After all the excitement of the preparations and the Facebook chats with the lads in the UK it’s nice to finally get down to some fishing. The rigs are tied, the reels are spooled and almost every eventuality has been discussed. The Friday night at registration is always a mixed bag of emotion. All the various groups and gangs have found their perch and are eagerly discussing their peg draws. Nick and the lads man the top table taking entries and pools and the bar staff are busy. Most are being behaved and some are sampling the Guinness but the overwhelming feeling in the room is excitement.
Day 1 is announced as all on Ventry. This venue is usually gars and dogs so tactics and timing take over. I draw A2, ouch. This can be a very hard zone to get a result in and avoiding the blank is on everyone’s mind. It is left of the river in Ventry and can be heartbreaking. The morning of the match I’m up bright and early. Although its an 1130 kick off I set off at 9 with my brother David and his pairs partner Shane McMahon. After a quick chat with my partner Ben we discover that the ‘Ventry Hardman’ triathlon is due to swim through some pegs and run through all of them. Panic sets in but compromise is found and the match is delayed by an hour to facilitate the other athletes using the beach.
As predicted my zone is quiet, Wayne Stephenson gets a dog on the first cast but little else shows. Then a flurry of action as Darren Ryan nails a dog, Wayne has a mackerel and a flat whilst further along some dogs have arrived, Tony Royall and Roy Tapper have a mackerel and a dog between them. Almost 2 hours in and I’m blanking, though so are Paul Tuck and Ged Stevens on each side of me, so I’m not alone. In desperation we have all switched away from the high scoring dogs to flounders in a bid to beat the blank.
Never have I been so happy to see a small flounder to get me off the mark. Unfortunately though I stayed at the flats too long and both Paul (2) and Ged (1) manage to pillage dogs. In 20 mins I’ve gone from 4th to almost last in the zone. As quick as I could I was out for a dog but to no avail. I did, however, manage a mackerel which was worth a welcome 5pts to me. With 40 minutes remaining I decided to make the switch to target garfish and man did it pay off. I managed 5 gars to bring me well up the table to 6th place. Very disappointing but a great end to the match has my spirits high!
The decision is made to head out of the southerly winds to the rocks in North Kerry. Immediately upon arrival we are into good wrasse between 3 and 4lb. Ragworm from Swords Angling Center were doing serious damage for me with a fish a cast for over an hour. 42cm was my best in the end but over the 40cm so a qualifier. Both David and Shane managed fish over the 40 with Shane having the best of the day at 45 cm. The killer bait for him was some small hardbacks he had collected after digging his lugworm. After a few hours of wrassing the arms were getting tired and the pollack I had promised were thin on the ground. A quick call to one of the lads and a pointer in the right direction and we were off back up the hill far slower than I’d like to admit. A short 15min spin and we were at the pollack mark. This was a bit of a perilous climb so we travelled light with only rods and rucksacks. To be ultra light I brought the net but no pole to go with it. On purpose I swear. What followed next was 2 hours of the best fishing I’ve had in a long long time. We had almost a pollack a cast ranging from 30cm to 59cm for me, agonisingly close to the 60cm qualifying size. Thankfully Shane again managed a 65cm pollack to get the best of the fish and another qualifier. This added to his wrasse from earlier and his small eyed ray from the night before put him on 3 species for the week. Not bad for day 2 of the competition.
Brandon Bay /Cappaclough
I have to admit to being relieved when Ben said to me ‘I fancy a crack at Brandon’ having done well there previously and off the back of a disappointing day one, a small team talk has us optimistic again. I head for Cappaclough only to get a call from Darren Ryan on the way. All down the right of the newly changed river. Oh. Slight panic. Never fished there before. Upon arriving at the beach I see familiar faces in the zone. Grant, Jonathan, Tony Royall, Eugene Farrelly and my brother David to name but a few. As I’m setting up I notice that the rocks on our right come across outside us forming a nice little cul de sac. My mind is made up, I’m going out for a high scoring dog just short of where I believe the reef is. Everyone else is set up for flounder except Eugene who has bass on his mind behind the breaker.
After 30 wasted minutes I am starting to regret my decision! Eugene has 2 fine flounder, David is off the mark, Tony has pulled what looks like a bass and so has Jonathan Gilbert! I go short for flounder and am rewarded as a band of weed makes its way up the beach. I manage 4 decent scoring flounder before it hits. By halfway I’ve managed to get back in contention and a rough calculation has me in 5th. I decide to risk the wrath of the weed bank that has now firmly established itself outside us. No point fishing in comfort now is there!
