Lil’ rainbows

I needed a break from all the coarse fishing I had been doing of late. I love my sessions with the float but a change to freshen things up felt right so I decided to try Pallas Lake near the village of Blue Ball in county Offaly yesterday evening. I will confess that laziness was a major driving force in my decision to fish Pallas lake, it is only a short drive from work thus negating the need for a long and tiring journey. I find that driving to get to the fishing is not the problem, it is coming back that I find hard work. I will be tired and hungry with only a short time left to shower and get into bed. Oh to be young and full of vitality again!

Pallas is stocked by the IFI, usually with a mix of brown and rainbow trout. A shallow, marl lake it is popular with local anglers who fish lures and buzzers. You require a permit to fish the lake but I had one of those folded and tucked away in my waistcoat pocket already. This would be far removed from my ‘normal’ trout fishing on lakes such as Mask and Conn but the chance to flex a fly rod was still tempting. My old Hardy was in the car along with some flies so I sallied forth on a fine May evening, winding down hedge lined back roads, some even sporting a Mohican-like ridge of grass in the middle of them. I crossed the ditch, passed a very tempting pub and zig-zagged over the N52. Rusting metal signposts pointed me to the car park at the end of an overgrown boreen.

On this lough only a small part of the bank is available for fishing, the rest is shrouded in tall reeds. A boat would be a great job but none are available for hire so instead there are a few stands to fish from at the far end of the water. My research threw up dire warnings about wading. Marl bottomed lakes like this one are deadly and you risk a particularly horrible death by drowning in thin mud if you try it. The pale bottom gives the water a tropical opal appearance, very much at odds with the flat green fields around it.

It is May and as this is a marl lake I had high hopes of a few mayfly hatching out. Nothing I had read about this water confirmed there is a hatch of greendrakes but I felt there was a good chance of it. Soft crushed limestone mud is no use for us humans but is the perfect habitat for mayflies. A few basic artificial mays were tucked away in my fly box just in case. Never having fished for stockies with mayflies it would be interesting to see what happened if there was a fall of spinners.

The poor rainbow trout are dismissed by most Irish anglers as unworthy of their attention. Seen as being too easy to catch, they are not worthy of the efforts of any true fly fisher. Being an inherent rebel, I don’t subscribe to this point of view and instead embrace the difference and thoroughly enjoy trying to catch them. A lifetime of blanks has taught me the rainbows can be every bit as tricky to fool sometimes as their brown brethren. I love the dash and verve of their fight when hooked, the sheer power of their runs and exuberance of the inevitable jumps. Yes, I happily cast lures for rainbows no matter how much I further damage my already tarnished reputation. Of course there are perfectly legitimate arguments against stocking non-native fish but a small, isolated water like this one poses no real threat that I can see to our native species. When you look at the huge damage to the environment caused by intensive farming or OPW works then a few rainbow trout is the least of our worries.

Trees shrouded the car park and the small song birds serenaded me as I tackled up before hopping a sturdy wooden style then walking along a soft path through tress and rushes. Strong winds blew in my face but otherwise it was a lovely evening to be out and about. A pair of anglers approached who had obviously just packed up. We chatted and they told me there were trout showing at the first bay but I need waders to get out to them. Hang on, what about the deadly soft bottom? Oh, that’s over the other side they told me as we all looked down at my hopelessly inadequate wellingtons. One of the lads had only fished here a couple of times but the tall dark-haired one was a regular. He reckoned the water was stuffed with trout but they were very small this season. We parted in a hail of ‘good luck’ wishes and I carried on along the track until a reedy bay hove into sight.

It was only now that the shade from the willows was behind me that the strength of the wind became apparent. A steady force 5 was blowing directly down the lake, waves piling against the shore and making the reeds hiss and sing. My choice of the 6 weight rod looked to be another mistake and I pondered going back to the car for my trusty aftm 7. With just a couple of hours allotted for the session it seemed a waste of time to go messing about swapping rods so I set up the light eleven footer then entered the warm water as far as I dare. On the end of the leader I had tied a black goldhead with a green peter on the bob and a silver march brown between them in the middle. Right from the off the wind caused me problems and casting timing had to be altered to cope with it. Two Polish lads set up just after I had commenced operations and they flanked me on both sides, a little too close for comfort. Both struggled badly in the wind and there was a lot of thrashing / cursing / false casting as they tried to lengthen a line against the breeze.

Book-ended as I was, there was little scope to move much so instead I fanned my casts from right to left, then back again, searching the water in front of me. A reed bed 20 yards out from the shore broke the waves and created a calmer area so I tried to cast as close to that as I could. After a fruitless half hour I stopped and changed the top two flies, a bibio and pheasant tail coming off the bench. With no obvious fly life to match my choices were general patterns. A pluck at one of the flies showed me I was doing something right so I plugged away in a wind which was growing stronger if anything. A shorter, stiffer rod coupled with a heavy line would have made things a lot easier for me but the challenge of just getting a line out made for and entertaining evening.

A cast towards that reed bed finally produced a tappy sort of a take and a silvery rainbow fought very well for its small stature before coming to hand. The goldhead was happily lodged far forward in its mouth and was out with a flick in seconds. A quick photo then it was back in the tepid water once again. The fish would have struggled to make a pound in weight and bore the scars of a tangle with a pike on its sides. Far from the biggest rainbow I have ever landed but a very welcome fish from a new water to me. I resumed my unequal battle with the wind………

With the pressure off I changed flies a couple of times, looking for something the fish would be more keen to take. Perhaps another 45 minutes passed and I decided to make a move. Stripping in the fly line I felt a faint tap and on the next strip a firm hook up. This one was the same size as my first trout and it had taken a small cat on the tail. To the obvious disgust of my fellow anglers I returned this rainbow too then wound in and headed off further along the bank.

I tried a couple of other spots but with no joy. The casting was a little easier but there were no takers so I marched on a bit further to a small point with deep water and some rocks in front of it. Here I quickly had a take which I missed, then a hook up to a small fish which turned out to be a rudd. To cut a long story short I landed half-a-dozen prime rudd in quick succession. A fellow angler who had been fishing from an impressive stand at the far end of the lake stopped for a chat and he passed on some useful information to me. Hunger was beginning to knaw at me so it seemed to be a good time to call it a day. Retracing my steps I was soon back at the car, tired after a long day at work then the fresh air of this session on the lake.

What to make of all that then? I liked Pallas, its not a prime fishery but it is a pleasant spot to fish for a couple of hours. The surrounding trees and bushes are full of rotund, rosy-chested bullfinches, delicate siskins and other song birds who kept up a wondrous chorus as I fished. It has a lovely relaxing feel to it and as it is relatively close to where I am working these days I am planning on making regular visits. I’d rather be in a drifting boat on Mask or Conn but I can’t so places like Pallas lake will have to do for now. It could be an awful lot worse!


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