trolling, trout fishing

Killer on Loch Cluanie

With no fishing right now due to the ongoing drought I have been amusing myself by sorting through some old gear which was jumbled into an old biscuit tin. There were lots of Mepps and other small spoons which I am unlikely to ever use again but an ABU Killer was tangled up in amongst the French spoons. I think these plugs are deadly, an appreciation which can be traced all the way back to my childhood.

Summer holidays back then in the late ‘60’s involved the family plus some suitcases wedged into a Triumph Toledo and we all headed off to the North or West of Scotland. These were simpler times, no notion of passports, theme parks or cheap sun holidays laced with red wine. No, instead we three kids spent a couple of mid-summer weeks in the outdoors being bitten by midges, splashing about in rivers or bouncing about on the back of poor old trekking ponies. My two sisters loved the trekking bit while I just wanted to have a fishing rod in my hand. Looking back on it now I wonder at the patience of my long suffering parents as they did everything possible to keep us all happy and safe.

My love affair with the ABU Killer was complex. Pocket money certainly did not stretch to the purchase of these very expensive ABU plugs. The silver example I was so proud of had been recovered from the bottom of the river Don at Inverurie sometime before when my worming gear had stuck on an underwater object which turned out to be the branch of a tree. The blackened, knarled limb must have been washed down in a flood from the expensive beats up river because nobody I knew who fished that cheap, local authority stretch could afford a Killer. However it got there it was now the centrepiece of my collection of spinners. I had never actually used it, being far too afraid it would get stuck on the bottom again. So it languished in the old tobacco tin, biding its time.

I must have been about 11 or maybe 12 years old when the Killer showed its true metal. The family holiday that year was a week in a rented cottage in Wester Ross. The oft travelled A96 up to Inverness, down the shore of Loch Ness through Drumnadrochit to Glenmoriston where the road turns off to the west and the amazing drive through Kintail with the Five Sisters towering over the road. The cottage was an old house with some basic appliances but it was all we needed and I have many fond memories of that vacation.

I had extracted a promise from my father that he would take me fishing on one of the big lochs. I think it might have been the second last day of the holiday before that promise was honoured, so anticipation had been building to fever pitch. The mighty River Moriston had at one time been one of the great salmon rivers of Scotland. It drained the wild lands of Kintail, pouring itself into Loch Ness after a tumultuous journey through the giant cleft in the land. Then, in the late 1950’s the surveyors and engineers arrived, bringing with them the plan for cheap electricity and the death warrant for the river. Great dams throttled the Moriston and the salmon were exterminated from the upper river. Huge reservoirs were created to feed the ever hungry turbines and the splash of leaping salmon was replaced by the low hum of the generators. The salmon are long gone but the little brown trout from the river found better pickings in the newly created still waters and they grew to a better size. It was these brownies I wanted to catch.

A Tay-rigged ABU Killer

I recall the Cluanie Inn was where you could hire a boat for a day (maybe it still is for all I know).  Few shillings changed hands and we set off in the car to the end of the loch where the boat was moored. I suspect it was only when my dad saw the cockleshell 12 footer that the enormity of the day ahead really struck him. We were going to fish a 10 mile long loch from a wee rowing boat with the emphasis very firmly on the ‘rowing’ part. I had been doing my homework and I knew what to do, father had to row the boat while a trolled a bait behind us. I was so full of excitement! Dad looked utterly dejected.

We set off and I got myself sorted, a wooden devon (silver in colour with a deep blue back to it) was lowered into the water and the line paid out until a good 30 yards separated the rod from the bait. I hunkered down to concentrate of the rod tip, snake-like concentration being required on my part. Dad pulled gamely on the oars, steady strokes which I had to tell him to increase in speed as we were not dragging the devon through the water quickly enough in my estimation. He muttered something inaudible through gritted teeth and picked up the pace slightly. My cobra’s stare deepened.

My faded copy of the 1965 ‘Game fishing in mainland Ross and Cromarty’

 

The entry for Loch Cluanie

We kept this up for maybe an hour before the rod gave an almighty lurch and the reel screamed. A half-pounder was soon in the boat and one wee boy was thrilled to say the least. Even dad managed a smile before I announced that the other shore might be a better spot to try next. He suggested that we eat our sandwiches first before covering the width of the loch (again). I was enjoying every minute of this most magical of days, dad on the other hand seemed to be wilting ever so slightly.

The following couple of hours were painfully blank and the solitary trout looked like a poor return for all our (sorry, his) efforts. I had changed the bait a couple of times but nothing interested the fish. Dad began to talk about heading back and how we better not be late. I needed some inspiration and as I poked around in my ‘Golden Virginia’ tin of baits I figured it was time to do the unthinkable – actually use the ABU Killer. With trembling hands I tied it on to the end of the line and tested the knot. I swear I was more afraid of losing the bait than any thought of catching a fish on it. I had read that some pike lived in this loch and in my mind’s eye I could envision a huge pike severing the line as he engulfed my lovely silver plug.

