Kayak Fisherman Ireland

Familiar Territory

My decision to take a stroll had been well rewarded – it was a beautiful afternoon, sun shining brightly and not much in the way of clouds in the sky. The town looked well and I wanted to take an amble along the river one last time. Galway had been good to me in my first year there and I wanted to have one last walk along the river before I headed east and home for the summer. As I strolled I thought about the good fishing experiences that Galway has already given me. I thought about some of the things that I had wanted to try but had not gotten the chance to do so. I also thought about the fact that I still have at least another couple of years to rectify that previous thought.

the old salmon traps on the Corrib River

As I walked towards the weir and the gates, I could see a couple of men using fishing rods. The recent rainfall had slightly risen and coloured the water and it appeared, from a distance, that the men were employing some sort of spinning tactics. Drawing nearer, I could make out that indeed they were spinning and ‘flying condoms’ were the weapon of choice. A brief exchange told me that they remained fishless for the duration of the morning but it certainly appeared that they would not be finishing up for the day just yet. “I don’t work, sure what else would I be doing?” one of the anglers put it to me. Indeed.

Plenty To Do

fishing in front of the old traps

I, on the other hand, had plenty to be doing. My exams were finished, I had just completed a sea survival techniques course and I was all packed and ready to go home. I could not wait to see my friends, family, familiar places and regular fishing spots. All that remained was to clamber in behind the wheel and point myself eastwards but I just wanted to have one more wander along the river that flows through the heart of the town and provides passage to so many silver tourists. And then I was gone!

I made it back home and as is usually the case, best laid plans get up and jump out through the window. I had hoped to be getting to work straight away, amassing points for the Kayakwars competition but the wind had other ideas. I spent most of the week catching up with friends and trying to make up my mind whether or not to try for a few tench – the prolonged winter/spring really had slowed everything down and a long round trip is not very appealing when at the end of the drive and bait expense the odds are that you will be handed a blank. So patience persevered and I initiated the waiting game, sitting it out until the ideal opportunity to strike presented itself. I did not have long to wait. Following a phone call from Ashley Hayden, friend and regular IAD contributor and the man behind An Irish Angler’s World, it appeared that we had a small lake at our disposal to see if we could entice anything from its murky waters.

Mystery Water

one for Ashley Hayden

This was an interesting scenario. Acting under the premise that there was tench in the lake, we decided that we would at least give it our best effort and see if the mystical tincas actually lived in this little lake. We fished feeders over a bed of crumb and particles and for the best part of three hours nothing happened at all. Literally nothing. Not a bubble, not a rise, not a splash of a tail, no rolling on the surface, nothing. The lake seemed devoid of life and on more than one occasion the doubts crept into our minds and we wondered if we would perhaps be better off moving to a different water altogether. Conditions on the day were not helping either. What was supposed to be an early morning basked in June sunshine felt remarkably like a dawn start after pike in November, such was the lack of heat intensity from the sun. Patience (or perhaps it was stubbornness) induced us to stay that bit longer and I think it was when the notion of packing up entered my head for the third time, the tip on my feeder rod slowly and deliberately pulled around.

one for me

I lifted into a fish but I had no idea what size or species. I could feel weight but it was the type of weight that swims towards an angler, belying its true size. I was pleasantly surprised when the tench slid over the edge of the landing net that I had offered up to it. A lovely, plump, dark olive tench sat in the bottom of the net, its little red eye looking up at me. With the absence of scales I put the weight of this little tinca at around four pounds. Not a monster but a very welcome sight from a water that twenty minutes beforehand we were unsure even had any in it. A result and a new tench water identified, the morning had already become a success. The rest of the morning became a very quiet affair for me but Ashley’s rod managed to find another couple of tench. Now we knew there were at least three in there! We rattled of a few photographs and decided that we would return when conditions were a little bit more conducive to larger bags of fish. The only slightly off putting point on this venue was the fact that the water clarity, or lack of it, would not make this lake a good place for underwater shots of the fish being returned but despite this a good morning’s work had been completed and both anglers were very satisfied.

