So, there is this lake near Ballymote which purportedly contains bream/rudd hybrids. I have been hankering to catch some of these relatively rare fish since I took up coarse fishing and today I headed off to county Sligo to try my luck for them on Bellanascarrow. The lough also contains pure strains of both species but it was the mongrel ones I really wanted to hook. Reading up on these fish it seems their numbers fluctuate greatly and there can be plenty sometimes and then they all but disappear. They can grow quite big with the Irish record well in excess of seven pounds.
Having never fished specifically for them before I would to have to learn as I was going along. My normal approach of fishing two rods, one rigged for feeder and the other on the float would be my plan of attack using maggots and worms for bait. I suppose my thinking was the hybrids would behave more like bream than rudd, but that was not based on any facts so I could be wildly wrong. Perhaps they cruised high in the water just like rudd but I was hoping they grubbed about on the bottom more like bream. Noted as good fighters, they sounded like a great target species so I set of for Ballymote in high spirits.
The IFI site says there are true bream in the lough and they should be catchable. I have never really cracked fishing for bream, I catch them alright but never in the great numbers other anglers seem too. The big ones have eluded me so far as well, my best still being a measly 3 pounds or so. Maybe today I would do better with them and hopefully winkle out a hybrid or two. Anticipation and learning about a new venue are aspects of angling which really appeal to me. I know anglers who fish only one pool on a river and nowhere else. They catch huge numbers of fish because they know this pool so well but I simply would not bother to go fishing if limited to such a narrow choice of places to fish.
It is not too far from Castlebar to Ballymote, up to Tubbercurry then across the bog and marginal farmlands of the Mayo/Sligo border country to the small town with the big ruined keep. The lough itself is less than a mile from the town and after parking the car (handy wee car park and stile, thank you IFI), I was soon on the bank. It took me a while but I have now refined my coarse tackle and everything has its place in my old seat box. Over the course of this year I’ve cut down on a lot of things I thought I needed to take with me in an effort to try and reduce the weight of the box and so far this has not led to any problems. I know my old buckets are crude and maybe at some point in the future I will invest in some proper bait buckets but for now I am coping just fine with the gear I have.
The maggots from last week were very sluggish first thing this morning when I took them out of the fridge but they are wriggling nicely now they have warmed up. I dug some worms yesterday, only small lads but they will do. Buying worms is expensive here, you pay between four-fifty and seven Euro for a tub, so I am grateful for any I can grub up from the compost heap. While I find that maggots out fish worms on most occasions there are days when the humble worm if preferred by bream and tench. I like to have both with me. At some point I must try pellets. I know they are hugely popular on commercial fisheries in the UK but I wonder if they would be so effective on the ‘natural’ loughs here in Ireland. I guess I will just have to try them and see how I get on.
As you approach the lough down a lane there is a water treatment plant and once at the waters edge you are confronted with a long, ugly concrete pier which has something to do with said treatment plant. I guess this is the water supply to the good folks of Ballymote. There are a few stands along the shore of the lough, giving me the dilemma of picking the right one. I usually look for a stand which has some sort of fish holding potential within casting range such as lily pads, reeds, etc. To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much to pick between all the stands so I wander along to the second one on the left and set up there, crossing a small stream by a little bridge. Happy with my choice I settle down and begin operations. Ground bait first, four balls to start with. I set up with six pound mono on both reels. Not knowing what size of fish are in here I don’t risk going too light, not yet anyway. I can always drop down to lighter line if required. The feeder is dropped 20 yards out with a worm on a size ten hook then I plumb up in the usual fashion and set the waggler float a few inches over depth before impaling three red maggots on the size 16 hook. I start to loose feed a few maggots too in an attempt to populate the swim.
Sure enough, the float shoots down and a small hybrid comes to hand on just the third cast. It is only a little lad but it is an encouraging start. Next a small roach comes in. Roach! There was no word of them when I was researching this place. Next up is a skimmer and then another hybrid, this time a good one of around a pound. The wind is blowing from left to right and I am sheltered from it by the high bank of reeds so it is nice and comfortable as I ply my trade of cast and a wind in a fish. It is pretty much a fish a chuck now and some lovely hybrids are putting up a hell of a scrap when they feel the hook. A bonus bream or two show up and then some small perch. The roach seem to be gathering off to my left and a cast near the lily pads on that side almost always produces a silvery eight incher. Bites are almost all the same, a sharp and sudden disappearance of the float. No messing.
The feeder remains untouched all this time. Changing from worm to maggot is tried but that makes no difference. I bait up the edge of the lilies to my right and plonk the feeder in there but that doesn’t work either. In the end the green plastic feeder I am using falls apart and so I pack up that rod for the day. Back to the drawing board again for my feeder fishing!
The sun tries unsuccessfully to break through but I barely notice as I am kept busy with bites each and every cast. The lovely hybrids have been replaced by a vast shoal of skimmers now and they are biting just as readily but my hooking ratio drops dramatically. I try using worm on the float rod but it doesn’t catch as many as the maggot and I soon swap back again. By one o’clock the bites begin to slow down and by two it has gone quiet. With things to do at home I decide to call it a day and quickly pack up the gear and retrace my steps to the car park. Past the unsightly water plant, through a couple of metal gates and along the lane. It feels like no time since I was heading in the opposite direction but I packing in a lot of action since then.
Back at home I am reflecting on the mornings events. I didn’t keep count of the fish I caught but I suppose it must have been in the order of about seventy in total. The bulk of them were skimmers but I had about 20 good sized hybrids, a few roach, a couple of bream, a sprinkling of perch and a few small rudd. I think of rudd as the Kylie Minogue of Irish angling: tiny and perfectly beautiful. What was very noticeable was the way all of the fish put up a fight. Even the bream gave a bit of a fight, something I have not seen before. Look, it was not like I was playing a marlin or anything like that but the fish in this particular lough do seem to fight more than in other places.
It just shows the importance of being in the right place at the right time. From ten until one the fishing could only be described as hectic. Fish after fish took the bait and only a few fell off. Yet if I had turned up to start fishing at 2pm when the lough seemed to be dead with no signs of fish at all I might have formed a totally different opinion of the venue. This kind of reinforces my theory that lunchtime until about 3pm is a time to be avoided if possible. I have now seen this lull in sport happening too often when coarse fishing for it to be a coincidence.
While I had an excellent session a competent pole fisher would have absolutely cleaned up! The fish were about 10 metres out so a lad with a pole could have simply whipped them in one after the other at a much faster rate than I could with a waggler. I am still not tempted to try the pole though. I enjoy my float fishing too much and assembling/disassembling lengths of tubing all day really does not a appeal to me.
As you can imagine, I thoroughly enjoyed the session this morning and will be back to fish Bellanascarrow lough in the future. The feisty hybrids are a lovely fish and the mix of other species in there means there is always something to keep you interested. Add to that it is relatively close to me and it makes a near perfect venue in my opinion. For those of you who might be visiting Ireland, Ballymote is in county Sligo and it has hotel and B&B accommodation. Apart from a couple of loughs there is some good bream fishing on the Owenmore river close by.