More April Bass…

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Another short session yesterday evening at the same venue as the previous report where I’d picked up a fair few small bass. This time it threw up generally a better stamp of fish though fewer in quantity – which is how I like it! In total I picked up six bass all roughly in the range of 40-54 cm – nothing earth shattering but again, as I have said in previous posts, it does feel like it’s a much better start to the season than it has been in recent years.

With calm conditions it was a no brainer to load up with the baby Patchinko 100 to see what surface activity it might provoke and it really did not disappoint. While the light was up it was on with the 500g colour and this accounted for the first four fish of the session including the best at 54cm – approximately 4lb in weight…

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I did try the bigger Patchinko 2 in the same colour and a Gunfish 115 but they were just too big in calm conditions with my feeling being they were creating too much commotion on the surface being that bit larger in profile. So, with the fading light it was back on with the smaller Patchinko – this time I wanted to try out the Deep Purple version which had served me well on a previous session. Good decision, couple of casts later and a fish slammed into the lure breaching the surface in the process and giving  a good account of itself before I slipped it ashore…

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Landed one more bass on this purple colour and lost one which shook the hook close in right as the light was going- it’s definitely one I’ll be keeping in the armoury going forward. Purple was never really a colour of choice for me with lures but the success with this Patchinko has given me food for thought on the potential for other lures with this colouration.

All-in-all a decent short session with plenty to be encouraged about as Spring progresses. To finish, here are a couple more fishy photos from the session…

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Until next time…

April schoolies

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Managed to get out for a few hours on Friday and had more early season success albeit the fish I landed were all  very small. It was an early start to get to my chosen mark which meant a 2:30am alarm call and a 1.5 hour drive to be fishing by 4:30am. I like fishing this mark at low tide up and particularly fishing from the night into the morning light.

Starting in the dark I thought I’d give the deep purple Patchinko another go after the recent success I had with it… not a sniff at the first couple of spots I tried but then I moved to a corner position with a small reef in front of me and first cast here ‘WALLOP’ I had a nice take, for a few seconds the drag on the reel kicked in but then a head shake and the Patchinko pinged out… expletives followed – no idea on size of fish but was the best take of the day by far. Frustrating, but it happens – simple as that.

Plugged away with the purple Patchinko as I moved along the coast but as light came up, and looking at the water clarity, decided to switch to the same lure but in the trusty 500g colour. All remained quiet until I reached a little bay when, what seemed out of nowhere, I connected with a small schoolie which I quickly returned and cast out again…. first turn of the reel handle and another surface take, another small schoolie… and that’s pretty much how it continued for the next 30 – 45 minutes. I even switched lures to a Salt Skimmer to see if it put these small bass off but it didn’t! I stopped counting after about a dozen but then after a crazy few minutes the action stopped – the shoal must have moved on.

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With the sun up things went extremely quiet… I figured breakfast was in order so called it a day and made my journey home.

Whilst no decent fish to report I’m tentatively encouraged by the start to the season – definitely seems to be more bass around for this time of year compared to the last couple of seasons at least. Shame the first hook up didn’t stick – would have been interesting to see what size of fish that was but the schoolies saved a blank nonetheless.

Until next time…

Shimano reels… why no spare spool?

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So, I recently had a birthday and with a bit of gentle guidance the wife came up trumps again as I gleefully unwrapped a parcel that looked suspiciously like it might house a much required new reel inside….. and what do you know – therein lay a brand spanking new Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000XG. A fine bit of kit it looks too which will replace one of my aging but superb Shimano Rareniums….. what a workhorse of a reel they are, and have been. If the Stradic is anywhere near as good I will be chuffed to bits… could be perfect for bass lure fishing in the UK.

However, I have a gripe….it bugs the hell out of me that these days with most new Shimano reels there is a distinct absence of a spare spool. This seems to be an across the board policy by Shimano with this type of spinning reel that a lot of lure anglers will use… certainly those in the £100+ bracket I have looked at. I obviously can’t speak for everyone out there on this but I’d hazard a guess that a fairly large percentage of lure anglers would want to carry a spare spool with them for their fishing either in case of malfunction or simply because conditions might determine you need to fish lighter or heavier than you are with the existing spool. The crazy thing is pretty much the first thing I did once I  took this new reel out of the box was to note the part number for the spool,  to then go and trawl the internet to source an additional one…. it’s frustrating beyond belief as actually finding the spare in itself can be a consummate head banging exercise.

