Off the mark!

P3250533 (2)

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…


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.





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!

Fly set up

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


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


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.


Non fishing

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


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


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!


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!


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…


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!

Non fishing

Until next time…