Friday, 30 October 2015

Over to the Bass...

Not dwelling on the salmon season’s end, angling finished on a whimper. Excellent conditions prevailed for much of the final month before the curtains drew for another year, yet sport was very slack. A dribble of fresh fish entered the system with only the odd silver bullet caught and everything else being red. My final salmon came in the second week of September whilst spinning on a rising flood, a stale male of eight pounds or so which fell to a red and copper size four Flying C. All in all, it was a marginally better season for me then last year, numbers wise, but it wasn’t a salmon season to remember as returning numbers slumped nationwide. Hopefully next year sees an upturn in salmon running our rivers.

Now the salmon and trout rods have been put away, it was time to get the bass gear out and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into it. October is one of the best times of year to go chasing for these silver predators of the sea and I wasn’t disappointed with the sport I enjoyed. First night out and I had great fun landing six fish during a short ssession, all on soft plastics. As you may recall, I have a particular fondness for the brilliant IMA Komomo SF-125 but the soft plastics needed to be given a proper chance. The Gary Yamamoto Swim Senko caught all my fish that night, mostly schoolies of three to five pounds but my last cast produced an absolute pig of a fish which measured 77cm and I estimated it to weigh somewhere between ten or eleven pounds. Playing the fish it was obviously big but I was stunned when it slid up onto the adjacent rock. A new personal best and first specimen, what a way to get the autumn bass fishing underway!

Next day I had the pleasure of going out on the boat with my good friend Peter Aspinwall. For the last couple of years we had been meaning to go out but never got around to it. As they say, good things come to those who wait!! Fizzing out along the bay, keeping a look out for signs of activity, our first drift produced a couple of amazingly pristine Clonakilty bass. Peter’s first fish came to a soft plastic but everything else came to surface lures, the lethal IMA Salt Skimmer to be precise. Basking in glorious autumnal weather, enjoying each other’s company, we accounted for a total of ten fish, the biggest being 68cm and would have been around seven pounds. The day had it all, what with such epic, visual surface sport and heaps of pollack in between the bass which are a great sporting fish in their own right.  If you want to book a day with Peter or look up regular reports on the fishing he enjoys, be it at sea or on the river where he is equally at home, click here.

Luckily for the time of year, the weather remained settled for a large proportion of the month. Paired with a great set of tides recently for evening fishing, a couple of friends and I were keen to make the most of conditions. For five consecutive days bass were forthcoming, mostly at night but also during the day. Be it Swim Senkos, YAMA SenkosTT Shads, Salt Skimmers or SF-125’s, bass were ravenous and were not picky in the slightest, which was a welcome change from the salmon! Possibly the best aspect of all this sport was that we discovered more new marks. A huge satisfaction was tagged to every fish we caught in new areas and this must be one of the most rewarding factors for anglers. To avail of more consistent sport, it’s nice to have a few marks up the sleeve to fish in different conditions. Most bass were schoolies with a couple hitting six pounds and the best weighing around seven or so. Now the weather has broken, with high winds and rolling swells, the clock is counting down to the next adventure on the rocks. It looks like next week may see calmer seas so hopefully we can get out again and entice one or two more fish.

For the latest issue of “Off the Scale”, I wrote an article on a trip to the Kylemore Fishery in Connemara. An amazing venue, James and I enjoyed a great day in an awesome setting where we hoped to catch the fishery’s century fish for the season... Absolute Fishing are now running a bass lure fishing course for anglers interested in taking up the sport. For further information call the shop at 051393559. Finally, I’m delighted to say that I am now a member of the field testing team for Lure Heaven UK. I can’t wait to start trying out their products on some Irish salmon and trout and it's another reason to be very excited about 2016!!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Final Roll of the Dice

As I write this post, the Bandon is experiencing a raging flood. A brown avalanche of water, filled with debris and autumn leaves, is hurtling its way down to sea. The season's end is fast approaching and once this deluge subsides, anglers will be afforded another crack of the whip before packing their tackle away for 2015. It has been a testing time for many, with anglers feeling a mix of emotions. Much like a car on its last legs, the run of salmon took a while to get going. Slowly picking up speed, it glided along for what felt like a short time on reflection and now it is stuttering to a halt. The last couple of weeks have been challenging, with resident salmon lying motionless, stuck to the river bed like a dog to its bone. Fresh salmon are relatively scarce, with just a few dribbling in on the tides. This flood will bring new hope and hopefully more sport as we make the most of the final few weeks.

Before August slipped into September, I enjoyed catching a few more salmon before the river dropped to a low summer level. A couple of good sized, fresh grilse came to the worm when the water dropped between floods while a better stamp of fish snatched slowly swung flies when a good flow was present.

