Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Around Conn

The forecast was fer rain but I nipped out to have a couple of hours on lough Conn this morning before the deluge started. It’s Sunday and the weekend feels like it it has slipped by already so a trip to my favourite lake was definitely in order. Now normally all the gear is nestled in the back of the old car but today I had to load up from scratch, something that always worries me these days what with my appalling memory. In the recent past i have forgotten a rod, the petrol tank for the engine, the boat keys and don’t start me of the number of occasions I have left home without  net! Today though all went smoothly and every item which was required made it safely to the lakeside.

I wonder how often I have driven the winding road to Pike Bay? It must in the hundreds by now, yet I still love the the twenty odd minutes cruising through the green countryside. I know every twist and turn (and pothole) by now but it is a journey full of happy memories for me. Days when the fish were biting or just that ease of mind knowing I was heading to the fishing. Today was going to be a difficult day no doubt with very few fish around, but I didn’t care, at least I would be out on the water.

start of the day

A leaden sky hung over the every changing vistas as the old green VW snaked along the road, alternately hemmed in by trees or exposed to views across the bog to the high ground to the west. Of wind there was not much to nil, but the forecast assured me that would change as the day wore on and a good blow was to be expected later. It had rained as I packed the car but that shower moved off to the north and it was dry until I turned on to the boreen down to Pike Bay. Big, fat rain drops splattered the windscreen from there to the spot where the boat is berthed, maybe this was going to be another damp outing for me after all. Setting up the rods and stowing the gear on board took me only a few minutes then I was off. The bank of reeds between me and open water were negotiated using the oars, it being too thick to chance using the outboard. i have done that before and only succeeded in wrapping the wire-like reed stems around the prop. Pulling on the oars in unison I cleared the reeds in no time and their soft ‘swish’ on the sides of the grey boat soon gave way to silence.

The Honda burst into life at the third pull and I puttered out of the bay, streaming three lines behind me. The rain got heavier.

Using three rods to troll on Irish loughs in not unusual, indeed I have heard of experienced trollers using more that that number with great success. It is easy enough when you are motoring along, the fun and games really begin when you either hit a fish or snag on the bottom. Suddenly you are faced with decisions on which rod to grab. If it is a fish I like to strike, slacken off the drag a bit then turn my attention to the other rods. It is necessary to get those other lines out of harms way a soon as possible. Today there were no fish but there were plenty of weeds.

on the troll

On a line I troll frequently I snagged all three baits simultaneously. All three appeared to be absolutely solid so I ca,e to a halt then knocked the engine into reverse. The following wind had strengthened and was coming from the quarter, making the boat drift very awkwardly indeed. So there I was, hand on the tiller trying hard to keep the right line while also attempting to reel in the slack line on all three rods. Needless to say this was more than a man with the normal quota of arms and hands was able to do. Slack line was stripped in but it still managed to wrap itself around the engine, creating a rare old tangle in the process. I was being pushed quickly on to the shore so I cut my losses and pulled in all three baits then motored for a shore in the lee of the wind when I could sort myself out. Two rods were quickly sorted out but the braid on the cardinal reel was in a hopeless fankle which necessitated a swift chop. That’s the trouble with braid – once it get into a tangle it is very hard to clear it.

Knotted braid

I lost a few yards of braid but at least I was back out fishing again in a few minutes. I trolled all the way down to Massbrook in a strong headwind, the spray lashing me in the face as I hunkered down in the back of the boat. In those conditions I would expect to see the odd salmon pitching in the distance but not today. A few late mayfly were hatching out but nothing molested them and they zoomed off the wind as soon as their wings were dry. I swapped baits before turning for home in the waves which had by now grown to a yard from trough to foaming crest.

Using three rods allowed me to try three different baits at the same time. A Swedish silver and copper Toby, an orange and gold Rapala and a copper spoon I bought in Poland last year were given a swim on the way back up the lake. Sometimes I use the same baits on two rods but in different sizes or weights to search at different depths. I can’t say I have ever resorted to using three identical baits at the same time but I know many anglers do that.


