I had hoped to fish on Sunday but in truth I was exhausted so took some time out to rest and gather my strength. Ghillieing on Saturday followed by a couple of drinks that night proved to be too much for my covid damaged body and so I made flies and drank coffee while listening to old records on the Sabbath. Heavy rain soaked the garden that morning as the salmon flies piled up on my desk. At least making fishing flies does not require much on the way of physical energy.
Yesterday I rose early and feeling better decided to try a few hours on lough Conn. What better way is there of spending a bank holiday Monday? Most of the gear was still in the car from Saturday with the exception of my trolling rod and lures. Yellow rod with the small multiplier attached were swiftly located and I was soon ready to go. Salmon were being caught at the bridge in Pontoon but so far I had not heard of any from the lough itself. Maybe today I would bump into one.
The track which leads to were my boat is berthed was a muddy obstacle course so I parked at the slipway and then rowed the boat back there after baling two inches of water. A fly rod, the heavy trolling rod, tackle bag, kettle and all the other paraphernalia I drag along were safely stored, engine secured and fuel tank connected. One last look around to make sure I had everything then with a push on the oars I was out into the damp greyness. There pulls on the cord then the engine chugged into life. As I left the smooth waters of the bay behind and turned into the white tops, the boat began bucking in the wind. Spray soon soaked me but I paid the discomfort little heed, if you don’t like getting wet you have no business being afloat on a Irish lough. The ancient copper and silver coloured Toby flickered below as I shaped a course for Chain Island via Castlehill.
I understand most anglers disdain for trolling but for me it breaks up the day and is something different to try. I find casting all day tiring now so a little bit of dragging baits allows my arm to recover a little. It also allows me time to look around and explore. I lack the patience to spend hour after hour on the troll but a little bit now and again suits my style of spring fishing.
Castlehill is a lovely bay to fish. Sheltered from all but a south wind, it is shallow and stuffed with fish. During the four years I lived in England before returning to Ireland I used to dream of being afloat on the ruffled surface of Castlehill. So many memories of great fishing there kept me sane while living in the metropolis. Now, here I was, in Nephin’s shadow, the hungry-eyed ghosts of Addergoole cemetery watching me as I ever so slowly turned the boat a hundred and fifty yards from their cold headstones. The dense weeds have not grown yet so it was still possible to troll the productive waters near the shore. I tried along the edges of the dead reeds but there were no offers so I headed out of the bay and hugged the shore to the islands. Rougher out here, I had to work to maintain a straight course and in the end I decided to stop fishing and motor up to Bog Bay. The good swell pushed me along and the heavens opened up in a drenching shower. Between the rain and the spray it felt like someone was standing in the bows chucking buckets of icy water over me but I made good progress and was soon in calmer waters.
Once in the bay I stowed the trolling rod and started drifting and casting a team of wets, all the time looking for any signs of life. Conditions were great except for the total lack of fly life on the water. It is mid-April and duckfly should be hatching in this area in number and some olives should be on the wing too but none were to be seen today. Another shower came rattling in from behind Nephin so I headed ashore on one of the islands and took shelter till the worst of the rain and wind has passed. Under the straggly trees I found small olive green buzzers but none of the big black lads the trout seem to prefer. Any negative thoughts about the falling rain were dispelled as I pondered the drought which blights so many parts of the world. People and livestock are dying of thirst so a few drops falling on my head were not a big problem in the grand scheme of things.
Slate coloured skies gave way to palest blue and as quickly as it had started the rain eased off. Clambering aboard, I was soon out on the water again and I fished hard for an hour, trying the spots where Conn has been good to me in seasons past but today it was not to be. Usually dependable flies failed to stir the trout as I drifted over lovely holding water. Fiery Brown, Sooty Olive and Bibio were united in their disgrace. Enough was enough and I steamed back down the Errew Shore and into the wide expanse of the lower lough and the long haul home across the deeps.
So no fish today but that feeling of the old boat bucking under me as I drove through the foam topped waves was enough to satisfy me this holiday Monday. Flies will hatch soon and with them the trout will look up and take our offerings once again. Spring fishing can be hit or miss, you need to take the bad days along with the good ones. Better times lie ahead.