Dad rowed stoically on, nothing was said but I could see he had surreptitiously turned the boat in the direction of the far off mooring spot. Within minutes of immersion in the peaty waters my ABU Killer produced the goods! An alarming whack on the rod was almost instantly followed by the sight of a trout leaping clear of the small waves. A good trout, twice the size of the first lad. He fought well but not well enough and dad scooped him out of the loch and into the boat. My suggestion that we ‘take another run over that spot again’ was not well received and instead we picked up speed as we made a bee-line for the mooring.

It turned out to be the only fish that Killer caught. A few seasons later it did indeed snag on the bottom and the line parted when I tried to yank it free. I was sad to lose it just because of the memory of the day on Loch Cluanie but by then I was working and had money to buy a replacement if desired. Salmon have fallen for Killers fished by me over the years since then and even when I discovered Rapalas the old ABU plug still snuck on to the end of my trace from time to time.

The Abu Killer was in fact made in America (the same applied to Cello and Hi-lo plugs from ABU). These days ABU Garcia have them made in the Far East. I still pick up old ones second hand for not much money. I have less fear of losing them now! Funny how a couple of inches of plastic, moulded in the land of the free, can create such memories.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

No macks

The pier at Roonagh is a favourite spot to fish and each summer I try to get over there to spin for Mackerel (macks). The great thing about Roonagh  is the views across to the islands, so even if the fishing is slow you can still be captivated by the ever changing vista.

the target………………..

Yesterday evening seemed to be a good one for such a trip. What constitutes optimum conditions for Mackerel? I much prefer calm seas and good water clarity. Mackerel hunt by sight so dirty water makes it harder for them to locate my lures.

Off we set and arrived to find the pier deserted – not a good sign! The word spreads like wildfire when the macks are in and the locals throngh the short pier, heaving strings of feathers into the sea. Trust me, venturing on to the pier when the fishing is at its height is not for the faint-hearted. The empty pier which greeted us was a clear sign the fishing would be tough.

Tackling up I decided to try a bait ledgered on the bottom as well as spinning, so the 4 ounce beachcaster was strung up and a sandeel cast out. Happy that everything was as it should be I turned to the spinning gear and perched myself in my favourite spot at the end of the pier. The old rythym of cast, snap back the bail arm, retrieve was repeated numerous times, each cast being completely ignore and shiny lure made its jerky way back to me totally unhindered by the fish.

Clare Island

Even as I had been tackling up my attention was drawn to a tiny boat out in the bay. It was too far out for me to be sure exactly what kind of craft it was but somehow it didn’t look ‘right’. As I was fishing the blue dot in the middle distance came a little closer and I could see it properly. Two men were fishing off of an inflatable dingy barely 12 feet long and with a freeboard which could be measured in millimetres. The sea calm enough for Clew Bay but even still there was a wave of maybe a couple of feet running. The bright blue dingy could be seen flexing in the middle with every wave which passed under it. I personally would not have got into that thing in a bath, never mind on the Atlantic! The closer the two anglers came the clearer I could see them and it became obvious they were not wearing life jackets. I was both stunned and angered in equal proportions, stunned at the stupidity  of not wearing life jackets but also angry that if they got into trouble the press would have been happily reporting two ‘fishermen’ were in difficulty. None of the fishermen I associate with would ever do something this foolhardy. Even the wash from the small ferry would have been sufficient to overturn that joke of a boat.

The beachcaster gave a languid nod, no more than that. Tightening up the line I could feel a very faint bite so I struck with an upward sweep of the 12 footer. There was a considerable weight on the end but not much of a fight as such. Out of the crystal clear waters emerged a mass of thick, brown weeds. Somewhere below a dogfish was wriggling so I hoisted fish and weeds on to the concrete. A lesser spotted dogfish, very dark in colour, had swallowed the sandeel. Far from the most exciting catch, he was none the less a welcome sight on an otherwise fishless evening. Unhooked, I lowered him back into the water and he swam off, none the worse for his adventure and probably thinking that was the last time he was going to eat a sandeel he found lying on the bottom!

At least I caught something!

We fished on but the macks were simply not there to be caught. Having failed to locate them on the north Mayo coast and now at Roonagh the next venue will be further south. Sunday may be a good day.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, sea trout fishing, shore fishing

Portacloy

Just for a change there was some drizzle this morning. You could not dignify the gently falling moisture with the title of rain, it was just descending wetness which barely kept the dust down. Today was going to be a good day, today I was fishing in North Mayo.