Personally, I’d like to see one or both of these two things happen:

  1. Please, please Shimano ship a spare spool as standard to save us the frustration highlighted above… I would gladly pay the extra cost for the reel to have the added value of that spare spool included.
  2. Alternatively, make the spare spools much more readily available to retailers as an optional extra at the point of sale so we can add this to our shopping baskets when we purchase the reel itself.

It surely can’t be any more difficult than that can it? I can’t think why this would not make sense from a customer service and subsequently a sales perspective? Am I missing something?

It’s such a shame as the quality of Shimano reels on the whole are outstanding and it feels like they are taking it for granted a bit that us consumers will always come back for more because of that quality. Are they resting on their laurels a bit here I wonder? I’m not sure whether the other big player in this market Daiwa have the same policy but if they do then it does feel like  they’ve both left the door ajar for one or more of the other manufacturers out there to come up with a corker of a reel, or range of reels, that actually does include a spare spool from the outset. After all, it might only take a decent volume of  favourable reviews for the masses to quickly switch allegiance and the big boys market share would be hit. Am I the only one who feels like this? Maybe I am!!

Anyhow, rant over…. hopefully will get fishing with the new Stradic  soon…. and I’m sure I’ll love it!

Until next time…

Maxpedition bags & saltwater lure fishing

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As anyone in this lure fishing game will testify the very nature of saltwater means it can be extremely harsh on our gear whether that be rods, reels, lures, waders, wading boots, and let’s be honest pretty much everything it comes into contact with. I’ve had my fair share of failures in all these departments with some of the more costly acquisitions being no more dependable than cheaper similar options on the market. The same cannot be said of the two Maxpedition bags I have been using for my lure fishing… I profess they weren’t cheap but with good reason – these things are pretty much bomb proof and are right up there with the best and most durable pieces of kit I have bought, and importantly, regularly use when I’m fishing. The two I own are both sling/shoulder bags, the Sitka which is now in it’s fourth season and the Jumbo Versipack which is in it’s third season.

Being that bit larger, the Sitka I will tend to use for longer trips or when I feel the need to carry more gear with the smaller Jumbo Versipack being the bag I use when I’m going for shorter sessions or I’m confident I don’t need that extra kit…. increasingly it’s this option I tend to take as it generally means I’m travelling lighter. In truth though, both these bags have been superb for me with the type of fishing I do. To my knowledge neither of these bags, or indeed any others out there from Maxpedition, have been made with a fishing market specifically in mind so it’s even more telling how well I think they work out for lure fishing.

Close up of the Jumbo Versipack…

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I won’t go into detail here with the specifications of both bags other than to say they can be found on the Maxpedition website by clicking here for the Sitka and here for the Jumbo Versipack. However, one thing I will make clear is that they are not, nor do they claim to be, fully waterproof. Splash proof yes, drain holes where required yes, but totally waterproof no. Realistically, unless you are sub-merged in the surf that really isn’t a problem and to be honest I have worn the Versipack in the surf a fair few times now, including last year in Ireland, gave it a rinse off when back to base and there is not one bit of it that is suffering from saltwater damage – zippers included. They’ve been thrown down on the sand and shingle, beaten against rocks and suffered some serious fishing abuse… aside from the odd abrasion mark you could be fooled they’ve only had four weeks of use as opposed to four years. There are no tears at all, the zippers work like they did from new and the stitching is rock solid. Put simply, when I get back from a fishing session they just sit there looking at me saying “is that really as hard as you can hit?”…. trust me, these bags have attitude and really are hard as nails!

So what kit do I carry in each of them?

