coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Scratching the itch one last time

The rains came yesterday, heavy drenching showers under steely grey skies and lit by numerous flashes. They had been promised of course so there was no great surprise when the deluge started. What to do today? Chase salmon on the Moy maybe? September salmon fishing is always a chancy business here in the West of Ireland. No, I would head over to Leitrim again. The year is beginning to get old now, you can feel the autumn in your bones. The leaves are turning yellow or red and the swallows are gathering on the telephone wires before they head off to Africa. One last day at the tench beckoned me and I packed the gear for a few casts on Lough Corgar, just on the other side of the town of Ballinamore.

Ballinamore lies amid the rolling green hills of east Leitrim. A fabulous centre for coarse angler’s, it is ringed by loughs and rivers, each teaming with roach, bream and tench. The whole of this part of Ireland is a fisher’s paradise just waiting to be explored. Each year sees an influx of UK and continental anglers who have learned that the journey here is worth the effort and expense. Lots of fish, glorious scenery and of course the famous Irish welcome await those who make the trek to Leitrim.

Like virtually all the loughs around here, Corgar is surrounded by dense reed beds. I read on a website that there were some stands on the shores which is always a huge plus for a rickety old angler like me. According to the blurb there is a small car park too, somewhere safe to tackle up and leave the motor for the day. So often I have to park up on the verge of a road, worried about collision or the car sinking into the soft earth at the edge of the road. 

My maggots in the fridge had pupated so I wanted some fresh ones and would pop into Carrick Angling on my way to the lough. The casters of course would not be wasted as I like to add them to my ground bait. I have tried them as hook bait but without success.

The thunder and lightning of yesterday has dissipated but it will be another wet day with heavy rain forecast. It would be easy to put the fishing off for another time but I sense the year slipping away from me so I will put up with the  precipitation and hope the fish reward my stoic efforts in the mist and drizzle. I prefer to fish in dry conditions but there is something grounding about sitting by the water in the rain.

Foggy conditions across Mayo gave way to heavy rain as I crossed Roscommon. By the time I reached my destination this has eased off to occasional showers. Turning down the boreen I found the car park I was happy about was full of heavy machinery and vans. A brief chat with the workmen revealed another parking spot a few yards along the road so I dropped the VW off there. It rained heavily as I tackled up and trudged back down the road then into a field via a stile. A small bridge over a drain, another stile, yet another bridge and there behind a screen of tall reeds was the lough. The final few yards were through soft, squelchy bog but I made it to the old wooden stand dry shod. Now things got a bit interesting……………

Ireland has been subjected to bouts of heavy rain on and off for a fortnight now and water levels are high. In fact the water in lough Corgar as so high the fishing stand is almost submerged. The end nearest to the shore was about two inches above the surface of the water but further out this reduced and both stands at the end were level with the water. Worse, when I edged my way out to the end I could feel the whole structure sway and wobble in a most alarming fashion. I beat a hasty retreat to the middle of the walkway to consider my options. In the end I decided it was too dangerous to perch myself on the very end so I set up about fifteen feet back. This was far from ideal but having suffered a dunking earlier this year I had no desire to repeat the process. Better safe than sorry!

With very little space to manoeuvre I went about setting up the feeder rod with six pound line, a twizzled boom, maggot feeder and a four pound link to a size 10 hook. A pair of worms, held in place with a couple of maggots would be my bait and I cast the whole thing 50 yards out into the still, grey water. Next, the float rod which I rigged with a medium waggler, a six foot drop to a four pound tippet and a size 12 hook dressed with maggots. I was aiming for better sized fish today, hence the larger than normal hooks. I baited the swim three rod lengths out with a mix of casters, corn, black crumb, a handful of hemp and some liquidised biscuits. I was very conscious that any sideways movement on my part would probably see me slip off the walkway into the water, making for a nervous session. Another shower rattled through then all became very still.

The third cast with the float saw my first fish of the day come to hand. A lovely rudd of close to a pound no less! What a stunning fish this was. Next a good roach and then a nice hybrid of more than a pound. An even larger rudd fell for the maggots soon after. I had read there were rudd in Corgar but these were superb fish, much bigger than the run-of-the-mill rudd I normally encounter on Irish loughs.

