REPUBLIC of IRELAND: Wrestling Wrasse on the Beara PeninsulaThe Beara Peninsular is one of the least explored regions in the west of Ireland. This is a rugged landscape but with a good fishing guide you can soon be spinning for pollack, float fishing for wrasse, fly fishing for sea trout, fishing with a strip of mackerel for lesser spotted dogfish or a sandeel for thornback rays. Most of the shore fishing is easily accessible on flattened rock formations.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2011
Here are a few names to warm a fisherman’s cold hands – wrasse, pollock, cod, dogfish, mackerel, plaice, whiting, flounder, mullet, conger, coalfish and bass. It reminds me of some early Rick Stein episodes when I hear those names mentioned, names I hadn’t heard since I was a teenager and summer deck hand on a boat called the ‘Sea Witch’ in Wales.
The ‘Sea Witch’ was skippered by a character called Nobby Clark who’d taken me under his wing in 1968. We’d leave the Rhyll dock very early with a boatload of punters who were in North Wales for a short holiday and a spot of fishing. First though Nobby would load us both up with a mixed grill breakfast, “This’ll coat the stomach,” he’d tell me, as he knew that the fishermen would more than likely throw-up once the sea got rough.”
However, I was now on the south coast of Ireland and all those fish species were local inhabitants. I was here to try something new . . . rock fishing from the shore. I’d booked into Dromagowlane House, a B&B on the Beara Peninsular where Paul my host, a transplanted Englishman from the Midlands arranges for his guests to go fishing locally.
The Beara Peninsular is one of the least explored regions in the west of Ireland. This is a rugged landscape but with a good fishing guide you can soon be spinning for pollack, float fishing for wrasse, fly fishing for sea trout, fishing with a strip of mackerel for lesser spotted dogfish or a sandeel for thornback rays. Most of the shore fishing is easily accessible requiring only a short walk to stepped or flattened rock formations. Another interesting feature on this peninnsular are the depths near the shoreline as it is not unusual to be fishing in 10 metres of water with only a medium cast out.
After a short drive down a narrow lane lined with bramble bushes laden with wild raspberries we hiked over a farmer’s field to a spot Paul had named, ‘The Doorstep.’ It was a secluded place with nothing but a few gulls for company. Paul rigged up two rods, one with a bottom lead and paternoster hook and another with a sliding float where the depth could be varied.
Earlier that morning Paul had thrown a fine meshed net into the harbour to catch small crabs, but in the process he ended up grappling with a conger eel that had slipped into the net for a quick feed! As he pointed out, “That eel managed to eat half of our bait before I got him outta there!”
Back on the rocks, we started catching small pollack on rag-worm but it wasn’t until Paul baited the size 4 hooks with tiny crabs that we hooked some good sized, three-pound plus wrasse. These great fighting fish immediately dived into the kelp that meant literally wrestling the wrasse to shore with almost every cast. On light tackle, bending the rods almost double proved to be every bit a fisherman’s perfect way to end a day.
After a hearty cooked breakfast the next morning, the plan was to combine a scenic drive with a spot of afternoon fishing with Paul down at the south western tip near Dursey Island. This is on part of ‘The Ring of Beara,’ a coastal driving route that wiggles its way around the Beara peninsula stretching from the town of Kenmare in the east to Dursey Sound on the south-western tip where Dursey Island projects its needle nose tip into the Atlantic sea. The return route then threads its way back to the peninsular largest town, Glengarriff.
My first challenge was to drive across the 334 metre high Healy Pass. It cuts through the two highest peaks in the Caha Mountain range on a winding road that starts from the bridge in the tiny town of Adrigole in Co. Cork, across the border to the bridge in the village of Lauragh in Co. Kerry, a distance of just eight miles. It lays claim as one of the finest mountain roads in Ireland. It was once known as the Bealach Scairt (the way of the sheltered caves), the name of an ancient track through the mountains between Cork and Kerry.
As the road twisted higher the land changed from gently sloping bottle green-coloured meadows to horse chestnut-coloured moorland where hardy sheep clambered across rising crags. The road at times was narrow, steep and winding. The route became increasingly steeper until it buckled and slithered its way past the final rock face. By this time I was right in the thick of low cloud blanketing the mountains on the Cork side. Forty-five meters beyond, this rocky mountain curtain of cloud opened up to reveal the green sweep of Co. Kerry, nearby Glenmore Lake, and the distant mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula – with full-on breathtaking views.
From Lauragh I slowly breezed past small bays, ports, inlets and into and out of picturesque villages and quaint hamlets with verdant pastoral scenes, the sort of places the Travel Channel would use in an opening sequence of images on this part of the world. On past the brightly painted villages of Ardgroom, Eyeries and Urhan to the settlement of Allihes that uses the catch phrase, “a beauty unspoiled and a wilderness untamed.” Yet this was once a rich, load-bearing copper mining town where mine ruins are still highly visible.
After a quick pint with Paul in the local pub called O’Neill’s, we made our way to where the cable car (the only one of its kind in the country) crosses to Dursey Island. In a howling wind we gathered our fishing gear and made our way onto sheltered rocks below the bluff as rain slashed sideways above our heads.
On the first cast I landed a nice sized pollack and as the weather deteriorated further the fish just would not stop biting. In less than an hour I caught more fish than I would often do in a day on a boat fishing trip in New Zealand. As Paul explained, “This place is stocked better than Cork’s fish market. We are lucky to have a temperate climate, the Gulf Steam sweeps across this coastline and there’s no commercial fishing to deplete the stocks. Oh and look around you . . . no one else bothers fishing from the shore!”
After another pint of Guinness on the way back to Paul’s B&B I remarked that he had the best of both worlds living in this part of Ireland and he agreed. “Wrestling wrasse for a living,” he said, “sure beats working in an accountant’s office in Northampton doesn’t it.”
Paul and Anne Harris
Adrigole, Beara Peninusular, Co. Cork
T: +44 (0)353 276 0330
About 110km (2hrs 15mins from Cork)
Double/Twin Room €33.00 to €35.00, Single Room €47.00 to €51.00
All rates are per person per night in an on-suite room including full Irish breakfast, dinner is available by prior arrangement
Paul also supplies guests with fishing gear as part of your B&B stay package.
Tips and tackle for making your shore fishing more memorable:
Fishing permits are not needed
Take wet weather gear
Wear sturdy boots not gum boots or trainers
Locate the high tide mark
Have a selection of baits such as small crabs
Use a whole fillet for conger eels
Change your tactics from float to spinning to ledger
Have an extendable landing net
Take a thermos and hot drinks
Use a good fishing guide and stay safe
Note: The Beara Peninsular has a 138km long cycling route and a long distance walking route of 208km that winds its way through the peninsular. It has numerous archaeological sites some of which date back from 2500BC and include standing stones, stone circles, cairns, souterrains, megalithic tombs, burial grounds, forts, castles and signal towers.
For more walking information use the following link www.discoverireland.ie/walking
Shane Boocock flew to Europe courtesy of Etihad Airways in their wonderful Pearl Business Class flat bed service from Sydney to Manchester via Abu Dhabi. Go to: www.etihadairways.com and was hosted and flew to Ireland from the UK courtesy of Tourism Ireland (NZ). Go to: www.discoverireland.co.nz
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