Ramblings of a restless angler

May I apologise in advance, this is just a random collection of thoughts with no real structure or purpose! This is what happens when an angler is not fishing and has time to think. I promise my next post will be more focused.

I was looking at some gear in my local tackle shop last week. How come you always see something that can convince yourself you need? I bought a reel to replace one which had recently died on me, a smooth little Okuma with more ball bearings than I have brain cells. A display of new nets caught my eye, including a brightly coloured keep net. I don’t like keep nets. There, it’s out and I don’t mind if that upsets some folks.

Keep nets have long been an integral part of coarse fishing. The idea behind them is that an angler retains the fish she/he has caught by popping them into a deep net which is submerged and pegged into the bank beside them. At the end of the session or competition the fish are emptied out and either weighed, photographed or simply released straight away. That sounds pretty innocuous but I have concerns about the welfare of the fish. Let me explain.

The days of old knotted mesh nets are long gone so the knotless nature of modern keepnets certainly means they are less damaging to the fish. The problem for me is how they are all crammed in there. A decent day’s fishing may result in 30 or more fish all packed into a relatively small space and I can’t but help think this has to be stressful for the poor critters. I understand that the competition lads need them but for me as a purely pleasure angler they are simply not required.

This line of thought obviously leads us down the rabbit hole of ‘are fish sentient’? As I am not a biologist I have no idea of the consciousness or self awareness of other creatures so this aversion to keep nets because they might scare little fish is built on very shaky ground. All I can say by way of justification is it looks like it may stress fish to be in close confinement for a period of hours to me.

Another possible negative in the use of keepnets arises in heavily fished venues. I suspect (but I could be wildly wrong) that pike can learn that keepnets are sources for an easy meal. I am not suggesting for a minute that there is anything wrong with pike just doing what pike do and eat smaller fish, but corralling the silvers and then releasing them into the waiting maws of the pike just feels a bit off to me. 

Maybe I am just being over-sensitive and keepnets are perfectly harmless but I won’t be investing in one. Seeing each fish swim off after I have unhooked it is one of the things I love about fishing. This is most definitely an age thing, as a lad clunking a trout over the head to take it home for dinner was my delight. I shudder to think how many fish met that fate by my hand all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I still take an occasional sea fish for the table but when it comes to coarse fish they all go back. The rules here in Ireland allow anglers to keep up to 4 coarse fish per session, something I personally feel should be changed and a strict C&R rule enforced. Some previously productive venues have been systematically emptied by so-called anglers fishing for the pot or to sell the catch. Imposing C&R would eliminate any doubt and mean that prosecutions should at least be easier to procure.

Back to those nets – the thought of having something else to lug around is another factor for me. I need to reduce the amount of gear I haul around with me, not add any more! I look on enviously at the guys in other countries who have those huge barrows for transporting their gear to the peg. Try that in Ireland where we typically have to negotiate half an acre forestry, a couple of 6 foot wide drains, three sodden fields and a dozen barbed wire fences to reach the thick belt of reeds at the edge of the lake! No, I don’t think yet another bloody great net is going to feature in my shopping list this year (but I do fancy one of those lovely 14 foot feeder rods!!!!).

Talking about feeders, I have been thinking about my normal feeder set up and how it could be improved. I’ve been using a twizzled boom fashioned from the end of my main line for a couple of season now and while it works OK there is a bit of faffing around when setting up. I search around ‘tinternet provided a few different options for me to try and one in particular caught my eye. This is a twizzled boom but one that can be pre-made. I made some up to try out the next time I am fishing and popped them into my rig wallet. Here is a link for you:

My plans for this month are limited. I want try and fit in another one of the 32 counties, weather permitting. I am toying with the idea of tackling Co. Wexford which is a long haul to the other end of the country for me so reasonable weather conditions are a must. Otherwise February is looking quiet for me. A trip over to Leitrim maybe and possibly another new lake for me to try down in Galway might be my stretch. Cloondroon lake lies a couple of kilometres south of the Castlereagh lakes I fished last Sunday so it is on my hit list. Bream, roach, perch and pike are all present there I hear. Lough Aclaureen is another possibility. This small lake lies further to the west and quite close to Tuam. The little I know of it suggests it used to hold roach, bream and tench but nobody I have talked to thinks it has been fished for years so anything (or nothing) might be swimming about in there now.

