Of diggers and nippers

It has been a tough week. The first few days back in the reality of my job after a holiday were never the best but work was unremittingly stark and even when I went fishing for a couple of hours things did not work out as I had planned. Such is life and the minor inconveniences I am going through are of little consequence when measured against the plight of others.

This is the end of April so lough fishing back at home in Mayo is taking off. Oh how I want to be drifting on Mask or Corrib, but instead I can only fish lesser waters for roach and such like. A pint of maggots, bought in Athlone on Monday evening, gave me sufficient bait for at least two outings with float and leger. So I took myself off to the River Hind in Roscommon on a cool, breezy Tuesday evening, hoping to find a shoal of little silver fish. Parked up, I set up with a 12 foot rod and centre pin reel, then clambered over a five bar gate into a filed of cattle. The Hind flowed serenely past, the gin clear water allowed me to see ever feature on the bottom but hard as I tried, I could not see a single fish. Trotting a single maggot on a size 16 hook, tossing in loose fed maggots and moving gradually down the river from the concrete bridge felt like the right approach but I registered not a single bite, despite diligent angling.

An abandoned yellow digger sat close to the edge halfway down a field and while retrieving a cast made near the rusty machine a large bow wave formed close behind my green coloured float. As I wound in and watched the unmistakable shape of a good pike could be discerned as it homed in on my float. The wake from said float must have attracted the pike and just as I lifted it out f the water he slashed wildly at it, missing by millimetres. Mr. pike sank to near the bottom and hung about for a while before slouching off up the river. Fetching an old spinning rod from the car, I returned to waste an hour hurling a silver spoon around but of course the pike had long gone by then. So, as the light began to fade, I packed up and drove back to the digs. What lessons could I learn? None spring to mind, there were no roach there in the part of the Hind I was fishing. Perhaps they were further upstream, or below where I was but there were certainly none in my immediate vicinity. ‘Tis hard to catch fish when there are none there.

Wednesday dawned cool and cloudy. Morning found me tired after a bad night’s sleep. Dragging myself through a day of meetings and misfortunes, I emerged into the evening sunlight and decided to try the Grand Canal for an hour. Pollagh, a hamlet between Clara and Ferbane, sits close to the canal so I pitched up there and assembled two rods to use up the dregs of my maggots. I needed an early success after yesterday evening’s disastrous blank and sure enough, about 20 minutes in the float gave the meekest of trembles as an 8 ounce roach felt my hook. No sooner had I released it when a copper-header gosser rode up on his bike and began to fire questions at me. What was I using for bait (maggots) – they’re rubbish, you should be using bread. Why was I fishing there (somewhere to start) – ‘ders no fish in there, I know it. What size hook do you have tied on? (A size 16) – why? Da’t too small, and so it continued for about five minutes until he got fed up with this useless angler and sped off on his bike again. I fished on with my crap maggots and caught bugger all.

Maybe 30 minutes later I looked along the canal and saw my red-haired advisor fishing. The rod looked to be far to short and I could see his line from here so it was far too thick. Hang on, what the…….. he is into one!!! That one fell off, and so did the next he hooked only seconds later, before he wound in a small fish. That was enough for me and I had packed up and lopped off down towards him in jig time. Sure enough, the surface of the canal was pock-marked with huge chunks of Brennan’s white pan loaf. As I observed, a good sized rudd came up and started to nibble one piece. Duracell whacked an insanely noisy cast out in the general direction of said rudd and immediately hooked it only for that one to fall off as well. He let out a loud curse. I laid the rest of my gear in the grass and tipped my small hook with a white maggot. a gentle swing and my float was in the middle of the floating slices.

