Targeting species is never easy, and of course the more you get, the harder it becomes. There’s something else too, that occasionally seems to get in the way, and that’s circumstance.
I’d been trying to get an undulate ray for the past seven years. Its not a fish I can up sticks for and target any old time, even in the UK, due to geography and time availability. I was limited to mainly single tides when passing through Kerry in Ireland. This puts you at the mercy of the weather, the tides, and whether the fish are feeding or not. My philosophy has always been though, to just keep on trying.
I’m lucky in that I’ve got good friends in the Tralee area where the undulates are mostly caught. The problem has been that the undulates seem to be impossible to predict and turn up only as and when they feel like it. They feed in numbers one day, then switch off for several days. At least that’s how it’s been when I’ve wet a line for them. I’ve been close a few times too. I fished with a group of lads three years ago and saw an undulate caught two anglers up from me. Last year I fished alongside local junior match angler Eion Foley, his dad, and friends Mike Hennessey, Martin McGowan and top guide John Sheehan. Eoin, to his credit, caught the only undulate of the day fishing ten yards from me.
Mike, Martin and John I can’t thank enough. They’ve put a lot of effort into trying to get me an undulate and we again had plans to finally put things right in August 2016.
I came down from Galway, with Martin and John already having picked up some bait and ready primed to hit Fenit Pier just as soon as I could get there. Also with me was friend and Fisheries Officer Kevin Crowley, also yet to catch an undulate.
As a collective we tackled up on the pier, two rods each, and I glanced at my watch. It was just after 3pm. There was a little weed in the water, but it was warm, settling after a blow, with a light southeast wind. After two hours we were all still blanking. Then Kevin had a small bite and was unsure what it was. When the hook went home the fish hugged the seabed and we figured it was a ray. We were all delighted when a small undulate surfaced and was swung ashore. He’d got one on his first attempt. Kevin again was maybe 10yds from me and we were casting the same distance. A hint of doubt started to eat in to my confidence.
I had a couple of dogs in the evening, then John struck into another small undulate. I fished until 1am the following morning, but we had no other bites. I had one more crack at this nemesis fish the next day, and then I had to be elsewhere. I could feel the lads were worried for me, but we’d done our best and I was satisfied that I could not have fished any better or harder that first day. The lads felt the southeast wind was part of the problem with the fish few and far between and seemingly going off the feed.
The next day we were planning on fishing a shore mark nearer Tralee, but at the last minute Martin made a call and we learned that there had been a few undulates caught out in the bay on the boats. As luck would have it, another friend, Phil Ord, also from the Tralee area, was supposed to take two mates out, but they couldn’t get there until later. He kindly offered to take Kevin, Martin and myself out to give me a better chance of my target. Motoring out in to the bay, we feathered up a few fresh mackerel, then made our way to a deeper hole in what is otherwise a fairly shallow bay.
I’m used to now sweating it out with others catching undulates alongside me. This time it was different. I started off with a couple of dogfish, then started to flick the bait, a fresh mackerel strip, further away from the boat. I was fishing the port corner when I saw a faint shudder on the rod tip. Expecting the nod nod of a dogfish, I left the rod alone and let the bite mature. It seemed like an age, but then the rod tip pulled down and kept going. I struck and instantly knew it was a ray, but not big. It tried to hug the bottom, then pulled away to each side with surprising power. The water was fairly clear and as the fish came in to view, it was indeed an undulate, maybe only a couple of pounds or so in weight. Safely aboard, the penny didn’t really sink in that I’d finally got my undulate. It felt almost like an anti climax, plus I deliberately kept my usual vociferous celebrations down to sensible levels with the other lads around me. My 113th species in UK and Irish waters, and my God had I had to work and wait for it! The undulate monkey was finally off my back!
Kevin then bagged another two undulates, one a bit bigger and looking close to 4lbs, plus I lost a tope that picked up a ray bait and eventually bit through the Fluorocarbon after a good scrap. But that was it for the day. We were lucky to catch as that southeast wind was really beginning to bite and put the fish down.
Good friends are hard to come by, and I want to thank Martin McGowan, John Sheehan, Mike Hennessy and Phil Ord for their patience and kindness in putting up with my quest for an undulate.
Next up on the species quest is a trip for a UK catfish, then a brook trout. I’m hoping to target these during September, so we’ll see how I get on. Hopefully I won’t have to wait seven years for either of these two.
Kerry Sea Fishing Guides & Bait Services
Phone no. 0873508405
Tourism Ireland Website: www.ireland.com/en-gb/accommodation