The cool wind outside is damp making my outdoor chores unpleasant but we have had no real rain to speak of this year so far. January is normally a wet month with day after day of heavy rain coming in off the Atlantic, but not this year. Is this just a small anomaly or another sign of bigger changes. Rivers are at summer levels which seems to be a bad thing, spates tend to push any salmon that have survived spawning back out to sea where they can heal and feed again. Low water might delay that downstream movement leaving the weakened fish susceptible to disease and predators.

Inner debate regarding salmon fishing this coming season still rages inside me, will I do more salmon fishing or less. I bought a salmon licence so I can fish Beltra, Conn and Carrowmore but I haven’t committed beyond that so far. Years ago I would fish both Louisburg rivers, the Bunowen and Carrownisky and I’m toying with buying a permit for them again for 2022. Small, intimate streams, they are the epitome of west of Ireland spate rivers which area joy to run a fly through. Thinking back, I stopped fishing them due mainly to my arthritis which peaked back in 2015. The walking and wading just became too painful to keep river fishing. Now I am far from pain free but most days it is manageable and I can picture me out on the Bunowen in a falling spate working small flies over the lies once again.

Sea trout from the Bunowen, 2015

Talking about salmon, the Glenisland Coop has a committee meeting this evening, a sign that Covid restrictions are beginning to relax over here. I’m looking forward to seeing the lads again and catch up with their news. The improvement works at the harbour were a big success so what project to tackle next is the question for us. I hardly fished Beltra last season but I heard the fishing was ‘patchy’. Weather always plays such a big part of fishing this lough so the dry start to the year does not bode well.

Apologies, I have been rambling on a bit! I am finding work is taking up far too much of my time these days so planning my fishing this year is going to be vital if I am going to make the best of what little time becomes available.

4 thoughts on “Ramblings of a restless angler

  1. I’ve not used a keep net since my late teens/early twenties (I didn’t write the date down) so i’m with you on that one. I guess it is an odd one, as it is case of where do you draw the line, which is probably a personal call for most of us.

    There is a theory that returning caught roach can spook the shoal. However, on the other side of the coin Mark Wintle, in one or other of his You Tube videos, argued that retaining roach will make them extra wary of being caught again.

    I will probably witter on at some point about my local lake (Mudeford Woods) becoming harder once the match season is in full swing …. and they love their matches!

    My other thought is that, your 32 County Challenge aside, you do ideally need to find a ‘reliable’ coarse fishery in easy range of Bumbler Towers. As you moving soon anyway, can you not add this to the location criteria? I’m sure Helen will understand!

    Have you done anything to ease the arthritis, mine is mild but I’m sure it is only headed in one direction.

    Clive

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    1. The whole question of where we are going to end up living is a nightmare Clive! There is very little on the market and it looks like a case of beggars can’t be choosers. I’d like to remain in or around Castlebar but we are looking at Claremorris and Ballina too. I don’t fancy Ballina, it is handy for the east side of lough Conn but not much else. Claremorris actually has a couple of coarse lakes in the town but they are heavily fished and apparently not much good. The mix of game fishing (mainly to the west) and coarse fishing (mainly to the east) means Castlebar is still the best option for me. The lakes at Irishtown are a real find for me. Easy travelling distance and with a good head of fish I will be fishing them a lot in the future. My biggest problem remains buying maggots, the nearest stockist is in Carrick-on-Shannon, over an hour’s drive from Castlebar.
      My arthritis was very, very bad. So bad I could not climb a staircase or walk more than a few yards. I had tried the medical route and been on most drugs available. Injections into the joints only gave relief for a few days then I was back to being crippled again. I read somewhere that to reduce the inflammation you had to find what was causing it and it was often something you were eating. I cut virtually everything out of my diet, eating only rice, veg and fish for a few weeks. The difference after only two weeks was amazing! Gradually re-introducing different foods it became clear that sugar (in any form) was the main culprit. I found that I didn’t miss meat so became vegetarian. These days I am far from perfect but then I have let my diet slip a bit. I also found a glucosamine gel which gives relief if the pain gets very bad. I have accepted I am not going to be cured and the disease is still progressing in the background (both hands are giving me some pain now) but the change in diet slowed it down.

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