In the Jumbo Versipack main compartment I can comfortably stow two of the small Snowbee ten-lure boxes and still have room for a few small loose bits in the inside pocket. In the top compartment I’ll usually store sunglasses in their case, and in the front pocket a small box with clips, scissors, super glue plus there’s usually a bit of room for a chocolate bar or such like. I have a spool of leader in the zipped pocket that folds over and buckles down the main compartment, with a spare reel spool and tape measure in the main side pocket. There is a generous bottle holder that fastens down tightly with a nice and secure Velcro fastening. A side pocket houses a fish grip just in case I need it and on the reverse of the bag a bigger zipped pouch pocket that rests against your body can hold additional kit – for me that’s a rag and a bit of first aid kit but it I’m sure it could be put to better use! The only additions/changes I’ve made to it is to add a pouch for my pliers and I’ve made my own zip pulls to keep it tidier.

Typical kit that I take in the Jumbo Versipack (excluding snacks!)…

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Two small Snowbee lure boxes fit comfortably in the Versipack’ s main compartment…

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The Sitka will take all of the above gear plus a further two more of the small Snowbee lure boxes (or two of the bigger Snowbee fourteen-lure boxes as an alternate to the four smaller ones) plus have room for more provisions you might need for a longer trip.  You will see I have added an additional removable pouch (the ‘Janus’) to mine just because I got all excited and thought I might need even more room….. in reality I didn’t and the ‘Tac Tie’ system Maxpedition use means it could be easily removed. In addition to the fishing I find I use this bag in particular for other outdoor activities so of the two this one has a definite multi-purpose string to it’s bow.

Sitka kit this time with four small Snowbee boxes – plenty of room for other kit as well…

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The four lure boxes sit comfortably in the Sitka…

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Access for both bags while fishing is excellent… simply unclip and swing the bag around to the front where zips, clips and buckles can be easily unfastened quickly and safely without fear of dropping anything. The other thing is they are well padded and extremely comfortable for an extended session on the water… other bags I have used have not been anywhere near as agreeable or reliable to carry for long periods. All-in-all, in my opinion, these Maxpedition bags are functionally mighty impressive for lure fishing.

Obviously, there are a whole lot of cheaper bags out there that would equally suit purpose and which could be every bit as reliable… but I can only draw on my experiences to date and I’d say if you’re prepared to pay a little bit extra for a bag that will last and last you really will not regret the investment in a Maxpedition bag…  I certainly have every confidence that both mine will  go on serving me well for many, many years to come.

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Until next time…

Off the mark!

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It’s March – water temperature is still low, forecast north easterly winds, flat sea, average tides, bright sunshine and probable gin clear water…. it is not ordinarily conditions I would get out of bed for at 3:15 in the morning but there’s only so much cabin fever this weak willed lure fishermen can take and despite all of the logical reasons not to go I did set my alarm for some ridiculous hour yesterday, I did drag my sorry butt out of bed and I did get on the road to Dorset to be fishing before first light… and you know what – it was worth it! In all honesty, although I knew the odds of catching were pretty slim at this time of year it was not a completely forlorn hope – I know a few lure caught bass have been had this February in Dorset which is encouraging compared to any recent season I can remember. Besides, I just needed to get out there and check the coast out, try a couple of new lures, and generally blow a few fishing cobwebs away.

So, I pulled into the car park maybe 45 minutes before first light… it was on with the wading kit and rod lured up ready to fish the moment I reached the waters edge. The trudge down to the water is not nearly as emotional as the trip back up believe me! Once down the water was as expected – fairly flat but with that keen north easterly blowing it was whipping up patches of wavelets… and it was darn cold too! I had on one of the new lures that I wanted to try out – the Patchinko 100 in Deep Purple. Obviously this lure is no stranger to catching bass but this colour was one I hadn’t tried before and I fancied giving it a go at first light… the thought process being the dark profile on the surface might be a winner? Well, it was a winner – I had been very careful to make as little noise as possible at the waters edge, no head lamps on with my intention to cast into the shallower margins to start off with and it was on just the second cast, worked in fairly close, that I connected. I did hear what I thought was a small splash, and then for a split second thought I’d got snagged but when the drag on the reel kicked in and the rod looped over it suddenly dawned on me I was actually into a fish! I hadn’t been expecting it so quickly that’s for sure! It gave a good account of itself for an early season fish and though I didn’t measure it I’d estimate it was 54-58cm (4lb bracket) – surprisingly not as lean as you’d normally expect the bass to be at this time of year. Swam away strongly on release… what a great start to the season!

