The warm evening tempted me out. I abandoned the couch and searched for some odds and ends of gear before heading south to the river Keel. Three seasons have come and gone since I last wet a line in this fishery. Would there be any changes?
Like the Robe last weekend the Keel is desperately low. In places it is badly weeded already, something you don’t expect to see for another month yet. The crystal clear water added to the undoubted challenges but even as I approached the water I could see the air was full of insects. Regardless of the water level there was plenty of trout food around.
Wet fly was my first line of attack, casting as close as I dare to the bushes on the far bank and retrieved or swung in the current. This sound easy but the weeds and some rocks broke the surface in very awkward spots making presentation a real challenge. Near the tail of the second pool I tightened into the first take of the evening. A couple of Perch, for all the world looking like two kids in striped pyjamas, came to hand.
More plucks and nibbles followed suggesting a shoal of coarse fish were in the pool so I upped sticks and tried the top pool instead. This is a small and fast flowing piece of water below the weir which invariably holds a big stock of smaller trout. The number of spinners in the air was reaching incredible proportions now and the trout were mopping up any that were on the surface.
I fished the wets upstream and managed some small trout to a Red Spinner and one of my sedges on size 14 hooks. More and more fish rose and the sport became frantic with almost every cast yielding some response from the trout. Time to try a dry fly.
In my haste I had neglected to look for my box of spinners when leaving the house and so I opted for a size 16 BWO pattern instead of something more accurately representative. Just a body made from the under fur of a Polar Bear dyed bright orange and a grizzle hackle, this has been a steady if unspectacular provider of sport for me over the years. Tonight it bit the business again but it looked to be too small for the job as the spinners on the water were huge in comparison.
As always, the rise slackened of and the fish took a breather. With the sun sinking ever lower in the west it was time to switch tactics one more time and try a sedge.
A new leader and three wet sedge patterns looked like a sound option. Cast in a way that they fished high in the water and dragged occasionally all three fooled some trout before I packed up. My experience of this river is that the really big fish don’t become active until it is dark, but weariness had set in long before that time so the monster browns were left in peace for another day.
This river has been subject to heavy angling pressure from the bait and spinner brigade so fish stocks are a fraction of what they used to be but an evening here is still a magical experience.
A slow trundle home in the car with the late and much lamented Rory Gallagher for company gave me time for reflection.I caught about twenty trout, none bigger than a pound and most considerably smaller. My eyesight continues on a sharply downward trajectory and seeing the size 16 dry was difficult and frustrating work. The price of advancing years can be heavy indeed. But what a glorious evening to be out in the Irish countryside, alive with birdsong and life.