At this stage I’m joined by Ben Conway and I’m busy explaining that I’ve put a few small maddies for bait on the top hook in case there is a golden grey passing the area and a half decent lug bait on the bottom for a bass. No sooner are the words out of my mouth than I get the most positive bite I’ve had in a while, the fish takes off for open water tearing about 10m of line off the spool! Immediately I think its one of the big mullet that I’ve seen on this beach before.
Ben has the camera out and there is a fair degree of pressure on me. Everyone has either seen the bite or heard the ratchet going off. In my head it’s a big mullet, but as I get the first glance of the fish I see the familiar spikes of the dorsal fin. My old friend the bass has come to answer my prayers. Some lunging around and messing with the weed in the water ensues but I have my quarry. A very high scoring bass and just in time for Ben to snap a few pictures before it’s release. Great timing or what?!
Now I’m buzzing, I add another 4 flounder and a school bass in a frantic last hour to top the zone and also win the beach. Thoughts turn to Ben on Brandon and the phone call comes through… 2nd or 3rd in the zone mate. Coupled with my win we are buzzing. Turns out we have 3 points between us but so does Tony Royall and Steve Glynn and also Joe Arch and Roy tapper, what a disaster! Luckily we take 2nd on the tie break and the dream is alive.
Buoyed by the result we head to the Cashen in search of a big bass or flounder. Unfortunately we get plenty of fish but none to make the required size.
We are up early and off to South Kerry in search of the Huss, a bigger pollack some conger and maybe a mullet. We aren’t asking much are we? The day starts with dogs and the blazing sun before we are joined unexpectedly by Joe Arch, Chris Nelms and Roy Tapper. Joe manages a conger on his first cast which he has managed to birdy quite badly. When it’s resolved the line tightens and the tip starts to nod, a strap conger of about 8lb arrives. Back to the same spot and again the slow nod but this time it’s a huss of over 90cm and he’s managed in two casts what we haven’t in 4 hours. Luckily Shane McMahon continues his hot streak and saves our blushes with a counting huss. We decide on a move to culoo which is Irelands most dangerous rock mark but there isn’t a breath of wind or swell so we are quite safe. It turns out to be a wasted venture with all the big wrasse seemingly gone. With the sun dropping we head for Conanna pier in search of a conger. Some very questionable rubby dubby is deployed but the the only conger of the night is a strap. Doggies keep the interest up but when one takes my 8/0 meat hook I’m done. There isn’t much talk on the way home and lads are tired. The final day is on Inch but with the wind and swell non-existent the optimism is low.
Inch session 3
As we arrive on the beach its fair to say its not looking its best.. I’m in A zone a long way up the beach. It looks good for sunbathing and splashing but little else. My experience tells me there will be some flounder but they will be small and not in the numbers we usually encounter. How very wrong I was! A double shot of flounder the first cast and spirits rise, a treble on my left from John Fleming and a single for Steve Glynn. This continued the trend for the day and I found myself uncharacteristically very far behind both Stevie and John. No matter what I tried or how I copied the lads I would only pick up a single where the lads got a double or a treble. Frustrating as it was seeing this happen I knew I still had the 4 man team to aim for. Some quick calls along the beach revealed that Sean, jp and Ben were all in the same boat. All had fish but all were struggling. The decision was made to sacrifice the flounder fishing and aim for an elusive bass or dog on the turning tide. Unfortunately this didn’t materialise and even though I finished with 11 fish I couldn’t complain with my 8th place finish. To say it didn’t go to plan was the understatement of the century and I paid the price for not practicing in the run up to the competition but I can only learn from the mistakes and move forward.
The rest of the week was spent specimen hunting and although we didn’t manage to pick up any prize for our efforts we certainly had some really good fishing. Between Shane, David and myself we managed to get painted ray, flounder, ballan wrasse, pollack, bull huss and bass knocked off the list which was good going. Inevitably the Friday night was brilliant craic and when the winners were announced as Steve Glynn /Tony Royall the bar erupted. Two nicer lads you couldn’t of wished for to get the win.
Stevie topped off the weekend by winning the individual award also which was fully deserved after a few close calls over the years. Ben and myself managed a zone win and second plus second team place on day 2. Not the result we were after but that’s fishing. The prize money covered our entry fee but fell well short of the bar tab, such is life!
Dates for next year’s Pairs are fixed for later in September next year and info packs are available from Nick Haward at email@example.com
I hope I have managed to capture some of the excitement and buzz of this truly unique competition. The week isn’t an easy week and some have said you nearly want a week off after it to recover but if you haven’t been over to it before I can promise you will not regret it.