Apologies for the picture quality…

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That though, as they say, was that. As soon as the light was up it was clear the conditions were not going to be any more favourable – the north easterly wind picked right up and the water was getting clearer and clearer by the minute with no swell at all. I honestly didn’t mind though – just being out was enough, to catch on a new lure colour at first light was a complete bonus… I love it when a plan comes to fruition! Knowing when to call it a day can be difficult sometimes but not today…. conditions were getting tougher and tougher so I spent a lot of the rest of the morning just walking, taking things in and snapping some photos of this magnificent stretch of coastline.

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Great to be back out there, very encouraged to open my account for the year in less than ideal conditions but time will tell  whether this is going to be a better year than recent ones… we’ll just have to wait and see.

Until next time…

Damn you cabin fever!

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A bit like ‘man flu’ the cursed illness of ‘cabin fever’ can strike the unwary fisherman at any time but particularly I have found at this time of year. Last week it got me good and proper! The symptoms are simple – you go on your regular fishing forums and blogs, people start talking about the new season and things they’ve bought or need, you watch a few YouTube clips of people trying new lures/techniques and then to top it off one of your best mates starts sowing different fishing seeds again in my head… well, that was the final straw and cabin fever hit me big time opening up a whole can of worms that I’m already thinking is going to be a disaster for my long term sanity and finances…. and yes, the photo above says it all.

The idea of fly fishing for bass is something I’ve long pondered but apart from cursory conversations about it, it’s not something I’ve acted on…. until now! Obviously fly fishing for bass is not anything new – far from it – but I don’t mind admitting it is pretty alien to me and the thought of the challenge finally got the better of me and I decided in my feverish state “Why not?”. The result….to get me going a bargain Shakespeare Agility 4-piece 8wt rod (£30) and a large arbor Sea Wolf reel (with spare spool) that I picked up off a well known auction site…… and yes I know this will be just the tip of the iceberg. There’s different lines to think about, leaders, clousers, deceivers and all manner of other flies, plus a bunch of accessories I’ve been reading up on and no doubt just as many that I haven’t even discovered yet! Oh and casting lessons, I’ll need those….. jeeeeeez what have I done!

Seriously though, the thought of catching bass on the fly for me has got to be the ultimate deception. I love lure fishing and there’s no way I can conceive (at the moment anyway!) that fly would replace it quite aside from the fact conditions would often prevent it as a tactic and I might turn out to be a useless at it! However, for me there is just something about the fact you can deceive a fish with a simple fly, fry or nymph pattern that commands an awful lot of respect for the skill of the angler not just in presentation but all round watercraft…. and I want a piece of that!

I can see instances where fly will actually be the best bass tactic anyway and don’t get me started on maybe giving it ago for some of those pollack in Ireland or huge mullet that cruise our South coast waters. There’s a lot to think about but it’s going to be good to learn and an interesting journey just getting there with it… but hey, that’s part of the buzz I get out of fishing and I will be reporting back on this one over the year.

But before you think I’m going completely off the wall with this ‘cabin fever’ induced fly fishing malarkey I need to bring it back that I’ve also been affected on the lure fishing front too…. there just might be a few small lure type parcels landing on the door mat over the coming days and maybe, just maybe, a slightly more ‘Entice-ing’ one in the next few weeks… those ‘in-the-know’ know!!?!

Until next time…

Thatched Cottage with John & Henry

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For the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to get myself on one of the co-guided fishing trips run by John Quinlan and Henry Gilbey based at  Thatched Cottage Fishing Lodge out in Kerry, Ireland. I’ve written up the ‘catch report’ details for both of those trips elsewhere on my blog but what I really wanted to do was give a more all encompassing review of my experiences of the trips and some related thoughts to ponder. For both excursions I have been in the good company of pals Andy and Paul -fishing with lures and on the hunt mainly for bass but with some  pollack  fishing thrown into the mix as well. Our trips have been  in October both years. This article is written very much with this type of fishing and time of year in mind.

