September is usually a manic time of rig making and preparing for the ‘Irish Pairs’ coupled with bait collecting for the winter ahead. As with so much else over the past two years Covid put the kibosh on the pairs event but thankfully many of the regular visitors decided to make the trip anyway once the various rules, regulations and hoops had been jumped through. It really meant a great buzz was around and plenty of messages from the lads coming over about the usual venues, tactics and some inside information.

When news filtered through that there was going to be a few matches organised for the week I must say the anticipation levels went up dramatically. The format was simple. Three sessions… Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday on Ventry/Inch/Rossbeigh respectively. The first and last ‘Frank Fishing Festival’ came into being. Also included would be a nominated list of species for the specimen hunting contingent. Flounder, bass, pollack, small eyed ray, thornback, mullet, dab, conger and bull huss were the list of targets. This is one of my favourite aspects of September fishing in Kerry. 

With all the visiting anglers, some excellent fish were showing.

Beaches and rock marks that are usually super quiet now are all hustle and bustle. It’s not unusual to be filling up the diesel in the depths of south Kerry and see a few lads coming out of the chipper or a British reg car zooming past with the rods strapped to the roof racks at any time of day or night. As a result of the increased angling numbers this inevitably adds to the quality of fish that are caught and this year certainly caught the eye. The matches themselves proved to be drab affairs for most as the bass just didn’t play ball despite a lovely surf building through the week.

3rd place over the three matches was Mike Fox 2nd Andy Young and in 1st place no stranger to the prize table Paul Stevens. Massive thanks to Tony Royall, Andy Booth, Gary Hazelgrove, Peter Cracknell and Chaz Hardy for organising the matches and doing such a great job. Word is that they are really looking forward to having Nick and the team back for the Pairs next year so they can concentrate properly on the matches and the Guinness.

Matches back on the beaches was a welcome sight

Although I was limited in how much actual fishing I could get done, the rest of the lads certainly weren’t. Some were so eager to get the fishing done that they even put their gear into the wrong rental house and filled the lovely clean fridge with peelers and maddies. 

till though, even with some mild home invading out of the way, Ronan managed some really cracking ballan and corkwing Wrasse from his secret rock mark plus a few really nice painted rays from the Brandon beaches. Corkwing wrasse are new to the Irish specimen fish list so a size of 20cm has been put on them to gauge what a specimen size should be going forward.

A new addition to the specimen list, corkwing wrasse.

Not to be outdone Philip Lee had a wonderful weeks fishing. Himself and Joe Wales really made the most of the fine weather and fished all ends of the county getting huss, painted, flounder, bass, triggers and big ballans. Indeed I was very happy with myself having joined Troy Francis and Mike Fox for a late night session, I managed a fine painted ray that rocketed me to the top of the leaderboard with a 56cm wingspan (approx. 8.5lb). I was very chuffed with myself but it was short lived after I found out Joe had nailed a 58cm one only about twenty minutes after I had spoke to them. I did however manage to get my name firmly to the top of the leader board for the conger eel section. Half a fresh herring did the damage for the eel, estimated at 30lbs, although I feel confident he could yet make 35lb in the public house when the stories are flowing. 

One thing that was very notable during the month was the amount of trigger fish taken all around the county. From Slea head all the way around to the Beara they seemed to show up in their droves. These late summer visitors are most welcome and have even been bringing some very rare almaco Jacks along with them. One group of lads fishing for ballans ran into a big shoal of triggers and managed to land around a dozen each in a crazy hour of frenzied feeding by the fish. The most amazing catch of all these was a 65cm plus trigger weighing in at 4lb 12oz and rattling the life out of the Irish record. Although in the panic no decent pictures were taken of man and fish!

Plenty of trigger fish were caught

Andy Booth tells me he is very confident of getting his hands on the record next year. Congratulations are definitely due to Andy for the huge capture and his offer to bring me along for the crack at the record next year. The majority of the triggers fell to float fishing tactics with hardbacks as the bait or peeler crab though when they get feeding they are not picky. Some other notable catches came in from Philip and Joe who landed a string of fine smoothies up to 10lb in Tralee Bay. Not huge fish but considering they are so rare here fine fish indeed.

Another really great catch came in from Troy Francis who is in devastating form lately for the club. Mike and himself hit the surf beach in the dead of night in search of a big painted ray, getting nearly a dozen between them for their troubles but the fish of the night fell to Troy who landed a specimen stingray of 30lb. The fish took fresh peeler on a long up and over rig and out up a tremendous scrap in the surf repeatedly running with the waves and then anchoring itself to the bottom before being landed.

A fine trigger, but the biggest didn't get a photo taken!

It’s these tales that really get the blood pumping and raises the level of enthusiasm in the local angling community. It also has to be said that the behaviour of the visiting anglers was exemplary as always. Aside from the mad amounts footprints left behind after a five hour match you would never even know they had been there. Kerry is dependent on tourism to keep a lot of communities afloat and it was brilliant to see all the anglers finally able to come back.

I know that I am already looking forward to next year when with a little luck the anglers will all be back for the return of the ‘Irish Paris’. If you think you would fancy a go next year then have a look on Facebook for the official Irish pairs page. Until next time. Tight lines. 

A brilliant conger for Chris