Quick session

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Combination of a holiday and other commitments meant that Saturday evening was the first chance I’ve had to wet a line in over a month and then it was only for a couple of hours. After a good start to the season in April and early May the fishing went quiet on me thereafter with a couple of blank sessions so I was interested to see if things had picked up over the month I’d missed.

It was also only the second outing for the new DFR Entice 9’6” 6-28g rod that Richard at Dorset Fishing Rods has once again come up trumps with for me – stunning piece of work to say the least. After a blank the first time I used it I was very keen to get off the mark with it as you can imagine!! Once I’ve had a chance to get a few more hours on the water with it I’ll put a review up for all to read but early impressions are mighty impressive…. I don’t think I’ve used a rod that casts and recovers so effortlessly, and my word, do those lures fly with it! Watch this space…

Anyway, to the fishing…. was still a bit tough going if I’m honest which was a shame as there was a nice chop on the water with colour not bad either. Tides were OK as well for where I was fishing but sometimes it just doesn’t work out how you would like I guess? Did manage a single bass – though of no size. After casting out I gave the lure a good crank back for a few seconds, paused the retrieve for about a second and then began cranking again…..this small bass then hammered into the Zonk almost immediately! Gave a nice scrap to christen the rod…. and saved me a blank as well! Did connect and hook another fish a tad bigger on a Salt Skimmer but dropped it at my feet which was annoying.

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Only a short session but a bass nonetheless and pleased to have christened the new rod! Hoping to get out a bit more regularly over the coming month before heading to Ireland at the start of August which if previous trips are anything to go by will be pretty God damn awesome!

Until next time…

After the storm…

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After a spell of extremely calm conditions over the last week, with water clarity as clear as I have seen in a long while, it was nice to see a bit of swell and white water yesterday for a few hours. Bit of a yomp to get to the mark with my pal Nobby but nonetheless a mark we had been thinking about for a while and on arrival at low water it looked promising enough with that decent swell breaking over reef and weedy gullies. What we hadn’t bargained for on arrival was the huge thunderstorm that hit us… definitely an occasion to keep the rod tips down and boy do those hail stones pack a punch when they’re coming down in that quantity and velocity! It blew over soon enough though and we were able to start fishing properly…

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It looked so ‘bassy’ but we spent the first couple of hours with no reward at all working surface, sub-surface and soft plastic lures in and around the gullies. It was only when I switched back to a surface lure – the Gunfish 115 – in a calmer piece of water that there was a definite swirl behind the lure…. encouraging I thought but then the next few casts…. nothing. Nobby meanwhile was fishing a similar gully a bit further back along the reef and it was just as I was walking back to where he had perched himself that I saw a bit of a bend in his rod and he was in! Not a huge fish but a blank saver nonetheless and taken on the reliable OSP Do-Live stick hooked perfectly in the scissors of its mouth.

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Fished on into dusk but no further action to report. Nice venue though and one to keep in mind over the coming months as it just looks like on it’s day it could throw up a decent fish or two. Just need to work out best state and time of the tide to fish it etc. One thing we were thankful for was we seemed to dodge any further storms which were obviously skirting along the coast – spectacular from a distance though!

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Until next time…

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…

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…

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…

Ireland 2016 – Kerry

 

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Apologies for the delay in getting to the second part of the review of the Ireland trip back in October…. the small matter of work and having a new bathroom fitted seem to have gotten in the way the last month or so….. and now Christmas is almost upon us!

Anyway, I’ll continue if I may……..

With our time on the Copper Coast over for another year we set off for Cork to pick up Paul who was inbound from Bristol. Even the trip down to Cork gets you thinking about all the coastline passing you by that must be ripe for bass fishing…. Let alone that west of Cork down to Kerry – mind-blowing stuff really. After picking Paul up it was with eager anticipation we headed on to Thatched Cottage.

After a decent run down and after an initial chin wag with John and admiring Henry’s new French multi-purpose vehicle we went for a swift hour’s fishing…. Lots of birds working the water but no fish. Back to base for more talk over dinner and meeting up with Mark, who was over from Switzerland, and the fourth member of the party. Plans were afoot for the next few days.

Every day was fishing before breakfast so we started in the dark and fished an estuary mouth with a couple of small bass to start but as it got light the most striking thing was the birds further out in the bay working the surface…gannets, gulls and terns all hitting the surface and feeding on what turned out to be 2-3 inch sprats…. you couldn’t help but think that’s where all the big fish would be sat too hoovering up underneath the baitfish.

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After breakfast we were out for the day and tried to follow the birds but whilst at times we could just about cast to them the reality was the bass were not being fooled by our lures and with a probable belly full of sprats just weren’t interested in our offerings. Eventually we found fish though as a rising tide came over a shallow reef…. not big fish but decent scrappers all the same. Do-live sticks and the ever dependable Salt Skimmer doing most of the damage.

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Day one was done and as always with a large amount of  laughter as well as the excellent guidance from John and Henry. Lovely food back at base thanks to Lynn’s fine cooking and then it was get prepared for day two.

Morning of day two was simply stunning light-wise – Kerry really does put on some phenomenal light shows…

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Bass before breakfast and then it was on to fishing  an estuary venue again but aside from a small rogue sea trout it was tough going with none of us hooking into bass… sometimes that’s the way though and it was time for lunch…

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We fished several venues on the way back and had a few small fish – both bass and pollack but that was pretty much it for the day. Back to ranch for dinner, and then prep for next day before bed.

Conditions were a bit  more lively when we got outside on the morning of day three – there was some really nice surf coming in at several marks along the coast and it looked proper surfy bass fishing conditions. Nothing quite like this type of bass fishing in my book…

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The fish were again not big, 3-4lb bracket, but they certainly go like stink in the fizzed up conditions and the only way to fish for them was metals flung out as far as you could get them…

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A cracking day with a couple more taken over reef  later in proceedings. and then a well earned pint or two of the black stuff at Rosie’s to end the day off nicely.

Somehow we’d reached day four in what seemed like the blink of an eye and with conditions flattening off a lot from the previous day the decision was to see if we could find some decent pollack… not before Paul had managed to lose a decent bass before breakfast pretty much where he was fishing here…

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After that  breakfast we headed west and to our first pollack mark where we all had fish with Mark’s the best fish of the morning…. this spot is just truly awesome…

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We headed back to base for lunch and a delicious BBQ lunch before our final guided session of the trip took us after more pollack…. another stunning location and it wasn’t just the pollack that turned up with wrasse also showing ….

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Later I had another nice pollack and lost a nice bass as braid pinged against a rock but we won’t let that spoil another epic few days! And so it was off for the obligatory trip end couple of pints of Guinness and back for our final evening in Thatched Cottage.

The Saturday morning we said our farewells but Nobby and I couldn’t resist a final quick session in the morning and it was well worth the effort with my pal nabbing a nice fish of around 5lb as the day dawned…

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My thanks once again to John, Henry and Lynn for your generous hospitality, guidance and for all the banter along the way – it’s a special place, a fantastic thing you have going there and I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks  to Henry also  for kindly allowing me to reproduce some of his awesome photos on here. Thanks finally to Mark, Paul and especially Nobbs for the laughs, the driving and putting up with me for ten days on the road!!

I’ll leave you with some more shots from Kerry…

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Until next time…