Of course you all have heard about the Yellow River, one of the great rivers of the world. For over 5000 kilometers it flows from west to east across the ever changing face of China, providing transport, water, power and irrigation for millions of people. Also known as ‘China’s Sorrow’ for its propensity to flood with devastating results, this river is woven into the very fabric of Chinese society. So what is the angling like? To be honest I don’t have a clue, I was fishing a very different Yellow River right here in Mayo.
The town of Kiltimagh in east Mayo is actually quite famous as it is the birth place of yer man Louis Walsh off the telly. Not an awful lot happens in Kiltimagh, it’s one of those sleepy Irish towns where cattle prices at the mart or how the local GAA club faired out at the weekend are uppermost in peoples minds. It is almost surrounded by small rivers which meet up and flow into the Moy away to the north. I have fished for trout in both the Pollagh and Glore before with some success but I had never tried the Yellow River. It always looked so narrow and insignificant whenever I crossed over it (which I have done many, many times) and it didn’t register with me it could be a good fishery. Then I came in contact with a young fisherman from the town who told me about catching pike, perch, roach and trout out of the Yellow River so I figured I better give it a try. Neil specifically stressed there were some very deep stretches despite the rivers narrow width. It sounded like it might be worth a try but this really was a shot in the dark for me so expectations were set very low.
At this time of the year I’d expect there to be a few roach in deep flowing water. Neil had told me he caught roach almost by accident when worming for perch or trout during the summer months. While I have landed my fair share of roach on worm the old reliable maggot is a much superior bait for them in my opinion. I know the experts at winter roach fishing will prefer bread or hemp but I find them too fiddly so I stick to something that wriggles for my hook bait. I pulled out some gear, bought a few maggots and set off for a very short session. As always, access is the big issue here in the west and I had to find somewhere to park reasonably close to the river so I could get to the bankside. Neil came to the rescue again and pointed me to a spot where I could park and walk across the bog on a track almost to the waters edge. Without his detailed local knowledge I would never have found this spot so a big ‘thank you’ to Neil. This is good shooting country so I brought along a bright red hat to make me visible.
This part of the county is a mix of bog and poor land just fit for a few sheep, all intersected with drains and barbed wire fences. The bank was rough and uneven as expected but I still found it hard going what with my dodgy joints and rampant vertigo. The vertigo has been an issue for me since last June and I am sure it is linked to the Covid-19 jab I had a couple of weeks before then. It feels like I have indulged in one too many sweet sherry’s and the world is constantly moving. Where ever I look down the ground seems to tilt or buildings sway making the process of putting one foot in front of the other quite perilous. Helen is understandably worried about me going off fishing on my own, concerned that I will fall in and drown or meet some other equally horrible fate. From my perspective I see this is just part of life and that I need to just get on with it. I do suffer the the occasional fall on particularly bad days but have not seriously hurt myself yet. Strangely, I am much more stable when sitting down so my driving is not affected.
I hoped to find some roach by trotting through any pools I could find but I’d settle for a perch if there were no silvers to be had. I brought the 12 foot rod with me but was feeling I might be over-gunned as this tiny river is only about that width in some places. If fishing these small streams in the winter for roach becomes a ‘thing’ with me I can see me looking for a ten footer which would be much easier to handle amid the bushes and other obstacles. My current 10 foot light leger rod it way too light for this kind of work, just the flow of the river would bend it double! I would not feel to bad about buying a new rod, it has been 3 or 4 years since I bought a fishing rod and that was only a cheap back up spinning rod which cost me €20 from the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Given the huge increase in coarse fishing I do it makes sense to invest in just one more rod (or maybe two, I have yet to replace the feeder rod I broke a couple of years ago).
Back to the fishing…….
So here I was, rucksack/seat on my back and the rod set up with six pound mono running line, a stick float attached top and bottom and a tippet of 3 pound mono to a size 16 barbless hook. Plumbing the swim showed about five feet of water in front of me shallowing to just three feet twenty yards further down. Double maggot was my bait of choice to begin with and I adjusted the shot to give the hook a slow fall for a start. On only the second cast I stuck on the bottom and snapped the tippet when I tried to pull it free. A new tippet was quickly attached and I started again, the float tracking downstream smoothly until it came to the shallows and started to hang up on the bottom. On a river this small casts were a mere flick of the rod and it is a noce way to fish just watching the tip of the float as it drifts away down the river.
30 minutes sped by without so much as a tremble to the float so I walked down to the next bend where a lovely pool could be easily fished. I had to adjust the float as this was a much deeper swim with close to ten feet of water almost right up to the bank. I tried the worm but it failed to elicit any fishy interest so I went back to the maggot. All this time I had been loose feeding a trickle of maggots into the swim to try and get fish feeding. Despite fishing carefully and diligently there were no bites forthcoming. In the end I had to pack up and head home. Perhaps I should feel a bit downhearted at the blank but instead I enjoyed being out on the riverbank for the first time this year. It was a lovely peaceful day with no wind or rain.
This is a nice little bit of river and I will be back here again. It is relatively close to me and has fish in it so that alone is good enough. Add to that the joy of using very light tackle and it really does make it an attractive option for the winter months. Think I will start saving my pennies for a new shorter rod and who knows, maybe even a centrepin reel. I’ve never owned one but they look like great fun to use. Don’t worry, I won’t be looking for one of those wonderful (and wonderfully expensive) Hardy’s, Allcock’s or Garry Mills jobs. An occasional slow trot down a few yards on a rivulet of the stream simply does not a warrant top of the range reel.
So my 2022 season has started, all be it with a blank. On Sunday I am heading off to try another county on my ’32’ project, this time down in Kildare. The maggots are resting in the fridge overnight and the gear is all in the car so I am ready for an early start. It is great to be up and running again!