night fishing on the antrim coast northern ireland

Gone Fishing…

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I havent been fishing in years… Or should I say hadnt.
Back in my late teens/early twenties I used to go fishing quite a lot. It started when a schoolmate’s dad took us up to the Toome canal for a days coarse fishing and I was hooked (sorry I just had to get that in somewhere). I then got myself and my wee brother a fishing license for trout fishing and we used to get the bus up to Stoneyford reservoir and fish there for trout. Well fishing is stretching it a bit, we used to sit by the side of the reservoir and either get sunburnt or get wet waiting for the one bus home. I can only remember fish putting in an appearance once and lets just say it wouldnt have fed a family of one, never mind 5 and a dog.
When I turned 18 I needed an adult fishing license so started going sea fishing instead (which was free) and Ive sort of been at that ever since (well maybe with an almost 20 year break).

Last week I took it upon myself to take a day off (sort of) and get the fishing rods and equipment out of the loft, clean them up and go fishing. I always look after my stuff so most of the equipment was still in as good a condition as the last time I packed it away so other than some bait and a new small tackle box I was ready to go.
One of my favourite fishing spots was on the rocks at Limerick Point in Cushendall. Having travelled the world I still have to say that you will struggle to find a more beautiful spot on this earth than the north east antrim coast when the sun is shining. And today the sun was shining.

rod and multiplier reel sea fishing

Once again I spent a lot of time drowning ragworms and scaring the life out of seaweed but with the sun shining and the small waves lapping over the rocks there really was a ‘this is the best place in the world to be right now’ moment. Yes I had to stand on the end of the pier as my gammy leg wasnt up to crawling across the rocks or it was but I know it wouldnt be coming back in the dark and despite the possibility of dying a cold lonely death on the rocks in one of my favourite places in the world, the fear of not dying and having to be rescued by lifeboat and maybe ending up on the news on a slow news day was definitely a fate worse than death.

watching the rod tip fishing

A lot of things have changed in the 20 years I was a regular here. There are more people walking past, more houses, more lights on the horizon. Alongside the smell of seaweed, that ozoney smell of the ocean there was always the smell of the turf fires drifting down over the rocks when the wind changed to offshore. Now most houses have oil fired central heating yet one or two still lit up their fires and wafted their smell my way. I was also a regular here during the troubles which always meant packing and unpacking the car at least 4 times (leaving home, police/army checkpoint on the way up, at the spot, checkpoint on the way home, arriving home), now not so much. I used to dig my own bait, back in the days when I was young, fit, healthy and skint. Now Im neither young nor fit nor healthy and at 9 quid for a 4-5 hours worth of ragworm, I might be skint again sooner than expected.
Id forgotten so many things, was fishing better at low tide, high tide or on the flood? It didnt seem to matter I was getting small bites all day so there was still a bit of the old magic there. Lots of small fish that I was giving a good expensive meal to. Id forgotten how to strike a bite, how to wait for the right moment then bang, then reel tomorrows supper in. At this point in time tomorrows supper was going to be kelp and partial ragworm.

seaweed and ragworm

Technology has moved on although my 20 year old equipment was working well (I shall refrain from making comments about my 40 year old tackle working well too – that would be just wrong). But 20 years ago I wouldnt have understood facebook, never mind provide status updates from the rocks. Last time I was here it was pre mobile phone (well for me anyway). I lit up my chinese anchor lamp. Id always wanted a proper tilley lamp which was belfast made, ever since I was in the cubs back in the mid to late 70s and our scout group had one. So on to ebay and I purchased one – sad I know. Nostalgia can be expensive with a smart phone with ebay and paypal bookmarked.
My anchor lamp was a source of pride, cheap chinese copy of things back in the day without ebay where cheap chinese tat can be bought in every supermarket. I had a nasty introduction to paraffin hurricane pressure lamps when I put my hand on the top of it and leaned down to make it steady for pumping. I swear the anchor trademark was burned into my palm for years. I could have just cried but had enough wit not to stick my hand in seawater but used one of natures own antiseptics…. turning the situation around the top of the lamp turned out to be a great place to heat sausage rolls, 5 years later I heard someone had developed an attachment to heat sausage rolls and cook bacon. Another fortune lost as I sat down to a cappuccino from a packet. 20 years ago if you wanted variety in coffee you could choose from Nescafe or Mellow Birds. Now heres me complaining about the quality of the cappuccino in a packet. Pass the prawn sandwiches.

lunch including sausage rolls

At the time of all my fishing travels I was an engineering student so used off bits of material to make things for fishing. Buying the latest magazine 20 years on I see the idea of cutting diamonds of aluminium sheet and attaching them to weights to avoid snagging is now under patent, as is the wee strap to stop your line flying off, as is the…. well you get the message. Another fortune lost.
20 years on my new tackle box has a wee light in the lid. Now thats clever. Why didnt I think of that too?
I had bought a couple of the snap break chemical lights for my rod tips to see them in the dark basically because I’d left the load of them I have at home. The new ones were smaller and as I was running out of bait I stuck one on the hook, I was still getting bites. You know someone should adapt that idea and patent it….
I met two “young lads” fishing on the spot where I used to be one of the two “young lads”. Circle of life and all that. I remember the old guys who fished would talk to my dad. My dad never fished, he just liked the peace and quiet and to watch his sons getting on with it. I often wondered how he chatted to the other old fishing guys but I guess I know now, he probably just talked about football, dog and horse racing and other such things.

tackle box and fishing rod

I used to go fishing with various male friends. You would grunt to each other when you met up, discussed a bit about football, bait, tactics, women then sat for 4 hours in complete silence and not once did the thought cross your mind that the other person had fallen out with you. I made the mistake of going fishing with a couple of different girlfriends once. Not at the same time I hasten to add but that would have been funny, probably ending in my drowning, either forced or deliberate. More than 90 seconds of silence was usually ended with the words ‘what are you thinking’, to which the correct answer never was ‘my boots must be leaking as my toes are cold’. ‘that bait might need changed’, ‘could I win if I fought a shark’ or finally ‘if you ask me that one more time you are going to need a lifejacket’.

20 years on and although much has changed, much has stayed the same. Its still the same man pitting wits against fish and losing. Although I have to say if it wasnt for the invention of camera phone techology I’d have no proof of my days catch, one single dogfish, and have to go on about the one that got away (fish, probably a conger bit clean through my line).


(excuse the crappy phone cam photo)

Ive missed fishing, Ive spent far too much time away from the peace, the quiet, the contemplative time and just sitting there smelling the sea and turf, listening to the waves lap in and just being at one with the world.

sea fishing at night

It wont be 20 years until the next time.
more fishing and angling photos here

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