February 8, 2017 Last Updated 3:28 pm

* Making a Kayak Angler 1

Irish Kayak Angling Club Member, Tim O’Herlihy, discusses his experiences of Kayak Angling over 3 articles. Part 1 is his introduction to the sport and first outings. Part 2 explains how 1 or 2 species an outing improved to 8. Part 3 deals with Kayak Angling Essentials, Safety & Lessons Learned along the way.

TF title picture jpg

Part 1-1

The first experiments on getting on the ocean!

The Song of the Sea

All sea anglers are probably conscious of its call, the calmness that washes over you when you see the ocean, the peace of sitting just above the waves (totally different to sitting on the shore) & the joy of exploring the wonders beneath the surface.

Have you heard it? The Song of the Sea?  I’ve heard the song all my life.  Growing up spending summers fishing with a hand line from a catamaran Dad had built in the back garden. I have heard it’s call when dropping in & out of fishing over the years since then.  Now I have a son of my own, Sean.  He hears it too, all the family do.  We’re happiest on a beach, messing in the surf, exploring the coastline or snorkelling over reefs.

Like many others my journey to Kayak Angling began with family outings.  My first kayak was a Peekaboo, described by Ocean Kayak as “Perfect for family fun, the Peekaboo features a kid’s jump seat so you can share the view.” Extremely stable, with a capacity of 200kg, it seemed the perfect place to start.

Thinking back to my childhood, I bought some hand lines & feathers, and we had our first fishing trip in June 2014, not knowing that it would open up a whole new world for me.


Not bad for a first attempt...

Not bad for a first attempt…

It wasn’t all fishing; we had many family days out.  We followed a basking shark at the Old Head of Kinsale, were investigated by seals everywhere we went, passed a sunfish near Nohoval & got to explore hidden caves & coves.

I was enjoying the fishing myself, rediscovering the heart stopping feeling of fish hitting lures.  As the summer came to an end I was determined to fish more.  Sean & I had great winter fishing off the pier at Currabinny in Cork Harbour, it was around this time I really started to research fishing from a kayak.

Getting this close to basking sharks is special

Getting this close to basking sharks is special


First Attempt

Many websites & YouTube clips later, I’d made myself a fishing crate, spinning & pier rods were ready to go for summer 2015.

At the same time Sean moved to a dedicated kids kayak, Ocean Kayak Kea, my wife Aoife to a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100.  What a kayak!  Compared to the Peekaboo, it was a racing machine.

A number of times I took the long way home by hugging the coast to stay out of the wind. One day I couldn’t shelter, paddling against the wind was soul destroying. Towing Sean & overheating in my wetsuit I watched the rock next to me.  Each stroke was gaining me half a foot!  On the Tarpon, Aoife had to keep waiting for me. Climbing out of the kayak at the end was one of those “Never, ever, ever again” moments.  It was time for an upgrade.


Holeopen Bay at the Ol Head - Would you paddle it?

Holeopen Bay at the Ol Head – Would you paddle it?

Trying Again

My next purchase was a Perception Freedom 13.  The former owner had lost or broken the straps for the seat so screwed it to the kayak with the screws below the waterline.  Both hatch covers were missing with the front replaced by a cracked Frisbee. Finally, the rod holder he’d added was open ended inside the hull!


Part 1-7

A bargain, with my DIY skills, I wasn’t worried about taking it on.  Trying it out on the water there was a slight loss in stability, a small drop in capacity (170kg), but a huge jump in efficiency. I’ve since learned that stability is pretty much something that you get used to, like buying a new car, you get a feel for it compared to your previous one.

Searching the internet, I learned more. Experienced Kayak Angler Ian Harris (Dizzy Big Fish)provides free guides to kayak fishing & anchoring.  Research was certainly a key step in this whole new angling world.

Part 1-5

Tim has come a long way from his first craft!

With the addition of an anchor trolley, a whistle, knife & compass to my Personal Flotation Device (PFD), the ocean was waiting!

The wind speeds in the summer of 2015 & the fact that I would be paddling on my own kept me ashore.  Nine days in West Cork equalled one trip to Rock Island at Crookhaven, County Cork where, watched by a seal, a foul hooked Pollock was all I had to show for my efforts.

The trip led to what I call my “Idiot Flag”.  While most boats passed me giving plenty of room & at a safe speed, some of the people leaving the harbour had clearly come from the pub.  I didn’t want to become a mobile speed bump!

I managed to fish Oysterhaven twice, happily heading out in the calm waters to catch mackerel on feathers & dogfish on some shore rigs dropped on the bottom.  It’s a lovely spot, close to Cork city, with a slipway & plenty of parking.

Part 1-6


Sitting on the kayak I was able to switch my brain off and appreciate the setting but also combining this with the buzz of catching fish.  Any day fishing is better than a day at the office! As a friend of mine agrees, it’s a form of therapy.

Part 1-14 IKA Logo

Irish Kayak Angling

In autumn 2015 I came across the Irish Kayak Angling Club. Always being keen to learn more about my latest hobby I joined the forum, admittedly as a lurker for the first two months. Here was everything needed, all in one place!

Why did I lurk initially you may ask? I’d had some very unpleasant experiences on an unmoderated sport forum previously, so I suppose I was cautious.

After introducing myself, the welcome was instant & I was invited to meet up with other anglers.  While waiting for the weather to be suitable, the learning continued – reading others stories and important safety advice. While I already had my paddle leashed, carried a VHF, phone, knife, GPS, spare paddle, wore a wetsuit with PFD, there was a swift realisation that more items were needed and some things had to be changed.

