FISHING is a wonderful sport in terms of looking after your mental health, getting to know yourself, and getting to meet new people, and more females should give it a go.
That’s according to Angela Byrne, of Carrigtwohill, who was a winner in a recent video competition called ‘Why I love to fish’ as part of the Inland Fisheries Ireland Go Fishing Week.
Angela impressed judges with her entry on her fishing trips to Ballycroneen strand, Ballycotton pier and Inch Strand, in east Cork, some of her favourite locations.
Her earliest memory of fishing is with her dad when she was around nine or 10.
“That was at Ballycotton pier, fishing for mackerel in the warm summer evenings. I suppose that’s where it all began.
“My dad would have to take the rod, pull them up the wall of the pier for me, and we would take them home and grill them up with some cheese on top and eat them for tea.
“I still to this day eat them the same way and as soon as mackerel come in this year, I will be on the pier with a rod in my hand,” she said.
A special needs assistant in secondary school and also studying for a degree at UCC in Sociology and English, Angela fishes around once a month in winter.
“The cold months see the cod move in and there is nothing nicer than landing a nice size cod. Who doesn’t love a battered cod and homemade chips?
“During the summer, it’s more comfortable fishing and I could set off three times a month, although finding a quiet spot is usually a lot harder because everyone is making the most of the sunshine and the sea, so night-time is usually best,” she said.
Lockdowns put her beloved fishing out of her reach as she lives more than 5km away from most beaches.
“I did miss it very much. The old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone’ comes to mind, and at a time when I needed to unwind and gather my thoughts most, I couldn’t. That was particularly hard,” she admits.
Angela mostly sticks with sea fishing, mainly from the shore, and jokes she has to save up for the boat.
“There is a vast number of species in the ocean and it’s great to cast out into the deep blue and pull in a different species of fish than the one you are targeting. Like a red gurnard for instance, the first time I ever caught one I couldn’t believe how beautiful the blue trim on his fins was, such a beautiful fish. Deserving of a kiss, to be admired and returned to his home,” she says.
One of her most memorable trips was the first time she ever caught a conger eel: “It was off of deep water quay in Cobh. I thought it was going to pull me in. The rod was doubled over and I considered for a moment just letting go as it just kept diving down deep and the more I reeled in the line, the more the eel showed me who was boss. He eventually gave up, I landed it, he was around 12lbs in weight and around 3ft in length. The biggest catch I ever had. They are not what you would call pretty or beautiful, but you have to appreciate their sheer power, strength and size. I gave him a wink (he was too scary looking to kiss) and popped him back. I had to go home and have a cup of tea and a lie down after that, it was certainly an experience that will always stay in my mind!”
Not surprisingly, patience is a helpful character trait when it comes to fishing, she says.
“I would spend about four hours in total, three hours before high tide and about an hour after.
In terms of gear, as well as an essential flask of tea, she doesn’t bring too much: “Maybe two rods, so I can keep one in the water at all times whilst changing bait. A rod stand, A good head lamp, terminal tackle, hooks, weights, traces, etc. and a seat box to hold it all in, this is handy as you may be there a while and standing can be tiring.
“A good pair of waders is a must for me because I don’t have a huge cast so I will wade out a little to cast, but wellie boots are fine. Finally, and most importantly, you need a good quality bait, I use ‘Jim’s Bait’ in Carrigtwohill. He provides fresh lug worm, rag worm, crab, and lots of different frozen baits, to many anglers in Cork. He hand forages all the fresh bait and it works a treat!
She usually fishes with family and friends: “My niece loves to fish also, she has a young family and doesn’t go as much as she would like to. I have met some really nice people through fishing, people will always approach you and ask, are you catching? I often hear from people I meet that it is unusual to come across a woman fishing and I suppose it’s true really.
“It’s not a very glamorous pastime but it does have its perks, I always have the freshest of fish on my plate and it’s a great chance to clear your mind and appreciate life.”
That’s a huge attraction, outside of the thrill of the catch.
“It’s about being alone with your thoughts and just being in awe of your surroundings. The sounds of the ocean and the crashing waves, I will never get tired of hearing, and just being thankful for being able to be there in the first place. I consider myself extremely lucky to have so many wonderful fishing destinations within a short drive from my door.”
She’s passionate about preserving these locations, and not leaving any trace on the shoreline after her trips.
“Young girls in particular are under so much pressure in today’s society to look, dress and act a certain way.
“Fishing allows you to be you and spending so much time in a quiet tranquil space allows you to really get to know yourself.
“Ladies, please do try it, you might love it! I hope to see you all out there some day soon!”