I could tell she was unimpressed. There are a million jobs to be done around the house but I badly needed some time off to do a bit of fishing so I broached the subject of a day on the bank to my better half. The look said it all, there was no need for words but she took pity on me and I had my pass for the day.
Saturday morning saw me driving off down the road to Leitrim one more time, the first road trip in the ‘new’ car. I am still getting used to the Renault despite owning it for a couple of weeks now. The old Golf was like a second skin to me and this was the first long journey I was making since the old green car went off to the scrapyard. Our Scenic feels very roomy and the driving position is high. The smaller engine means a lot less power (and cheaper insurance) than I have been used to but as I tend to trundle slowly along the highways this is not a big issue. The boot, while large enough I suppose, is less voluminous than the Golf so gear has to be stowed on the back seats as well. Us humans are an adaptable bunch and I’ll soon grow accustomed to the car.
The drive gave me a chance to review the past few weeks. With only light traffic and good roads I could use the time to mull over what has been a continuingly challenging period. I started the new job since the last time I was fishing, our beloved cat, Theo, has gone missing, my old car was unceremoniously carted off to the breakers yard and of course Covid restrictions have tightened once again. For me, a day on the bank is something akin to pressing a reset button, giving me headspace to look at problems in a more positive light. By the time I pulled up in Carrick-on-Shannon the Renault was purring like a kitten and smelling ever so slightly of manure, courtesy of the freshly dug worms in the boot. Helen is going to have that non-plussed look on her face again I fear.
Maggots purchased, I returned to the car and set off for my destination along the winding R201 to Carrigallen and then south to my chosen venue for the day, Gulladoo Lough. We are half way through November so I was not anticipating hectic sport but just to be fishing would suffice today. Some fresh air and the peace that comes with being beside the water and hopefully a few small roach were the height of my ambitions.
I’ve passed Gulladoo a few times and kept telling myself I had to give it a try one day. A chilly November Saturday was possibly not the ideal time to try a new water but I had read it was a pretty consistent fishery and anyway I could scope it out for next summer. An unusually shaped water, there are two lakes joined by a narrow cut. Bream were the dominant species before but is sounded like roach were more likely to be caught these days. Some perch, pike, rudd and a smattering of tench also lived in the shallow waters. I had looked at ariel maps before planning this trip and could see some areas which looked to be pretty open and accessible for bank fishing. These lakes are very popular on the competition circuit so there must be plenty of space for all those anglers. I must admit though that I much prefer fishing off a stand or something similar. I like the solidity of concrete or strong timber under my feet when coarse fishing. There is only one double stand on Gulladoo and it is a disabled access one so if someone else with challenges was there or came along during my session I would have to move on to the bank but that’s OK.
I had grown accustomed to warm weather over the summer but today would be much cooler and I had dug out some winter clothes for today. Layers of shirt/fleeces and thick trousers were the order of the day. As a young fella I was almost immune to the level of cold we get here in Ireland. These days my old bones feel the slightest drop in temperature so wrapping up well is a necessity for me if I am to enjoy being outdoors at this time of the year. It is my hands that suffer the most as I hate wearing gloves which seem to remove all the touch and feeling from proceedings.
Will the drop in temperature increase the spread of Covid even further? Here in Ireland the numbers are already high and even more restrictions have been put in place including a return to working from home. I am vaccinated but resolutely refuse to download the vaccine pass which I consider to be a dangerous step towards a totalitarian state. I therefore don’t socialise at all and things like eating in a restaurant or going to the pub for a pint ceased for me two years ago. So be it, at least I have my angling for now.
My choice of gear today consists of my normal starting set up of two rods, one rigged with a feeder and the other with a waggler. I start with worm on the feeder, targeting bream while maggot on the float was more likely to tempt any roach or rudd. I don’t normally go into the detail of my rigs because I am new to coarse fishing and no expert but just for the record here is how I set up initially.
Swimfeeder: The 12 foot general purpose rod with a cheap 2500 size baitrunner reel loaded with 6 pound mono. To this I tied a 20 gram maggot feeder mounted on a twizzled boom made from 8 pound nylon. An 8 inch nylon tippet of 4 pound mono and a size 12 hook completed the set up. I fret over the hook length, always unsure if it would be better to go longer. I start off with a worm held on the hook with a couple of maggots.
Float: The old 13 foot ABU float rod with the ABU Garcia Orra reel, again filled with 6 pound mono. A heavy waggler rated for 5BB attached via a float adaptor so I can change it easily and trapped in place with two shot. The rest of the shot are bulk immediately above the loop to loop connection and the tippets is made of 3 pound mono to a size 14 hook. Hooks are barbless in both cases. The reason for the shotting pattern is the presence of rudd in the lake and I want to get down fast to reduce the number of rudd I might otherwise hook. I would be interested to hear from any experienced anglers what rig they would use for similar waters here in Ireland.