A chilly start to the first weekend in June, this was a prelude to a week of fantastic weather. The first week in June was possibly better than the last four summer’s best days combined! Stunning is too small a word to describe it and a sure reminder that when Ireland gets the good weather then there are few places in the world that I would prefer to be. The winds had dropped and it was time to try and get the kayak out. Life works in mysterious ways and it just so happened that on the Monday of that week, the June bank holiday, I did a little bit of damage to my right ankle. A group of friends had decided to picnic in the fine weather and with a large park being the venue, we decided to bring along a football. Why I thought I was every bit as good as Lionel Messi is beyond me but it did not stop me getting very involved in the football match. Cue the next morning and me feeling sorry for myself with a sore and slightly swollen ankle. Still, a sore ankle was not going to stop me but just to be safe I decided to go snorkelling to try and strengthen it up, which I think certainly did more good than harm.

Local Mark

near perfect kayak fishing conditions

Having decided that I was well enough for the water, I launched from a local beach with the intention of seeking out some smooth hounds. I had a couple of rods and I planned to fish one with a crab bait to try to target the hounds. The second rod was going to use sandeels in the hopes of picking up a couple of other passing species. Smothered in factor fifty and wearing a long sleeved shirt to try and protect myself from the worst of the sun, the breezeless day made for an easy paddle out into the slightly deeper water. Once a few hundred yards out I dropped anchor and positioned the kayak facing south, the anchor trolley turning her perfectly into the ebbing tide. I payed out a safe amount of anchoring line and let the boat settle for a minute or two while I fumbled around the kayak, readying rods, rigs and bait and just generally making sure that everything I would need was within easy reach. With all of the above boxes ticked, it was time to start fishing.

Down went the baits to the bottom and the starter pistol should have sounded to signal the commencement of the waiting game. Things proceeded slowly but after a couple of bait changes, the rod fishing the sandeel started to knock. I knew instantly from where I was fishing that it was a dogfish and sure enough I could see him as I retrieved my baits. The little beggar let go right at the surface. Normally things like that would not bother me – it saves me the hassle of unhooking the nuisances you see. Quite the opposite with dogfish this summer though; all are valuable in terms of points for Kayakwars. And it just so happened that most of them decided they would be letting go of baits half way up through the water column. If the sky was not blue enough it soon was with the torrent of expletives that ensued. Why does the opposite of what you need to happen always manifest itself instead?

Measuring Fish

a dogfish in the measuring trough

Between the fumbling and cursing I managed to get a couple of them to the safety of the kayak. Then the real fun began. A competitor needs a clear, dated photo of a fish sitting on a measuring board. I do not know if many of you have tried to measure a dogfish on a measuring board but it makes for an interesting process. The last position a writhing dogfish wants to rest in is dead straight which gives for an accurate length reading so to get a good reading you need plenty of patience, or plenty of cursing, or both. They just do not want to sit still. And that is just dogfish……. trying to measure tope, conger and huss will make for interesting tussles later on in the summer. During the couple of hours I had been bobbing about on the Irish Sea the breeze started from nothing and was gradually stating to pick up. A sea that resembled a sheet of glass when I launched had now become peppered with small, white-topped waves so it was decided that the excursion should end here. I hauled anchor and headed for shore, safe in the knowledge that my Kayakwars campaign had now been opened, better late than never.

my homemade measuring board

One thing that really surprised me was how easily fooled a lot of us had become on account of the weather. I went out expecting hounds but the east coast waters delivered a different ‘canine’ altogether in the form of dogfish. A quick dip of my hand and I soon found out the water was still very cold. It will be another while before the larger fish are about in numbers, hopefully before this issue goes to print and hopefully I will be in the thick of it. The cool water temperature also made me realise how foolish I was to be out so far without a drysuit on, that will not happen again. The sea is always a few degrees warmer in the west. I could not wait to get home and now that I have seen everybody and had some fishing on familiar territory, I cannot wait to get back to Galway again, the fishing there is so much better!

But in the meantime, I am not too sure that I have completed my quota of cursing for this week. I think I might have a spin down to Wicklow town to see if any mullet have arrived yet. Mullet – now there is a species that will make your ‘swear count’ skyrocket……!

If anybody has any comment or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me at kayakfishermanireland@gmail.com

By Gary Robinson

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