Part 1-12

IKA run a number of fun competitions to help share information, experiences, to encourage targeting new species & meeting other members.

One competition, showing what is possible to achieve by Kayak Angling, was a Species Hunt, sponsored by Bantry Bay Canoes.  Anglers get a unique competition card to include with photos of their catches for the year.  Being as competitive as the next person I duly signed up, hoping that I would land something interesting during the year.

Learning as I went

My first meeting with IKA was with one of the founder members, Joe Stenning, and Pat Gill at Cuskinny in Cork Harbour.  It was great to put faces to forum profiles.  Nothing was said about the fact that I was late due to forgetting my paddles, turning back halfway to Cobh.

Fishing was poor, we managed some pin whiting, but I enjoyed the day and left with some advice on some simple changes to make things easier, including repositioning my crate to lower the centre of balance.

My next trip, a solo trip to where it all began – Bullen’s Bay at the Old Head was more successful!


Bullen's Bay - In January

Bullen’s Bay – In January


Including the pin whiting from the previous trip, landing 4 dogfish, accompanied by 2 Pollock on soft plastic worms brought me to 3 in the species hunt.  Thanks to tricks learned from Ian Harris it was also the first time soft plastic worms were successful. No stopping me now!  Luckily one of the Pollock was big enough for the pan so, over with fresh fish for dinner, I planned the next outing.

Another competition, Catch Report of the Month, was sponsored by Darren’s Kayaks.  I’d found the Catch Reports one of the best sources of information.  There I could read about rigs, bait, techniques, venues – it was an amazing resource!

As luck would have it, my first Catch Report won the January Competition.  At this point I’d only met Pat and Joe so it was a boost in confidence to know that people I’d never met had enjoyed it enough to vote.

I was now (pardon the pun) “Hooked” on kayak fishing and was itching to get back on the water.  The real learning began.

Modifying the kayak as Pat had suggested, adjusting the anchor trolley and moving the crate, I added a fish finder. Meeting personalities from IKA continued, at my next outing Kevin Murphy was at hand keeping an eye on me at the traditional New Year’s Meet at Roche’s Point, Cork Harbour.  Pat had postponed it due to weather so New Year was February.


The current at the Point can run to 3.5 knots on a spring tide & it was close to it that day!  I got a fright when, at anchor, a line got stuck and the kayak started twisting due to the tide forces.


Flipping the spool release to take the pressure off resulted in a bird’s nest. I pulled that line free, of course the other rod promptly got stuck and in addition my paddle fell in the water while jammed into the straps on the seat.

The current against the paddle blade started to turn the kayak one way while the rod that was stuck had the kayak heeling the other way!

The current was so strong that I couldn’t pull the anchor.  Dragging it to the seat would have resulted in the kayak being broadside against the current, never a good idea.


I cut the line between the buoy & the kayak and floated free.  Behind me the buoy had disappeared and didn’t pop back up for about 2 hours.

 As a side note: Don’t anchor up in any tide that you are not familiar with. Ian Harris Dizzy Big Fish has an excellent guide to anchoring.

Kevin was straight over to make sure I was alright & together we drifted out of the harbour to try the ground outside the Point.

On the swell outside I started feeling seasick.  With the sickness messing up my balance, every wave felt like I was going to go swimming.  Later that evening it registered that Joe had followed me in to make sure I was safe.  The entire way back I could see him out of the corner of my eye.


When I mentioned it to him at the Christmas Party he told me that I was actually wobbling between waves! That night sharing my experience on the forum Brian McCall explained how to use 100×2.5mm cable ties between the chain and top of the anchor.  A sharp tug, the tie breaks, you retrieve the anchor upside down. In a nutshell my rigging for my anchor, while fine where there wasn’t a current, was not fit for purpose.

Rigged to trip!

Rigged to trip!

February 2016 I rigged my anchor & added a Scotty paddle keeper, a zigzag anchor cleat and a bilge pump from Bantry Bay Canoes, just in case.  Ready to try again I invited Pat, Joe and fellow newbie Robbie to Oysterhaven.

I had an amazing, thoroughly researched, plan.  I’d found the chart, the seabed profile, checked the tide and forecast.  We would fish over reefs, 10-20m deep, drifting east on the tide towards Newfoundland Bay & coming back on the slack tide at about 14:00 as the wind changed. No plan survives the first contact with the enemy.

Conditions outside the Haven were not as expected.  The wind was stronger and from a different direction, the period between the waves wasn’t 6+ seconds, it was as low as 3, with each a different size and shape.  Joe kept an eye on me again as I retreated to calmer waters.  Another lesson, always be ready to change the plan!

Drifting with baited rigs I was getting worried that the lads had come all the way to blank.  The relief felt when I found out both Pat & Robbie had caught whiting was draining.  I eventually managed a mackerel and a whiting before landing.

More solo trips followed, with 1 or 2 species being the usual result until I was given a simple piece of advice that changed everything.


Part 1-8


Join in on the action!

To learn more about Kayak Angling visit Irish Kayak Angling and register on the forum.  Membership is free!

Follow the Irish Kayak Angling Club on Twitter @irishkayak and on Facebook for details of the 6 FREE meets (Galway, Wexford, Donegal, Kerry, Cork and Monaghan) that make up the All Ireland Kayak Angling Championship 2017.

(Free Kayak Demonstrations at all Venues, provided by Darrens Kayaks)

Comments are closed.