As some of you (or just those that read the previous blog post) may be aware, I headed off to fish over in Kerry, Ireland at the end of April for 5 days guided fishing with John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage.
Just a few days before heading over to the Eire, the Bass fishing back home in Wales had just turned on and confidence was high as my tally of Bass for the year so far hit 8, considering last year it wasn’t till May I had my first of the year, I was pretty happy with this. Warmed up nicely for Ireland I thought to myself…
So rods, clothes, gear and more tackle than I could ever need packed I headed off to catch my flight from Luton to Kerry.
Upon landing I was greeted by a different sight to last year, the grass which was once the typical emerald green was a straw like beige and the man I was sat next to on the plane told me it had been a cold start to Spring and the grass was late growing back. This cold start was confirmed as I stepped off the plane and a bitter cold breeze chilled my neck resulting in shimmering shoulders and rubbing hands. Never the less John had been catching Bass consistently and if anyone could find fish in tricky weather it would be him, “you’re in safe hands I told myself”. Outside the airport I was met by the grinning Irish man himself, we caught up, headed back to the Cottage where we were greeted with some of his wife – Lyn’s fine homemade cooking.
So the fishing…
The Pollock fishing I experienced here last year was phenomenal and the trip begun with the hope of big Pollock as we waited for the afternoon’s flooding tide that would see the Bass coming in on the feed as it passed over the sun-warmed rocks.
We hiked over 5 miles of tough steep terrain to reach the ledge were we hoped the Pollock would be queuing up to hit my lures…stunning scenery as we looked out at the famous Skellig Islands (where some of the scenes from the latest Star Wars The Force Awakens was filmed) unfortunately the Pollock just weren’t there or if they were…they were just plain rude, no lure could tempt them. Perhaps the bait the Gannets were diving for a mile offshore had something to do with it…they were out there, not in close.
Never the less we made up for this with an afternoon of Bass fishing the really got me excited and the fishless but scenic hike was soon forgotten, just as we got down to the water I spotted a Bass sitting in the foaming whitewater at the edge of a gully. This got me proper excited as my tongue poked half out the corner of my mouth in concentration as I hunched over and lightly cast my lure just beyond where it saw it. This happened a further 2 times, the fish were obviously about but with the temperatures low, gin clear water and bright sunshine, they weren’t feeding or easily fooled. Never the less, on we moved. As we clambered down to our next mark we could see some tidy fish cruising about, mullet we agreed, any Bass angler will have seen this time and time again. Mullet doing their best to fool us into thinking they are Bass. But wait…there was a fish deeper there, it’s head far chunkier…that’s a Bass! As we got our feet secure on the rock and the waves crashed around us, we could see a whole school of Bass and not small “schoolies”- good Bass, all well worth catching as they cruised across the sand path between the two reefs. Really heart in mouth stuff!! First cast, follow. “DAMN TAKE IT!!” I shrieked in my mind, as I bounced the soft plastic along the bottom and we saw in the crystal clear water 3 Bass following the lure, as if inspecting what it’s doing there but nope, not feeding. This happened repeatedly for quite a few casts. John informed me that the Bass here can often be tricky and that there is such an abundance of Sandeels that they can be picky about when they feed and what lures they hit. It was at the mention of Sandeels that I remembered I had some Sunslicker Gibbon Paddle Ups, a unique lure with upside down paddle tail but wow it looks like a Sandeel in the water. So on it went and second cast crawling it along the bottom on one of John’s home poured jig heads. WHAM. Fish on!
After a tidy scrap, the fish was swung up with the surging waves and landed, a quick photo and the release was filmed as it swam off strong to give another visiting angler the joy of such a stunning fish. Check out the clip below!
With the cold weather though, the Bass fishing became hard. We persisted on through out the week. Surprisingly it was the shallow reefs where we saw the most Bass, which in theory should’ve been the coldest areas in the bitter north winds, but as is always the case in fishing, you never really know. I recall seeing a particularly nice Bass sitting in the shallows cruising in and out of the weed looking for prey but a few casts towards it saw it swim back out towards the deeper water, not interested.
Weightless soft plastics were the order of the day over this ground, with a new lure to me being highly impressive – Keitech Sexy Impact (bit of a funny name but it does look like a pretty sexy Sandeel in the water!) this lure yielded success in a few lost Bass, follows and one landed. A lure that will stay in my box! There was also a very nice fish, that would have easily been my best Irish Bass to date that followed in my Dolive Stick fished snail pace slow but last minute as I saw it homing in on the lure it flicked its tail and decided it didn’t fancy playing.
Staying with me was also a very talented Dutch fly Angler – Anton Hellings, he managed a few on the fly, something pretty exciting to see and very commendable working so hard to get a fly out in tricky conditions.
As those who know me or read this blog will be aware, I’ve got a growing interest in fly fishing, especially for trout, so being in Kerry and having multiple Loughs at reach, a day on a lough was in order. Making the most of having two very talented fly anglers with me to show me the ropes of this lough style it wasn’t long before I got the hang of it and we were managing multiple fish per drift. Nothing big, but some stunning wild Brown Trout using traditional methods, flies tied by John that morning while surrounded by stunning scenery. We even had a sighting of a Sea Eagle, a bird that was once native to this part of Ireland before hunting wiped them out, they have since been reintroduced and to see one so close up, then into flight was something special.
Seeing Bass is something I’m not quite used to, back home we are rarely blessed with gin clear water and we rarely if ever see the Bass we catch. But seeing Bass you weren’t catching or would half heartedly follow your lure really was something else, anyone that spots Bass puts a lure in front of them and then catches them, I take my hat off to you because just three days of it showed me just how tricky fishing it can be when Bass are solitary in clear water.
It often seemed the case in these clear water scenarios to give the fish something different. One evening session in particular showed me this, I had been getting follows on Fiiish Black Minnow’s, Komomo’s and other soft plastics worked fairly slow but it wasn’t until I clipped on a Shoreline Shiner and cranked it pretty fast through the foaming white water that a beautiful conditioned Bass showed interest, this was in an area I had thrashed with a manner of lures but followed or ignored. Something different was done, and it became fruitful. Food for thought!
All in all, I had a superb week with John at Thatch Cottage, the food was superb, comfortable stay, and he did his best to ensure the fishing despite tricky conditions was productive. Not to mention his encyclopedia mind of fishing knowledge that I did my best to pick dry over my stay. Yes the Bass fishing wasn’t what it could have been for Kerry but that’s no fault of our own, simply mother nature was against us but John consistently put us where the fish were.
I’ll be back!!
If you’d like to find out more about Thatch Cottage and fishing with John, visit their website http://kerrybassfishing.com/