With the academic year finished and exams done and dusted it was only a matter of time before I hit the water to see what I could find. First off, I headed to County Carlow to fish at the picturesque St. Mullins. The area named after a 7th century settlement also hosts the River Barrow in its tidal reaches and sees twaite shad run every sping to utilise the clear water and gravel substrate for spawning. I wanted to try to catch a couple of them from the kayak and was anxious to get onto the water.
Arrival at the venue was met with a tinge of disappointment. Heavy rainfall the previous night, while great for the whitewater guys, was not a welcome sight. The sediment that had run off into the river had coloured the water up. The excess sediment in the water deters the fish running, their sensitive respiratory system affected by the excess debris in the water. I loaded a couple of lures and other small items of tackle into the pockets of my Kaikoura PFD and launched, making my way upstream. Covering water in both directions, I cast lures for the shad but none were interested in artificial baits that day. The twelve fishless anglers on the banks of the river agreed!
Not to be defeated by one species, I turned my attentions to another. I know from fishing the area before that the river holds a good head of dace. These small, streamlined, silver fish do not attain any great size at all; twelve ounces is considered a great catch. Anglers don't fish for dace in the hopes of catching a monster but they are a lightning fast fish and light tackle crossed with quick reactions are a must and therefore make the dace an interesting and challenging prospect. The bit of equipment that had made their way into the Kaikoura pockets were substituted for something more suitable and I headed back out to the middle of the river.
My plan was to anchor the kayak in the middle of the river. From this tethered platform I would use a float rod and centrepin reel to trot the baits down towards the 'taking zone'. I spent the next couple of hours running baits through the river from the kayak and enjoyed a steady procession of bites from small but spirited dace. All the fish were small but sometimes size doesn't matter; getting out is what counts. All dace caught were returned to the water to fight for another day. Changing weather conditions told me that the wisest thing to do would be to get off the water before the skies opened!
A couple of days later and on the opposite side of the country I decided that I would like to try fly fishing for some brown trout. I settled on an upland lake in the Connemara are. The lakes here are acidic of nature due to granite bedrock and pine forestry. The water acidity is a result of excess aluminium making its way into the water and the result is a water that is not as suited to aquatic life as waters of more 'normal' parameters. This sees a reduction in photosynthesis of phytoplankton and consequence of this is a knock on effect on the food web. With the building blocks of the food web not present in sufficient numbers, growth of aquatic insects is limited which inturn limits fish growth.
Acidic lake fish are never going to be very big but what they lack in size they make up for in spirit and numbers. Once again, the Kaikoura was stuffed with bits of useful tackle for fly fishing for brown trout. The Kaikoura is a fantastic PFD, plenty of pocket space for fishing gear, lightweight, well made and will be given a full review at a later date. On the water, I assembled my gear and started fly fishing. I was using a traditional Irish approach of a team of three wet lies in the hopes of mimicking some of the aquatic life that trout like to feed heavily on.
As expected, it wasn't long before some trout started putting in an appearance. Although only weighing a few ounces on average, they were more than a pleasure to catch. Paddling, fresh air, mountain scenery, casting flies and catching a few fish. I can think of worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon! After catching a procession of small trout, afternoon slowly gave way to evening. The wind dropped and the fish stopped rising. Time to call it a day. A thouroughly enjoyable couple of sessions ... where to next?
By Gary Robinson