The next half-an-hour saw manic action to my rod with a string of rudd up to an easy pound in weight plus a small perch and a few normal sized roach. My companion connected with just as many fish as I did but he landed only a tiny proportion. Trying to be the caring teacher I offered a new set of end gear but that was refused with disdain. I asked how long he had been ground baiting with bread to which he retorted in perfect Irish logic ‘since I was six and I am twelve now’. That my friends is dedication to ground baiting! With finer tackle the youngster would have outfished me, but the hook was only an inch from the white float he was using and the hook itself looked like a size 6 or 8. His line was braid which he said he preferred ‘in case I hook a pike’. And so we fished on, me being quiet and careful, him lashing out casts like he was using a beachcaster and stomping around the bank like he was trying to scare the fish off. His mam finally appeared and ushered her lad back home. Not long after that I too called it a day and walked back to the car and the drive home to my digs.

It is hard to be objective when a whipper-snapper has just given you a lesson in fishing. The young fella knew what he was doing and with a bit less bravado he could have learned a bit more. Despite his claimed six years of experience he did not know he was catching rudd, he thought they were roach. His tackle was brutally heavy, hence the poor hooking, but I have to say he rose just as many as I did.

All in all I had a tough couple of evenings fishing with not a lot to show for my efforts but at least I got some fresh air and distraction from work. This weekend I plan to be out on the loughs back in Mayo, so please God the weather is good and fish hungry. I hope there are no orange-headed kids around!


11 thoughts on “Of diggers and nippers

  1. Kids eh. It’s surprising what you can learn from them. I’ve been shown up by them before despite them doing everything ‘wrong’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not the first time I have had to eat humble pie in the company of a child but it does not get any easier to swallow. To be honest this has been coming for a while, my over-reliance on maggots was always going to catch up with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A couple of alternative baits can be useful even if it’s different coloured maggots. I nearly always have a small tin of sweetcorn. Bread is a problem as I don’t normally have white bread in the house so have to by a loaf and end up only using two or three slices.


      2. I just can’t catch on sweetcorn! I have tried lots of times without so much as a single bite. I’ll keep giving it a go but the lack of confidence in it is part of the problem I suppose.


  2. Interesting –
    Evening one, one of my simplistic mantras is that if there are pike there must be prey fish. Not helpful, but there’s some logic in my mantra.
    Evening two, interesting and frustrating but that’s life. Perhaps floating crust, fished with a bit more finesse than matey boy employs, is an approach you should consider over the summer. My other thought is that I have it my head that the fish we English call roach are or were called rudd and vice versa in Ireland. Is that true or something I’ve made up.


    1. Evening 1 – the roach apparently don’t thrive in the Hind but migrate up it during the winter, dropping back into the lough around this time of year. I suspect recent high water ‘flushed’ them out sooner than I had expected. Where I was fishing was only a few yards from the lough so the pike could easily go back there if there were no prey species around.
      Evening 2 – It seems each time I bring bread/crust with me I am plagued by swans. I know I need to be more adventurous with hook baits so that is firmly part of my plans this summer.
      The roach/rudd thing is complicated here. Rudd are native and used to be everywhere. Roach were introduced by pike anglers and have spread to most waters now, usually in vast numbers. Hybrids are very common, just to add to the confusion. Yes, most small, silvery coarse fish are lumped together as ‘roach’ in Ireland with only serious anglers bothering to try and identify exact species.


      1. Actually I concur below netting size size, roach or rudd or hybrid does it really matter? I fear I use bleak as a generic for anything small, silvery and caught up in the water in a river!
        Yes, whilst prey fish won’t be far away, I get that pike, much like Tirpitz in its fjord, will hide away in an inlet. The very definition of a ‘fleet in being’.
        Enjoy the weekend.



  3. Hope the Lough fishing is warmer for you than it would be here…think all you would catch on a Loch just now would be Frost bite. Annoying because two weeks back on the River it was glorious and warm and the fish were on the rise. Hopefully spring proper arrives soon. Tight lines.


  4. Promised mild this weekend for a change so hopefully the fishing will be comfortable and productive. It was the same over here, warming up nicely a fortnight ago only for another cold snap this week.


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