Before I go any further I do want to make it 100% clear that I have not been asked by anyone at all to write this review, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time and the views expressed are entirely my own. If it feels like I’m singing the praises of the experience too loudly… I make absolutely no apology for that as I’m going to state right from the off, that in my opinion, this is one hell of a trip to get yourself on!

Getting there

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On both occasions Andy and myself have travelled from the UK via the road/ferry option and then scooped Paul up from Cork airport. We’ve tried both the Stena ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare and Irish Ferries from Pembroke to Rosslare. Similar crossing times but in my opinion the Irish Ferries service out of Pembroke is a far, far superior and comfortable option considering there is very little difference in price. Paul flew in from Bristol to Cork with Aer Lingus so around an hour’s flight time I’d guess. From disembarkation at Rosslare you’re probably looking at a 4.5-5 hour drive down to Thatched Cottage, from Cork airport you’re looking at a 2-2.5 hours stint on the road.

It’s far from an unpleasant drive down whichever route you take so don’t be put off by the journey times because the scenery just gets better and better as you head further west!

Thatched Cottage itself is merely a couple of minutes away from Ballinskelligs Bay in an absolutely perfect location.

Hospitality

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From the moment you pull onto the driveway of Thatched Cottage to the minute you reluctantly have to leave the hospitality you receive from Henry, John and Lynn is top notch. They’ve always been there to greet us with a smile and you honestly feel immediately at home in their company. Rooms are all clean and comfortable, the wood burner is on, and there’s plenty of space for all your kit in the ‘fishing parlour/shed’! If you’re a fan of homemade and wholesome food then your stay at Thatched Cottage will not disappoint… whether it be the hearty Irish breakfast, the pack up lunch that always hits the spot or the delicious evening meal you really could not ask for more…. John even dons the apron after a days’ guiding as the support act to Lynn’s headliner on the food front!

In a nutshell, you couldn’t wish for a lovelier place and people to spend a few days with enjoying yourself fishing.

The Guiding

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The double act of John and Henry is perfect…. there are serious moments where they’re trying to get you amongst the fish with all the guidance you’d expect…. where to cast, reading the water, what lure, what technique, etc. but they do it with a mischievous amount of fun as well – the banter between them is infectious and an important part of the trip in my eyes – fishing with a smile on your face and a big dose of laughter… it doesn’t get much better does it?

To be more specific on the serious stuff though, John will spend a lot of time thinking, watching and mulling things over which critically means he is uncannily accurate at  knowing when things aren’t right and when to move on – it feels like he’s already  three or four steps ahead in his thinking of where the fish might be holding up. Obviously he wants you to catch fish and he works really hard to make that happen. He is extremely switched on and  knowledgeable about what is going on in the environment around him… in particular all things fishy! John obviously lives and breathes this spectacular part of Kerry day in day out but don’t think for one minute that Henry doesn’t know his onions either. His intuition on marks is astute and you often see and hear him bouncing ideas off of John to get the most out of a session whether that be his knowledge on specific lures to use, techniques to employ or specific spots to try out. With Henry, to top all this off, you’ve got the added bonus of his incredible photography of you and your group  fishing in the most stunning, jaw-dropping of Irish backdrops.

They are a proper team in the way they work, they compliment each other superbly…. they have a good thing going here!

The Fishing

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As I hinted in the section above John and Henry work hard to put you on fish and I think pretty much every session at least one of us caught, but if you think the bass fishing is easy then think again. Ballinskelligs Bay and the surrounding coastline is a huge area and the fish could be literally anywhere… finding them is one thing, catching them is another. As an example, last year we had birds working baitfish within casting distance and you would have surmised there was a good chance there were predatory fish there ….. well, if they were then they were so pre-occupied with the sprats that not one of our lures was given the time of day. It felt the wrong thing to do but John and Henry had us moving on…. and guess what? We moved on, we caught!

