What a place. This stretch of the Kerry coastline from Dingle up to and beyond Ballybunion where I have been staying is something seriously special. From what I am hearing via every single local angler I was lucky enough to meet and talk to over the few days I have been here is that the fishing can be truly off the scale awesome. I come to Ireland enough to firstly know how good the fishing can be, and secondly to be able to recognise when I have kind of stumbled upon a pretty "new to me" area that from my point of view is then going to be worth coming back to again and again. Believe me, I have discovered one of those areas and I can't wait to come back. I have said it before and I will say it again. I am lucky enough to travel the world for my work, but the biggest thrill I get is being able to come to Ireland as much as I do. There are a hundred lifetime's worth of fishing left for me to discover out here and in a way it breaks my head that I won't get to see it all..............but I am doing my best.
The people I have met and spent time with over these few days of the inaugural Ballybunion Angling and Marine show, that's what has made it so special. Sometimes I feel completely humbled and almost embarrassed at how friendly, kind and forthcoming fishing related people can be towards me, and the Irish are up there as some of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. I come to a place like this where I have never been before. I meet all these people who I have never met and because I am an angler I get to come away with a sense of utter pride that fishing is still the best thing in the world because it's full of the best people you could ever hope to come across. I would like to say a huge thank you. I am not going to embarrass any individuals by mentioning them here, but I am in your debt for making me feel so at home and also for introducing me to another very special part of Ireland.
So let's talk bass fishing. Holy cow. It seems that when these beaches (strands) fire on the right conditions, they can produce the kind of bottom fishing for bass that most bass anglers might only have dreamt about. I heard a true story of a local angler who took twenty bass over 10lbs from the same spot last year on bait. Anglers around here catch lots and lots of double figure bass when it's good, and on bait they can do so all year round. January, February and March are some of the best times of the year to surf fish for bass. Many of the local fishing matches are won with bass, and of course they are measure and release. The emphasis on catch and release amongst the anglers I met is just fantastic.
OK, so Kerry as an area has always been famous for surf fishing for bass, but it's this stretch of coastline north of Dingle that I have never really heard that much about before. Aside from the surf fishing for bass, there is some mind-blowingly good lure fishing up around here, and it seems to be really catching on amongst the local anglers. There are acres and acres of shallow, boulder and rough as rats locations that from what I hear can throw up serious numbers of bass when conditions are good. There are also loads of areas to tuck away from bad weather and keep on fishing, and there are also some river/estuary marks that can hold huge concentrations of fish (bumping soft plastics). Down in front of the hotel I have been staying at in Ballybunion is one of the most awesome looking bass marks you could ever hope to see - they call them the Black Rocks, and I dread to think how good the fishing might be in a month or so on the lures. Talk about some savage ground. Holes, gullies, weed, reefs, breakers, rips, you name it, it's the kind of spot most of us would dream about. Some of the guys I met who are really into lure fishing for bass told me that if I thought the Black Rocks looked nice then I could possibly pass out with excitement when I saw other areas along this coastline.
But it isn't all bass fishing of course. The anglers from Tralee can catch huge stingrays from the shore from about mid-April onwards, and I am talking about 40-50lb plus fish. I hear that when the conditions are right you can sometimes see these stingrays moving about in the shallows rather like I might have seen them moving around the flats in a place like the Seychelles. You can shore fish for big tope, and the boats catch mad numbers of them at times, plus the stingrays of course. They even still catch the odd big monkfish. The shore fishing for pollack and wrasse around here is I suppose what the Irish anglers accept as "normal", but to most of us it could leave us with permanent heart problems. I so hope that wrassing with soft plastics begins to take off in Ireland, because I think it could become really big. You also have the thornback ray and huss fishing in the massive Shannon estuary that I have experienced before on the north side in county Clare. The Tralee lads are catching more and more gilthead bream, and also serious numbers of trigger fish when they are on. Mullet ? If serious mullet anglers switched on to how many big mullet there are in Ireland then they would never fish anywhere else again. I heard some stories this weekend of some massive mullet in another part of Ireland that I am going to have to try and check out as well. Basically Ireland continues to fry my brain with how much world class sea fishing they have. My thanks again to all those wonderful people I met and spent time with.
Oh, and there was a competition on the beach yesterday in front of the world famous Ballybunion golf course (how badly do I want to play a round there !!). I wandered up and down the beach in the most glorious sunshine imaginable. It's March and not for one second did I think of bringing suncream or even a hat. I am coming away from Kerry in March with sunburn. A set of panda eyes in March. It's getting harder and harder for me to leave this fabulous country.................