While decent, honest people were at their daily toil, this unemployed and unemployable rogue headed west with boat in tow as a couple of good days approached.
Thursday 1st September. Sligo Bay. I intended to give the tope another go after a good day out with the Bro’ back in mid July. It took a little longer this time to get some mackerel, no first drop full house today! Unlike last time, no shoals appeared on the sounder and I headed out to fish a rocky area for pollack, better than no mackerel. Nothing on the hard stuff either so I drifted off it onto the sand and suddenly hit some good mackerel in mid-water. I soon had a baker’s dozen of good sized mackerel despite nothing showing on the sounder. Perhaps being in mid-water they were outside the cone of the sounder, flying above the radar so to speak. Don’t believe everything you don’t see on small screens! With bait sorted, I headed for my mark and dropped anchor to fish the last two hours of the ebb and first two of the flood. It was a beautiful day, no swell or breeze, sea like glass, well ripple glass if you want to be pedantic, warm and sunny; all I needed was a few fish. A whole half hour passed with no action and then the rush hour time-table kicked in. First up was a 101 cm tope which took the flapper bait quite delicately, in fact I thought it had dropped the bait until I tightened into it and off she went. Soon on board, it was measured and a quick pic taken before being returned. It was then a run every 10 minutes for the next hour with a further three tope landed, the best going 125 cm. The tope were pretty small and I was fishing full flapper baits so I was missing as many as I was catching. Things went quiet for an hour and a half and baits were being stripped quickly so I was glad to see a mackerel chase a swivel to the surface as I retrieved, out with the feathers and a few more mackerel topped up the bait supply. In light of the small tope, I decided to fish fillets instead of flappers and hit the bites quickly rather than risk gut hooking a good fish, should one come along. With the flood starting to pick up the fish came on the feed again. Two more small fish at 67 and 70 cm were landed and another 2-3 missed. Three dogfish added to the variety as things slowed down. At this point I remembered I had the Waterwolf camera with me and I attached it to a rig and lowered it down. Sadly no more tope showed, next time I’ll film from the start. However I found out why the baits were stripped so quickly; lots of crabs and dabs down there along with a few others including a dragonet and gurnard, (link below). No big tope today but a very enjoyable day out.
Friday 2nd September. Different day, different bay, back to Donegal. It was dull with some swell and wave, encouraged by a breeze that was a little strong for so early in the day. However I launched and headed along the coast in search of mackerel bait. What I thought was a small joey turned out to be a couple of launce stretching to 27cm. I eventually picked up 4 decent mackerel and 2 small scad so I had plenty to get started. A few drifts over the sand failed to produce a single bite, just a trio of octopuses, (I can’t get over the number of octopuses I have been catching in recent years) so I headed for a rough ground mark. I intended to try this new mark for the first time last year but somebody else was already on it, no such problem today. The breeze had picked up a bit, bringing with it some rain which got steadily heavier necessitating the waterproofs. First drift was really to check the direction but fish were showing on the sounder so it was with some optimism that the rig was dropped down. An instant bite produced the first of four cuckoo wrasse including one female. The rain was now so heavy that water was sloshing around the deck and I had to spend a few minutes bailing it out but it wasn’t cold and I fished on. A small ling then turned up and on the next drift the rod heeled over hard, went a bit light on the way up and yielded a pollack of about 3.5lbs. The other hook had been bitten off, most likely suspect being a better ling. I lost the whole rig on the next drift and although the torrential rain wasn’t bothering me the increasing wind was making things uncomfortable so I called it a day. I only scratched the surface of this mark today but I will be sure to return to test it more thoroughly. Comparing the two days out, I am tempted to paraphrase a well-known song, “What a difference a bay makes!”