Salmon seemed to be quite fussy and weren't as forthcoming as usual. Sometimes this can happen at this time of year, especially after yo-yo-ing water levels. Adapting to a continuously high river, the "take" seems to elude fish as fresh water no longer triggers a response. With no rain falling for two weeks, this flood may well shock the fish back into life.

This week, I was lucky enough to have a go for sea trout before the rain washed any hopes away. As good as conditions have been for salmon, sea trout fishing is much better in low, settled water. To say this season was a challenge is an understatement and there may not be another night time escapade for these wondrous creatures, on the Bandon at least. Even though fishing was tough, it didn't reflect the numbers of sea trout by any stretch of the imagination and this year saw improved runs once again. As I've written before, there is still a long way to go, but it is certainly going in the right direction. Most sea trout I caught were small, fresh schoolies but a few better fish were forthcoming. One such trout was a beauty of around three and a half pounds. Some of the better fish we catch are disappointing with how they fight but this fish went absolutely berserk, leaping into the air on several occasions followed by heart stopping runs when you hope your line doesn't get snagged on some unsuspecting hindrance. Pouncing on a small, lightly dressed tube, she slipped back into the dark river none the worse for wear.

Finally, I have attached a video which I made for an article in the latest installment of "Off The Scale", called "Summer Grilse on the Fly". This is the sixth issue of the magazine and well done to all involved in such a magnificent production. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Autumn Run Begins

Fishing conditions on the Bandon have been so good since my last update I don't think even Carlsberg could do a better job. A couple of days have been tough due to high water levels but anglers can't complain about the beautiful state of the river. It has been a joy to cast a line when one compares the present scenario to the previous two seasons. The volume of water has ensured salmon are well spread throughout the whole river which is great for fish and anglers alike.

Grilse have continued to make up the bulk of the catch. All methods have worked very well, but the fly has been particularly effective. The average size of these one sea winter salmon has been around 3lbs with nearly all fish caught lately being fresh. As the season progresses, size is increasing with more in the 4-6lb bracket being intercepted.

Earlier this week I released a couple of grilse employing high water spinning tactics. I must say I'm very impressed with how my Shimano Spheros 6000 reel has been coping. I've fished with it for many hours in powerful flows using heavy size 4 Flying C's and it is still performing admirably well. Other reels I have owned in the past could not deal with the rigors of this style of fishing but so far so good with this piece of kit.

With so much high water careering its way downstream, we hoped this may entice a few of the bigger, autumn fish to run. I'm delighted to say this has been the case as some lovely fish have been landed over the last couple of days. Of course, due to prolonged high flows, it is very much a case of being in the right place at the right time as anglers are aiming to cover pods of fish which are not running as hard as they were earlier in the season. 

On Sunday, I happened to come across a couple of salmon which had no hesitation in taking a fly. With line fully extended, I had a lovely take on a small cascade pattern. A great fight ensued and after some hairy moments I slipped the net under a lovely 11lb fish. Moments later another, bigger salmo salar smashed my fly. Alas, after a few slow, deep and stubborn runs it shook the hook following some violent surface thrashing. Indeed, isn't that why it's called fishing and not catching!? At least prospects for the future are looking very promising. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Good Fun With Grilse

At last fishing has picked up on the River Bandon. There's no denying it, salmon fishing in May and June was quite poor. Conditions in general were ok but when all seemed to be perfect, the fish were lacking in any real numbers. A proper run of fish was expected with every flood, yet it failed to materialise. More fish ran the river than it was given credit for and I lost a few, but it was disappointing in comparison to recent years.

All is not lost though and the grilse fishing is beginning to make up for the lack of sport earlier on. Since the beginning of this persistent, unsettled weather regime, grilse have been running in very good numbers. Since the 6th of July, the Bandon has been in absolutely beautiful order for fishing. Regular freshets have kept the river at an excellent height, with all methods fishable.

When the water was very high I opted for spinning to cover as much water as I could. But as the big water subsided and the heavy colour toned down, fly fishing came into its own. Recruiting my switch rod and fishing small flies, grilse have readily come to the fly with relish.

Most fish have been very fresh, some bearing sea lice, whilst others may have been in the river a week or two. Ranging in size from 3 to 5lbs, they have given me tremendous sport. Besides the grilse, I grassed one salmon estimated to weigh around 10 or 11lbs, which may have been in the system since May it was so heavily coloured.