A nice Tay-rigged Rapala

The return trip failed to produce any action either and the intensity of the rain grew with every passing minute. I had planned for many hours on the water but there is little joy to be found when the cold water runs down the back of your neck. Pike Bay and the warmth of the car beckoned and I answered the call gladly. Another fishless few hours for me then, a dreaded blank no less. To say this is the norm now for salmon fishers is an understatement. The poor salmon have been hunted to the very edge of extinction from what I can see and it is hard to see the situation improving. The Moy system, which Lough Conn is part of, is one of the last to hold on to a decent run of fish but even here there is a decline in numbers.

This latest belt of rain will hasten the grilse run and they will be moving up river over the coming week. I’ll try to sneak away for a few hours after work over the upcoming days. Salmon angling is all about putting in the hard hours on the water.




Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Typical weekend

I fished Lough Conn on Saturday morning before family commitments called me back to town then had a quiet hour or soon the Moy on Sunday evening. No fish but it was nice to be out. I’ll let the photos do the talking:

Down at Mary Robinson’s

the old 66

welcome mug of coffee

flat calm

what to try next?

Sunday and the Moy is running high

blue and silver devon

rumour is the fish are running hard and not stopping.


Fishing in Ireland

6 horses

I have long been considering a new outboard engine for my lake boat, so long in fact that it felt like an unattainable dream sometimes. There always seemed to be something else more important, more demanding of scarce financial resources than another engine. You see I owed two engines already so how could I justify another one?

Both my old engines were – old! The 9.9 Johnson was built in 1983 and the 4 hp Evinrude is of 1980 vintage. Both have served me well with only the occasional hiccup. There was an infuriating day during the mayfly on Conn a few years back when the wee engine spluttered to a halt right in the middle of a good hatch of greendrakes. Then there was the time the 9.9 gave up the ghost in the middle of Lough Mask, necessitating a 4 mile row back to Cushlough. But by and large between them both of the old warriors started and ran when required. So why have I decided to part with a wad of hard earned cash at this particular juncture?

The Evinrude was always a bit too small for the big lakes. It was grand for places like Bilberry but was simply not powerful enough for days of a big wave on Mask or Conn. The long shaft Johnson would power through anything but it had one major drawback as far as I was concerned. Weighing in at a chunky 42 kilos, I am finding it a real handful to lug around now that I am in my 60th year. So, here I was with a pair of outboard motors but neither fitted the bill for my needs. It was time for a new kid on the block. But which one?

This was not an impulse buy, not by a long chalk. Lots of thought has gone into this decision. Probably the most common outboard seen on the big Irish loughs are Yamaha’s, either the old but ever reliable 2 strokes in the 8 to 15hp range or Johnson’s of the same size size. I like the Yamaha motors, they are reliable workhorses who give sterling service and I seriously considered one of their 4 stroke engines. Then there are the Mariner’s and Tohatsu’s, both of which have become very popular these days. Price, reliability, power and weight all formed part of a complex calculation in my mind with each contender showing strongly in one or more category.  There was one more option though, one I looked at closely because it had some features which appealed to me.

Honda engines have a reputation for being of the highest quality. Last year they brought out a new range of small outboards which included a rather natty 6hp 4 stroke. Could I live with the reduction in performance by dropping from a 9.9 right down to a 6hp? Was the trade off of weight vs power going to be too difficult for me? I wrestled with this conundrum for a long time, unwilling to commit until I was sure that a 6hp would meet my needs.

The new Honda

In my own case price was possibly the least important criteria when considering what motor to buy, this was not because I am wealthy (I can assure you that I am not) but that I look at an outboard as a piece of kit which will be expected to last for a long time. Ten years does not seem like an unreasonable length of time to expect from an outboard engine which is going to be used only in fresh water during the angling season. So if an engine is €200 dearer than the opposition that works out at a paltry €20 per year.

So a few Saturday’s ago I drove north and visited Sands Marine on the shores of Lough Neagh. Once there, Nigel went through the pro’s and con’s of the Honda 6hp with me and, to cut a long story short, I ended up with a nice shiny silver Honda engine in the back of car as I sped back down the winding road to Mayo.