Foreign voices off to my left grew louder then some splashing heralded the arrival of a pair of anglers in float tubes. Rods swished in the still air and the two lads set off around the lough, hunting for pike. Maybe they had some luck when out of my sight but while in my line of vision they saw no action.

With no bites at distance I changed tactics and dropped the swimfeeder hard into the edge of the reeds to my left. It still remained stubbornly quiet though. It was very different on the float rod. The roach settled in and the fishing became hectic for a while. Some of the roach were the usual 6 ounce fish but there were some good fish sprinkled in among them, the best nudging a pound in weight. Loose feeding maggots and the odd ball of ground bait kept the fish in front of me and the fishing was excellent all morning.

I was reeling in another roach when the bait runner on the swimfeeder let out a high pitched screech and the line fairly melted off the spool. I literally threw the float rod down (almost losing it in the water) and grabbed the Shakespeare. This could only be one thing and sure enough a spirited scrap ensued before I subdued and netted a fine tench. I’d say it went about four pounds and this one fish had made the journey to Ballinamore worthwhile for me. You guys are fed up with me waxing lyrical about tench but they really are amazing creatures. Back in the water, he shot off as soon as I lowered him in, hopefully none the worse for our encounter. The tippet showed signs of fraying so I took the time to cut it off and tie on a new one. The fish on the float rod had wriggled off by now of course.

A couple of nice size skimmers fell for the charms of the maggots but these would be the only bream I would see all day. Then it was back to roach again, interspersed with the occasional rudd. Most of the fish fell to the float but some came to the feeder too. The rain had been reduced to a fine mist for most of the session but as the day wore on some heavier bursts made for uncomfortable fishing. By 3pm the swim was slowing up and I decided to call it a day. Dismantling and packing up all the gear on the narrow walkway was a challenge but I was soon heading back to the car. The bog was now even more saturated and a couple of times I got stuck and had to extricate my wellie clad feet from the mire.

Lough Corgar had provided me with a wonderful few hours and I feel I can heartily recommend it to you. The roach were larger than most other loughs I have fished and of course the good tench and rudd were the icing on the cake. If Corgar is not fishing there is another lough, Bolganard, is just across the road. This lake is famous for the one time record bream which was caught there. I think I am right in saying it weighed over twelve pounds.

My final tally for the day came to 43 roach, 9 rudd, some hybrids, a pair of skimmers and the one tench. All day the bites were positive and very few were missed or fish lost. Depth in front of the stand was about six feet, making it easy to fish with the waggler. They were taking confidently for once and I really enjoyed the fishing today. Interestingly, no perch showed up today which is unusual on loughs like this. Ballinamore is a bit of a trek for me but with excellent fishing like that who would mind the extra few miles?

It is mid-September now and the weather has been wet but unseasonably warm so far this month. That will change soon and the tench fishing will be over for another year with the upcoming drop in temperatures. I am already laying plans for fishing lough Corgar next year!

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Lough Na Blaithi

Thursday. I should be out on Conn or Mask at this time of the year but I wanted another crack at the coarse fish so I headed over to Roscommon and a largish lough called Na Blaithi in Irish or Nablahy in its anglicized form. I had read it was a well developed mixed fishery and so I plodded off in an easterly direction and found myself on the minor roads to it after passing through Elphin and Creeve. Yesterdays forecast foretold of gloomy grey skies but of course Mayo was roofed with cobalt blue instead. As I crossed into Roscommon though the clouds slowly thickened and it turned into nice day for fishing.

Na Blaithi is part of a complex of lakes, rivers and drains which lie to the north of Strokestown. All of these waters hold good stocks of most coarse fish species and are rightly popular with anglers. Some excellent development work has been carried out over the years to improve access and Na Blaithi in particular now sports a number of fishing stands. I have wondered if there is scope for the IFI to take a bold step and look at providing boats on some of the loughs. This would open up a lot of fishing as some loughs are currently unfished because there is no access. For example, Clooncraff Lough, which is connected to both Cloonahee and Na Blaithi, has no road access to it and thus is never fished despite being stuffed with roach and bream. Imagine hiring a small boat and setting off for the far corners of a big lough full of bream and roach or travelling up a small river to get to a reed fringed lake that has not been fished for years. I suspect a lot of anglers would be only to happy to give this sort of angling experience a try.

