession. During this period the bad luck continued and I lost a further 7 salmon, 4 on fly and 3 spinning. 2 of the fish on the fly I was into for over 10 minutes and they still managed to shake the hook, be it a Salar or Ken Sawada double. One mistake I did make was, after losing a fly, attaching a treble to my conehead that wasn't fit for the high water. These are the Partridge X3BL that I use for my swing tubes and now sea trout fishing. They weren't up to the challenge and the fish I hooked bent 2 out of the 3 hooks. A couple of these hooks have also broken off rocks before so now I am sticking to the Partridge BMD Big Mouth Double hooks for high water fly fishing with tubes which look the job.
Getting over that the last 2 days of the month came good and I landed 2 fresh grilse over a weekend and another one at the start of July. I retained 2 fish and left the other go to continue its journey.

The above fish were 3 and 3.5lbs respectively. As you can see they are well made fish, solid and bulky. No need for the big spinning rod in this water, I had great fun on my bass lure rod, the Graphiteleader Argento RV. Fishing in the middle of the afternoon with the sun beaming down still didn't stop these fish from taking, just stepping down the gear and the size of flying c to a size 2 did the business. One fish I caught on worm was great fun as I could see all the action of the take unfold in front of me. Casting out a bait of 3 worms the grilse kept on coming over and nudging the worms. Once the fish even took it in its mouth and spat it back out! Holding the nerve and not striking when I felt these very short runs, I decided to take the worms off and put on one small worm. 1st cast over the fish and whack the fish took the worm, very exhilarating fishing when you have such clear water and it proves again you don't need to be wasting your worms by putting 3 and 4 on together all the time!

On the bass front, I have only been out once to a west cork mark that has produced in the past. This time it didn't fail to produce either. The 1st hour of the push was tough going with all the suspended weed, 1 in 10 casts coming back with a clean lure. Even the weedless weightless soft plastic were picking it up. But perseverance paid off in the end and I managed to pick up this fish around the 3lb mark.

To end this blog, on the Bandon a couple of weeks ago I witnessed a huge migration of elvers (juvenile eels) heading up river. These haven't been seen in years and it was great to be lucky enough to see it. Looking closely, right at the edge of the bank, you could see them swimming up in their hundreds and a friend of mine, a good few miles up river, was watching them at the same time, which gives a picture of the sheer volume of elvers going up that day.

Next blog I will put up a report from the Irish Bass Festival, a savage weekend all round.