Written by: Paul Moinester
I was exhausted. My arm burned from hundreds of futile casts. My feet ached from three days of stumbling on jagged rocks that on more than one occasion sliced up my hands. The winds howled, making every cast an arduous undertaking. And the violent, frigid waves continued to smash me, sending routine chills down my spine.
But as the brilliant setting sun pierced the blanket of clouds and illuminated the stunning, rugged Irish coast, I had no intention of leaving. I just needed one more cast. One more chance to hook the ever-elusive Irish sea bass. One more chance to end three days of drought with one vicious take and one bulldogging battle.
When I arrived in Ireland eight months ago, I expected to do my fair share of fishing. I expected peaceful days of making delicate mayfly presentations on vast lakes and winding rivers, as well as swinging streamers for chrome salmon in Ireland’s bucolic countryside. But I never expected getting to spend my days being battered by fierce Atlantic waves and winds on a grueling but exhilarating quest to land savage predators.
I first learned about the thrills of Irish bass fishing in November, but it wasn’t until earlier this month that I had the fortune to chase this captivating quarry when I attended a three-day saltwater fly fishing primer hosted by expert bass guide Jim Hendrick. The event was a perfect introduction, as it approached bass fishing from a holistic perspective, offering expert tutelage in fly tying from Brian Healey, a world-class tier; casting lessons from Glenda Powell, a ladies world distance casting champion; and hours of instructive time on the water with Jim.
By the end of the third day, all of the participants’ skills were markedly improved—casts were slicing through the whipping winds and the attached flies were beautifully tied. However, the stench of skunk was still hovering over us all, as none of the eight participants had yet to land a bass.
Sea-bass fishing in some respects mirrors steelheading. Many long days are spent in spectacular but punishing environs, fruitlessly casting at ghosts. However, when the conditions align and the hours of arduous effort pay off with a thrilling thrash at your fly, the reward makes it all worthwhile. Or so I’ve been told.
When the fading sunlight was finally replaced by the soft glow of the moon, the group of eight anglers reluctantly turned their backs to the sea and trekked up the craggy coastline. One might expect that three draining days and thousands of unsuccessful casts would have dampened the spirit of the group. Instead, the profound allure of bass fishing overwhelmed these frustrations and elicited discussions of future trips and hope for fishier days to come.
For me, I hold out hope that day is soon, when I will return to the turbulent waters of the Atlantic with Jim to once again try to land my first Irish sea bass. With my time in Ireland coming to an undesired end and the bass season closing in the coming days, it will be my final chance to catch the coast’s most cagey predator.
Hopefully the capricious conditions will align and the angry waters of the Atlantic will yield this prized fish. If not, you can bet I’ll be back as soon as possible to once again ramble across the rugged coast with Jim and batter the trying elements in search of that long-awaited bass battle.
To learn more about Irish sea bass fishing and to book a memorable day on the water with Jim, visit his website.
Last year, Paul Moinester completed a six-month, 20,000-mile adventure exploring the upstream battle to protect wild fish and their habitat. (Check out his introductory post here.) He posted dispatches on the Fly Fishing blog throughout his journey. He’s recently been living and studying in Ireland.