Specimen Hunters Diary 2019
Diary of a Specimen Hunter 2019
Courtesy of Pure Fishing Tackle Company
As we draw the curtains on yet another year, I enjoy looking back on my angling exploits and memorable catches from the season past.
Each year is different of course, with the usual variables thrown into the mix such as fish availability, weather, funds, free time, commitments, accurate local information and a huge helping of luck, both good and bad.
However, over the years, I have surrounded myself with fantastic anglers that I am privileged to call my friends, and supported by "Pure Fishing Tackle Company" that gives me an extra reason, (not that I need it), to get out near water and bend rods into fish!
Putting the Penn Ally and International 50 through its paces
So what did 2019 throw my way? As regards my personal life, it's been a tough year, we all get them, and to be honest I'm happy to see the back of it. But fishing adventures, good friends and loving family have kept me grounded and sane. Finally in February, the weather settled somewhat, and I managed to get the Fast Fisher out on the water, and with one of these good friends, Alastair Smyth. Alastair, owner of the popular tackle shop "Tight Lines" in Belfast, joined me to try out the new Penn International 50 VISX reels, paired up with the Penn Ally 65-130lb class boat rods. Wow! I discovered I could now reel a 5lb sinker 400ft from the sea bed one handed! This will open so many angling opportunities.
Alastair Smyth, Tight Lines Tackle Shop, Belfast more info click here
We tempted Cat-sharks and Dogfish and a small Common Skate, and the Penn Combos were superb. I needed larger specimens to try! It wasn't until July that the opportunity came my way to get back over the deep water, which turned into a sufficient tackle test. This time Dave Craig joined me, and it became a Skate fest! A short evening session over a suitable tide produced seven hook-ups, losing one each, but landing five, a smaller Male at 110lbs and four females all around 180-190 lb "guestimates" going by the length-breadth chart, all tagged and released. The average time per fish with the Penn combos, dropping to less than twenty minutes per fish in strong tides and 400 feet depths, awesome kit.
A better test for the Penn Combo
Dave Craig with a female, 180-190lb
170lb+ to the boat in under twenty minutes, and easily. Full article here
Skipping back to February, and a long overdue hand operation for Carpal Tunnel syndrome loomed. A tricky little procedure that put me out of angling opportunities for a couple of months, but soon back in the driving seat at the end of April and just in time for St. Mullins on the mighty River Barrow and some extremely addictive Shad angling. This would be a fair test for my repaired hand, but also a chance to play with the Berkley Fireflex spinning rod, teamed with a Mitchell Mag-Pro RTZ300. A balanced and forgiving set-up, perfect for casting small lures and taming hard-fighting Shad.
A 3lb+ Irish Specimen Shad..Full article here
The kit proved excellent, and the stitches in my hand held out long enough to find three specimens among the many landed. St. Mullins is a beautiful part of Ireland, serene, idyllic in fact, and for the past twenty four years I have endeavoured to make it a fixture on the calendar. As I arrive at the iconic Mote and Bailey in the centre of the quiet village and find I can breathe once again!
Berkley Fireflex and Mitchell RTZ, perfect combo for Shad
With my once a year "Shad fix" put to bed, thoughts turned to Smooth Hound. When the Shad are in full swing, it usually heralds the arrival of our small shark immigrants, that gorge on the rich pickings of crabs and other "goodies" found along our East Coast in-shore shallow waters.
Samantha delighted with her first specimen Smooth Hound
I have missed this wee shark over the past few years, too busy searching out other Irish species and adventures, but couldn't wait to get back into these hard hitting, doggedly-fighting elasmobranchs. Dave Craig tagged along for company, and cost sharing, along with angling buddies Samantha and Michael, and I also managed to wangle a couple of Greys Up-tiders to play with. Paired with Penn Surf-blasters they make a formidable combo, and we soon had rods buckled into hard-scrapping hounds, several making it well into double figures, including a couple of personal bests for each of us!
Dave Craig with a personal best Smoothie
And a specimen for me and "Skip". Full article here..
Following this trip, my 17 year old trailer was in dire need of repair, and I decided on a full make-over. Stripped down to the frame, shot blasted and re-galvanised, I left it in the expert hands of Grant Cordiner at Indispension Trailers Mallusk, for a full re-build and new axles. They looked after me and two weeks later my new-look boat carrier was once again ready for action.
