Tuesday, and I am going to try lough Conn with Ben. The weather seems to have forgotten this is the month of May and is doing its best impression of February. When we should be expecting blossoming trees swaying in balmy breezes, we are instead in the chilling embrace of an arctic airflow. Extra clothing is chucked in the car before setting off.
We meet at the edge of the water and decide to put his engine on my boat, given the day that is in it. My 6ph is grand on a normal day but the beefier 8hp Yamaha that Ben uses will be useful in today’s conditions. Tackled up, we head out into the teeth of a northerly wind, heading for a well known salmon lie in Castlehill Bay. By the time we reach the spot, only a few minutes from where my boat was berthed, we are both soaked. A three foot wave means we are covered in spray as we travel. Worse, there seems to be a leak in my old jacket and a rivulet of icy water is running down the back of my neck. Set up on the drift, we cast and retrieve as the rain lashes down and the wind roars. We must be mad to go fishing in this! Short roll casts snake out across the waves and numb fingers pull the line back before lifting the rod for the next throw. The salmon are conspicuous by their absence. The wind eased off for a while only to pick up again within a few minutes.
A few drifts later, and with no signs of life, we decide to try trolling for a while. Out comes the ironmongery and a pair of old Toby spoons are sent flickering behind us. A course for Massbrook is set and we hunker down. The following wind drives us forward, the boat slithering over creamy wave tops. The waves must be near four feet high as we turn into the shelter of Victoria Bay. The waters calm and the sun actually comes out so we decide this is an opportune moment for a break and we pull into the shore. Hot coffee, a bite to eat and the chance to dry off a little are all gladly accepted. Discussions on the next step lead us to sticking to the troll so after a quick change of bait we head out again. One circuit of the bay later we exit Victoria and swing into the wind once again. Hail stings face and hands. We grit our teeth and plough on.
‘It’s like the Cape of Good Hope’ shouts Ben over the maelstrom. The boat bucks and the engine needs a bit more throttle to push us into the weather. All the way back up the lake we troll but the fish are simply not interested. The extensive shallows along the western shore should be alive with feeding trout now but we see no evidence of that in this weather. Olives, who hatch out in any weather, are nowhere to be seen. In the end we call it a day and head back to tie up the boat. We are both chilled to the bone by now and the task of emptying the boat and stowing the contents in the cars is painfully slow.
So what did we learn from today? Reports from Conn have suggested the fishing has been very slow so far and today has done nothing to change that. We had hoped to ambush a springer in the good wave but they seem to be few and far between. I saw a handful of mayfly hatch out in the sheltered bays so there is hope of better fishing in the near future if the weather improves. Freezing northerly winds are always going to be a huge challenge so we are not too disappointed. Days like today are part and parcel of Irish lough fishing and you have to accept them along with the good ones. There is always the next trip to look forward to.
Wednesday was spent catching up on chores and doing a bit of fly tying. The gear was dried out and I tidied out the back of the car which resembled an explosion in a tackle shop. The weather on Wednesday stayed stubbornly cold and windy. Thursday is the same and so I decide to make some flies for people who have been asking for them. Forecasters are sure the winds will swing southerly over the coming weekend, bringing rain but higher temperatures. I’ll keep my powder dry until then………………