As a freshwater and marine biology student some interesting avenues open up from time to time. This summer’s one is a work placement in Kilrush, Co. Clare as a research assistant for the Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation studying the resident pod of 120+ bottlenose dolphins that have claimed the estuary as their home. A hectic training schedule that followed closely after the end of my exams meant that fishing had to take a back seat for a number of weeks.
With training almost wrapped up I found myself with some spare time on my hands and there was only one thing that I would be using it for! I headed out to Connemara for a couple of sessions after pollack. Being relatively new to the area I was unsure of what times to fish and, indeed, where I would even start. I paddled out from a small harbour and the echo sounder told me that after a short distance I was sitting over fairly rough ground.
Tactics for the day were relatively simple; the plan was to fish artificial sandeels and jelly worms. The water was clear so this type of approach would suit the conditions perfectly, the predatory pollack well able to see the lures from distance. The set up that I was using consisted of an artificial bait rigged onto a Cox & Rawle Uptide Extra hook. Above this sat a drilled bullet to be used as a casting weight. Thread the bullet onto the line, attach the hook and thread on the artificial bait. Ready to go, as simple as that!
I started working the baits along the rough ground reeling in slowly but steadily. The first few casts let me feel a few fish hitting the tails of the baits and on the fifth cast the rod arched over into the first fish of the day. After a brief but spirited battle a small pollack lay beside the kayak. I lifted it from the water and after unhooking and getting a quick photograph I released it. The same pattern continued with a few more fish coming to the kayak in relatively quick succession. No monsters but thoroughly enjoyable fishing.
I proceeded to fish on and after casting towards a pinnacle of rock emerging from the depths the rod really heaved over into something that felt a lot bigger. Convinced I had a better pollack, I gave back as good as I got. When the fish finally came to the surface I could see that it was a modest ballan wrasse. What these fish lack in size they make up for in attitude. I fished on for a short while and picked up a couple of more wrasse and pollack before fading daylight forced me off the water. A very enjoyable session with plenty of small pollack and wrasse boated but one that saw more nipping at the tails of the large sandeel baits than hook ups.
The second session started as the first had, excluding the presence of ballan wrasse. As I drifted along the shoreline it became evident through the echo sounder that I was drifting over some deep gullies that I figured had to hold some decent fish. I positioned the kayak so that after casting I could fish the length of one such fracture in the subsurface bedrock. I cast, let the lure sink and started to slowly and steadily retrieve. Within three turns of the reel handle the rod buckled over and I knew instantly that I had connected with a better fish.
I like to fish for pollack with a reel clutch that is set pretty tightly. This was the first fish to manage sneaking a yard of line from me as it crash dived back towards sanctuary. I held on tightly and after a spirited battle the bronze-flanked fish lay beside the kayak. A quick photograph and he was gone again. That better fish signalled the turn of the tide and the sport went dead. I paddled back to shore, very pleased with my couple of sessions and made a resolve to return to fish this new area at a couple of different tidal stages in the future.
Fishing is fun. There is a focus on catching the biggest fish recently but I think that the best type of fishing is that which gets you out into the fresh air, interacting with the natural world and that which puts a smile on your face at the end of the day. To me that’s what is important about fishing, the big fish are just a bonus.
- Gary Robinson, Field Tester Cox & Rawle
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