A mild morning in Foxford and its looking like we might get a bit of fishing done this week. As expected the weather last weekend spoiled our plan and a days deep sea boat fishing had to be postponed, the joys of winter in the west of Ireland.
It was a sad week in Foxford with the passing of one of our legends, Joe Ruddy. Joe was a good friend of ours and we shared some memorable moments on board “the Midas” with him. Joe was an all-round fisherman and sportsman of whom volumes could be written. All I can say is that if there’s Salmon or Woodcock in Heaven they better watch out. We will miss him; may he rest in peace.
Life after the Salmon season
For most of us the reality of winter is now setting in. The salmon and trout gear has been stowed away and we face the long dark evenings. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, there is some fishing to be had. Just yesterday we had a visit from two customers/friends who travel regularly to fish the Moy. They were in Foxford to do a little job and called to see us and to give us a little bit of business. A bonus for us and something we appreciate. We got to talking about the season past, the winter ahead and the prospects of some alternatives to Salmon angling. The boys immediately got out their phones and showed us some pictures of large Pike caught this month by some of their friends. This got me thinking, these boys have not stopped fishing, they have just changed the game.
OK it might not be exactly what you enjoy normally but as we all know a change can be as good as a rest and it’s good to try different things and broaden our horizons.
So, what are these alternatives? Pike, Put and take/ stocked fisheries, Beach angling and I’m sure you can add to this.
Pike Angling: Most of us have a lake or river somewhere close by where we can find a stock of Pike. Not everyone’s cup of tea but they are actually quite a sporting fish and will put up a reasonable battle, certainly enough to bend the rod and get the heart pumping on a winter’s day. A variety of methods can be used so even if you’re not interested in dead baiting you could try one of the other methods.
Dead Baiting: Probably the easiest way to start Pike fishing is to try a dead bait. It is also a very good method for taking larger fish and a lot of specimen Pike are taken using this method. As the name suggests the method employs a dead fish, normally a mackerel, Roach, small trout or similar fished on a steel trace with one or two treble hooks. The bait can be fished sunk without a float or a float can be used as an indicator. More accomplished Pike anglers will employ other methods which include using Pop ups to fish the bait suspended off the bottom, Drift fishing or sink and draw.
Lures and spinners: Theres a huge variety of lures and spinners we can try for pike. These range from the traditional Copper spoon to the more modern ultra-realistic baitfish imitations. These modern baits are generally made from rubber and are known as softbaits. They come in all shapes and sizes but in general they all represent some form of prey. The shapes, colours and probably more importantly action of these softbaits are amazing and they not only work well for Pike, some very large trout have been taken on them.
Fly fishing: It’s not exactly subtle and you won’t be targeting a feeding fish with a size 16 Greenwells Glory but once you get into it and hook a couple of fish You will enjoy it. The gear is heavy and you will be casting large Lures so I would advise a little caution. Eye protection is a must and the addition of a hat or hood is not a bad idea. Don’t get to carried away trying to reach the middle of the lake. A lot of the fish you are after will be closer than you might think. Look for cover, Pike like to lie in weedy or rushy areas where they can use their camouflage and ambush their prey.
Put and take fisheries
I’m a member of a little club and every year we try to get a weekend away fishing on one of these fisheries. Theres a good few of them around the country and for most of us they are no more than a couple of hours driving. At first, I was sceptical and approached the idea with pre conceived notions. I thought it was going to be all stripping lures, the fish were going to be very easy caught and would not fight. Well, I’m happy to say that I was wrong and actually really enjoyed the experience. The first trout I hooked nearly pulled the rod out of my hand when it took a static buzzer. On any fishery we have visited the fish have been good quality and to be successful they take figuring out. I’ve seen a few very experienced angles left scratching their heads. It’s not just a matter of stripping lures, although they do work well. Some of the best sport we had was on little dry flies and it’s a great opportunity to practice different methods and styles. You should pick a day and give it a try. Phone ahead and book a place just in case they are busy.
I would say that in the west of Ireland Beach angling is becoming more popular. In the past it was rare to go to a beach and meet an angler. Nowadays its different and we hear more and more anglers discussing different marks and targeting different species. With the variety of species and all the different possible venues there’s quite a bit to take into consideration and the guys who are good at it are good for a reason. Like all angling methods there are people who are going to specialise in it and will invest in all the gear and put the time in to learn and be successful. For most of us though the beach is an alternative where we can go and spend a few hours trying something new or different.
Find a beach with easy and safe access, check out the tide times and aim for two hours before low water to two hours after low water and go for it. Nothing to complicated a rod, reel, line, a bit of bait and a few suitable rigs. A tripod or some other form of rod rest is very useful and leaves one free to build sandcastles. One of the nicest beach angling experiences I can recall was a frosty night with a sky full of stars. I fished along with a friend who has a good knowledge of the stars, constellations and all things celestial. We sat on our seat boxes with our rods set on a tripod taking the occasional glance towards the rod tips, the tide lapped on the beach while he gave me a tour of the sky above. We caught a few small pollock and perhaps a whiting, nothing major but it’s a night that I will always remember.
These are just a few things we should try, they will certainly shorten the winter.