Sunday morning

The trip to Kildare the other weekend lit a fire inside me. It smoldered through the week, a glowing ember inside which I could not extinguish. All my angling senses told me that this is January and there very few fish to be caught but still that orange glow grew stronger and by Saturday night a tongue of flame was burning me from within. A couple of hours on a Sunday morning trying to tempt one or two roach was the only answer so I set an alarm clock.

I decided it was high time that I tried the Castlereagh lakes. Reading about them there seemed to be lots of bream and roach living in those deep waters with some of them running to a good size. A tub of left over maggots in the fridge were rapidly turning and had to be used up. I figured I could fish hard using maggot or caster in a feeder and maybe use a waggler in the margins. Expectations were set low for the day but this was more of a scouting trip than anything else. For the last couple of years I have been exploring coarse fishing far over to the east of me, mainly in Leitrim but as far afield as Roscommon and even Cavan. These journeys take time and money, both of which will be in relatively short supply this year meaning venues closer to home need to be unearthed and researched. These Castlereagh lakes are comfortably under an hours drive from home so they would make good options for me on a summer’s evening if I fancied a short session.

Screenshot of Google maps. It shows three of the lakes., I fished the middle one If you look very closely you can make out some fishing stands

The plains of Mayo stretch across the flat lands from Ballinrobe in the west into the very heart of Ireland to the East. Mostly bog with some farmland, this piece of countryside is also dotted with small, reed fringed lakes. Most of them hold a few small jack pike and some perch, but some also contain other coarse species like bream, rudd and roach. Close to the hamlet of Irishtown lie the three interconnected loughs collectively known as the Castlereagh lakes. That insignificant river which flows through them is a tributary of the Clare River which in turn empties into Lough Corrib eventually. Typical of the area these are small, deep, weed fringed waters which are only lightly fished.

The border between counties Mayo and Galway pass right through the middle of all three lakes. They were developed years ago by the IFI and now boast some angling stands on two of the waters. Access isn’t bad by Irish standards and there is a bit of room to leave the car only the distance of a couple of fields away. I could count twenty similar sized lakes in the countryside of east Mayo which hold stocks of coarse fish but have never been developed for angling. Access to them ranges from difficult/challenging to near impossible with nowhere to park a car, no stiles to cross numerous barbed wire or electric fences, no bridges over deep drains, vast beds of reeds on the shores and no stands or firm bank to fish from. What little funding there is goes to the game angling sector which is understandable given the predominance of trout and salmon fishing on the western side of Mayo. With some money made available there could be a boost to tourism in a part of the county which really needs it if these small lakes were properly developed. The cost would not be huge and the IFI have the knowledge and experience to do it if there was a political will.

A quite moment during a lull in the wind.

These are small lakes and there is no need to go all out with the latest fancy gear to cast over the horizon. The fish will be close to hand and a quiet, gentle approach will serve you well on such waters. It is tempting to think there will only be small fish in these little lakes but the bream can run up to five pounds, a decent size from any lough. The rudd are only small lads though, stunted due to the large numbers of them competing for the scare food supply. The roach are generally on the small side too but I have heard of some being landed that weighed up to a pound. It does not bother me that the potential catch will be small, the incentive for fishing this type of lake is simply to enjoy being out in the countryside on a winters day and immersing yourself in nature. From what I can gather the lakes are more popular with the pike anglers than coarse fishers and seemingly there are a few very large pike in there.

New year, new ideas. Today I set up with much heavier tackle on the feeder rod. A 4000 size baitrunner reel loaded with ten pound mono and eight pound tippet was a serious upgrade on what I used for the past couple of years but I want to cut the losses I suffered on the feeder. I know going to such a big reel is overkill but the only ones I have at the moment for this job are both 4000’s. I am toying with the idea of investing in a smaller baitrunner but it seems like a waste if my current ones do the job satisfactorily. There as a big Daiwa 4500 and and an Okuma 4000 both sitting around so I brought the old grey Okuma with me today.