Prior to the recent good sport with salmon, sea trout fly fishing at night time was good. The floods have upset this exercise for now but once water levels settle down again sport should resume. Fishing further afield, I enjoyed a few nights chasing sea trout on the Argideen. I'm delighted and proud to say that I have been asked to write for Ireland's newest digital angling magazine, "Off the Scale". I have written about my Argideen escapades in the upcoming issue, which will be released at the end of the week, so I wont give too much away! Further to this, I wrote an article for the previous issue entitled "Salmon Through the Seasons", which I hope you will enjoy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Specimen Bandon Sea Trout

The mini drought we endured down here in the south west finally came to an end on the 2nd of May. Heavy rain heralded the beginning of a 3 foot flood which freshened the river up no end and must have come as a relief to the remaining salmon kelts and descending smolts. Reports came in that a few fish were running Bandon weir on Saturday evening as the water rose, alas Sunday saw the river unfishable. Keeping the powder dry, Ian, Rob and I made our way to the river at 6am on Monday morning as the mist was rising. By now the river had fallen to a manageable height, yet was still bowling down and well coloured. Rob stuck to the fly while Ian and myself opted to spin, with yellow size 4 flying c's being the order of the day. Starting at the top of our chosen stretch, sport was slow with the odd knock from a trout. Deciding to move down river, my spinner was halted mid flow in a slacker piece of water. Rod buckling over, the fish splashed and raced down stream. Assuming it was a grilse, 5 minutes later Ian slipped the net under something a bit more spotty than a salmon!

What a surprise it was to see such a lovely, pristine sea trout. A personal best for me, we estimated it to weigh around 4lbs. After a quick pic, the sea trout was released on its way again and swam off like a rocket. Delighted with the success, we resumed our morning session with the anticipation of more action. Trying a few more spots revealed no further interest as Rob retired his fly rod. Ian was about to follow suit as they had made a plan to go up river when his spinner was intercepted in exactly the same location as mine was. Similarly to my own take, the fish splashed straight away and we could see it was bigger. A salmon at last, we thought... a strong fight ensued with the fish being extremely stubborn holding out in the current. On my first attempt to net the fish, it turned away at the last moment and I glimpsed an array of spots in its back. Mentioning it to Ian, he was having none of it and was adamant it was a salmon! We said no more until minutes later Ian had his prize on the bank. Our jaws collectively dropped as we realised the fish was indeed a sea trout and what a sea trout at that!!

Not renowned for its big sea trout, this whopper from the Bandon had us shocked. Measuring 65 cm in length and over 35 cm in girth, this fish would have weighed comfortably over 6lbs and possibly up to 7lbs. A specimen trout is a special creature, and Ian didn't even think twice about releasing his trophy catch. Cradling it in the water as it regained its energy, Rob was about to relieve me of my resuscitating duties when it walloped me with its paddle and sped off into the depths. What a moment it was for us all to share in the capture and return of this rare beast. The next trick will be to try and catch one on the fly at night time.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Sun Baked April Hampers Fishing

Given reasonable fishing conditions, April is a month to get excited about on the Bandon. However there has been no appreciable fall of rain and the fishing has all but dried up as a consequence. The current reading of the river gauge suggests the river is now only 6 inches above its lowest height last summer which is astonishing. With just the odd salmon grassed at the beginning of the month, the Bandon really needs a good flood now to get her back into the swing of things.

Back in late March, I caught my biggest brown trout on the fly whilst searching for a salmon. Taking a 3 inch conehead monkey fly, the trout measured 51cm and I estimated it to weigh 3lbs. Many trout succumbed to big salmon flies, such is their hunger at the start of the season. All going back, they will hopefully provide more sport during the summer months when in better condition.

On the sea trout front, I made my first nocturnal cast this week. Noting that a few sea trout had entered the river on the big tides, some pools held a smattering of fish up to 4lbs or so. Even though the nights were freezing and cloudless, this was too much to ignore. Equipped with a sink tip line, short leader and an array of flies, the first casts were made over where I had hoped a few sea trout would be settled. After changing flies 3 times I finally had that unmistakable wallop as a fish struck. Several jumps and runs later, I slipped the net under this sparkler measuring 38cm and weighing around 1 1/4lbs. Not the biggie I was hopping for, but it sure was nice to be out fly fishing for sea trout on the Bandon at night again.

With the water temperature now exceeding 10 degrees Celsius, brook lamprey have been busy spawning along the river. The smallest and most common of the 3 species found in Ireland, they do not have a parasitic phase and die after spawning. The Bandon is noted for its populations of brook and river lamprey, with one survey recording one of the highest ever numbers of juvenile lampreys in Ireland.

Finally, catches of bass around the south coast have been extremely encouraging recently. Must get out for a cast before the ban on May 15th! The Irish Bass Festival, run by the lads at Absolute Fishing in Tramore Waterford, will be held from the 17th to 19th of July. For more details on this great event click here.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

First Springer of the year on the Bandon River

Following on from my success last week on the Drowes, I thought I would be writing this weeks post with a few landscape photos of the Bandon. However, I have a little bit more to write about then that as the Bandon has offered up its first spring salmon of the year.

