What can I say about the Kerry shore-line from an angling point of view that hasn’t been said a thousand times already?
She is indeed a mistress that will capture your heart and soul, yet slap you in the face as quickly as reward you.
The Kingdom of Kerry is famous for its stunning scenery, extensive mountain ranges that plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, seemingly endless miles of surf beaches and of course all four seasons in a day. The micro-climates here are such that you can never guarantee the weather outcome, despite what the forecasters predict!
Shore-angling at Derrymore, surrounded by fabulous scenery
A recent trip found me heading for Brandon Bay. With Andrew Wolsey for company on this occasion, we camped at the Anchor Camp Site that is central to the famous Brandon Beaches of Derrymore Island, Gowlane, Kilcummin, Castlegregory, Stradbally and Fermoyle. This meant we only had a short drive to explore, or chop and change our venues as conditions dictated. Andrew has fished this area many times over the years and he has accumulated a wealth of experience regarding where to fish and at exactly which stages of the tide for best results. Hopefully this would be a short-cut to success in our hunt for Rays and Bass.
Andrew casting a bait into a gulley that has historically produced Tope, Monkfish, Undulate Ray, Sting Ray, Smooth Hound, Bass and Flounder
The local beach at the camp site is mostly rock and sand and looked great for Bass, but a heavy surf had cut up quite a bit of weed just now. Andrew managed to find a Garfish and I foul-hooked a Launce but fishing was almost impossible. A move to Derrymore proved just as difficult with rafts of weed making life awkward and so it was back to camp for some grub and an exploratory survey of the remaining surf beaches.
An interesting Garfish taken whilst plugging for Bass
These looked reasonably clear and plans were made for a night session in search of Painted Ray. The advantage of booking into a camp site such as Anchor is the access to fridges and freezers to keep bait and food fresh, not to mention shower and toilet facilities to bring a modicum of leisure and cleanliness to the trip! It also allows for easy access to and fro at any hour of the day or night, not always possible with a B&B. Our tidal windows were from 10pm through to 3am, and gaining approximately an hour each night, not what you would call sociable hours!
Painted Ray, always great fun from the shore. Tagged in the wingtip before release
Fishing large Sand-eel baits, clipped down and dropped beyond the surf tables, we managed to find our Painted Ray target species. Fair to say that numbers were lower than normal but it was still fantastic to see the rod-tips arc over once again to the power of a Ray as it lifts a bait and runs. I never shore fish in my home waters of Northern Ireland as they are now so lifeless and empty compared to twenty years ago, but always look forward to a shore bash south of the border.
At over 9lbs, just shy of the magical specimen weight
Day-light adventures were restricted to the hunt for Bass. We tried all manner of lures in the tackle box, from crankbaits to poppers, metal to soft plastics, but natural Sand-eel baits were top of the list. Andrew fished Sand-eel below a large bubble float and I opted for the Bombarda style approach, both tactics proving successful. Larger hooks put the wary Bass off it seemed in these clear in-shore waters, but scaling down to size four single hooks with a size eight treble as a “stinger” was sufficient and delicate enough to fool most fish.
Bombarda float tactics accounted for all my Bass on this trip
A strange observation was that live, lip-hooked Sand-eel were nowhere near as successful as frozen or even freshly killed baits. In fact, live baits never tempted a single fish. I could only put this down to the possibility that the Bass weren’t bothered chasing or expending energy on these mini torpedoes but were happier to pick off any dead or injured eels that may be passing through. Even retrieving a Sand-eel wouldn’t work, but allowing it to drift naturally with an in-coming tide produced vicious takes.
Typically, night fishing over the same tides produced better numbers of Bass
As there were no obvious “snags” in the area, just acres of soft sand, we could fish as light as 8lb fluorocarbon hook lengths and relatively small hooks, and let the fish run, within reason. It was a little “touch and go” at times as some of these fish were over 7lbs but quality balanced tackle won out each time.
A respectable seven pounder for the camera before safe release
Careful and safe release
I landed the larger ones, but Andy hammered me on the numbers game!
A couple of sessions were lost through bad weather, when the Kingdom of Kerry saw fit to throw all it had at us. During these thunderstorms we sought shelter in the bivvy or jeep, cooked grub or simply tied a few new rigs. There’s always something to get on with. By the last day we were almost out of bait and I suggested we try and find some sand banks for fresh Sand-eel, then have one more shot at the Bass before heading home.
Yet another mark to try, but just too much sub-surface weed!
Another 7lb+. Notice the size of hooks to tempt a strike! I think the small hooks simply allowed the Sand-eel to move more naturally
With just enough bait gathered for a short session, we hit the mark. The full moon had passed by now and tides were becoming smaller again and this showed in the lack of Bass feeding. I struck into one large fish that ripped 60 yards of line from the Penn Battle against drag, then burst on the surface and shook the hooks. It was a sizeable Bass and found its freedom sooner than I would have preferred!
Pristine Sea Trout, sea-lice and all
Persevering, both Andy and I hooked into a Sea Trout each and landed both. These were to be our last fish of the trip, as the relentless tide pushed us off the mark, signalling it was time to head home. It had been a great angling trip back down in County Kerry. There were periods of slack time where we could do nothing but wait for the right tidal stages, surveying for bait areas, looking at new marks but all the while admiring stunning scenery whilst being windswept and interesting, rained on and sunburnt, usually all in the same day! It’s one of the few wild angling destinations left in Ireland, you’ve got to love it, but for God’s sake, we need to offer it more protection. The washed-up and discarded gill nets and overall lack in fish numbers is genuine reason for concern! If it goes the way of the north, it’s finished.
Looking for Bass, but a pleasent surprise none the less (the blood on my hand is mine, from a "stinger" treble hook buried in my finger!)