Rock fishing with a difference ticks all boxes.
When heading to a new venue, I always get a buzz, but when you add some rocky ledges into the equation, my expectations are multiplied many times over.
My adrenalin was flowing freely as a team from Sea Angler made its way to Barry’s Point, only a 15-minute drive down Irish country lanes from our week’s base at Courtmacsherry, County Cork.
We had been given the nod about the potential of this venue by several locals, including charter boat skipper Jim O’Donnell, who knows this part of Ireland like the back of his hand.
Like many of Ireland’s narrow, winding lanes heading towards a headland, it petered out well before the fishing area. There was just enough room to get two cars parked off the track, after which it was a case of donning our hiking boots.
Unlike the approaches to many other headlands in the area, the terrain was fairly level, providing a fairly easy walk along the shallower eastern side of the headland, where we had been told some nice thornback rays could be caught.
However, on this occasion we were going to target the western side, where the water is far deeper, but a series of underwater ledges can be a tackle graveyard; it only needs the smallest of waves to send plumes of spray into the air, as we were to discover (pictured left).
Unlike a headland we a had visited earlier in the week, the last couple of hundred yards were fairly simple to negotiate. There were also some ledges close to the water’s edge that offered good grip for our feet, not in the slightest bit slippery, always important when fishing deep-water rock marks.
Joining me and our guide Jim O’Donnell were Tronixpro boss George Cunningham, who seems to be able to turn his hand to most types of fishing, and Sea Angler contributors Adam Kirby and Dan Sissons, who specialise in LRF and HRF techniques. It had all the makings of an interesting encounter.
As Dan and Adam settled to my left, I was really looking forward to watching these two talented guys in action. George went a little way to my right. We started fishing almost on high water and were going to fish down to low, which was the opposite to what I would have liked, but during this type of trip it’s a case of beggars can’t be choosers.
As is usual for me, I sat pondering and regaining my composure and taking in the scenery; it is a stunning stretch of coastline. Before I had even opened my rucksack, Dan and Adam were already catching pollack; the place seemed to be alive with the species; although not big fish, they certainly gave a spirited account of themselves on their light tackle. It was great to watch.
Occasionally while playing a slightly better fish, the lads ventured just a tad too close to the edge, only to get showered with spray as a wave smashed against the rocky ledges.
After watching them for at least 30 minutes, I decided it was an area of angling that I will try. First, though, I was going to see if I could bag myself a big fish. SIMPLE STUFF While Dan and Adam had been landing lots of small pollack, along with a few mackerel, they were making contact with something far more aggressive that had no intention of being heaved from the kelp. For me, this could only mean one thing, some big ballan wrasse were lurking in the depths below.
They were proving extremely difficult to get over the rocky ledges and kelp, resulting in quite a heavy toll on the lads’ lures. This called for some heavy-duty stuff, so I set up a Fox Nemesis rod and attached a Penn
Mag multiplier loaded with 30lb line straight through. At the business end I had two size 1/0 Kamasan short-shank hooks attached to 20lb snoods and a 20lb weak link, connected to one of the flat leads I use for this type of fishing; it should provide a reasonable chance of retrieving fish from this type of rough and tumble underwater terrain. Bait was a peeler crab on the bottom hook, and a very large ragworm on the top, all pretty simple stuff.
The first few casts proved to be a non-event, with just a few small ballan and corkwings, not really what I was expecting, but as I held the rod, the tip gave a slight rumble and then just buried. It was a case of hanging on for dear life.
Below me was an extremely angry customer, which had no intention of waving the white flag. It took a lot of pumping on the rod before I managed to ease it up through the kelp and over the rocky ledges. To my surprise, out came a double header of big ballans, the best I had caught for many months. It was a case of mission accomplished on the wrasse front.
With the ballan ticked off the list, I switched to my float rod for a while and was soon catching pollack and mackerel, while Dan and Adam were getting a slightly better stamp of pollack that certainly knew how to fight.
While all this had been going on, George, who is normally a larger than life character, had been quietly landing the occasional small ballan. Suddenly, he appeared clutching one of the best brace of corkwing wrasse I have ever seen; back in the UK, I reckon the bigger of the two fish would have been a potential record breaker.
With time ticking away, I decided to try for a conger eel, a species that had been conspicuous by its absence during our week’s trip, which is quite unusual when fishing the rocky ledges in Ireland.
I switched to a single size 6/0 Pennell rig on a 50lb hooklength and baited up with a chunk of mackerel and cast it out around 40yd. Twenty minutes later the rod started to show signs of life. Something was mouthing the bait, but it wasn’t really positive, so I left it for a few minutes before lifting into the fish. Initially, I thought it was a dogfish, but soon afterwards out popped a small strap conger, not exactly what I was seeking, but at least it was another species added to the list.
As low water approached, the bites slowed to a trickle, and it became increasingly difficult for Dan and Adam to retrieve their lures due to vast forest of kelp beds starting to appear around the bottom of the rock ledges.
All too soon it was time to head back to our accommodation at Woodpoint House, Courtmacsherry. It had been an interesting day, with some fishing to match, and a double shot of ballans that I shall remember for many moons to come.
For me, the real highlight was watching Dan and Adam in action; they are extremely talented anglers making LRF/HRF fishing look easy. Their choice of lures, knowing when and how to change to another, was quite staggering, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be long before I am dangling on the rocks with a brand new LRF outfit.
Dan Sissons and Adam Kirby, talented lads who specialise in LRF and HRF techniques A great brace of corkwing wrasse for George Adam Kirby with one of the many pollack he caught