A long time coming

I finally got out to do a small bit of fishing today, the first time I wet a line since last autumn. My plans to dabble with coarse fishing throughout the winter months came to naught and a thin film of grey dust had gathered on the boxes of tackle piled in the corner of the spare room. Work was at the very root of this malaise of course, it consumes me not just Monday to Friday but means every weekend is a busy two day long catch up on the rest of normal life. Spending time with herself, doing the weekly shop, minor jobs around the house and the rest of modern life’s lesser tasks require hours of any free time I might have. This existence, lived far from home, leaves me tired and listless so even when opportunities to grab a rod and reel presented themselves I lack the energy to seize the chance. Tuesday was the evening when I broke that cycle.

Cold and dry probably sums up this winter. Our normal Irish seasons have changed it seems and the succession of westerly gales with their canopy of rain we are so used to cursing did not appear as expected. High pressure in the east allowed largely calm and frosty weather to last for weeks at a time. Our land is dry and the rivers are low, not good signs for the coming year. There is time yet I suppose and March can often be a month of wild weather in these parts. At least it meant that I’d be dry this Tuesday.

Just blowing away the cobwebs was all I had in mind, a chance to ease myself back into angling after the enforced lay off. Only the old float rod came with me as with limited time before darkness fell I did not want to be faffing about with a feeder as well. I fished the Royal canal at Ballynacarrigy, one of my favourite spots where a wide harbour below a lock is home to some roach and hybrids. By the time I got there a scant hour or so of daylight remained but I figured I was still in with a chance of a few bites.

Lacking any depth of coarse fishing experience, I tend to fret about most aspects of the sport. Fly fishing is easy in comparison, a lifetime of swishing fly rods at trout and salmon gives me a basic level of confidence to work off. Not so with roach and their kin, so a cold evening in March on the canal had me guessing what was the best approach. Setting up, I shotted the ancient waggler float with a single shot at the joint to the hook link and two to lock the base of the float. My logic being it was too early for any rudd to be cruising in mid water so it was best to just get down fast and stay there.

Which hook to use was my next quandary. Cold water suggested to me that smaller was better so a barbless 18 on a two pound botttom link came out of the rig wallet and was looped on to the main line. I struggle to understand why roach are more wary in cold water, does it have something to do with clarity? The maggots were skinny little things so I figured I could squeeze two of them on the hook if necessary. For a start I’d settle for just the one though. I tossed in a few of the grubs as a loose feed. With time short I decided not to bother with ground bait even though there was some in a bag in the back of the car.

Relaxing on the seat is a balm to both body and soul. I’m still recovering from last week which started with a business trip to Milan and ended with a nasty head cold. Resting and recuperating over the weekend did not go to plan so here I am precariously perched by the canal feeling like I want to curl up on the bank and go to sleep. It was colder than I had hoped for and I was glad of all the layers I was wearing but even still my hands were frozen from the start of the session and they never warmed up at all.

So I settled into the familiar rhythm of casting and re-baiting frequently so there was always a fresh maggot on the hook. About twenty minutes had passed when the float shot off and I lifted into my first roach of the year. A plump fish that required netting was a very nice way to open my account but try as I might to lure some more the swim went quiet on me. I fiddled about with the drop and swapped one shot for a slightly smaller one to lift the tip of the float a little but nothing stirred for a long time. No matter, it was a lovely evening to be out and about and I just soaked in the peace and quiet.

A firm plunge of the float looked as if it was due to a good fish but it turned out to be a minute perch instead. He was soon back in the cold water, none the worse for wear and I resumed operations again as the sun began to set. The already cold air lost what little heat there had been and I began to shiver ever so slightly. A cast just beyond the rod tip had been sitting unmolested for a few minutes when I thought I saw a tremble. I wasn’t sure so I left it to develop. Again, there was the faintest of movements so I lifted and set the small hook in another good roach which bent the rod for a minute until he slid into the meshes. A snap, a memory created as I watched the flash of underwater silver, then he was gone. I fished on a little longer but I knew any chance of further sport was receding fast with the onset of darkness. So I packed up and headed for the car as the western sky turned the colour of a ripe nectarine.

I made myself some pasta when I got back to the digs, wolfing it down in front of the roaring turf fire. Only a little more than one hour had passed on the towpath earlier this evening but the simple joy of fishing again flowed through me as I sat in the glow of the flames. It is probable this year will be a lot like this evening, short sessions with not much to show for them. I don’t mind, in fact I think I can say I am looking forward to these odds and ends of angling. Of necessity, it had been a coarse session this time but I am hankering to get the fly rods out and fish for trout again. I am up and running, later than I had planned but it is onward and upwards from now on.


5 thoughts on “A long time coming

  1. Another good read.

    Fine tackle in Winter – I think water clarity is a factor, but I’ve also always assumed that as fish are less hungry in winter they have time to more wary. In the Summer when they need more food and the competition factor kicks presumably they abandon caution? Well, other than when I am the bank obviously. I guess too there is a gearing factor to water clarity in the summer as ground bait clouds and fish activity stirring up silt will further make hooks and line less noticeable. That’s my thoughts anyway!



    1. I have read about the water clarity in wi ter being a factor but Irish canals are gin clear all year round. I’m leaning more towards reduced metabolic rate in cold water but I suppose only a fish biologist could give that any credence.


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