October 25, 2016 Last Updated 9:21 am

* Weather – Go or No Go

Fishing is fine but there is one thing you must get right: The Weather! It's all bout checking and checking again....

 

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“you wouldn’t put a dog out!” – Not conditions for small boats

Weather – Go or No Go

Not all about your craft

“Will my small craft be safe to travel out two miles?” If I got a quid for every time I have seen or heard this question I would be in a far richer place! It tends to be asked by inexperienced skippers who are just a little nervous about heading to sea as the skipper of their first small boat.

It is hard to answer the question without appearing to be a condescending prick about the answer is simple really – You can got to sea in a bathtub and be perfectly safe once you have good information, once you know the capabilities of both skipper and boat and once you operate with a degree of common sense.

We have all seen the little inflatable or newly painted survivor of the 1980’s loaded to the gills with enthusiastic foreigners heading off to sea in conditions that are just not suitable. Many will brave the elements without a life jacket (it’s the law here in Ireland). It is amazing that more are not killed. Common sense can seem to be gone out the window not to mind any checking of weather conditions.

As anglers we tend to have a heightened awareness of the current weather conditions. If you are a dinghy angler that awareness is even more heightened. It is simple really – the weather is the uncontrollable variable that determines whether we fish or not, whether we go or don’t go.

Somebody once asked me what my method of studying the forecast was. Jokingly I said – “I keep looking at the weather sites until I find a forecast that suits me”. He got a good kick out of that one. The thing is, it is nearly true!

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The same bay on a perfect Autumn morning – perfect conditions for small boat angling

Forecast – “predict or estimate (a future event or trend)”

It is important to know a few facts about weather forecasting. Forecasting is an inexact science. It is an attempt to forecast an uncontrollable force. The best that meteorologists can do is to give a “best guess” what is going to happen based upon study of the current conditions. As technology and information systems get better so does the quality of forecasting. But it is always important to remember that forecasters get it wrong and forecasts can change quickly.

Meteorologists will tell you that the best they can hopefully forecast anyway accurately is out to ten days. Even at that, ten days is a very long time away. The most accurate forecasts are for three days. So when you read online that we are going to have “The coldest winter for 50 years” it really is pure bunkum and sensationalist. The farmer up north or the dude from New Zealand are giving long range forecasts based on what their previous experience. They have a chance of being right. Let’s face it, if I forecast that it is going to rain on the 10th of November I have a good percentage of being right!

A great example of how forecasts change is the week leading up to the Cork Small Boats Festival. It is a time that we are studying forecasts each day in order to see what may happen in the week of the festival. It is like a rollercoaster ride! The forecast is changing each day and what actually happens on the week tends not to have been reflected in the forecast. The only time the long range ten-day forecast works out is if there is a large area of high pressure that is stable and stationary over the country. In September? Not on your nelly!

Ireland and the UK weather is mainly driven by the Atlantic. Predominantly our weather comes from the West. We can sometimes get beautiful Azores highs but more often we are getting a procession of Atlantic weather systems that roll in from the west or south west. These systems are notoriously hard to predict. Add in a procession of tropical storms and hurricanes that originate in equatorial regions, speed east across the Atlantic and then shoot north and east. Once the end of August arrives the storms increase in frequency. It is at these times that we need the “blocking high”.

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Check out the bow in this inflatable! At least they have lifejackets! (Facebook, Paddy Byrne)

Not as simple as just weather

Of course any boat angler will tell you – it is not just about the weather. There are other factors involved too. The area you fish is going to be affect by the direction you face. I’m based on the south coast of Ireland. Our prevailing winds are south/southwest. Obviously southerly winds will be onshore winds and will be rougher than light offshore winds. We are offered some shelter from westerlies in my area and easterlies throw up some horrible seas.

The impact of tide cannot be forgotten for all your fishing. The impact of that tide and weather combination can have repercussions that are far reaching.

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The impact of water can be profound. Summer storms can strike without warning

Determining the conditions

I suppose the first thing is your availability for angling. Depending on time of year and the state of your existence this can be difficult enough to arrange! Often before we liaise with crew/fishing buddies we are already watching the weather possibilities.

Charter boat fishing is a far more simple outing to organise as the weather planning will be taken care of by your skipper. The only fly in the ointment can be where the skipper is happy to fish in poor conditions. At times like this you may stand on the quay and throw your money into the tide!

As a small boat angler the decisions must be taken by the skipper of the boat. If you have an experienced partner for your trip this can be both help and hindrance as you determine the go-no go situation. Apart from the weather, the capabilities of the boats the capabilities of the anglers determines what is safe.

