One of the pleasures of living in Ireland is that you are never far away from anything and people can always find time to spend a day enjoying themselves if the prospects are good. Work, very rightly, is manana.
So it was in August, a friend of mine we will call C whispered over a pint one night that it would be nice to have a day sea fishing with a more colourful catch than what we had been getting in Donegal Bay on our last two outings. So I rang a man I know in Newport which is on Clew Bay in Mayo and he put me in touch with some kind of a cousin of his, a fellow called Neil O’Boyle and within minutes prices had been agreed and I had chartered his boat for the day to go fishing in the Bay.
To defray expenses I had to try and find another six people besides C at short notice to fill the boat. It was licensed for eight anglers plus the crew. I knew my brother M was coming over and C said his nephew S was also paying a visit. We needed four more. I knew a lad called B who had settled in Boyle years before and would almost do anything for a days fishing. he immediately rang the local poacher W, his father in law R and his father in law’s nephew B2. In minutes we had a full complement and two days later we set off at 7.00am for the 60 mile trip to Newport.
Neil’s boat was a handsome 10 metre vessel with a large fishing platform at the rear and powered with a 4.5 litre Toyota diesel engine. He had eight working rods and all the feathers, traces, baits, hooks and weights for the many different fish in the Bay. The forecast was fair but with 20 mph westerleys, which would offer a large swell where we were going, around Clare Island which was about 12 miles out from his mooring near Newport.
Clew Bay is a large rectangular shaped bay, 27 km long, east to west and 17 km wide, north to south and in the main about 30 to 40 metres deep, In a clockwise direction it is bounded by Achill Island in the north and then the village of Mulranny, with Newport in it’s north east corner and Westport to the south east and Louisburgh on it’s south west tip. Acting like a bottle stop in its mouth is Clare Island and after that New York. The seas either side of the island are frisky at the best of times but off its northern point there is a line of rocks that break the swell somewhat and where for some reason or other fish like to play. That was our destination.
The bay itself at its eastern end is covered by dozens of islands, some inhabited and one is famous for having been bought by John Lennon in the 1960s. On the water it is a beautiful sight in good weather with Cushcamcarragh at 2350 feet rising off its northern bank, the solitary bulk of Nephin at 2900 feet in the far north east and trampled Croagh Patrick, The Reek. rising out of the sea on its southern side to a height of 2550 feet.
Neil first took us out to a spot for mackerel to use as bait for other species, this exercise was not fishing as the daft fish were nearly jumping into the boat so entranced were they with our feathers. He knew the bay as well as anybody and where every type of fish swam and eventually we reached the island. We had come through some rough swell with everyone holding on to rails whilst waves broke over the top of the superstructure but the boat and its master were man enough for the conditions. In the lee of the line of rocks we had some protection but after an hour we decided it was too uncomfortable. You really do need two hands for fishing, holding on for dear life with one whilst you fished with the other was not the best but we were catching plenty of fish. pollock, young cod, gunard, sand eels about 300mm long and dabs, as well as the stupid mackerel.
By now two of our party had succumbed to the heaving boat in the heavy swell, M, despite sailing twice round the world, could not hack it off the coast of Mayo and S, probably thinking of his beloved football teams chances in the forthcoming season, eventually sought relief by falling asleep on the wave swept, blood spattered deck, but us Roscommon men soldiered on, trying to keep up to our fishing quotas.
There was not much doing drifting in the lee of the island, so we took our chances with the open water once more and headed back into the swell, but this time the wind had abated and the water was relatively calm and Neil anchored over a spot that had always been good to him in the past. In about 15 metres of water we soon started pulling in dogfish, a species of small shark about 600mm to 900mm long. As with most of our catch we threw them back as their raspy skin was notoriously difficult to remove. Our most interesting catch in this period was a thorn-back ray brought in by C and about 1.2 metres wide. In all that day we caught 12 different species of fish and a great day was had by all including the queasy duo who had by now recovered.
After collecting a few of his lobster pots we headed for his mooring and thanked him for his very helpful day. His normal day is spent off the North Mayo coast, manning the inflatable security boats in that strife torn Shell oil field, Out in all weathers in open boats, today was just a stroll for him. To us the waves were mountainous but we had great confidence in our skipper. A few pints on the way home and a few lies about our catch rounded off a magnificent outing.
So remember if you find yourself in the West of Ireland and require an adventurous day give Neil a ring, 0872255440, if outside the country put 00353 in front and knock off the first 0, or you can e-mail him on email@example.com. All tackle is provided, all you have to do is turn up, preferably in waterproofs and with some sandwiches and a flask of tea for you will be out for eight or nine hours. Bon voyage!