High tide at 2pm meant a leisurely start to the day. No need for an alarm, strong black coffee in bed, thick slices of hot, buttered toast. Bliss! Then an hour or so spent sifting through the sea fishing gear to make sure I had everything to take with me. Don’t you hate it when there is a little, niggling voice in your head questioning if you have packed this or that? Today I had time to eliminate all of those negative thoughts and the battered black tackle box was stuffed to overflowing with all manner of goodies to tempt the fish.

Ben was going to be my companion on this jaunt and we rendezvoused at 11 am as planned. The road was quiet as we drove up that well trodden road to North Mayo. The heat was building already so we motored with the windows down, the bird song brightening the journey for us as we sped through the gorgeous countryside. It takes the guts of an hour to get to Portacloy, past the foot of Nephin, across the bog to Bangor then down the ever narrowing roads until the lovely bay comes into sight.

The plan was for Ben to spin and fly fish from the beach while I tried bait fishing from the inner pier. Ben was targeting sea trout and Bass while I was hoping for flat fish on the sandy bottom. Tackled up, we went our separate ways. Ben worked the waters close to the sand, methodically casting and retrieving all the way along the strand to the rocks at the far end. He repeated the exercise by returning to his starting point but the fish were not responsive. Meantime, I set up a pair of beachcasters and hurled sandeel baits as far as I could, then waited………………… And waited some more…………………. Nothing!

One beachcaster out, I am re-baiting the other one

Now this was more than a little perplexing as Portacloy is quite possibly the most productive mark in the whole county. I have never landed a big fish here but there are usually plenty of smaller fish to keep you busy. Today there seemed to be no fish hanging around at all. Even a cormorant which was fishing right next to us came up with an empty bill each time he dived. He swam off in the end and I couldn’t blame him. By now Ben had come back to the pier and explained he had managed to wade too deep for his boots and was soaked. He removed the offending socks and promptly went to sleep. I fished on, grimly determined to show Ben and that bloody cormorant that there were fish there. I was wrong.

time for a wee nap…………….

The tide reached high water and I roused Ben from his slumber. We needed a plan B. He suggested a mark he had seen but not fished, Carrowteigh. It was only a short drive away so I agreed. Let’s give that a lash so.

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Head of a Launce

It was only the work of a few minutes to load up the Jeep and drive over to the new mark. Rods re-assembled, we were quickly back fishing again in crystal clear waters. The scenery was breathtaking, golden beaches and azure waters, Surely we would have more luck here?

First fish of the day!!!!!

Well, yes we did. We actually caught lots and lots of fish. The only issue was that they were Launce (Greater Sandeel). They are superb for bait but catching them on medium spinning rods cannot really be classed as sport. We fished the tide down the afternoon punctuated by the silvery eels grabbing our tiny feathers. I reckon we landed about 20 of them, enough for a number of baits as some of the Launce were huge.

The photo does not do this gigantic sandeel justice, it was well over a foot long

I tried a small, rocky mark located across a field but only succeeded in losing lots of gear on the tackle hungry rocks. So I returned to the pier again my pockets lighter now as a few traces and lures were lost to the underwater rocks. All afternoon I was plagued with crabs stealing the bait. In the blink of an eye they could strip all the hooks of bait and even avoided being caught themselves. Until the very last cast!

A sandeel after only a few minutes attention by the crabs

the culprit

into another eel

We called it a day at 6pm, having not registered a single bite to the bait rods all day. Only the Sandeels saved the blank but we both enjoyed the fabulous weather and the fresh air. Shore fishing is often like this, a process of eliminating the places where the fish are not until you find where they are. I will be back on the edge of the sea again very soon, only this time I will head for the other end of the county. Until then…………….

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Bristol

The weather continues to thwart the efforts of all the freshwater fishers that I know. I’m told there are some grilse in the fast water below the Galway weir but the thought of fishing there while being watched from the bridge by all those pairs of eyes leaves me cold. The sea fishing in Clew Bay has turned up some better catches of late apparently but work has prevented me from venturing out on the briny. This past week I had to leave the costa-del-Mayo and travel to England to attend a training course. The journey at least gave me time to re-think my plans for what is let of the season.

Knock airport, for all its drawbacks is a remarkably pleasant experience in these days of frantic queues and the cattle-herding mentality of the larger airports. Knock is tiny, handling only a few short-haul flights each day. Constructed on the top of a hill by a priest (this is not the plot line from a Father Ted script) it services the west of Ireland and providing visitors with an easy gateway to the surrounding area.  Monday saw me boarding one of Flybe’s turboprops for the short hop to Birmingham. The sun shone with a force and energy which we are rapidly becoming used to as I stood with my fellow travellers on the tarmac in an untidy line. The smart blue plane shimmered in the heat haze and stepping inside was akin to entering a furnace. We sweltered and sweated our way across the Irish Sea at 28,000 feet.