I also made much more effort with my accuracy by clipping up and increased cast frequency too. This was to try and concentrate the groundbait more tightly and add more to the swim at the same time.

All the reeds have died back

It was a cold morning and the rain was being driven across the lakes by a gale force SSE wind, testing conditions which made for an uncomfortable session. My hands were numb from the very start and they didn’t warm up until I was back at home. My very first cast with the feeder caused me to re-think my plans. The feeder hit the water and took a l-o-n-g time to reach the bottom. What with the strong wind in my face and very deep water even close in I decided I was not going to bother trying the float today. The next time I fish here I will bring some sliding floats but I fished with a solitary feeder this morning.

The cold was penetrating and despite all my layers of clothing I was still chilled as I loose fed the swim slightly off to my right and twenty yards out. I had plenty of maggots and castors with me so I opted for a maggot feeder and didn’t bother making up any groundbait. The gusty wind made bite detection a tad tricky but by keeping the rod point as low as possible I felt reasonably in touch. On the fourth or fifth cast the tip gave a distinct rattle but it failed to develop into a proper bite. The maggots on the size 12 spade end were well chewed when I wound them in so something was willing to have a nibble despite the poor conditions. Another 30 minutes passed then another rattle was also greeted with a strike but nothing on the end. If I was to hazard a guess I think those bites looked like skimmers to me but we will never know for sure. More casts, more loose feeding more cold and rain. Phew, this was hard work!

Finally a solid bite bent the tip and I lifted into a nice fish which turned out to be a good roach. Here was a prize that made all the cold and discomfort worthwhile, it really was a lovely fish. A quick snap or two then off he went back into the depths. I fished on as the weather, which had not been great from the start slowly deteriorated even further. The cold intensified and the wind increased in strength. There was nowhere to hide from the elements in this is low, flat country where any wind scours the fields and lakes. Another two of those rattle type of bites were duly missed but then again I am not sure that whatever was causing them was actually picking up the baited hook. A much more positive initial bite was followed a few seconds later by a second nod of the rod tip and I struck into another, smaller roach.

fine fish

I re-cast and sat it out for maybe another 30 minutes or so but I’ll confess the idea of staying any longer had lost it’s appeal and the forecast for heavy rain and gales this afternoon preyed on my mind. About 11.30 I called it a day and packed everything up before retracing my steps back to the comfort of the waiting car. I noted the time it took on the road home and it turns out these lakes are 45 minutes away precisely.

So what do I make of all that then? Let me jot down the positives first:

  1. The lakes are close to home and that alone is a huge plus point to me.
  2. They obviously have fish swimming around in them. An IFI sign on the roadside listed Pike, Bream, Perch and Roach. I imagine there will be Hybrids in there too and who knows, perhaps some tench as well.
  3. There are a number of fishing stands which, if the one I used is anything to go by, are in good repair and relatively spacious.

How about the negatives then?

  1. Access is not bad I suppose but I had to walk through a farmers yard before reaching the fields. I am not fond of wandering through someone else’s property and of course there is always the danger posed by a farmers dog(s). Such beasts range in temperament from big old softie to the devil incarnate. I did look around to see if there was another access point but I couldn’t see any.
  2. The water is very deep. Now this could just as easily be in the ‘positive’ column as I am generally a big fan of deep water. I’ll plumb the depth on my next visit but I suspect there was at least 20 feet of water close to the edge where I was fishing. That depth just makes float fishing a pain but I can live with that.
  3. I was reluctant to do very much beyond sit and watch the rod tip because of the cold and wet conditions. I felt that dropping hook size from a 12 to a 16 might have resulted in more hook ups but the notion of tying knots just seemed to be too difficult with frozen fingers.
The second roach

For a short session in bad conditions on a new lake I returned home well chuffed with my catch of a couple of roach. We are in the depths of winter and for me catching anything at this time of the year is a bonus. When the weather get warmer I will return to these lakes and fish them much more thoroughly. I might even bring some deadbaiting gear along; these lakes simply screamed PIKE!!! to me.

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