My partner Jenny and I have just returned from our annual mullet fishing trip to the Republic of Ireland. As usual, the destination was Rosscarbery in west Cork. What a week it turned out to be.
The town of Rosscarbery sits at the top of a short, wide, shallow estuary. The main N71 trunk road cuts across the estuary forming a tidal lagoon to the north of the road which is connected to the estuary via a single arch. Both the estuary and lagoon are very shallow and mullet can be caught in either. There is very little by way of upstream freshwater catchment meaning it remains fishable in all but the very wettest weather. All three species of grey mullet are present, but we would be concentrating on the thick lips (chelon labrosus). This was our fourth visit, and my aims for the week were twofold – to not blank, and to catch at least one 5 pounder (the National Mullet Club’s ‘gold’ standard).
Tuesday 5th September
We arrived in Ross at about 4 in the afternoon. By the time we had unpacked and had a cuppa, we were both knackered and debated whether or not to go down to the water for an evening session. In the end we decided to give it a go but weren’t confident when we saw the water colour – very brown from extremely heavy rain over the previous 48 hours. Rather surprisingly though we came across lots of whelms (mullet speak for swirls) in a sheltered spot along the west side of the estuary. Still not expecting much, we chucked our leger baits out, set up to fish crust popped up off the bottom, and rested the rods up against the wall. Within literally 3 minutes, my left hand rod wrenched around and I was into a good fish. After the usual hair raising scrap, I could hardly believe what lay in the net. It went 5lb 10oz.
After returning that one, there were still fish whelming in the swim and within 15 minutes I had another rod bending take and another big mullet went screaming off. Unfortunately that one came off after a minute or so. I really thought that would have killed the swim, but no, after another 30 minutes or so, one of my rods went round again and I was once again into a good fish. Again the scrap was difficult and nerve wracking in the shallow water, but unbelievably this one was even bigger than the first at 5lb 13oz!
Things really did die after that but I could scarcely believe that I’d had two big 5s and achieved both my aims within an hour of arriving!
Wednesday 6th September
After the feast the famine, well for me at least! Jen and I fished hard all day at various swims around the west of the estuary but despite getting a lot of interest in our legered baits we just couldn’t get a fish to stick on. Come the evening flood tide we returned to the spot we’d fished the night before and although there were noticeably fewer whelms, there were obviously fish in residence. After a fair bit of muppetry, I managed a ‘small’ one of 3lb 13oz, and almost immediately afterwards Jen’s rod tip pulled round and she was in too. I knew straight away it was another very good fish and got really nervous for her when it kept kiting into shallow, snag-ridden water. She played it beautifully though and was rewarded with a stunning fish of 6lb exactly – her first ‘6’ and smashing her previous pb by 11oz.
Thursday 7th September
We were joined by old friend and expert mullet angler Dave Rigden for the day and once again due to the strong westerly wind we stuck to legering sheltered swims along the west side of the estuary. To cut a long story short, Dave and Jenny rather inexplicably remained fishless but I was lucky to catch three of 3:13, 4:08 and 5:03.
Friday 8th September
Rinse and repeat with regard to swims and tactics. Once again for some reason the fish came to me and not Jenny despite us fishing close together using identical baits and rigs. I had a 4:13 during the day then a 3:15 at twilight. The 3:15 was particularly odd. I was baiting one rod when the tip of the other rod pulled hard round and then sprang back with the line going completely slack and hanging from the rod tip. I waited to see if anything would develop but nothing happened. Eventually I picked the rod up and as I wound the line tight I could feel a live weight on the end which turned out to be a mullet! I can only assume that it had picked up the bait, hooked itself then decided to lie doggo rather than run off.
Saturday 9th September
Jen had felt unwell during the night so I fished most of the day on my own. Once again it was really windy but I elected to leger off the grass by the bridge arch – a swim that has been good to Dave this year. There were plenty of mullet showing but I had to wait a fair old while for take. A take that resulted in a decent mullet screaming line off the drag for about 10 seconds then coming off. A long wait then ensued during which nothing happened. Then just as Jen came down for a chat as the tide bottomed out, I had another take completely out of the blue. This fish kited constantly to my left trying to get into the flow pouring out of the lagoon, but fortunately everything held and I had a fish of 4lb 5oz in the net.
After lunch I decided to try float fishing in the lagoon. I’d seen a few whelms in there when I walked past in the morning and felt there might be a decent chance of a fish. It proved to be correct, within 5 minutes of starting, my waggler shot under and after an epic 10 minute fight I had a truly stunning mullet of 4lb 14oz on the bank (well, road actually). I don’t have a photo of that fish which is a shame because it was fin and scale perfect. Alas, after that, muppetry and bad luck took over and I proceeded to hook and lose three fish that were at least as big as the one I’d caught.
Sunday 10th September
After what I’d seen and experienced the day before, we decided to concentrate on float fishing the lagoon. We saw fish from the off and soon started getting bites. I rather suspect a lot were small fish though because we couldn’t hook them. Eventually though I struck into a properly solid lump that didn’t really take off but just plodded backwards and forwards long the length of wall we were fishing from. Although we had several good views of it, it was probably 10 minutes until I could make any headway on it. In the end into the net it went, and weighed in at 5lb 9oz.
We were joined once again for the afternoon by Dave. The session was slower than the morning but we did all have sporadic bites. The fishing gods were obviously smiling on me again though as I was the only one of the three of us to connect. After an identical wrist wilting fight to the morning fish, I honestly couldn’t believe I’d done it again. This one went 5lb 11oz.
Monday 11th September
Our last day again saw us in the lagoon. Unfortunately it was much quieter than the previous two days and bites were few and far between. The morning was a complete blank. I went back in the afternoon leaving Jenny to chill out for a bit longer, and within 5 minutes of arriving my float slid purposefully away and I was into yet another sizeable mullet. This fish decided it wanted to run and made several long fast forays out towards the middle of the lagoon. In so doing it tired much more quickly than the others and came to the net within 3 or 4 minutes. Jen turned up just in time to help me weigh it and photograph it – 4lb 10oz.
The lagoon went totally dead after that and we whiled away the remaining hours of the holiday trying unsuccesfully to tempt some truly huge mullet that we could see milling around in the estuary below the main N71 road.
So that was our week. I’m gutted that Jen only had the one fish, but at least it was one she won’t forget in a hurry! For the record, my 13 fish were 3:13, 3:13, 3:15, 4:05, 4:08, 4:10, 4:13, 4:14, 5:03, 5:09, 5:10, 5:11 and 5:13. A week to remember I think you’ll agree, and I reckon it’ll be a long, long time before I have a better one!
Further reading – ‘Fishing For Ghosts’ written by Mike Ladle and David Rigden.
*All images courtesy of Pete Bluett