Parking the car at the end of the road I unloaded all the gear and went through a fine 5 bar gate into a rough field. I could see the lough through a stand of trees so headed off in that direction, head high rushes and nettles making the going a bit tough. Once at the trees there was another stretch of rough pasture to cross to a line of huge reeds. By now there was no sign of the water. I got to the reeds but try as I might I could not find a stand so I moved along to my right, crossing a stream via a wooden bridge of great age. Finally I found a stand, cloaked in tall reeds and close to an elderly rowan tree. This would do nicely. Once on that stand I could see another one to my right but elected to stay where I was.

My usual combination of one float and one feeder rod was employed. This was so I could target bream and tench on the feeder while I aimed for roach on the float. I went for six pound line on the reels as this is a bigger water and there is always the chance of bumping into a larger than normal fish. Bream especially can grow pretty large in Irish loughs. Tying up a new twizzled boom and clipping on a maggot feeder, I cast to my left and let the feeder sink. It seemed to take an age to hit the bottom. Next, I set up the float rod but plumbing the water two rod lengths out from the stand showed about fifteen feet of water. I toyed with the idea of changing to a sliding float but I only had a couple of big ones with me so I stuck to the waggler. For the rest of the day I got in all sorts of fankles and tangles as I wrestled with a set up which was too long for the rod. I should have cut my losses and re-rigged with a slider but I guess I was just too lazy. Balls of ground bait and then a steady stream of loose fed maggots hit the water. I settled down to see what would transpire.

I was soon into fish, the problem being they were tiny roach, no more 5 inches long. They loved my maggots and despite using a size 14 hook they made the float bob at virtually every cast. The feeder stayed resolutely quiet. A wind was blowing right in my face to start with but it gradually backed off to a more easterly quarter which was more pleasant for me. More minute roach, more tangles. This was hard going!

Finally the feeder rod twitched and I wound in a small bream which was nice for a change. The roach went quiet for a while, I suspect the shoal had moved on because when the bites started again it was a much better stamp of roach which came to hand. These fish were not monsters now but I guess they were around 8 ounces. It was around this time that my faithful old Daiwa Harrier reel snapped the bail spring. I can have no complaints, this is an old reel which has served me well over the years. I guess I can try and hunt down a spare bail spring but it hardly seems worth it. I have plenty of other reels to use for now so I think the Harrier will simply be retired. I fished on with the wounded reel, flipping the bail over by hand at every cast.

End of the road for this old reel

A perch was next on the list, not a bad one of just under a pound. He fell to the feeder and three others of his kin did the same but these were smaller lads than the first one. The roach tailed off for about 20 minutes then came back on the feed again. A couple of lovely roach/bream hybrids put up a good fight and they were the best fish of the day on the float rod. All day the bites had been nervous little trembles to the float, no lifts or sudden dives. Maybe the depth of water had something to do with this. By 4pm it was quiet again so I packed it in and headed off across the fields again. The final tally was 29 roach, two hybrids, four perch and a solitary bream.

Of bream the size of man hole covers or tench to double figures there was no sign today but that is not to say they are not swimming around in Na Blaithi. I fished very poorly today and should have switched to a slider early on instead of trying to fish the waggler with such a long drop. Lesson learned though and the next time I will know better. Will I return to Na Blaithi again? Yes, I would be keen to try it again next year. It has potential. A lough like this probably has good pike in it and if you could launch a boat on it I bet the trolling would be excellent.

We are promised wind and rain by Saturday here in the west and that will mean game fishing. One last hurrah before the season ends. For me that will mean Mask or Conn. I’ll return to the float rod later in the autumn and try my luck with the roach in the cold water.

PS. I fished Lough Mask on Sunday in poor conditions and, unsurprisingly, blanked.

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Huntin’ hybrids

So, there is this lake near Ballymote which purportedly contains bream/rudd hybrids. I have been hankering to catch some of these relatively rare fish since I took up coarse fishing and today I headed off to county Sligo to try my luck for them on Bellanascarrow. The lough also contains pure strains of both species but it was the mongrel ones I really wanted to hook. Reading up on these fish it seems their numbers fluctuate greatly and there can be plenty sometimes and then they all but disappear. They can grow quite big with the Irish record well in excess of seven pounds.