For groundbait I make up a batch of brown and black crumb, porridge oats, some hemp, a few drops of vanilla, a tin of sweetcorn and a few maggots tossed in for good measure. Once again the blandishments of the groundbait advertisers has fallen on my deaf ears. The price of the bags of sweet or fishy smelling powders make me shudder and I can’t bring myself to part with big money for the latest sensational bag of goo. Maybe I am letting the side down here and I could triple my catches by investing in some prepared groundbait but for now I’ll stick to my own cheap and cheerful mix. I like the idea of particles in my groundbait, hence the tin of sweetcorn, but to brutally frank I have not a whit of evidence it makes any difference. I suppose I could adopt a more scientific approach and run trials with/without groundbait or using different mixes and compare results. That all sounds a bit too much like work to me so I’ll stick to my homespun methods and ingredients for now. Maybe next summer I will venture into the brave new world of commercially produced groundbaits.
Of course I was not able to pre-bait and this could potentially be a problem for me. Gulladoo is not huge by Irish standards but it is still a fairly big water and the perceived wisdom is that pre-baiting is pretty much essential for good fishing on the bigger waters. With the guts of a two hour drive to this venue there was no way I could just pop up the day before and heave in a pile of bait so I just have to take my chances today. This is partly the reason I tend to fish smaller, more intimate loughs rather than the big headline venues like Muckoo, Gara or even the Shannon. I’ll leave those to the locals or holiday anglers who are in the immediate area and can pre-bait as required. The best I can do is lob in a few balls of groundbait as soon as I arrive and hope for the best after that.
The box coarse tackle is looking a bit tatty right now after a lot of use over the past summer. It needs a good clean out and some items will have to be replaced. I bought a few hooks and a couple of small swimfeeders the other day as I was running low on both of them. How I manage to break/lose so many feeders is a mystery to me! The same goes for floats but there are lots of spares lurking in a box at home that I can always dip into for replacements.
Hook design is something I have not investigated fully for my coarse angling which is strange as I am very fussy about my game fishing hooks. I have been caught off guard a couple of times by big fish when using fine wire hooks, resulting in lost fish. I am guessing there has to be a balance between using fine wire hooks so they don’t burst the maggots but the same hooks being strong enough to land a 4 or 5 pound bream or tench. I now tend to use medium wire hooks on my swimfeeder rigs and fine wire ones on the float. The exceptions are one or two loughs which I know are home to big fish and there I step up hook strength accordingly on both feeder and float.
Four loud ‘plop’s as I throw in balls of groundbait. The wind is blowing almost directly in my face and there is a heavy mist which mean I am soon very wet. I am on the right hand wing of the stand and lobbing the feeder towards the far bank. The float is the very devil to cast into the strong wind but I persevere as best I can. No bites are forthcoming so I change the feeder on to maggots but this fails to elicit any response either. I am loose feeding now, a few maggots each time I cast the float. Still nothing and the rain really gets going now with a heavy downpour which lasts about 30 minutes. Once the rain has passed I move to the left side of the stand and try there for a while but again, there is no signs of fish. I dry off a little and sit there, contemplating life in general. Sandwiches are consumed, washed down with some hot, reviving tea and I decide that since the wind has dropped a bit I will change to a lighter float. Of course this make not a whit of difference and I am still biteless.
The sky darkens ominously and the rain starts to fall again driven by a rising wind. The temperature is dropping too, turning the day in a bit of a challenge. I see that shower out and a thin strip of blue sky emerges in the west. Checking the time I decide the options for me here are very limited so I pack up and head back the way I came. In an effort to rescue something from the day I plot a course for the canal at Leitrim Village.
Pulling up in the gravel car park beside the locks I set up just the float rod. Leaving the feeder gear, ground bait and even the landing net in the car I cross the canal and find a spot to try. Depth adjusted, I loose feed some maggots and concentrate hard on the float which is difficult to see in the rapidly fading light. I miss one half-hearted bite but the next time the float dips I hook a small roach. Success at last! The very next cast yields another similar sized roach then it all goes quiet once more. My final cast of the day produces a small perch but by then I am getting cold and so I retrace my steps back to the car. I have been fishing the canal for about an hour or so. Roadworks push me miles out of my way as I head for Mayo, making for a long and tedious journey so I fiddle with all the buttons and switches in the car trying to figure out what they all do.
All that time, effort and planning only resulted in three small fish. I knew at the outset I was chancing my arm going prospecting on a large new water on the verge of winter. I suspect the roach are forming up into big shoals and moving into the rivers now, Gulladoo certainly felt devoid of life today. For me the day was not a total washout, time spent by the water is never wasted and I was able to take time to contemplate what is going on in my tiny corner of the universe.
The chatter on the airwaves here is all about another lockdown before Christmas so there is every possibility today was my last outing of 2021. If it was I went out with a whimper instead of a bang!