Opening on February 15th, angling conditions have been favourable for the majority of the month. Brown trout fishing has got off to a promising start, with a good number falling to sunken nymphs. As always for the time of year, the trout are ravenous and will take anything from small nymphs to 2 inch conehead flies intended for salmon.

Further to the good news on the brown trout front, sea trout have also made an early appearance. One angler was lucky enough to catch a sparkling silver tourist on the opening day, estimated at one and a quarter pound in weight. Common place many years ago, its been years since one of these was caught in February. 

Salmon kelts have been less numerous this spring, more than likely due to spawning taking place earlier than usual last year. This is great to see as less will be caught by fishermen thus giving them a greater chance of running the river a second time. Springers are few and far between in early spring on the Bandon, never mind to say February. However, whilst battling the driving wind and rain yesterday with my friend Fergal, I got the surprise of a life time.

Having returned a couple of trout and a kelt to the spinner and fly already, I had another take on the spinner late in the afternoon. Blasting down river and ripping line off my reel, I gave Fergal a shout as I thought this could be something different. Playing the fish for several minutes, we didn't commit to deciding the state of the fish until we had it in the net. As I gained control of the salmon,  Fergal skillfully netted it and we immediately knew we had just landed the first fish of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if they could hear the shouting and roaring of excitement miles away!

Weighing approximately 7lbs, she wasn't carrying any sea lice but was mint fresh. After a quick photo, I set her back off on her way upstream to hopefully spawn the next generation of spring salmon. There's something very special about catching a fresh salmon at this time of year, and its all the sweeter when its on your local river. If conditions offer up the opportunity, I'll be putting more effort into trying to catch a springer on the fly. Using an assortment of tube flies such as Dee Monkeys, Willie Gunns and Green Butt Cascades, hopefully I'll draw a fly close enough to the nose of a springer for him to snap at it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

February Silver on the Drowes

The River Drowes is located in County Leitrim and flows into Donegal Bay. Flowing out of Lough Melvin, it is a short river of only 5 miles in length. Opening on January 1st, it traditionally produces Ireland's first spring salmon of the year. This year the river got off to a slow start but last week saw catches improving. Keeping an eye on updates, water levels and the weather forecast, my buddy Mike made a late call last week to go up there and fish the weekend as conditions looked very good. Time to pack the gear and start the long journey north for our maiden voyage!

Tackling up at 8.30 Saturday morning with the gauge hovering around the 0.65m mark, we began fishing in front of our cottage in Lareen Estate at the Boat House and worked our way down to the Blackwater using fly and spinner. The Drowes in this upper section is quite a shallow running river in most parts, punctuated by several weirs. These weirs produce a diversity of flows, creating several streams to swing a fly in.

Later on we drove downstream to the Four Masters bridge and fished from the Alder Pool down to the infamous Mill Pool. Employing my 13 footer with a RIO AFS Hover shooting head, I attached a RIO Spey Versileader with a sinking rate of 4 ips and a conehead gold Willie Gunn. Mike opted for his shorter switch rod, matching sink tip line and used a variety of flies. Between us we covered the river for a few hours without a pull in all manners of weather, from glorious sunshine to battering hail. Confidence lifted for a short while as I saw a fish head and tail in one of the many pools, alas it looked like it was running hard.

For the evening shift, we ventured back up to the top of the fishery and worked our way through the pools once again. Fly, spinner, shrimp and worm, the lot was drowned at one stage or another. But as the light faded we had to admit defeat and so we retired to the cottage and made plans for the following day.

For the last roll of the dice, we settled on having a look at the fishing around Lennox's Bridge. Wandering upstream equipped with spinning rods, we came to a lovely piece of water called Briney's. The pool consisted of a fast, shallow head, an even flow in the main body through to the tail which held a bit of depth. 

With only a couple of hours to go before we had to hit the road for Cork, I persevered here hoping that at some stage a springer would come by. On my third run down through the pool my black and copper flying c was halted mid way as I struck into a fish. Initially I was startled after hundreds of casts without a sniff, but soon enough I copped on and 5 minutes later Mike slipped the net under a 7lb beauty. 

I was ecstatic with my prize, this being my earliest spring salmon to date. What a feeling to have the fish in the net as our long journey and persistence had paid off. My new Shimano Spheros 6000 reel stood up to the challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing how it copes with spinning in high water conditions for the rest of the year.

The Drowes Salmon Fishery certainly is a beauty, and is managed with the utmost of professionalism and care by Shane Gallagher and Bill Likely. Their hospitality was second to none, from the kettle boiling as soon as we stepped in the door on Saturday morning, to providing a big bag of blocks for the evening fire! Every pool is tended to and wooden walkways along the river make fishing a joy. It sets an example to other fisheries around the country and the long expedition to the other end of the Wild Atlantic Way will certainly be made again.