Baling out the boat

After a very dry spring and early summer the long-awaited rains arrived a few weeks ago and there have been periods of showers and heavier rain since then. Rivers have flowed again and water levels in the loughs have risen accordingly. This is good news for salmon and salmon fishers and catches have improved as the grilse run finally got underway. I am bringing some visitors out on lough Conn to try their luck tomorrow so today I nipped up to see how the boat was after recent rain.

Unless you own a boat it is unlikely you spend much time thinking about the basics of looking after a craft. If you hire a boat for a day’s fishing you simply rock up and drive off across the lake. It is different if you have your own boat though and here in Ireland we have to be constantly aware of water levels, wind strength/direction and of course the rainfall. Most fishers leave their boat on the side of the lough rather than haul it out and take it home after each outing. Back in Scotland it was common to see covers stretched over boats to prevent them filling with water but that is  a very rare sight here in Ireland. Instead we accept that rain will fall and fill our boats and that we then go to empty out the water. That menial task was my lot for this morning.

It’s August now and the foliage around the berth for the boat is lush again. Car parked, I donned waders and grabbed an old bucket from the back of the car. As suspected, the lough had risen and the boat was afloat but she contained many gallons of rain water. The air was alive with buzzing insects and the trees were laced with hundreds of spiders webs. The sense of ‘life’ was all around and it felt good just to be out in the fresh air again.

half full of water
half full of water


Baling or ‘teeming’ a boat is a simple case of filling the bucket and tossing the contents over the side. I know you can buy small pumps to do the job but hey, what is a little exercise? I waded along the side of the boat and started the rhythmical dip, fill, toss.


Helen had come along for the spin so she snapped some photos of me in action. I checked the mooring and because the water level had come up I had to re-position the boat nearer to the bank. Dragging her back, I shortened the chain to keep her from drifting out again. Then the light line I use to tie her to the post had to be re-positioned too. You need to leave some slack as the water could rise or fall, leading to the boat tipping over if tied too tightly.

safely chained up again
safely chained up again

I guess all of this took about 15 minutes, not much out a weekend but a very necessary task to ensure the boat was afloat and undamaged for the next time I wanted to use it. Caring for the boat, looking after the old outboard engines and the 101 other minor tasks of maintenance and repair are all part of the bigger picture of angling for me. I would not get the same enjoyment from the sport if I just walked up to to a river bank and started to fish. The ‘nuts and bolts’ of the sport are just as important to me as the physical catching of the fish. Getting my hands dirty fixing boats/engines or other items of gear add meaning to the whole sport for me. The few minutes standing at the edge of a lough heaving buckets of water may look like a basic, menial chore but it was part of the fabric of angling in the West of Ireland.


We drove into Ballina for a bite of late breakfast and while there I wandered down to the bridge to check on the Ridge pool on the Moy. Sure enough, the river was up but in good order, perfect for salmon to run. High water is bad news for the Ridge pool as the salmon can run through the fast water at ‘the boxes’ unhindered. The Ridge fishes best during periods of sustained low water when it simply fills with salmon and grilse as they wait for the rains. But the river is up today and I fully expect there will be fresh grilse in Lough Conn tomorrow.

looking up the Ridge pool
looking up the Ridge pool

a lone angler worming on the ridge

Let’s hope the fish are in responsive mood tomorrow!


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