Just down the road

It turned out I was a little hasty in my summation there was no fishing near my new employers factory. For a start, the little drainage ditch I could barely make out at the bottom of an adjacent field turned out to be the river Brosna. Formally a wonderful game fishery full of trout and salmon it has been drained and straightened within an inch of its life. Now the slowly meandering river resembles a canal and is home to roach and pike. I plan on making a few discrete inquiries to see if can get access to trot some maggots this winter. But it was not the Brosna I fished this evening. Instead I crossed into Westmeath and within 30 minutes of pulling out of the car park at work I was beside the royal canal in Ballynacarrigy.

Those loyal readers out there will recall I have been here before. One of my earlier ’32 counties’ forays saw me in the exact same spot one wet December day a couple of years ago. I was hoping for a similarly successful session this time and with much better weather my confidence was high as I tackled up. Laziness got the better of me and I set up the 12 foot rod which was in the back of the car instead of getting out the old ABU float rod. With only a couple of hours of daylight it hardly seemed worth my time trying to be spot on with the gear. A pretty shitty day at work would soon be erased once I was fishing, no matter what rod was in my hand. A size 16 hook which was still on the line from the last outing seemed to be about the right size so I didn’t even bother changing that.

The Royal canal is not deep, a couple of feet of clear water is all that covers the bottom so I was not over fussy about setting the depth and my small waggler got tweaked up the line a little before the first cast and stayed there from then on. A sprinkling of maggots as loose feed then I pinged out the gear a few yards. The slight flow was left to right and my eyes settled on the orange tip to await some action. Not that there was a long wait! My first 20 casts produced eight fish, some tiny roach, a nice hybrid and a few cracking rudd all took confidently and were well hooked when I lifted the rod into them. Then it went quiet – very quiet!

My loose feed had failed to hold the shoal in front of me and the hectic start ended abruptly. Being perfectly honest I was none too bothered, all I had expected of the evening was some time away from work in the fresh air with possibly a couple of small fish. The small margin rod was in the quiver on the ground beside me but it seemed too much like hard work to set it up so I sat contentedly on my stool and fished on as the locals walked their dogs on the path beside me. I love this spot, it is so quiet and relaxing but at the same time I know there are fish there to be caught too.

The lull lasted for about half-an-hour then the float dipped and I managed to miss the bite. Minutes later I repeated the feat and so it continued for a while. Converting what looked to be perfectly good bites into hook ups was beyond me, despite me doing exactly what had worked earlier on. Changing the hook crossed my mind but I felt it was me doing something wrong rather than a tackle issue. Almost by accident I found the answer. By lifting the rod very slowly and winding in at the same time I began to catch again. This was far from 100% successful but every second or third fish was hooked and landed, a reasonable return given how many bites I had been missing before.

The light began to fade and the temperature dropped noticeably. Spotting the tip of the float became ever more difficult and so in the end I called it a day with a grand total of 25 fish on the bank. None were better than 12 ounces or so but there were some very pretty rudd among them. A more committed angler would have set up the leger rod and tried for bream in the main basin but I lacked that determination.

I am fairly sure my float was too light and my shotting pattern was wrong too. A small feeder stream enters the canal just where I was fishing and the turbulence it created warranted a slightly more robust approach. Better contact with the hook might have solved my issues around hooking but hey-ho, I enjoyed my time in Ballinacarrigy anyway. Driving back to my digs meant a journey in the deepening darkness along torturous back roads but I got back safely. I will try to have at least one more session before the end of this month on the Royal canal, either at the same place or maybe in Mullingar. After all, it is only just down the road.

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