Thursday, 6 November 2014

Narrow Windows of Opportunity

When you think of bass lure fishing conditions there are a number of factors to consider. Ideally, you want a light/moderate southerly wind, a decent but comfortable swell and clean water with a bit of that magical fizz. Match these elements with a favourable set of tides and usually your chances of a fish increase dramatically. All of these ingredients combined early one morning last week when I enjoyed catching 4 west Cork bass before breakfast.

Again, fish were focusing in on hard plastic lures. Interestingly, a couple of the bass had been gorging on a jellyfish- like organism called Velella. These are surface dwelling cnidarians whose travels around the ocean are dictated by the wind. They are also known as "blue by-the-wind sailors" due to their colour and the fact they possess a sail. Opportunistic these fish certainly are!
Last weekend the sea was stirred up by strong onshore winds rendering lure fishing a useless exercise. However over the last 2 days the winds direction reversed and the sea has calmed down. Venturing out for a cast today, before the weather is due to change for the worse, I lost 2 fish. One of these nailed a surface lure after missing it at the first strike, alas it shook the hook. From now on conducive conditions will be fewer and farther between so we just have to make the most of them when they come along!

Finally, for anyone interested in taking up lure fishing for bass, Absolute Fishing are starting to run courses again, free of charge. The course will cover everything from the gear you will need, tides and safety to learning how to read the water and work your lures effectively for optimum results. Courses commence on Saturday mornings from 10am till 1pm. For more information, you can contact the shop through Facebook or ring them on 051393559.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Bass by Night

Before the recent windy weather, day time lure fishing for bass drew nothing but blanks. Surveying various marks and chucking a multitude of lures in different tides all resulted in the same end product. Time to ring the changes and a plan for a night time foray was hatched. Myself and a friend hit the rocks just before nightfall to help us gain our bearings. Already the temperature was down to single figures and dropping with a northerly wind flattening the sea ahead. With the first area provoking little response we scuttled over to another platform of rocks which were now submerged by water with the incoming tide. Clipping on our shallow diving lures the action started from the off. Rod buckling over, I was into the first fish of the evening which turned out to be a new personal best fish brushing 8lbs in weight.

The shear power of this fish was breath taking. Every time I thought she was tiring she sprinted off on another surging run. In prime condition, we admired her before slipping her back into the water. Such a good start to the evening, was this to be it or were there more Dicentrarchus labrax to come? Rob hasn't been fishing for long but has really taken to the sport this year. He caught some great trout in Ballinlough during the spring and ever since has been doing his best to latch onto a bass. All his efforts were about to pay off as the pair of us enjoyed some hectic sport over the next hour and a half.

Putting a very slow, steady retrieve into practise whilst keeping the rod tip up from the water, we hooked 12 fish in all. Sport was frantic as we brought 3 fish each to hand. 2 fish totally did me in by going around rocks and breaking my braid, taking with them my lures. We all hate losing lures but the presence of so many obliging fish more than made up for it. The rest of the fish landed were schoolies in the 2-4lb bracket.

The tides are beginning to build up again and the winds will hopefully die down a bit so hopefully day time sport will improve soon. The weather is still mild and the water temperature is around 15 degrees Celsius so we should see bass attacking our lures for another while yet.
Keeping an eye on the river, fish continued to ascend the weir in Bandon in big numbers. Its such a magnificent sight and many people took the chance to embrace one of nature's greatest events.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Salmon Leap for Joy

The rain has come at last and not a moment too soon for salmo salar. Gone is the sight of low, almost stagnant water to be replaced by a high, oxygen filled flow. In a nutshell, the season will be remembered for the lack of water rather than the lack of fish. The levels preceding the recent rain had a lot of people saying it was the lowest they had ever seen the river. Below is a photo illustrating just how low it was at one stage; a medium sized river reduced to nothing more than a mere trickle.

By night I fished the river Bandon for sea trout on the fly, returning fish up to a pound and half in weight. Algae made fishing almost impossible at times. The seasons end drawing closer was enough motivation for me to make the most of the final few nights.

As I mentioned in my previous post I had all but stopped fishing for salmon. But luckily a small, dirty flood during the 3rd week of September saw a few fish moving and I unfortunately lost 3 fish whilst spinning. I put this down to the water being so full of algae as the fish, although forthcoming, just couldn't see the lure properly. Next day the fresh water had run off and so had the suspended debris. At least one fish of about 6lbs still had a desire to attack my spinner. Playing her quick and taking a photo of her in the water ensured she swam off like a rocket.

Rising water on October 6th saw an increase of 6 feet in levels, releasing the resident salmon from their shackles. What a comfort it must be for them to at last be able to migrate as they please. Some fish were held up for so long in the same pools that gravel could be seen dug up out of frustration as if they were spawning. Alas, they are now free to hone in on their natal spawning gravels.