So what is this engine like out on the water? The weight (or lack of it) is impressive. The 6hp tips the scales at only 27kgs, very respectable for a 4 stroke engine. It is easy to handle and all the controls are in the expected positions. The tiller tucks neatly away at the touch of a button and the pull start is very easy due to the exhaust valves opening when the cord is pulled. It is not the fastest engine around but it pulls OK and is quick enough for my needs. Gone are the days when I felt the need to be at the other end of a lough within minutes. Now a leisurely paced run is much more my style.

Importantly, being a 4 stroke there is no more messing about with mixing 2 stroke oil or that small slick of oil on the water when priming the carb. OK, so there is no rush of power and a searing take off that you get from a big 2 stroke motor either! The engine feels incredibly smooth for a single cylinder 4 stroke. That is due to a new dampening system on the Honda which separates the power head from the chassis. I know this sounds like a very insignificant item but a day spent on the tiller with a vibrating engine does take away from the joys of handling the boat. You can see this in the video clip below.

Price wise, I was happy with with what I paid for the Honda and the 6 year warranty is twice as long compared to the three year Irish warranty if I had bought the engine south of the border. I reckon I got a good deal!

Ultimately I am looking for reliability from this engine above performance. The build quality seems to be excellent but only time will tell if this particular engine lives up to the Honda reputation. As always, looking after the engine and having it serviced regularly is the secret to a long life. This sounds so obvious but it always surprises me how fellow anglers neglect their engine then moan when they let them down.

So what are the major plus points in use? The most obvious thing is the lack of vibration on the tiller. You can see the engine itself vibrating quite a lot (after all, this is a single cylinder motor) but it does not transfer that vibration to the handle so steering the boat is a pleasant experience compared to older engines. OK, so it is not the fastest motor on the lake but it is nippy enough for what I want it for. It appears to run on fresh air instead of petrol! Honestly, I return to shore after a day in the boat and the petrol tank feels no lighter. all in all, it is a nice wee engine.

Usual controls

What will I do with the pair of old outboards I hear you ask? I’ll try to sell them locally as there is no point in hanging on to them now I have the right engine for me.

I guess that’s it for now. I just wanted you to see how my own thought process worked when buying a new outboard in case any of you are thinking of making a similar investment. The Honda suited my needs but that is not to say it would work for you. There some excellent outboard engines on the market these days. My advice is to take your time and work out exactly what you  want before going shopping. Outboard engines of every make are very tempting offerings to us weak-willed fishers!

Honda and Nephin

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

All quiet on Beltra

Tried a few drifts on Lough Beltra yesterday evening but there was no signs of any salmon. Jackie and Connor Deffley landed a fish apiece the day before in good conditions so there are still one or two sneaking up into the lake. Here are a few photos anyway.

Looking along the Co-op shore

waiting at the dock

On the oar


View from the car as I headed home. No fish but a great evening to be out and about

Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing

Bilberry lake restocked

The local rag is reporting that Bilberry lake has been restocked this week. Here is the report from the Connaught Telegraph

‘THE scenic Bilberry Lake in Castlebar has today been restocked with 1,000 brown trout ahead of a busy summer angling season.

The restocking, which costs over €4,000, was funded by members of the Bilberry and Lannagh Anglers Club.

Local election candidate Eugene McCormack said the investment was required because fishing stock in the lakes had declined to low levels.

He stated: “This is not just an investment in local angling, it is an investment in local tourism.

“Those involved with the club deserve the highest plaudits for putting their hands into their own pockets to cover the cost of the restrocking programme.

“I understand they were very disappointed when assistance was not forthcoming from the inlands fisheries authorities for whatever reason.

“But the club members could not let another summer pass by without the lakes being alive with brown trout.

“It’s a tremendous initiative and I am sure we will see the level of anging activities increasing around Castlebar in the months ahead.”

Billberry lake, december 2012

This is good news and is a refection on the hard work put in by the very active committee of the Bilberry angling club. It is only 1000 fish which is not a lot when you consider the challenges they will face from the huge population of pike in the lake. I would recommend you try your luck sooner rather than later on this pretty wee lake. Usual lough flies all work but I used to like something bright on my leader such as a Dunkeld or Silver Invicta

Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Robe trout

I wanted a break for salmon fishing so today I took myself off to the Robe near Hollymount to try for a few wild brownies. With no rain to speak of lately I knew that water levels would be low and so I avoided the streamier sections of the river.