How far away we are to our angling trip will determine how the plan is formulated. In the first case I tend to log onto the long range chart displays. The two sites I use most frequently are Wetterzentrale and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF). Both these sites give a look into the next 10 days in the form of synoptic charts. I know that many cannot handle the charts finding them tricky to interpret. For me, I am looking at the wavy lines of pressure systems. The closer together the lines over the country are the windier it will be. There is a great PDF document explaining charts here http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/a/t/No._11_-_Weather_Charts.pdf

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Wteerzentrale – A superb resource for the budding meteorologist

As I get closer to the planned fishing event I start looking at the more familiar weather sites. When you look at the different sites you will soon realise that the sites are just interpreting data provided by the main meteorological organisations. Each site has a favoured source so you find out soon enough that, for example, Windfinder and XC Weather tend to use the same source. So you can choose between those sites by whichever you prefer to use.

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Most government forecasts include the ECMWF data

I also look at Magic Seaweed. I like that site. They tend to be more pessimistic in their outlook and this can be a sobering experience where conditions are forecast to be borderline. After that I look occasionally WindGuru and a few others. I tend to disregard Accuweather and that type site as being more for sunbathers than anglers. I would spend time looking at the UK Metoffice  and Met Eireann too. The night before my trip I would be looking at RTE weather too. Many a trip has been effected by a RTE forecast. Sometime they get bad press from us anglers however you may find that their forecasts are quite accurate and they get it right more time than they get it wrong.

The important thing with weather is to know what the forecast winds will bring to your area given the tide and weather that is forecast. You need to study the different effect of wind speed in your area. Along the open coast onshore winds of fifteen mph will hamper small boat activity. The same wind from an offshore direction will tend to be lovely up to a distance from land. Down this way we are lucky to have the sheltered expanse that is Cork Harbour and you will find that we can fish safely in 20mph though we must pay attention to wind and tide combinations.

The soundest advice is to check your forecasts regularly. If you are in doubt make enquiries from somebody you trust. Over time you will build up a body of experience and will know what suits. Remember this – poor conditions tend to yield poor fishing. It is not worth risking life, limb and expensive gear. Most important – on the day you get it wrong the skipper decides when conditions are too bad for fishing. When you are the skipper, make that decision in a timely fashion and get the hell outta Dodge.

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Both on Pc and Mobile sites XC weather is a very friendly site

XC Weather www.xcweather.com

XC present the weather in a few different ways depending on the screen and depending on whether you are using your PC, phone or tablet.

The mobile interface is easy to understand and it presents information apart from the forecast. The wind history is a superb tool for determining what is happening now. It is great for checking what the wind speed is when you are on the water. XC is one of the few sites to gather the Met Eireann coastal reports together.

The Observation map is largely unusable on a phone but is a great tool on tablet or PC

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Magicseaweed – the surfers’ site is a mine of information

Magic Seaweed

I use the mobile site instead of using the app. You can copy a link to your home screen. You need to save the link when it is set to you local beach.

Seaweed is a great site. Apart from wind direction and strength you can also see sweet direction height and period (gap between swells).

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Windfinder

WindFinder – search: winfinder + your location

The data presented on windfinder tends to be the same a s XC. Use it if you like the interface.

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Met Eireann Mobile – avery important source of information

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Met Eireann www.m.met.ie. or www.met.ie

The ME mobile site is a superb resource. And well worth having on your home page. There is a world of information there. The coastal reports are very useful to gauge if the forecast is coming true.

The ECMWFhttp://www.ecmwf.int/en/forecasts/charts/medium/mean-sea-level-pressure-wind-speed-850-hpa-and-geopotential-500-hpa?time=2016100500,24,2016100600&parameter=Wind%20850%20and%20mslp&area=Europe

This a great site. Especially when you are wanting to look a good period ahead.

Wetterzentralehttp://old.wetterzentrale.de/pics/avnpanel1.html

Wetterzentrale is a huge German site. The majority of the site is in german and as such is difficult to follow. The link above takes direct to the forecast charts forward for nine days.

Windguru                   http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=64355

A useful site.

If you like a graphical representation checkout: https://www.windytv.com/?51.613,-8.866,8

One stop shop: Find a Fishing Boat weather page: http://www.findafishingboat.com/marine-weather

A great page with links to a range of weather resources.

One stop shop: Sail Cork. http://www.sailcork.com/weather

Eddie English has gathered a decent collection of weather sources together on his weather page.

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Perfection – unless you wanted to drift 🙂

These are just a small selection of the myriad of weather sites that are available now. Most of these sites, especially the government ones have great educational resources where you can learn more about forecasting, weather and interpretation. It can become a bit of a hobby in itself!

The weather forecasters cannot get it right all the time. Sometimes it is only a matter of the forecast being “out” by a few hours. We had that sort of situation recently. The forecast was for some serious wind but the morning arrived still and calm. We changed our fishing plan for the day accordingly. The forecast wind arrived by mid-morning. We were flexible enough to get the most of the weather window and back to the shelter of the harbour before things got out of hand.

Regular consultation of the forecast combined with shrewd observation when you are on the water will lead to experienced decision making and with that come the experience that knows when it is better to be hugging a tree than being at sea. Safe fishing!

 

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