Becoming a successful angler is down to building up a basic knowledge of the marks, tides, times and baits that produce fish in the areas you normally fish. But what if you go on holiday to an area totally new to you and have limited fishing time? The answer to short cut success is to hire a guide.
Obviously I’ve been on charter boats, which could loosely be classified as a guided service, but I’d never been on a true individually guided fishing trip. Then I got introduced to Richie Ryan when in Cobh, County Cork. We spent the evening sinking pints and never stopped talking bass on lures and fly. The upshot was that we hastily arranged an hour or so bassing, literally just before I headed for the ferry home. This then lead eventually to a full day’s guided bassing and general fishing on my next trip through Cobh, so I could witness first hand exactly how a professional guide works.
Pick up time was 9am, and sure enough at 08.50 I watched Richie home in to view for the pick up on the waterfront at Cobh, near the old Titanic jetty. Accompanying me would be Fisheries Officer Isaac Ferns, a keen bass angler, and we both excitedly boarded the “Sea Hawk” stowing our gear carefully under the instruction of Richie.
Conditions were not ideal with a strong east wind blowing, but undaunted, Richie set off for a mark out past Spike Island and set up a drift to take us over shallow rough ground. He explained the nature of the ground, indicated the likely area where the fish would be, suggested to both of us plug patterns he expected would catch, and we made our first casts. I dropped a fish after a couple of casts which felt decent and dragged a little line off, but on the next drift Isaac hit a nice fish on a silver sandeel diver that bored off on the light gear. He played the fish close, and Richie netted it. A fat, bolshie looking bass, dorsal fiercely erect, between 4 and 5lbs.
Shallowing water meant a change of scenery and because I wanted to see all aspects of working with a guide, we elected to head seaward and put the anchor in over the edge of some rough ground not a million miles inside Roche’s Point. We changed gear over to small shads with light lead heads on. I was fishing a small ABU Soron 040 reel and 20lb NanoFil with an 8ft ABU Revo Bass, my normal plugging gear.
I was bouncing the shad over the seabed when the rod tip suddenly doubled over and a fish thumped away taking a few feet of line off the reel. I knew this was a cod from the head shaking antics, and so it proved with a plump fish over 2lbs breaking surface. On light gear it was fun fishing and the fish giving a good account of themselves.
Isaac, now shortened to Zak, got the first pollack on a Slugo look-a-like, then a cod, I had more cod and a pollack, then we badgered Richie in to fishing and he found the pollack too, again on sandeel imitations. There were plenty of fish down there!
With the tide now flooding, Richie fancied a few drifts in one of the side channels branching inwards from Cork Harbour. This was working Slugo’s or small shads vertically under the boat in about 20-feet of water over rough ground. The bass were there in numbers and we accounted for fish to 3lbs, but the tide was a big spring, and the run fierce, so with a few fish caught and returned, Richie decided it was time to hit a mark inside one of the smaller shallow side creeks, again for bass.
This also needed a change of tactic. We put the lures away and set up with small bubble type floats and would be using prawn drifted down with the tide to work close to reef and then man-made structure. The way Richie presents the prawn is not dissimilar from when baiting up prawn for salmon, but blimey is it effective! If you want to learn this secret, and how to present prawn for bass, you’ll have to book him for a day, as I’m sworn to secrecy!
I hooked a decent bass on the second drift through, and for the second time that day, whilst fighting hard and taking a little line off the reel, the hook pulled free. I learnt early on in my angling life not to dwell on these little setbacks and instantly got the gear in, rebaited and cast again.
You had to get the cast just right. The knack was to drop the float and prawn as tight to the edge of the reef and structure as possible. Richie hammered this point home and it was no surprise to me that the bass were hunting tight to the feature. If the float wasn’t exactly right, you brought it in and re cast until it fell perfect. I’d got the float positioned exactly right within a foot or so of the structure and watched it turn and twist in the tide. One second it was there…then it wasn’t!
Both retrieving a little line and lifting the rod at the same time found contact with the fish. It hung tight in the current to the structure, but keeping the rod high bullied it away. It hung deep, then turned its head with the tide. This was no monster and looked a couple of pounds or so at best, but again fought well on the light gear. Both Richie and I had appointments that night, so this would be the last fish as we had to head in.
Looking back at the day through customer’s eyes, then what impressed me was the high standard of organisation. Although Zac and I used our own gear, the rods, reels and tackle on board were all good quality and well maintained. They were also set up and ready to go to maximise the fishing time. There was a full and varied selection of plugs and flies available, and Richie was quick to change something if it wasn’t working.
More so, the advantage of having local and expert knowledge saw us fish certain areas only for two or three drifts at exactly the right time. If nothing showed, we moved and tried elsewhere! The number of marks he has in his head is amazing! It was also fascinating to be fishing in waters up small side creeks where few bother to fish. These secret little backwaters often produce the biggest fish and see the least pressure!
The boat is also perfect. Room for two to fish with Richie in the helm seat, but she’s fast and covers ground quickly, but with a minimum draft, so she can sneak in to really shallow areas. She’s also stable to cast from, even when stood up and fly casting.
Richie is also excellent in the handling and return of fish, just as you’d expect a professional to be. Fish are always netted, there’s time for a quick photo, then off they go to be there for next time.
Although bass are Richie’s main quarry, and last year he helped 17 different people catch their very first bass and is something he gets a real kick out of, he also targets cod, pollack and ling on lures, plus bass, pollack, garfish, mackerel, sea trout and mullet on the fly. He tells me he hits some great mullet in the post Christmas period too, inside Cork Harbour, as well as finding some good cod fishing on the artificials, so it’s not just a summer sport.
As I mentioned at the start of this feature, hiring a guide short cuts you to the fish. If you’ve minimal time to play with and don’t want the hassle of carrying tackle when flying to destinations, or if you’ve got a car full of the missus, kids and their gear, then a day or two with a good guide is worth every penny!
To fully illustrate how effective a good guide can be, that single hour or so I initially had with Richie saw six bass caught. The picture below was taken just before I had to head in and drive for the Rosslare ferry. That was serious pressure, yet such was Richie’s knowledge of his ground, he’d told me he was totally confident we’d catch!
ALL ABOUT RICHIE
Richie Ryan spent his working life in the Irish Navy achieving the rank of Commander. Having fished all his life, and with a major interest in bass and lure fishing, his intention on retiring was to become a bass and general fishing guide. He runs a fast centre console craft ideal for working lures and fly from, and is licensed for up to three anglers, though individual or two man teams are the common approach. At the time of writing, Richie’s boat, “Sea Hawk” is the only one registered in Ireland for saltwater fly fishing.
You can keep pace with what Richie gets up to on his blogspot at http://eirebass.blogspot.com/