Typical sessions

Back home. It is Friday evening and I have driven back to Mayo after another week away in the midlands. The days are flying by and it is hard to figure where this year is going. It was just the other day when I was scraping frost of the windows of the car each morning. Now spring is in full bloom across Ireland. In the west the salmon run has finally picked up and a few springers are around. The mayfly are hatching and I presume my fellow lough anglers are all catching their fair share of brown trout. To say I am envious of them is a huge understatement. I feel sick in the pit of my stomach when I think of all the days on the loughs I am missing out on due to work commitments. Even when I do return to the right side of the Shannon there are household duties to be attended to so it’s not like days afloat with the rods are awaiting me.

In an effort to assuage these destructive thoughts I have been doing a little coarse fishing after work. It’s not the same as fly fishing on the big lakes but what else can I do? longer evenings allow me to spend a couple of hours trying out different sections of the Grand and Royal canals while at the same I am scouting the country for any trout fishing possibilities. Last week was fairly typical, two short evening sessions sandwiched in between long days at work and a few hours of fitful sleep.

Tuesday saw me trying a new lough for me, Slevin’s lough near to Mullingar. A little research had shown me there were a few fish in there and it was within relatively easy travelling distance. Parked up on the side of the busy N52, I walked down a path through the tress until a timber stand came into view. I knew there was a 30 metre walkway further on but I was not going to go that far, so I tackled up in the pleasantly warm mid-May air and settled down to see what might transpire. despite frequent clear outs of that big black seatbox it still weighs a ton and I’m contemplating investing in a small barrow.

With worm on the feeder and maggots on the float rod I was trying to cover more than one base at a time. I could see rudd topping but I had plumbed to fish hard on the bottom, hoping for something bigger from the depths. Soon the feeder gave a rattle and a small skimmer came to hand, quickly followed by three of its brethren to the float fished grubs. Next a tiny perch and a nice roach made the float bob before it was back to the feeder and another pair of skimmers. All seemed to be going well up until then but after the initial burst of activity it all went dreadfully quiet.

Changing down to smaller hooks and switching from worm to maggots on the feeder only produced a six inch perch and a rudd over the next 30 minutes or so. While the fishing had slowed perceptively the birdsong had been increasing and the chorus from the surrounding trees was deafening.  I stuck it out for a while longer but that feeling of deadness hung over the lake and I knew the game was up.

Trudging back to the car I tried to surmise where it had all gone wrong for me but in truth that is just fishing for you. One minute the fish are willing feeders and the next they go off. A couple of hours sitting by the water of a spring evening is lovely even if the fish don’t want to play. The wind, which seems to be blowing constantly this year, had ruffled the surface making bite detection a tad challenging for me, requiring a high level of concentration on my part. My worn catapult has almost disintegrated and I’ll have to buy a new one. All minor issues which kept me concentrating and distracted from the difficulties at the office. It ended up as one of those middling sort of sessions, not much happened but then again it was not quiet either.

With bait left over I decided to fish again on Thursday evening. My plan was to try a section of the Royal canal which was new to me but somehow I contrived to take a wrong turning the other side of Ballymahon. Turning around, I parked up beside the canal all right but not the bit I wanted. A quick reccy showed that here was a wide bend full of weeds and some rudd rising here and there. This would do! The old familiar setting up procedure followed and I was soon fishing in a heavy shower. Once again, right from the off I was into fish but they were just small rudd which intercepted my maggots on a size 18 as they floated down to the bottom. One rudd might have made 8 ounces but the rest were smaller than that. Thankfully, the rain eased off, giving way to a perfect May evening of bright sunshine and blue skies.

The rudd would hit every cast for a while then it went quiet for the next 20 minutes or so. For no obvious reason they came back on again, scoffing the maggots regardless of their colour. Red is my personal preferred shade but the red ones in the mixed box were less lively than their un-dyed friends. Mixing both colours didn’t seem to make a whole pile of a difference to catch rate. I was fishing with a size 16 hook and impaling a pair of maggots but in an effort to attract something bigger I switched up to a 14 and loaded it with 4 or 5 maggots. That did little or nothing to deter the voracious rudd who kept up their assault on the sinking bait just about every other cast. Spent mayfly in good numbers were laying eggs and dying close to me yet strangely not a single one was eaten by the rudd.

The float dipped once more and I lifted into the expected wriggle and flash of silver but instead something big shook its head near the bottom and took off to my right. Jumping up I flung the feeder rod out of the way and bent into the fish. Surely this was a tench? Deep and strong the fight raged on and I got a few tantalising glimpses of a dark shape shooting about in the weeds. It all went sickeningly dead when the fish tangled me in the foliage but steady pressure pried it out and I finally slipped the net under a lovely fat olive green fish. I never weigh my fish but I guess this one was between 3 and 4 pounds. A couple a snaps, the hook easily freed from its top lip and then the fish was slipped back into the warm water. What a fantastic creature!

I fished on for a while longer, enjoying the warmth and sights of the evening. In the end though I began to feel tired so I wound in the feeder rod and was in the process of taking it apart when out of the corner of my eye I spotted my float behaving erratically. It sank a little then very, very slowly lifted and then tipped over on its side. Reaching over, I lifted the float rod which was balanced precariously on top of my seat and struck. The fish, neither big nor small, darted off in one direction and then the other. Puzzled as to what I had just set a hook in I kept the pressure on and turned the fish towards me. A thin streak of greenish silver in the weeds gave the game away – it was a jack pike. Once netted it was the work of only seconds to release the hook from the jaws and pop the little fella back into the canal. I have heard of others catching pike on maggots but this was a first for me personally.

So there you have it, two sessions on different waters with very different outcomes. I hope to sneak out for a few hours on lough Conn this Sunday but otherwise I fear the mayfly will have passed my by completely this season. Working away from home comes with some immense disadvantages but beggars can’t be choosers so I simply have to suck it up for now. The odd tench from the canal will have to soothe my loss of my beloved fly fishing in the meantime.


2 thoughts on “Typical sessions

  1. Where’s yer bread? Those middling sessions aren’t to bad they keep things ticking over. The decent tench is all that’s needed to lift a session up from middling.


  2. Good question and I deliberately decided not to bring any bread with me as i wanted to avoid the rudd as much as possible. Of course, the rudd had other ideas and they had me pestered on the canal. You are 100% right, one good tench makes a session and I was thrilled with that stockily built lad from Ballymahon. As a dyed in the wool fly fisher, missing the mayfly feels like an act of treachery but with little I can do to change my circumstances I will just have to fall back on these middling sessions on coarse venues.


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