Busy morning in Sligo

‘Showers, heavy at times, clearing to the east in the afternoon’. That is what the forecast said so I looked out my waterproofs and stowed them in the car. A planned sea fishing trip had to be called off due to high winds on Saturday so I was mad keen to get out and do some kind of fishing and Monday looked to be a free day. Maggots in the fridge meant I would be able to indulge in a bit of coarse fishing and I decided to head on up to my favourite lough in county Sligo, Ballinascarrow.

I toyed with the idea of taking the light leger rod with me for a change. It has hardly seen the bankside this year and it would be nice to fish with again after so long. The thing is, if I fish a float rod and the light leger in the margins I am missing out on blasting a swimfeeder into the middle of the lough where the big bream hang out. In the end I bring all three rods with me, I will decide when I get there which two I will use. So off I went in the blue-grey semi-darkness of the early morning bound for Ballymote. The promised rain ran down the gutters and gurgled into the drains as I drove off through the sleepy town.

Like and aging Hollywood starlet, the summer is wrinkled but still beautiful. The combines have shaved the fields to leave golden stubble while the mountain ash bend under the weight of their crimson berries. I should be on Mask or Conn, catching fat trout on wet flies but the big lakes have yet to awaken from the slumber of July’s heat, hence my day chasing skimmers and hybrids. No matter, I have done little in the way of coarse fishing this summer so it will be nice to have a peaceful day watching a float.

Ballinascarrow looks pretty much like hundreds of other loughs scattered across the border counties. A thick belt of reeds encircles the water but a few well constructed stands make for easy access. What makes it so attractive to me is the seemingly huge head of fish who live there. I have never blanked when fishing this lough and usually do very well with skimmers and hybrids. Would today be any different?

The water treatment equipment is a bit of an eyesore

Once in the rough little car park I unload and don my waterproofs in the heavy mist then hop over the fence and head down the mossy track to the water’s edge. The second stand along is my preferred one so I set up there, the wooden slats horribly slippery under foot. The decision on which leger rod to use is a hard one but in the end I go for the medium feeder and leave the legerlite in the quiver for the day.

My groundbait lacked any degree of science and instead was composed of the bits and pieces of different bags that had accumulated in my rucksack recently. The last scrapings from the bottom of a bag of hemp, some brown crumb, a handful of sweetcorn, a little left over Sensas Lake were mixed and some castors added for good measure. Four balls each into a swim three rod lengths out and I was fishing. I fired a maggot feeder out into the middle of the lough, the size 10 hook baited with a worm which I hoped would tempt a big bream. Instead that rod would produce skimmers all day, apart from one exception.

The float rod is next and right from the off I was kept bust as the waggler hardly had time to settle before the fish were at the bait. A good skimmer first, then two smallish roach liked my maggots. Next a bream of a couple of pounds pulls the float under and more skimmers follow almost immediately. I am sopping wet just from the walk down the lane but the mist shows no signs of relenting any time soon. At least I am catching fish and a steady stream of roach and skimmers take my mind off the wetness around me. With only about five feet of water in the swim it is a joy to fish the small waggler. Bites come in all sorts, ranging from the merest twitch to full blown disappearance and everything in between. I miss a lot of bites but that is to be expected when skimmers are on the go.

Some bream show up, not big fish but still very welcome. I guess the heaviest was about three pounds but most of the shoal weighed closer to two. The rain eased off and the day grew warm and muggy. Still the float trembled and dived at regular intervals while the feeder, which had been doing well to start with went quiet. It did finally burst into life when the reel screeched as something descent pulled hard. Setting the hook, I played the fish closer, hoping it was going to be one of the big old bream but instead a thin green fish twisted and rolled before me, a great big eel! Let me skip over the finer points of removing my hook from the beast, all you need to know is I ended up covered in slime and the fish swam off none the worse for our meeting. What with the vigorous eel and numerous skimmers, my tackle and clothes were by now reduced to a stinking mess.

More fish followed even after I broke down the feeder rod to concentrate on the waggler. As an experiment I swapped the maggots on my hook and fished with half a worm instead for a while with no obvious reduction in bites. The drawback with this was that the skimmers were very adept at sucking the worm off the size 14 hook, so I gave that up and went back to the maggot for the last part of the session.

Bream

Looking to the south I could see the grey clouds darkening so at just after one o’clock I packed up and made my way back to the car. I did not keep a count but my rough estimate of the morning’s catch would be somewhere over 60 fish. Mainly skimmers of up to about a pound, there were also beam up to three pounds, a smattering of hybrids and some roach. A solitary small perch and the eel made up the balance of the catch. Not too bad for me, certainly one of my more productive sessions this year. Everything loaded in the car, I drove off down the pot holed lane and before I had even reach the main road a heavy shower splashed down.

I have a real soft spot for Ballinascarrow, it never lets me down and seems to be stuffed with fish. The quality of the bream is outstanding, each one equipped with huge tail fins and an unusual willingness to put up a struggle when hooked. At less than an hour from home it is pretty close as coarse fishing venues go so it really does have it all going for it in my book. All morning fish were dimpling the surface of the lough and I presume these were rudd. I am seriously thinking of bringing a fly rod with me the next time I hit this lough, I am sure that small nymphs would catch whatever is feeding on the top. While most to the surface action was tiny fish there were some heavy ones at it too.

At home now, I need to sort out the unholy mess that is my tackle after a damp, sticky and smelly session. It feels like a very small price to pay for an excellent morning’s sport in that quiet corner of Sligo.

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