During a recent trip to Ireland I had the opportunity to team up with Markus Muller, a Fisheries Information Manager with Inland Fisheries Ireland, and a self-confessed fly fishing fanatic who mixes freshwater fishing for salmon, sea trout and trout with some serious sea fishing for pollack.
We’d arranged a short session over midday to coincide with low water in a deep, rocky channel that runs in to a little bay not far from Belmullet in Co Mayo.
It was a blustery day, heavily overcast and misty, with rain obviously imminent, but we were determined to give it a try, even though casting would be a challenge, to say the least.
The channel was narrower than I anticipated being only about 40-yards across, but with a low water depth of about 20-feet, and with a seabed covered in swaying kelp. It certainly looked like pollack country. My appetite was wetted further by Markus telling me he’s had pollack to 6lbs there in the past on the fly, though the average is much smaller.
I’d also brought with me the new Shakespeare Agility 9’6” 4-piece fly rod that will arrive on the tackle shop shelves this coming autumn. I had the 10-weight on test and chose to set up with a 10-weight sink tip line that would keep my fly, I guessed, just up above the kelp and in the pollack zone. My starter fly would be a yellow, weighted head Clouser type fly.
It was very windy and the only way I could cast was right-handed, but over my left shoulder. Even a side cast to the right was whipping the fly to close to my body and I was in danger of hooking myself.
After a few casts, a shout from Markus told me he was into a fish. It was maybe 1.5lbs, but it gave a really good account of itself on his 9-weight. He was quickly in to another slightly smaller fish.
I decided to change flies to a black one with silver tinsel in it, but still nothing. Another fly change saw me drop down a couple of sizes and change to a white Clouser.
Second cast I felt the fly stop dead, then whatever was on the other end buried its head looking for the kelp. Steady pressure turned it and it battled all the way to the bank, still trying one last charge for the kelp at my feet. A little over the pound in weight it fought well and took off like lightening on release.
I was on a roll now and started hitting pollack at nearly every cast, quickly adding four more to my tally, all about the same size, but dropping a few too. What a simple changing of the fly can achieve!
The wind was still strong, and I’d been mostly casting slightly down wind to get the distance. But now my casting arm was “in” I started getting more across the channel in to deeper water. I hooked and lost a fish here, then hit something more solid. This bored off, and then turned by rod pressure charged all over the place. It buried its head in the close in kelp, but heavy pressure saw it pull clear. I eventually slid a much better fish about 2lbs ashore.
I’d sussed the fish wanted the fly drawn in slow strips after a long sink time. This tactic paid off with another quick fish. I moved down seaward about 10-yards and noticed that the kelp cleared a little and a rock was visible within casting range. I cast the fly beyond the rock and started that steady slow retrieve. Just when I figured the fly was over the rock, the line tightened and a fish turned and took line off the reel. This fish took some holding keeping it up and out of the dangerous kelp. I was conscious if it buried itself, it was gone.
The fish made a straight run up the channel taking a few yards of line, then doubled back. Tried hard for the kelp again, but weakened now, I was able to dictate terms better. I let it tire out fully before sliding it ashore. Would it have made 2.5lbs, not quite, but it was close and a satisfying fish for the day and the weather conditions.
I had one more smaller fish, but the tide was pushing through the channel fast now and it was impossible to get the fly down to the fish.
Having a quick tally up of the fish we’d caught between us it was over a dozen, and in truly tough conditions. Getting these fish on the fly, even at this size, is very fulfilling and there’s many a trout and sea trout man that is shocked at the power of his first fly caught pollack. It was also a good way to christen the Agility 10-weight rod, as the power in the butt helped bully the fish away from the kelp.
The coastline around Belmullet offers access to many rock ledges where shore pollack, coalfish and even wrasse can be fly caught. It’s just a case of buying a large scale map and following the small roads down to the coast to find a spot that suits. The surf beaches are also alive with sea trout, and a good fly fisherman could have a field day stood in the pure Atlantic surf hooking big sea trout. It literally is there for the taking!
For general information on Ireland check out http://www.discoverireland.com/gb/
And for fishing info look at http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/Angling-Information/angling-information.html