Awake in the early morning I twitch the curtains open a fraction to check the weather. Bright and calm, well that’s no use! I turn over and close my eyes again for another hour of fitful sleep. The alarm jolts me out of slumber and I pull on some clothes before opening the curtains. Lo and behold! The sky is a patchwork of fluffy grey clouds, it is going to be a fishing day after all. Sandwiches are made and coffee brewed, double check I have everything I need then set off on the road. I am Leitim bound again.
There is no wind in town today, meaning it will be poor conditions on the big loughs so instead I will go hunting tench and bream in a small lake. The maggots in the ‘fridge have morphed into casters so I bring them along to add to ground bait but I need to pick up some fresh maggots and maybe a few worms. I have been losing tench on a regular basis lately so I had previously filled my reels with heavier line and made up some new heavy rigs. Feeling much better prepared there is a feeling of confidence in me (never a good sign). The road is quiet as I plough ever east by north through Mayo and Roscommon till I finally cross the Shannon into Leitrim at Carrick. Coin is exchanged for a pint of red maggots at the shop then I hit the road again on the final leg of the journey.
There is nobody fishing when I arrive there so I set up and have two rods on feeders. A wind is blowing from left to right, ruffling the surface a bit. The stink of slurry spreading fills the air and I can hear the farmer at work with tractor and muck spreader nearby. The clouds have thickened but it does not look like we will have rain today. I have a waterproof coat on, just in case.
In an attempt to attract some fish into the swim I feed heavily, balls catapulted in on a regular basis for 4 hours or so. During that time I have a couple of very half-hearted little bites which come to nothing. Bees buzz around me and gorgeous damselflies in azure and deep ruby red flit among the reeds. I dip my net in a few time to see if the weeds are harbouring any wildlife and find huge waterboatmen, snails and various other grubs in abundance. Although quite small this lough is extremely rich.
I mull over what is (not) happening and decide to persevere with the feeder on one rod but change the other on to the float. An antenna, heavily shotted, a six pound hook link to a size 12 baited with a bunch of maggots was soon rigged. I placed the bulk shot immediately below the float with a single swan shot to lie on the bottom and the 6 inch hook length over depth. I was really hedging my bets by doing this. There are roach on this lough and I thought maybe the small bites were coming from them. The bunch of maggots would attract bream or tench too. I loose fed some maggots and started fishing the float.
Sure enough, the bites started to come, slowly at first but increasing in frequency over the next hour. I kept feeding balls of groundbait and some maggots to keep the fish in my swim. The roach were mainly small but a couple of them were decent fish. A solitary perch showed up, the first one I have every caught from this lake. The hook was snagging on weeds frequently as I was fishing over depth so when the tip of the float slowly sank out of view I thought nothing of it and lifted the rod to free the hook. The old rod heaved over into a serious curve and the reel sang, that was not weeds or even a 6 ounce roach! The fight went on for a while, the tench darting for the lily pads and reeds and me applying side strain to stop it in its tracks. I tested the six pound hook length to its limit but everything held and I slipped the net under my prize. A fine fish of between three and four pounds I guessed. A couple of quick photos and the fish was safely released.
Re-baited, the rig was sent back out again and after only a few more casts the float did the same slow sinking trick and I lifted into a second tench which could have been the big brother of the first one. The fight was similarly dogged and the feeling of relief when the fish hit the meshes was real. This one had a scar on his right flank but otherwise was in great condition. I find tench such beautiful creatures, the olive colour, that paddle of a tail, those teeny-tiny red eyes all make for an iconic freshwater fish.
I fished on, catching some more roach but in the end it went a bit quiet so I packed up and headed off homewards. It was a 90 minute drive in increasingly heavy traffic but I made it home safely. Sorting through my tackle I made a quite alarming discovery. I use differently coloured pins in my rig wallets to identify different strengths of line. Yellow ones are 6 pound breaking strain and I had tied on a hook length to the float rig which had been held in place by a yellow pin. Alas, I had somehow used the wrong coloured pin when tying the hook lengths and on examination the one I was using this afternoon was in fact four pound breaking strain! I had been piling on the pressure full sure I was connected to the fish with 6 pound. My job for tomorrow is to go through the rig wallets with a fine tooth comb and make sure everything is in order.
At least I have ended that run of losing tench. With no rain forecast for the coming week I may have another tench session soon.