Parking up, I strode over to the bridge to take a peek at the river. Sure enough, I was confronted with a shrunken stream. Rafts of weed decorated the pools and thick slimy algae encroached from both banks. Recent higher temperatures have caused this explosion of vegetation and my hope was that the warmth would also encourage the flies to hatch. By mid-May we should be seeing a wide range of flies hatching but the cream of the fishing is often when the blue-wing olives make an appearance.

I set up the gear and tied up a new leader. Three small wets were added, a size 16 Greenwell on the bob, a size 18 black spider in the middle and size 16 PT on the tail. I don’t use Greenwell’s too often but when I do it often produces a good fish for me. My plan was simple, work my way down the left bank casting into all the likely spots. A harsh, gusty upstream wind rippled the surface of the pools and the excellent drying conditions would assist any newly hatched flies to dry their wings and escape the surface. The wind was cold and this might make the session difficult.

I commenced operations in the bridge pool and was quickly into a small trout. A second soon followed and both were released. The next pool down seemed to be quiet but as I worked my way down the line tightened and a good fish splashed on the top of the water. This was a much better class of trout but after a few darts and more rolling on the top the hook pulled out and my prize swam off no doubt wondering what that was all about. I checked the hooks but they were fine, just bad luck in not getting a good hold. As that fish was on the top a lot I got a good look at him and I estimate it would have gone close to two pounds.

Some flies were hatching but not in any great numbers. I saw an occasional trout rise but to be honest not enough to encourage me to switch to the dry fly. Each pool I came to received the same treatment, start at the neck with short casts then fan out longer casts through the main body of the pool and down to the tail. Frequent stops were needed to clear weed from the flies.

There is a Greenwell somewhere in the middle of that snot!

Fish came to hand steadily but the bigger fish continued to elude me. The hatch was poor and never really got going. Could that cold wind have been the cause? It did warm up a bit after midday but the fly life seemed to reduce rather than increase after lunchtime.

By now I had gone to the end of the section I had planned to fish and with less and less action I turned back and started to head back to the bridge and the waiting car. I barely noticed while fishing my down river just how many electric fences I had crossed but the return trip seemed to be a succession of crossings, either hopping over at low spots on some electric fences or rolling under the higher ones.

One brand new style has been added for this season, a smart green affair which replaces a horrible partly fallen dry stone wall and cluster of barbed wire. This is a huge improvement and it would be great to see more of these styles on the Robe. Access is a big problem on the river, especially for those (like me) who are not as young as they used to be!

the new style, simple yet effective

I ended up catching eight trout, none of them any great size but it was an enjoyable few hours on the riverbank. A shot of rain is need to put a bit more life into the rivers around here but the forecast is for dry, sunny weather this week. It’s maybe as well that I will be away in Europe on business until Thursday!

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

De stressing

Sometimes its just nice to be out on the river even if the fish don’t show up.

Nice light on the Moy

Yesterday evening I badly needed a couple of hours on thee river Moy. Three hours of Monthly Management Meeting earlier that day had drained me and my batteries needed a charge of fresh air and flowing water. I knew the water levels were low and catches had tailed off to virtually nil on the beat but hey, sometimes it’s not all about the fish.

Ballylaghan bridge

As you can see from the photos, it was a lovely evening to be out and about. I did not see a salmon all evening, not so much as a splash in the distance or a swirl in one of the lies. Nothing.

the second groin

I fished on, diligently working my way down river one cast per step. With nobody else on my bank I could linger at the best spots, an unusual luxury.

I stayed until the sun dipped below the western horizon then walked back to the car which was parked at the bridge. No fish but somehow that didn’t matter. With the low water I had not expected to meet a salmon, I just wanted some quiet time to myself. In this hectic, pressure cooker environment we in western society exit in the need for simply pleasures like an hour on a river bank are all too easily overlooked.

looking up river