CHAPTER 5 – GOOD DAYS, BAD DAYS
The Worm Only Club Rough Guide To Ireland
It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to planning the annual bass pilgrimage to County Kerry. Don’t miss out on this exclusive guide on where to go, what to do and how to do it.
While some will contemplate the cut-price option of self-catering there is nothing to beat the thrill of stopping bed and breakfast in one of Kerry’s many friendly guest houses. For many, the ultimate experience is to lodge in a rustic farmhouse and soak up the Irish atmosphere as ‘one of the family’, brushing shoulders with real Irish living. If you elect to partake of this option it is important to remember the basic rues of etiquette that apply in this situation. Irish landladies, particularly in Kerry, are famed for their high handshakes. On greeting a prospective guest these start off as a mid-waist high shake and quickly rise vertically to peak just above the forehead. If not anticipated this can catch the unsuspecting angler off guard and lead to torn shoulder ligaments. Common techniques are either to commence the handshake by adopting a low crouching stance and rising upward through the greeting or by bringing along a small pair of kitchen steps.
It is important to remember that the kitchen must never be entered under any circumstance. The workings of an Irish B&B kitchen, and just where the breakfast comes from, and how it is actually prepared is a complete mystery strenuously guarded by the Sisterhood of Landladies. There is a story that a visiting WOC angler managed to once get into a kitchen late at night in search of the main components for a cheese sandwich. He emerged sometime later visibly shaken, and only after stress counselling was able to describe his traumatic experience. Apparently, he was unable to locate any food whatsoever and got lost amongst the carrier bags, cardboard boxes and piles of old newspapers.
Remember too the basic rule of the Irish traditional breakfast. Once your member of the Sisterhood has somehow created the dish from thin air within the ‘kitchen of despair’ it must be eaten in its entirety. There is a very strict rule, enforced by law, that any item uneaten will not appear the following day. Accordingly, if only five slices of the six pieces of soda bread are consumed then the following day there will only be five slices served. A top WOC tip is to hurl unwanted items out of the window in order to forestall the onset of starvation. It should be remembered, however, that this rule holds true for all items of breakfast fare other than beans, which seem to come and go as they please.
Unfamiliar visiting anglers have been known to be caught out by unexpected light rain showers and autumn breezes. Accordingly, some form of water and wind proof apparel can be a distinct advantage. Chest waders are a must for any serious surf specialist but it must be remembered that this form of wader has to be matured over a couple of seasons, preferably hung in a damp garage where they can develop a truly repulsive and musty odour. Seasoned visitors have found this a distinct advantage when trying to get a seat in a full bar as the fragrance tends to cling (wet denim being particularly effective in this respect).
It is also very important to note that ‘her indoors’ will invariably check what has been worn during the week. Please bear this in mind when packing up at the end of the trip and ensure that sufficient pairs of underpants are scrunched up to convince your spouse that a clean pair has been worn every day.
Some considerable time will be spent in the cosy confines of one or several of these establishments as a result of unexpected light rain and autumn breezes. Familiarity with the opening hours is therefore a prerequisite. However, the Irish licence hours operate on an extremely complex system that is difficult for the fresh faced visitor to grasp, particularly when suffering malnutrition resulting from dwindling breakfast portions. A good substitute ‘rule of thumb’ to guide the visitor is that bars are generally open if you have money.
Whilst in the public house it is traditional to partake of ‘light refreshment’ purely for medicinal purposes, especially after a hard day standing around on the beach. It should be remembered that scientific opinion over the effects of ‘light refreshment’ on short term memory, particularly with respect to fish sizes and catches, is divided.
The area is well covered by the Ordnance Survey fine scale series of maps. These are simple and practical documents, produced by the foremost cartographers in the land with the express aim of allowing pinpoint location of secret hot spots. Getting to the hotspots is another matter – only in Ireland do the crossroads actually appear as left and right junctions ¼-mile apart, and for the unclassified roads I would recommend the use of an all-terrain vehicle with caterpillar tracks and a Special Forces jungle survival kit.
It is also a little-known fact that beer mats were first produced in Ireland, the rear of which is left blank to allow lightly refreshed amateur cartographers to produce maps of hot spots. Following the directions on said device, with the prime objective of replicating the catch described the previous evening, is usually a disappointment despite the recipient’s sense of direction.
The Inch Strand is for many the very essence of surf fishing for bass. The three miles of beach is open to the wild Atlantic, and when conditions are right the surf tables make a spectacular sight. According to the Irish Tourist Board this is a top spot for bass, with a fish actually caught in 1974. Since then it has been heavily promoted by them, with no mention of the vast quantities of seaweed that lie along the full length of the strand. It is now a Mecca for visiting vegetarian beach anglers keen to break the Irish shore-caught kelp record.
Another famous bass mark is the rock at Bally Bollocks. Translated from the Gaelic, “You should have been here yesterday”, this legendary tackle graveyard has convinced many an aspiring lure angler to give up and chance his arm at kelp fishing on Inch strand.
Bait and tackle
As ever, the Worm Only Club strongly disapproves the use of artificial lures. It would appear that many electricians travel to Ireland each year keen to use plugs but we fail to see how a bass would be fooled into mistaking a white 13-amp electrical connector for a sandeel.
The premier bait for surf-caught bass and kelp is without doubt the humble lugworm. Dug in quantity from the estuary at Cloghane, these can be kept alive for quite a few minutes if wrapped in fresh newspaper. If lodging in a farmhouse, then fresh newspaper can be obtained by asking a member of the Sisterhood of Landladies at which she will invariably reappear from the kitchen with a copy of the Irish Times, possibly as recent as 1983.
All tackle should be taken with you. If you do need something, tackle shops are harder to find than the bass. The best way is to ask in the local ironmongers, and be prepared for, “Oh, you’re a fisherman! … Old Tom in the Butcher’s shop sells tackle … it’s in the back room … all sorts of it … but he’s closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and today he’s taking his dog for a long walk … best leave him a note ……
So there you have it. All you need to know about the emerald isle. Stick to these guiding principles and you won’t go far wrong. Remember, preparation is key, and the more of it you do the less you will catch.
Author: Dave Corfield
Historical note: This article first appeared in BASS magazine no.106 Summer 2003.
Photo: Robert Pope
© Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society 2008