Good god, what was I going to do about Laois? As far back as the end of last year I had been looking for a suitable venue there. No major loughs, no coastline, little in the way of rivers either. No canals for me to gently float some maggot down. No hill loughs or rushing streams. Maybe there was a small tench lake or a stream with a few roach? Or perhaps a farm pond with a host of small rudd in it? I kept pumping ‘Laois, fishing’ and similar search terms into Google but I was not finding much in the way of quality angling. So Laois was very firmly put ‘on the long finger’. I planned other angling escapades but forgot about the O’Moore county for now.
Fast forward to today, July 2021. This had been going on for too long and I had to make some real effort to find a spot to fish down there. In the intervening period I had made occasional desultory efforts to research Laois but they had come to nought. Now I sat down and spent some time refining the search and studying maps. Coffee was drunk, the cats did their best to distract me but I stuck to my task for once. I had been sure it would be some coarse fishing that I’d find and so it proved.
Before we get into the fishing let’s take a look at Laois. Firstly, for those of you not from Ireland the name must present some problems. Spelt ‘Laois’ it is pronounced ‘Leash’ There are some complications to that but we will skip over the finer points of Gaelic pronunciation and just settle for ‘Leash’. Formally know as ‘poor and proud’, it is now a prosperous county, it lies to the west and south of Dublin and shares a border with most of the midland counties. Home to a lot of beef and dairy farms, there are a scattering of towns and villages and the main road from Dublin to Cork and Limerick bisects the county. I have traveled across it many times but until today I’ve never stopped the car, switched off the engine and pulled on the handbrake.
A typical summer’s morning, warm air filled with the scent of blossoms in the garden as I slurp coffee to waken me up. The sparrows and starlings are making an unholy racket in the trees, not helped by the cats who are on the prowl. I am looking forward to the day ahead, the change of scene and prospect of fishing somewhere new is always appealing to me. The recent hot, bright weather is continuing and for this reason I will be targeting Rudd today with the outside chance of a tench.
Laois is easy to get too from Mayo, there is a good road that goes all the way there. The easiest way there for me was to go to Athlone then to Abbyeliex via Tullamore and Portlaoise. I left it late to set off, planning a leisurely drive there, a peaceful days fishing and maybe stay on until the evening if the fishing was slow through the day to try and tempt a tench as darkness fell. All in all this would mean a very long day for me.
I had a few maggots left over from my last outing and I took some frozen dead casters out of the freezer to add to my ground bait. Stopping off along the way I picked up a loaf of bread in a Centra shop and some fresh maggots at Mountrath Tackle Shop (nice little shop with lots in it and great advice from Fran). So where was I heading?
I had decided to try a small lake called Gill’s Pond in the small village of Ballinakill. According to my research it held rudd, roach, bream and a few tench plus some bonus carp. Surely even I could catch something there? I called one of the club members when I arrived and Connor kindly gave me some good information about the lake and what to try. Setting up on peg 1, I commenced operations at around 2pm under a cloudless blue sky and 27 degree temperature. OK, so conditions were rubbish but I was hoping the fish might come on the take as the sun dropped below the horizon. I had carefully read the rules which are posted on the door of the hut. Unfortunately, you are only allowed to use one rod so my idea of setting up the leger rod for bottom species while I float fished for rudd went out the window immediately. Reduced to only the one rod I opted for my old Shakespeare which is a bit of an all-rounder. I was no sooner standing at the peg when a family of swans appeared and spent the next 20 minutes in the swim. Eventually they headed off again but this visitation was repeated numerous times over the course of the session, each time requiring me to stop fishing and the swim to be dirty with weeds the birds had pulled up.
I started off with a helicopter rig fished as close as I could to the lily pads on my right but other than a couple of half-hearted taps the maggots were ignored. It was blistering hot and I decided to try for rudd. The swans were always close by and I reckoned that trying bread would simply attract the birds back into the swim. I rigged up a light float to fish on the drop and baited the size 18 hook with a single maggot. The very first cast saw the float dip and I wound in a small rudd. A few casts later a roach accepted the maggot. I missed lots of bites but I was catching pretty steadily. I would get maybe 20 minutes of fishing before the dreaded swans came back into the swim and I had to halt for a while. I loose fed maggots and kept a steady stream of balls of groundbait going into the very edge of the lily pads in the hope of getting some tench to start feeding.
A skimmer put in an appearance and then it was back to the rudd again. By 6pm I decided to go back to the feeder so setting up a new rig I threaded a piece of artificial corn on to a hair rig to pop up the bait from the bottom slightly. Tappy little bites bothered me for a while (rudd) but I did manage a good bream on this set up plus some other small stuff. In the end I decided the noise of the swimfeeder hitting the water was too invasive so I went back to the float, this time a waggler shotted over depth and a size 10 hook baited with a bunch of maggots. Another skimmer, some roach and a solitary perch fell for this tactic. I lift bite saw me strike into a small tench but this lad managed to throw the hook. What is it about me and tench just now? I can’t seem to land one for love nor money.
Fishing ends at 9pm on Gills lake so I packed up just as the place seemed to be coming alive. Lots of bubbles in the margins suggested the tench were finally coming on the feed but I had to leave. I was getting tired by then anyway and I had a three hour drive home ahead of me. The final tally was 15 rudd (mostly small but there was one good one), 4 roach, two skimmers, one decent bream and one small perch. 23 fish on a day when nobody in their right senses would be out with a fishing rod was an acceptable return I think.
At 12.20am I pulled into the driveway at home. A quick brew then off the bed, contemplating the day. Gill’s pond is well run and a very pretty place to fish. It has a big head of coarse fish in it and it is a pity it is so far away from me as I would definitely fish there again if it was closer. Given the terrible conditions of extreme heat and brilliant sunshine I was more than happy with my catch for the day and my choice of a pond stuffed with rudd had been fully vindicated. The swans had been a royal pain in the posterior all day but it was their home so I just had to suck it up. When all is said and done that is one more county successfully fished in my quest to do all 32.