Usually, the Irish summer can be a devious and unpredictable foe. It’s not unusual to start out in waders and a waterproof jacket and finish a session barefoot with the pants rolled up regretting not having packed some shorts. Not this week though, a beautiful spell of heatwave weather has even seen a hosepipe ban in place in certain areas of the county which, given it rains about eleven months of the year, just goes to show how hot it has actually been.
My favourite thing about this type of weather is that it brings in a lot of the summer species such as mackerel, garfish, mullet and the occasional bream. It gives me a chance to dust off the true continental gear that’s been stored away over the winter and fish light, long, popped up rigs. Personally, I fell in love with this type of fishing when I first attended the Yuki masters in Barcelona a few years back.
I thought I was using light lines when I arrived with .23mm but when I realised the local lads were down to .165mm or .14mm then I truly understood the meaning of light lines. Seeing their superior catch rates we headed to the tackle shop where they handed us Yuki Kenta .165mm and .18 -.57mm Yuki Otto tapered leaders and such was the improvement in catch rates and distance of cast I haven’t changed anything since.
Now though I was a long way from Barcelona and at five am when my new alarm clock started crying, I was a little bit happier than usual. Knowing it would be an early start I had gotten the gear together and into the truck the night before. All I needed to do was grab the bait from the fridge/freezer and I’d be on the move. Bait on the day was fairly simple. Around 150 Maddies, 5 Mackerel and a bonus 40 lug/4 peeler off my father Connie meant I was well set up.
I had a pretty solid plan in place. I’d fish two rods pretty hard for the target species of golden greys and garfish. All the while I would have a bigger rod out just in case there was anything special like a stingray, bull huss or, whisper it quietly, monkfish knocking around. All the drive to the beach I was wondering to myself would the beach really be empty? How would the conditions be? Would the cloudless sky in town mean good or bad fishing?
Overall I was very excited about it all and that unmistakable buzz that comes with the early morning fishing trip was well and truly upon me. As I turned down to the beach and switched on 4×4 mode everything just lined up. The sea was flat calm and gin clear. The beach was deserted except for a single set of footprints and a kind of light foggy haze meant that the early morning sun wasn’t too bright.
As I crawled along the empty beach I was looking for signs of life from the mullet and garfish. Early in the morning they can often be seen feeding on the surface quite aggressively if you have a keen eye. I had planned to fish the eastern side of the beach where a river comes out, but about three quarters of the way there I saw what I wanted. The mullet were swirling on the surface just twenty meters out and it looked like a very large shoal too. I could hardly contain the excitement but knew I could scatter them quick as a flash if I wasn’t patient.
I parked well back from the water and had no radio or music on the phone. No slamming of car doors or tackle boxes and as I crept around the back of the truck the lapping of the waves was punctuated by the odd splash. I don’t need to tell you I was set up rather lively.
First trace up was around 9ft with small yellow pop ups from Akami that have always served me well, with size 6 ax-63 hooks and 2 small Maddies for the bait. Keeping my stand well back I cast out over the shoal with the intention of slowly easing the baits back in amongst the shoal.
Drag set and heart rate up I went about getting a second trace ready. Five minutes…. Ten minutes…. Nothing. I could see the mullet, there must have been close to fifty. Surely this wasn’t going to be a mullet rage day? I retrieved the rig with only signs that the prawns had had their way with my bottom hook and a fair bit of disappointment. Trace two had the same dimensions but white 15mm pop ups instead. Again I cast out over the shoal which did a synchronised display on the top as the lead splashed down.
Not to be deterred I inched the baits into position and telling myself the garfish would be more friendly I went about setting up a second rod. No sooner had I two sections together when some crashing in the water alerted me to my rod dancing in the stand and line peeling off! Camera on and I was thrilled to be into my first golden grey of the morning… except this fish was big and powerful! The runs tested the drag and rod tip and for a while I think there was even two hooked up.
After a good scrap in the shallows and some coaxing I saw a beauty of a mullet swim the wrong way and almost beach himself. The next little wave completed the job and it was on the beach but certainly no golden grey. A fine thick lip had scoffed the bait. I filled the large bucket with sea water and recast while popping the hook out. No sooner was the bait in the water when all hell broke loose again I was into another fine mullet.
Considering I don’t fish for them and when I do I don’t catch them, I couldn’t conceal the excitement on camera which is rather embarrassing looking back. The powerful lunges showed just why good quality line and a good sensitive rod tip is needed to control the darting runs. In no time I had the better fish on the sand and into the bucket. I held off casting again in order to get the fish recovered and weighed. I usually don’t weigh fish but I was curious to see how close to the specimen weight these fish were. 3.4lb and 3.7lb respectively. A couple of pics and back they went.
I was nervous that between the fights and release I would surely have scattered the shoal. Indeed there seemed to be far less top water action and while I re-cast I decided that if they had indeed gone that I would move to my original plan and get the other rods out. Rod back in the stand and I was beaming but there was no time. The rod lurched forward again and an overly tight drag had me running to catch up.
Again, the fish lurched and sped along the shallows. Barefoot, I twisted and turned to keep contact and pressure on as the zig zag fight pattern continued. A smaller fish of around 3lb was landed. I just took a quick pic and released this one eager to cast again. I couldn’t believe it when the rod started again, the Yuki Saiko A6+ sensitive paired with the Shimano surf leader and light lines was making this morning fairly magical as I landed three more mullet of similar 3lb size one after the other.
By now though, the sun had burned off the haze and was starting to wake the locals and bake me. I applied some sun cream aware that it might put the fish off and changed to a long sleeve light shirt with a collar to protect me from the sun. Swimmers started to appear with the dog walkers and my time was well and truly limited knowing the mullet wouldn’t hang around with the commotion. I rolled the dice one last time and was rewarded with a belter of a run and a far better fish.
Again it sped along the beach but I was getting the hang of this mullet fishing now and didn’t let it turn for open water. Trying to keep pressure on and it’s head pointing towards the beach it was going well for a while until the mullet spotted me and turned tail. Thankfully the drag was set and I was able to absorb the dashing runs. The best fish of the day was the result and at 3.9lb it fell agonisingly short of an Irish specimen fish.
I had the customary last, last, last cast which yielded the smallest mullet of the day at around 2.5lb and decided to pack up. I was thrilled with how the morning had gone. Never had it crossed my mind that I would have had such a red letter day while totally and utterly failing the mission. No golden grey, No garfish and certainly no rays.
I could have fished on but decided the water just looked too inviting so I had a quick dip and was home before most of the country had even poured out their breakfast. I managed eight thick lipped mullet in total from approx. 2.5lb to 3.9lb to smash all personal bests on a fish I rarely target (successfully). Indeed the only one to suffer was my poor wife who had to listen to me talk about the session for two weeks until the magazine was released. I’ll be back for them Garfish…