If you try to photograph salmon leaping over a weir/waterfall, a technique I find useful is to find the area where most fish are jumping. Next, use the automatic focus function on your lens to adjust it to this area. Then, revert to manual focus so that the lens does not readjust. Too often the lens looses focus whilst waiting for the next fish to jump. Turn the shutter speed up as far as the light allows. Adjusting ISO and exposure accordingly helps to mitigate against very dark photos. After you're happy that you have the appropriate settings in place, be patient and hopefully a few good photos will come your way!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Indian Summer Sea Trout

And so it continues... We waited with anticipation for the elusive big flood at the end of August however it never materialised. The Bandon had to be content with 2 rises of 8 inches in a week to bring her to life. Salmon ran in these short, extremely dirty spates and anglers tried to make the most of it with many picking up a fish or two for their efforts. During the latter rise a stale grilse succumbed to a worm trotted down the current. When the river was showing its bones once again on September 1st, another fish fell to one of my favourite lures for this time of year, the red and silver flying c.

As the last month of the fishing season progressed I took a break from salmon fishing and turned my attention to the Bandon sea trout for a couple of evenings. What has become apparent this season is that the bigger sea trout have had a tendency to run straight through the tidal stretches and on wards up river. Taking this into consideration, I ventured out further west along than I usually do to try and track down these travelers. Using a set up of 2 flies on 8lb fluorocarbon I enjoyed excellent sport with sea trout up to 3lbs in weight, measuring 49cm, and the smallest measuring 37cm.

Trying to winkle these out wasn't easy as the current state of the river doesn't lend itself to comfortable fishing. Many casts saw the flies covered in algae which was flowing down the river. Being patient and cleaning the flies off every couple of casts is the best way to get around this. Snappy roll casting and speedy false casting can also help to rip off the weed. As for flies, anything dark provoked an attack with 99% of fish coming to a bushy fly, like a bibio or zulu, on the dropper. No need to linger for an extra cup of tea while waiting for darkness to set in, as early dusk has seen some good sport. 

Finally, last week I saw a photo of what must be one of the largest salmon ever to come off the river Bandon. This photo comes from Fred Buller's "The Domesday Book of Giant Salmon" Volume 1. It is thought that the salmon was captured some time between the 1920's to 1950's via a draft net in the estuary. At 51/52lbs, will we ever see the likes of it in Ireland again? 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Is There A Flood Around The Corner??

The days are slipping by as the dark nights are drawing in and the evenings are that bit cooler. Indeed autumn is beginning to set in and still the Bandon hasn't had an appreciable rise in what feels like the whole summer. Water levels have pretty much being at a low summer level since the start of June, except for a very short rise of a foot in mid July. 2013 was a real test for salmon anglers in West Cork but 2014 is turning out to be even tougher. Nevertheless, moaning will get you no where and if you want to catch you have to persevere. Its a time for stealth and using light gear if ever there was one and although takes are very few and far between, a trophy fish is still achievable. Last month, Dad released a whopper of a sea trout and this month he landed one of his biggest ever salmon on worm weighing in at an impressive 17lbs.

The fish was just off the tide and covered in long tailed sea lice. With September 30th fast approaching its going to be hard for us to better this poundage! Try as I might, I've landed 2 more fish on the worm also, which both went back to continue their trek to the headwaters. Both fish were in the 4-5lb bracket and swam off strongly.

On the nocturnal side of proceedings, sea trout have made a most welcome, and relieving, resurgence. For the last few years returning numbers have been quite low but not so this summer. My best night so far yielded 9 sea trout with many more lost and takes missed. Nothing huge, with a lot being of a small size and a couple going to the pound. Most of the bigger trout went through earlier on in the season but there is still the chance of the odd, bigger fresh salmo trutta. Sport seems to be coming in pulses of late with trout seemingly coming on the take all of a sudden and switching off just as fast. The usual flies are producing the goods and from now on darker flies will be coming into their own.

At this stage of the season a flood would be a blessing for fish and fishermen alike. Just look at the fish in the foreground of the photo I took at Galway Weir last weekend! If it does materialise there is nowhere I'd rather be than on the Bandon as fishing should be fantastic. It would also be nice to take the switch rod out again for a final whirl!!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Irish Bass Festival 2014

Another year, another hugely successful bass festival. This is the third successive year that the event has been held and 125 anglers turned out to pin their wits against the mighty bass. The sun was splitting the stones as per usual... for anyone planning a sun holiday to Ireland plan it around the bass festival as you will be guaranteed a scorcher!!

Due to these conditions, most of our efforts were put into fishing from dusk till dawn. Fishing unfamiliar ground at night time isn't the easiest but it sure is some buzz when you get the hit. On our first evening out, just as darkness was setting in I had my first fish of the festival off the surface on an IMA Salt Skimmer. Keeping an eye on the lure proved futile so I tried the "walking the dog" technique as best I could and it worked in seducing this fish.