Having never fished specifically for them before I would to have to learn as I was going along. My normal approach of fishing two rods, one rigged for feeder and the other on the float would be my plan of attack using maggots and worms for bait. I suppose my thinking was the hybrids would behave more like bream than rudd, but that was not based on any facts so I could be wildly wrong. Perhaps they cruised high in the water just like rudd but I was hoping they grubbed about on the bottom more like bream. Noted as good fighters, they sounded like a great target species so I set of for Ballymote in high spirits.

The IFI site says there are true bream in the lough and they should be catchable. I have never really cracked fishing for bream, I catch them alright but never in the great numbers other anglers seem too. The big ones have eluded me so far as well, my best still being a measly 3 pounds or so. Maybe today I would do better with them and hopefully winkle out a hybrid or two. Anticipation and learning about a new venue are aspects of angling which really appeal to me. I know anglers who fish only one pool on a river and nowhere else. They catch huge numbers of fish because they know this pool so well but I simply would not bother to go fishing if limited to such a narrow choice of places to fish.

It is not too far from Castlebar to Ballymote, up to Tubbercurry then across the bog and marginal farmlands of the Mayo/Sligo border country to the small town with the big ruined keep. The lough itself is less than a mile from the town and after parking the car (handy wee car park and stile, thank you IFI), I was soon on the bank. It took me a while but I have now refined my coarse tackle and everything has its place in my old seat box. Over the course of this year I’ve cut down on a lot of things I thought I needed to take with me in an effort to try and reduce the weight of the box and so far this has not led to any problems. I know my old buckets are crude and maybe at some point in the future I will invest in some proper bait buckets but for now I am coping just fine with the gear I have.

The maggots from last week were very sluggish first thing this morning when I took them out of the fridge but they are wriggling nicely now they have warmed up. I dug some worms yesterday, only small lads but they will do. Buying worms is expensive here, you pay between four-fifty and seven Euro for a tub, so I am grateful for any I can grub up from the compost heap. While I find that maggots out fish worms on most occasions there are days when the humble worm if preferred by bream and tench. I like to have both with me. At some point I must try pellets. I know they are hugely popular on commercial fisheries in the UK but I wonder if they would be so effective on the ‘natural’ loughs here in Ireland. I guess I will just have to try them and see how I get on.

As you approach the lough down a lane there is a water treatment plant and once at the waters edge you are confronted with a long, ugly concrete pier which has something to do with said treatment plant. I guess this is the water supply to the good folks of Ballymote. There are a few stands along the shore of the lough, giving me the dilemma of picking the right one. I usually look for a stand which has some sort of fish holding potential within casting range such as lily pads, reeds, etc. To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much to pick between all the stands so I wander along to the second one on the left and set up there, crossing a small stream by a little bridge. Happy with my choice I settle down and begin operations. Ground bait first, four balls to start with. I set up with six pound mono on both reels. Not knowing what size of fish are in here I don’t risk going too light, not yet anyway. I can always drop down to lighter line if required. The feeder is dropped 20 yards out with a worm on a size ten hook then I plumb up in the usual fashion and set the waggler float a few inches over depth before impaling three red maggots on the size 16 hook. I start to loose feed a few maggots too in an attempt to populate the swim.

Sure enough, the float shoots down and a small hybrid comes to hand on just the third cast. It is only a little lad but it is an encouraging start. Next a small roach comes in. Roach! There was no word of them when I was researching this place. Next up is a skimmer and then another hybrid, this time a good one of around a pound. The wind is blowing from left to right and I am sheltered from it by the high bank of reeds so it is nice and comfortable as I ply my trade of cast and then wind in a fish. It is pretty much a fish a chuck now and some lovely hybrids are putting up a hell of a scrap when they feel the hook. A bonus bream or two show up and then some small perch. The roach seem to be gathering off to my left and a cast near the lily pads on that side almost always produces a silvery eight incher. Bites are almost all the same, a sharp and sudden disappearance of the float. No messing.

The feeder remains untouched all this time. Changing from worm to maggot is tried but that makes no difference. I bait up the edge of the lilies to my right and plonk the feeder in there but that doesn’t work either. In the end the green plastic feeder I am using falls apart and so I pack up that rod for the day. Back to the drawing board again for my feeder fishing!

