My own boat is out of the water and going off for repairs soon. This is not the disaster it might at first appear as I will have very little time available to fish my usual haunts this season and anyway I have access to lots of other boats owned by friends. Sunday looked like a nice day for a few hours so I arranged to join two mates on Lough Cullin fishing from a borrowed Anglers Fancy. What had started off as a loose agreement between two of us got a bit more complicated after I had bumped into pat on the Main Street on Saturday afternoon but settled on a 10.30 start and we would sort the rest out as we went along.
The lake is mad high right now after recent rain so we were unsure how this would affect the trout fishing. Cullin traditionally starts early with good buzzer hatches in March and April. Some rain to top up the lake is usually a good thing but weeks of downpours mean the level is up a good five feet on normal. Fishing was not actually the highest priority. Tony wanted to try out his engine as he would be fishing the Mask next week, so testing it on relatively benign Cullin was a good idea.
Fly fishing with three in a boat requires a fair degree of skill on the part of all crammed into 19 feet of fibreglass. Casting needs to be timed perfectly and each cast must be carefully directed so as not to cross other lines. In light winds this is fine but in a good blow even the best casters will be tested. Of course the angler in the middle faces the biggest challenges and must be constantly aware of what the other rods are doing to avoid tangles.
Tactics vary quite a lot on the western loughs at this time of year. Some lads are chucking out lures on fast sinkers, Hard core dry fly anglers look out for the hatch and gentle flick small dry buzzers at early risers. The majority though stick to traditional wet fly and that was my chosen method as I set up the fly rod. Small and dark sums up my normal choice of flies for this month, so black pennell, sooty olive and fiery brown on size 12 hooks were going to be my starting trio on a neutral density line. I bailed the boat which had a few inches of water in her then waited for the others to arrive. I passed the time by chatted with two other anglers who were up from Headford for the day. Just I pushed them out into the water both Pat and Tony arrived. And that was when my plans began to unravel….
You see while I had arranged times etc I had not discussed what we were going to fish for and both the others turned up with stout trolling rods and shiny metal baits. Oh well, at least I could sit in the boat and chat to the boys as they trolled for salmon. Then it occurred to me I used to stow a telescopic spinning rod somewhere in the back of the car and a quick rummage unearthed a somewhat ropey looking rod to which I attached an old Cardinal reel. In no time at all we were out on the lake trailing three baits behind us. The next hour-and-a-half was spent catching up on all the local gossip and who had caught what. The weather stayed dry and a cool easterly wind gently ruffled the calm water. It was very pleasant indeed, if not exactly what I had planned for. As we gently puttered along I looked around the boat then broached an obvious question. ‘who has brought a net’? Two blank faces stared back at me; brilliant, we were salmon fishing without a landing net in the boat. ‘If ever there was a certainty it is that we will meet a salmon today’ I said.
Trolling over the usual lies was unproductive so Tony moved further east. The high water made spotting some rocks difficult as the would normally have been well out of the water and so not marked with pins. I was muching of a bit of grub I had taken with me when WHAM!!! Over went my rod, the old Swedish drag screamed and far behind a large silver fish jumped. My silver and gold Toby was dangling from her mouth! Both of the other rods were rapidly wound in and Tony shut off the engine as the fish tore line from the reel. Right from the start I was suspicious though. There was none of that head-shaking that springers indulge in despite the long, fast runs she made. Rod up, let her run when she wants, apply pressure when you get the chance – all the years of experience came flowing back to me and I enjoyed the battle. Once close to the boat I got a look at the fish, still deep but flashing brightly in the tea coloured water. ‘I’m thinking she is a kelt’ I said but the others were not convinced, none of of had ever seen a kelt fight so hard.
Fully ten minutes had passed and the fish was circling the boat. ‘How are you going to get it in here?’ asked Tony. ‘I’ll tail her’ was my none too convincing reply. I have tailed many, many salmon over the years but always from the bank, never a boat. Eventually the fish tired and swam close enough for me to reach into the freezing cold water and grab her at the second attempt. I swiftly swung her aboard and easily removed the one hook of the treble which was far forward in her mouth. Tony took 2 snaps and within seconds she was back in the lake. She fairly shot off as soon as she felt the water again. A very well mended kelt, she will hopefully make it safely back to the salt water.
Kelts are part and parcel of spring fishing. There are endless debates about handling fish we catch if we intend to release them. My personal view is the most important thing is to have the fish out of the water for the absolute minimum amount of time. Less than one minute is OK but less than 30 seconds is better.
We fished on for another hour but there was no more action. Tony opened up the throttle on the way home to give the Johnson a good blast. I toyed with the notion of going back out, this time to fly fish, but I had a lot to do at home so instead I loaded the car and departed once the boat was locked up safely. That rarely used telescopic rod was put back into the nook where it has lived since I bought this car. It handled the task set it today with aplomb so it can stay in the car from now on just in case I get caught again like I did today. The bait was an old ABU Toby, 18 gram in silver and gold. It’s a colour I like on bright days. There are always a few Toby’s kicking about in the car along with fly boxes and spools of line.
Sad to say there has been no progress with the new hotel where Healy’s once stood. Rumors abound but I have no facts regarding what is, or is not, happening. The other hotel in the vicinity, the Pontoon Bridge Hotel, has, like so many others across the country, been transformed into temporary accommodation for the folks fleeing the war in Ukraine. Essential, there are no hotel beds for visitors to Pontoon these days.
It will be a couple of weeks before I venture out for trout or salmon as I am popping over to Scotland for a family visit next weekend. The clocks went forward yesterday so that extra hour of light each evening will allow me to do a bot of coarse fishing in the midlands this week. Hardly as exciting as the silvery salmon but I’ll enjoy the peace and quiet regardless.
One thought on “3 men in a boat”
Lovely post, Colin, next time it will be a springer. No better men to be out with than Pat and Tony! Enjoy the trip to Scotland.