Similarly, if you’re thinking you’ll have the best chance of pulling out a double figure bass of a lifetime in Kerry and that is your main objective for going there – you may wish to reconsider? You would probably be better served with fishing somewhere like The Copper Coast area of Ireland if that is your sole intent. It’s not to say they’re not there – I’m sure they are, but I would say compared to the example given of The Copper Coast there are probably a greater quantity of bass in the 3-6lb bracket in this part of Kerry… and believe me that will keep you nicely occupied. I certainly don’t think it’s to be sniffed at to be playing feisty fish in that size bracket over snagged ground in a good run of current do you?

That brings me nicely to my next point – the ground you get to fish over  is truly mind blowing… shallow rocky reef, fast flowing tidal estuary, big sandy surf beaches, small rocky bays, and then there are the deep water rock marks for some serious pollack – pretty much everything you could wish to experience as a lure angler in UK and Irish waters. Catching bass in the tasty surf last year was a highlight – hooking into these bars of silver in fizzing, highly oxygenated water on light gear when they are completely revved up does not get any better than this trust me!

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And remember…  all this framed with the stunningly beautiful backdrop of the wild Kerry landscape and sky line.

As for the lures to use, all I can say is over the past couple of years the ones mentioned below I know have caught us bass, there may be a couple more I have missed off but if I was going tomorrow I would make sure I had these in my bag:

  • Dexter wedge (or similar metal)
  • Fiiiish Black Minnow
  • IMA Hound Glide
  • IMA Komomo II
  • IMA Komomo SF-125
  • IMA Salt Skimmer
  • Megabass Zonk
  • OSP Do-Live Sticks
  • Xorus Patchinko II
  • Xorus Patchinko P100

If you head off after the pollack then you can certainly add soft plastic shad type lures to that list with the colour range of pink, red and orange proving best for us. Without a doubt though it is  worth investing in a few Fiiiish Crazy Sandeels – the pollack here love them!! This is proper pollack country with some nice specimens to be had… and on the light gear hold on tight as they go like the clappers!

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Fret not though if you find yourself without the right lure or any other gear come to that, John or Henry will soon get you on track again.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the timetable for a typical day and I know it varies throughout the year so I can only speak for the October trips we have been on. The schedule on both occasions has been something along the lines of the following:

  • 5 a.m. Cup of coffee/tea then off fishing for sun rise
  • 7 a.m. Back to Thatched Cottage for breakfast
  • 9 a.m. Back out fishing for the day
  • 1 p.m. Lunch in idyllic location then fishing again
  • 7 p.m. Back to Thatched Cottage for dinner after sun set

These are full on days, plenty of fresh air, plenty of exercise and after every day you certainly know about it and enjoy the nights sleep that follows.

The fishing is just plain fantastic.

To sum up…

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I wanted to give a honest and measured review of both of my trips over to Thatched Cottage and that would have included anything I thought could have been done differently or better… but the reality is  I personally find it impossible to do so. The fishing, the wildness of Kerry, the hospitality, but above all the comradery and banter I and my fellow partners in crime have experienced is truly something to behold. John and Henry should rightly be extremely proud of what they are doing here.

I’ve fished The Copper Coast both times on the way down to Thatched Cottage and it’s one hell of a place to fish but there’s something about this part of Kerry that has truly got in my psyche over and above  any of the marks on The Copper Coast. If someone gave me the choice to head off fishing to one or the other tomorrow it would be this part of Kerry every time… to the extent that at times I actually find myself daydreaming off there, stood on a particular rock, working a surface lure with all that amazing Kerry light show and wildness going on around me. You may think I’m slightly deranged saying that but I think those who have been will know exactly what I mean.

The shame for 2017 is the dates for us to get on the trip with Henry did not quite work out due to various commitments but after all I have enthused over above we couldn’t not go at some point could we?

Of course not – roll on August – Thatched Cottage Fishing Lodge…. we’re coming for you! We’ll treat you nicely John and Lynn…. and raise a glass to Henry!

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Until next time…