The pilot assured us the weather was just as Mediterranean in the English midlands just as the over priced snacks were being served. As we banked to swing around on our final approach I looked down on countryside beginning to look parched. Dun-coloured fields are replacing green ones as the lack of rain starts to bite. We approached Birmingham International over Coventry where my great auntie Mary used to live. As a small child I recall the visit to her, my dad’s old Austin chugging all the way down from Aberdeen in what, in those pre-motorway days, was a journey of epic proportions. To this day I remember those dimly lit streets that all looked identical with gaps in the terraces where Luftwaffe bombs had wrought their destruction. Coventry looked much more appealing on this sunny Monday afternoon.

Aftermath of the Coventry blitz

I had elected to catch a train down to Bristol rather than hire a car. I detest driving and the opportunity to let the train take the strain was gladly accepted. A window seat allowed me to view the world as it rushed past. Middle England looked well and the route took the train through fields and villages which Turner could have painted. A pair of Red Kites wheeled and soared close to the track at one point, fabulous birds that were apparently once an everyday sight. Their kin, the Black Kite, is common in Indian cities where they find plenty to scavenge but they look sinister to me whereas the red ones are much more graceful to my eye. But I digress……………

As we clickety-clacked along the rails my thoughts turned to the fishing. The lack of rain looks set to continue for perhaps another two weeks so any thoughts of serious salmon fishing need to be put on hold. Instead, I would put my efforts into shore fishing. The Mackerel can’t be far away and Pollack should be more active now. What I need is to get off the damned 2 – 10.30pm shift at work so I have some time to get out with the rods!

I’d rather be here than on a training course!

The train disgorged many of its passengers at Cheltenham, took on some new faces and then sprinted off down the tracks towards my destination.  I was keen to see Bristol as the only time I have been there before was to visit a factory many years ago. That time I drove along the M4, held meetings with managers, viewing a highly technical process in a low-rise 1950’s shed then drove back on the motorway to London. I saw nothing of the city that day (and I didn’t buy the machine either as it turned out). Now, I would get my first real view of this old city. Not being a city dweller, I generally dislike the noise, overcrowding and lack of green spaces in most cities but Bristol turned out to be a very nice place. On my last evening there I walked out to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Looking over the edge is a dizzying experience!

The Great Britain

I suppose I had better make a confession. When I found out I was going to Bristol I did what every fisherman does – Google to see if there are any tackle shops where I was going. Sure enough, Veals have a shop near the middle of the town. They have been in the angling retail business for generations and their shop on the second floor of an old building was full of everything any angler could want, be they game, sea or coarse enthusiasts. If, like me, you find yourself in Bristol it is definitely worth a visit to the shop. I invested in some odds and ends for sea fishing as by now I was making firm plans for the next few weeks.

The week passed quickly enough with days filled to the brim of health and safety training and the evenings spent getting to know my fellow trainees and wandering around the city centre. Friday came around and the reverse journey back home. I love travelling and seeing other places but there is always that comforting feeling when you take the first steps of the trip homewards. The lock on the hotel room door clicked as it shut behind me and off down the corridor I marched, laptop slung over one shoulder and the wheels on my case making a god awful racket as I dragged it behind me on the wooden floor. Checked out and into the already bright sunshine, chap in a three lions shirt was singing ‘football’s coming home’ as he passed me in the street. It is 6am for God’s sake! The whole country seems to have lost the run of itself after the penalty shoot-out in Russia. I get a text telling me that I need to work the early shift next week, marvellous news which means some time off in the evenings for a change.

The train journey to Birmingham New Street was bliss, a near empty carriage and a coffee to sip as the plan for the weekend and some angling takes shape. The North Mayo coast would be my first target, looking for Pollock and Mackerel over rocky ground. If that fails to produce I will try have a go around Killery. One of the marks I like down there has a sandy bottom which produces rays and dogs but I fancy there may be some flats there too, maybe Dabs or even the odd Plaice. I will make up some Plaice traces just to be prepared.  While I am at it I need to make some new pulley rigs too, using the nice new swivel/beads I bought in Veal’s.

I have been thinking about replacing the braid on my 6500C for a while now. I never really fell in love with braid as a line for shore fishing. So I bought a big spool of 18 pound mono and filled up the old silver multiplier when I got home.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I certainly felt glad to be back home on Friday. Bristol was nice but I am excited to be fishing this coming week. It’s been ages since I was fishing and even longer since I caught something!

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