Catch, photo, release and back she went into the waters of the Copper Coast. That's one of the greatest things about this competition, in that it encourages conservation at all times. A member of IFI was present over the weekend in the shop to discuss the National Bass Programme. All anglers on receipt of their ID card and ruler on registration morning were handed a scale sampling package also. This was to help collect data to provide scientific advice on how best to manage our precious stocks of bass. 
As the weekend progressed we all managed to land some beautiful fish. Besides a couple of follows and a lost fish, I landed one more small, but plump, bass which took a liking for a Daiwa Shoreline Shiner R50.

Interestingly enough, even though we all spent a lot of time fishing soft plastics, all our fish came to hard lures. Just one fish was hooked and lost on a soft plastic. Below are the 3 lures which worked for me over the weekend. The top lure is the IMA Sasuke 120 and it was the first time I had fished with one. First cast with it I had a fish follow it right in to my feet and bump it which gave me confidence right away. Its got a great action and even when you slow the retrieve right down over shallow ground it keeps slaloming from side to side. A nice little addition to the lure box!

Once again, hats off to Cian and James of Absolute Fishing for organising this event. Between swimming in after lures stuck on rocks in the darkness, rudely waking up a buddy trying to get some shut eye at dawn, dancing in McDonalds with chest waders after midnight, making some new friends and a few savage Waterford bass on the line, it really was another festival to remember.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Thunder Gets Em Going

Just a quick update on fishing over the last few days as I said in my last post I wouldn't be updating until after the Bass Festival. The latter half of last week saw a big change in the atmosphere, with thundery conditions prevalent. An early morning sortie last Thursday saw bass going like the clappers as I caught 3 in less than an hours fishing using the IMA Komomo SF-125. The last Dicentrarchus labrax really had my Shimano Stradic 3500 FJ singing and I estimated it to weigh around 6.5lbs. A faster retrieve did the trick with this hat trick of fish.

Thursday night I met up with a buddy who had just returned from his travels and we set out to tackle the Bandon browns. The cloud was thick and we knew at any time we may have to leave as we could see lightning streaks in the distance. However, trout were rising everywhere and we enjoyed great sport with spirited fish up to a pound weight. Best flies on the night were darkly dressed size 16 wet flies. Also evident was a couple of salmon going absolutely berserk with the anticipation of rainfall... tomorrow could be worth a shot I thought!
Friday saw the river fresher than the previous day due to the stormy downpours. Salmon waiting down in the estuary reacted to this and I came across a brace of feisty grilse hungry for a bait of worms during a brief afternoon session. They weighed 5 and 7lbs respectively.

These fish were fighting fit with the bigger taking nearly 20 minutes to land. Over the weekend the river benefited from another more appreciable rise of a foot and this saw many more grilse and summer salmon running. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Variety of Fish in Dry Weather

It has been nearly a month since I updated this blog as I was waiting for rain but it looks like we're enjoying our second dry summer in a row. Like the rivers, the salmon fishing has more or less dried up as the Bandon awaits bigger runs of fish with the next flood. Some grilse and bigger fish are trickling through on the tides but a flood is whats needed now to bring in the new fish and wake up the old. Alas, I haven't fished for salar very much but released one more fish around the 10-12lb mark which felt like chewing a worm.

Although not exactly prolific, sea trout have turned up in somewhat better numbers this year than previous. Since the 2nd week of June, small sea trout have arrived in decent shoals. These can take vigorously and provide great sport on light gear. Put anything small, flashy and silver onto your leader and they will take it. The Medicine and Alexandra have been working a treat and my best day yielded 8 fish but hardly any broke the half pound mark.

These small sea trout have many names such as schoolies, juniors and finnock, to name but a few. At the moment there is an absence of sea trout around the pound mark but a few bigger fish are slipping their way up river all the time. Whilst trying out a spot below Bandon with my dad one night, he connected with one of these and stole the show by  returning this fish we estimated to be around the 3 to 3.5lb mark. For scale, that is a Medicine tied on a size 8 low water salmon single hook in its scissors.

On the bass fishing front, seeing as the river is so low I ventured out a few times to a couple of rocky shore marks and estuaries. Its brilliant to see that the fish are in great condition and are really putting up a good fight! Sometimes bass don't seem to be the greatest of fighters but the last few have really given a good account of themselves. The lure which has been doing the business for me, again, is the IMA Komomo SF-125. Of course I use plenty other lures to suit the ground, water depth, clarity, etc but time and time again the SF-125 comes up trumps. No big bass for me yet, the biggest I estimated to weigh about 5lbs and the rest around 3lbs.

Like most salmon fishermen I can't wait for the next flood to hit the river and for the fish to start running again but until then its great to just fish for various species. That's the beauty of living in West Cork, no matter what the weather conditions there is nearly always a chance of sport at this time of year between salmon, sea trout and bass. My next blog post will be of a report from the Irish Bass Festival 2014 which is on the weekend of July 25th to 27th. I cannot wait for this, fingers crossed the weather will behave!