Winter fishing for me is not your typical affair. While most of Facebook is taken up by anglers proudly posing with their double figure cod or the weird and wonderful catches from Chesil I am usually at home with the rig making gear out and having a healthy debate with the wife concerning how much of the kitchen table is actually required to eat from.

The first matches of the season are on the cards and there is the ‘Winter Beach’ to be planning for. Bait, rigs, accommodation, time off work to negotiate and permission from home all needs to be organised in advance to avoid disaster. This year, however, we all know has been very different. Competitions and matches have been cancelled without exception and many more of the national and international ones will be sure to follow. Indeed, one of the biggest matches I ever took part in, the ‘Paul Roggeman European Open’ has just been cancelled too, which is a disaster. Having been there to witness my mate Troy Francis lift the trophy and about 15 other prizes I was really eager to get back over and see if it could be my turn this year. 

The irony wasn't lost on us, on seeing these scenes, that we would be missing the 'Winter beach' competition

Now, it would be easy at this point to lose hope and pack away the gear, but where there is water there is hope. We all need to look after ourselves and try to keep positive. It’s harder said than done but when I see die hard sea anglers taking up coarse fishing because it’s the only fishing accessible to them it gives me hope. Then of course, the thinking and the plotting starts, followed by the more intense scheming.

There is a pile of fishing local to me that has been abandoned over the years because of the matches taking over. 

So after a bit of a slump and a fair bit of moaning I decided rather than sit at home arguing with strangers on the Internet, I was going to do some exploring and revisit places that I had not fished in a long time. The target would be whatever I could get to bite but I would have one eye firmly on the big winter Flatties that had not yet headed to deeper water to do spawn. These flounder can be up to 3lb but fish of 1.5lb to 2lb are far more achievable. There is always hope of a specimen fish, which in Ireland is 45cm or 2.45lb. A fish of that size would absolutely have me made up and while I couldn’t travel to a few places that I know fish of that size are, I still had some venues up my sleeve.

The flounder were beckoning us, with the potential of a good specimen at this time of year

When pleasure fishing for larger fish I prefer to use two hook flapper rigs. Distance wouldn’t really be an issue but I did knock up some two hook loop rigs just in case. Bodies would be 40lb Yuki Invisible and snoods of 12lb Sunset Amnesia. For the hooks I went with Kamasan b940m in a size 1. For the loop rigs I used Asso classic 60lb and Amnesia 15lb with size 1/0 Yuki. A bit big for flounder usually but there could be a late ray about too, so accommodations needed to be made. Rods would be the Yuki Sublime Casting for the distance work and the Yuki A6 sensitive, both kindly supplied by Yuki through my pro staff contract. Reels were Shimano surf leaders with tapered Asso line 8 to 45lb and Asso hard skin 14lb and their tapered leaders.

Now these big winter Flatties that I was on the hunt for also have some very interesting friends. You see the place I was headed can also through up some fine turbot and let’s be honest… who doesn’t want some of that action? With that in mind I would be using sandeel, mackerel, frozen black lugworm and fresh blow lug for baits, plus some maddies if I could bring myself to traipse across the mud banks to dig them! I have often found a good sized lug either tipped with a few maddies or a strip of mackerel belly an irresistible morsel for these big winter flounder. Now all I needed was a bit of decent weather and I was ready for action.

A slither of mackerel can entice a turbot, and isn't a bad idea for the bigger flounder either.

So full of enthusiasm I headed to a nearby beach for some fishing and more importantly some catching. The Slieve Mish mountains were shrouded in a misty fog and intermittent showers did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm. I was actually quite excited for the session, it would be a place in Tralee Bay I hadn’t fished in an age but as we got closer to the venue the wind had picked up and was joined by some heavy showers. 

Not to be deterred I set up and was thankful for the shelter of the 4×4 to hide behind. Did anyone check the weather? My father Connie, now he wouldn’t be known for being soft but after an hour of now howling wind and rain even he was sick of it. We managed a few small flounder with the biggest going to 30cm and some schoolie Bass to 38cm as it got dark. By the time the rod stand blew over we both had certainly had enough. 

The inevitable bycatch of flounder fishing, the schoolie bass! They still provide excellent sport on the light gear.

Not to be deterred we went out again two days after and headed for a different venue after checking the forecast. The mist, fog and rain of the previous session had been replaced by cool, calm and beautifully clear skies. We were treated to a fantastic vista of the snow covered Brandon mountains as we aimed for a deeper venue. I really do hope the picture does it justice, it would have been easy to imagine yourself on an isolated Alaskan beach with the snow covered mountains shielding you from the winds.

While I was messing around with the cameras and trying to come across all poetic, Connie was set up in a flash and by the time I had a bait in the water he was walking back guiding a small bass onto the shore. At around 30cm he just returned it right at the waters edge and with a wry smile says ‘1 nil’. We fished away for another hour without a fish while waiting for the tide to turn and flood over the gullies. A warm cuppa took the sting out of the fingers and I must say I could really get used to the slower pace of pleasure fishing. There isn’t a hope you could take the time out of most matches to put a brew on.

Hard to beat backdrops like this!

Now it’s a well known fact that the minute you decide to wash your hands and have a sandwich the rods will go mad. I had a small bass of around 35cm, again released at the waters edge, that took fresh blow lug and maddies fished just outside the bank. A steady stream of flounders followed and as the light faded they really came on.

Connie landed a double shot of mid 30s (1.5lb) followed by a skinny 39cm one. I wasn’t doing badly myself with some fine fat flounder coming in and bizarrely one very hungry mini flounder in amongst the big boys. I was having success with frozen blacks and maddies while Connie was fishing a big blow lug bait and a lug tipped with mackerel incase a good Turbot was passing by.

A typically plump winter flounder hits the beach as the action hots up.

As the tide approached high water a decision had to be made do we fish on or head off for the comforts of home. With the temperatures around freezing and forecast to get worse we decided that a few more hours fishing no matter how good would not be worth it if we were to have an accident on the short drive home. So the decision was made and the last cast put out while we tidied up the gear and tallied up the scores.

Mysteriously the score card had gotten wet, then torn up and put in the rubbish bag, so the only fair thing to do was call it a draw. These type of accidents can happen so I remain unbeaten… The last casts were retrieved as the sleet began and truth be told we were glad to see no fish on them.

Double shots of 1.5lb stamp flounder had become the order of the night.

On the drive home we reflected on a great evenings fishing. We hadn’t managed to get a specimen flounder  but we had managed to go well into double figures of fish. We had fished a couple of places that hadn’t been visited in years. Six of the bigger flounder were kept for the table and although I was a bit skeptical, Connie reminded me that food doesn’t just come from the supermarket. He kept three and gave three to his brother, again reminding me that its good to look after people when you can and a nice surprise of a few fresh fish can go a long way.

So I hope you enjoy this little adventure over your coffee and like me remember some of the important things in life, like looking after your family and appreciating the little things. Until next time stay safe and tight lines, better times are coming!

Just as I am finishing this article, into my inbox lands a picture of local man Aaron McLarnon holding better turbot than the ones I’ve been getting lately… looks like a Turbot hunt is now on the cards…

A better stamp of turbot, the image was sent to me as I was concluding this feature, and sets the thoughts running for next month!
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