It has not been easy to get out onto the water for meaningful sessions with all the wind that we have been receiving. I am waiting for the summer to turn up at any time now. I heard that it will be on a Thursday this year! It really has been tough to get out on the kayak, windows of opportunity have been occurring mostly when I have been working. This working ‘lark’ is really getting in the way of my fishing!
There have been a couple of trips recently. One of them saw me and a friend, Rory, head out into Connemara. Rory is a fly fisherman at heart and his preferred stomping grounds would be the fine trout water that is Sheelin but he is taking to the saltwater species with gusto and is having no problem catching a range of species from the salt on conventional gear. The plan was to head out and fish for ray. I have been taking part in the Inland Fisheries Elasmobranch tagging scheme for a couple of years now. One thing that I have been fairly slack on is tagging rays. The evening in question was all about getting out for some ray and tagging a few of them for future research purposes.
The idea behind the tagging is that whenever I catch a shark or ray I attach a tag to the fish. I record that tag number and along with it some vital information about the fish – species, size, length, width/girth, location of capture, date of capture, sex of fish. It is hoped that if the fish is recaptured then the captor can record the same information and submit it to Inland Fisheries Ireland. There is a small reward for information returned to Inland Fisheries Ireland. The point of the exercise can then tell fisheries scientists how much the fish has grown between captures as well as how far it has traveled and the information will be able to allow us to better understand the habits and growth rates of this mysterious group of fish. Such information then allows us to better manage the species and afford protection where necessary.
We made it to the water on what is turning out to be most uncommon conditions; the sea was flat, the sky was bright blue and the wind had vanished. Fear not, within a short time of arriving the rain was spilling down. Ireland; if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes! There was a woman with her children who were playing on the beach. She remarked that she had to run for cover three times already and was delighted to see that the summer had arrived. We laughed and left her to run for her car, again, as we set up our gear on the beach. Rory had never experienced pollock on light spinning gear before so we said we would try them for an hour or so and then anchor up for the ray.
Within seconds we were into fish. Rory drew first blood with a lively fish that fought harder than he expected it would, the lighter gear accentuating the fight, something that can be lost when using heavy boat rods. Judging by the smile on his face, the experience was a good one despite the teeming rain. One advantage of kayak fishing and using the right equipment meant that we were wearing drysuits so the rain was only an issue from the neck up. And besides, skin is waterproof! Sensing there were more fish to be caught we got the lures back in again fast and before long we were fighting more fish. We hit a procession of pollock with the best fish falling somewhere in the four to five pound bracket. Great fun on light gear and soft plastic lures for sure. So much fun, in fact, that we got quite distracted and by the time we started to consider fishing for ray the sun was dropping in the sky. Time to call it a day for the ray and it just means that we will have to go back and have another go!
The tackle we were using for this style of exciting fishing was nothing special, more pedestrian. We were armed with spinning rods, fixed spool reels which were loaded with braid and small plastic lures. Nothing more; simple fishing. Cast the lure out, let it sink, reel it back slowly, fish on. It was as simple as that. How could you not become engrossed in such simple fun?
Land Based Fishing
With a few spare hours presenting themselves a couple of days later I thought about getting the kayak out. The thirty knot winds had other ideas so once again I was forced off the water and was looking for something to do. The attentions turned to Lough Corrib and we headed up the east side of the lake to fish from one of the many piers that are so popular with the trout enthusiasts. It was not trout we were after though. We wanted some stripeys, some underwater tigers, the barred flanked predator that is the perch. I think perhaps that some of the trout men thought we had lost our marbles but I think you have more fun with your angling when you take an unconventional view on things. The kit we were using was, once again, very simple. Rod, reel, line and a lure; simple stuff. The lure was a small Mepps, I have always found the black blade and yellow spots combination to be a winner for perch.
Making our way to the edge of the pier we looked into the crystal clear water where there was not a perch to be seen. Knowing the species preference for ambush points I threw my first cast towards the edge of a reedbed and with a couple of turns of the handle I was fighting my first perch of the evening. After a spirited tussle I was holding a small perch, its dorsal fin standing proud and defiant. He went back as quick as he had come out and I cast the lure back into the same spot and started reeling. Perch are a shoaling species and where there is one there will generally be more. Fish on! Almost a carbon copy of the first fish, both fish most likely the product of one spawning. Rory had no problem in locating the perch too, once he added the lure that I offered to him. Perch magnets! We fished for a while and by the end of the session we had caught a reasonable number of perch each.
Granted, none of what we were doing was difficult and one could argue that what we were doing was easy. It was and is easy fishing, to an extent. The fish still have to be located and a little species knowledge did help us out with locating the fish. What the fun was derived from was the sheer simplicity of the sport. Using minimum gear we were able to go out and catch fish, stay mobile and enjoy both evenings. There very much seems to be a trend emerging that is seeing anglers using and promoting ever increasingly complicated rigs and items of tackle. Some of these advancements are just what is needed to convince fussy and wary specimens to pick up a bait. Some of them are purposely designed by tackle companies to catch more anglers than fish. Some of them are very successful in doing so.
Keep It Simple
The ever increasing range of gear that is constantly hitting the market can be a source of confusion and bewilderment for the newcomer to the sport. Many believe, or are tricked into believing, that they need to buy all the latest gadgets and advanced fishing gear to catch. I believe firmly that the more you complicate something the more likely it is to fail. Fishing gear and fishing techniques are no different. Keep it simple and there is no reason that any newcomer to the sport cannot enjoy the simple fun of catching fish. The couple of sessions last week, one in the salt and one in freshwater, show that both freshwater and marine species can be caught with a very simple approach. By all means buy all the expensive and complicated gear that you can afford but it is not going to automatically put fish on the bank for you. A much better investment would be to spend your time by the water learning when and where you are most likely to find your target species. You cannot buy watercraft and as an angler it is essential to have in your armoury.
Knowing your intended quarry inside out and back to front definitely will help to put fish on the bank. If you know where to find your target species, what time of year, what food they feed preferentially on, whether they are likely to be shoaling or solitary and whether they like flash or subtlety then you will go a long way towards putting more fish on the bank, even with the simplest of fishing tackle. Using far less complicated gear and techniques will undoubtedly add to the enjoyment of your day out.
There are very few styles of fishing that do not interest me. I like it all. My preferred method is to fish from a kayak and along with the boat, the accessories are becoming increasingly technologically advanced; sonar, chartplotters, GPS units, electric motors, etc,. All have been developed to assist the angler in outwitting fish, big fish. I also like angling for big fish but it has to be said that there is something magical about catching small fish on the simplest of tackle. With a lot of people today concentrating on the biggest fish or the most fearsome adversary and trying some ingenious tactics, albeit very complicated, to capture them, there is something refreshing about catching with very much simple rigs that have been tried and tested over time. Simple fishing brings that art of angling back to those that may also be pressed for time due to working and family commitments. Give the simple things a go again and rediscover something that is always fun.