Trailer fully over-hauled and back in action
The "Smoothies" are way too much fun, and I had to have a re-run, joined with Sid Kennedy and his son Derrick. The weather was kind and although fishing proved slow on this occasion, we were graced once again with double-figure fish to make the trip very enjoyable. I opted for the old Faithfull's of Penn Fathom reels and Wave-blaster rods, my god this kit has seen so many fish safely over the gunnels over the years!
July was upon us, mostly taken up in search of Common Skate when tides and weather allowed. After much prompting, I talked Pure Fishing Agent for Ireland, Dave Wilson into a deep-water trip on my Fast Fisher. Dave spends so much time in Ireland working with tackle shops and orders, it's a rarity to get him out among the fish, but I managed it! The Skate failed to show unfortunately, but specimen Cuckoo Wrasse and a superbly conditioned Tope made the day successful.
Pure Fishing agent, Davy Wilson, delighted with his first Tope. Full article here..
The year marched on regardless and we were now into August, and the Cuckoo Wrasse were carrying the fat and growth of rich summer feeding, a chance for a specimen or two was definitely on the cards. An invite to Sid and Derrick down in Cork and they were up in a flash. We spent the day targeting the multitude of off-shore reefs finding fabulous sport on light tackle, finding Cod, Pollack, Coalfish, Pouting, Ballan Wrasse and the target Cuckoos, landing an impressive eight specimens among the tally. A quick drop over the deep water tempted a decent Skate around the 150lbs mark giving Derrick a new specimen to his list. I also hooked into a specimen Skate, but by accident whilst targeting small species on the light, afore-mentioned Wave Blaster. I got it wrong at the last second, and although we landed the Skate, the rod tip shattered. Dear Pure Fishing, please can you send me a .................!
It's rare to find a specimen female Cuckoo Wrasse, but Sid found one!
Skate attached, wrong rod! Full article here..
As September rolled in, the call of West Cork grew strong, and Sid returned the favour with an invite down that way for Trigger fish, Mullet and Ballan Wrasse. I didn't need asked twice. The Triggers proved elusive, but I squeezed in a couple of great boat trips before a shore session on the Mullet. Derrick joined me, and yet again, I had a rod to put through its paces. The Greys Prodigy Barbel rod comes with twin tip sections, and multiple quiver tip options. It is versatile, high quality as you would expect from Greys, and perfectly suited to "banging out" a method feeder at distance and subduing a dogged Mullet battle. We spent a lot of time feeding the area and were rewarded with many fish that session, including four over the Irish specimen size. What a fabulous result, and a thumbs up for the Prodigy.
Some fine wreck angling West Cork. Full article here...
Four specimens in one session. Full article here..
It was almost time to end my Cork trip, but with a cooler box of fresh Peeler Crab left over from the earlier Trigger failure, we decided on another shore-rock session, this time in search of big, bold Ballans. And I had the chance to test the new Abu Suveran spinning rod, I know, I know, but someone has to do it! Irish Specimens are just shy of 5lbs but length based specimens of 48 cms or over are also eligible, and these were our target challenge.
5lb 10oz Ballan, tough to find these days. Full article here..
We struggled to find fish on day one, but good friend Bill Brazier came to the rescue. He joined us on a mark he had "sussed out", and my god, what a session. With only a three hour tidal window before being pushed back off the mark, we landed over 160 fish, most averaging 2-4 lbs, as Sid and I fought to keep up with Bill and his skills at lure fishing!
Fabulously marked specimen for Bill
Not to be left out, 5lb 4oz specimen for yours truly
Sid found two weight-based specimens up to 5lb 10oz and also a length-based specimen, whereas I had eight fish among 50 or so, only one or two mills shy of the mark but what an enjoyable afternoon. Bill caught all sizes, but isn't too interested in exact weights-measurements, just the pure pleasure of catch and release. This session restored my faith in Irish shore angling for now, and re-enforced my faith in great friendships. My final day beckoned, I had to make a return visit before heading home, and winkled out a 5lb+ as the icing on the West Cork cake. The Suveran-Penn Battle combo performed admirably as a Wrasse float rod.
The end of this trip led quickly into October, and painfully, an attack of Sciatica, running from my lower back (ok, ass cheek) to my foot. Agony on a mega-scale as many pregnant ladies will testify. As I write this wee blog, I've endured eleven weeks of agony, anti-inflammatories and physio. Thankfully its beginning to subside and I'm craving to get among the fish once again. Hopefully before much longer I will be writing a Pike blog, weather permitting, and thinking about doing the specimen thing all over again for 2020, minus the Sciatica of course! Thanks to my friends and family, to the support of Pure Fishing Tackle Company, and to the scenery, people and species of our Irish Mother Nature, Tight Lines for 2020.