The sun tries unsuccessfully to break through but I barely notice as I am kept busy with bites each and every cast. The lovely hybrids have been replaced by a vast shoal of skimmers now and they are biting just as readily but my hooking ratio drops dramatically. I try using worm on the float rod but it doesn’t catch as many as the maggot and I soon swap back again. By one o’clock the bites begin to slow down and by two it has gone quiet. With things to do at home I decide to call it a day and quickly pack up the gear and retrace my steps to the car park. Past the unsightly water plant, through a couple of metal gates and along the lane. It feels like no time since I was heading in the opposite direction but I have been packing in a lot of action since then.

A lovely little rudd

Back at home I am reflecting on the mornings events. I didn’t keep count of the fish I caught but I suppose it must have been in the order of about seventy in total. The bulk of them were skimmers but I had about 20 good sized hybrids, a few roach, a couple of bream, a sprinkling of perch and a few small rudd. I think of rudd as the Kylie Minogue of Irish angling: tiny and perfectly beautiful. What was very noticeable was the way all of the fish put up a fight. Even the bream gave a bit of a fight, something I have not seen before. Look, it was not like I was playing a marlin or anything like that but the fish in this particular lough do seem to fight more than in other places.

It just shows the importance of being in the right place at the right time. From ten until one the fishing could only be described as hectic. Fish after fish took the bait and only a few fell off. Yet if I had turned up to start fishing at 2pm when the lough seemed to be dead with no signs of fish at all I might have formed a totally different opinion of the venue. This kind of reinforces my theory that lunchtime until about 3pm is a time to be avoided if possible. I have now seen this lull in sport happening too often when coarse fishing for it to be a coincidence.

While I had an excellent session a competent pole fisher would have absolutely cleaned up! The fish were about 10 metres out so a lad with a pole could have simply whipped them in one after the other at a much faster rate than I could with a waggler. I am still not tempted to try the pole though. I enjoy my float fishing too much and assembling/disassembling lengths of tubing all day really does not a appeal to me.

As you can imagine, I thoroughly enjoyed the session this morning and will be back to fish Bellanascarrow lough in the future. The feisty hybrids are a lovely fish and the mix of other species in there means there is always something to keep you interested. Add to that it is relatively close to me and it makes a near perfect venue in my opinion. For those of you who might be visiting Ireland, Ballymote is in county Sligo and it has hotel and B&B accommodation. Apart from a couple of loughs there is some good bream fishing on the Owenmore river close by.

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coarse fishing

Quick session

I had some maggots left over from the other day and when I turned over the compost heap in the garden there were lots of worms squirming around in the muck so I decided to have a couple of hours fishing Ardrea lough just outside Ballymote in County Sligo. A small lough with a couple of stands and apparently some roach in it sounded like a nice way to use up the bait and end the week.

On arrival at the lough I looked for a stile to get over the new barbed wire fence but none could be found. I finally hopped over the fence near where I had parked the car but there was a six foot drop the other side which made for a tricky entry into the field. I made it OK but was left wondering how I would get back again! The field was sodden and marshy but a fine wooden stand with a metal rail was waiting for me and I was soon tackling up amid the relentless rain. A swimfeeder full of maggots and a bunch of them on a size 10 hook sailed out 30 yards and nestled on the bottom while I set up the float rod. Tying on a size 16 hook to 3 pound, I fished hard on the bottom of about 6 feet of water. The small hook was laced with a couple of maggots. A wind was blowing strongly from right to left, dragging the float even though I had it shotted down so it was barely showing.

Balls of groundbait were lobbed in and I settled down, water running off my oilskins. It took about twenty minutes for the first bite to come but after that it was pretty steady for the rest of the session. Apart from one good rattle (which I missed), the swimfeeder remained stubbornly quiet but the float rod was busy. First, a couple of hybrids took the maggots, not big fish but game little fighters. Next the perch showed up and finally a shoal of roach took up residence in front of me. The wind was a pain and it made accurate casting very hard but I persevered and caught fish on a regular basis. About 1pm the float dipped and I lifted into a bream which was gratefully received. It turned out to be the only one though (so much for bream travelling in big shoals).

A commotion over to my right made me look round and there was a male sparrowhawk being mobbed by swallows. I have never seen swallows mobbing before and the poor hawk could do nothing about the assault. He dodged a few strikes and lazily flapped his way across the lake and into some trees in the distance where he found sanctuary. We are at the end of August and the swallows will be leaving us soon on their hazardous trip to Africa. It’s always sad to see them go, the year grows older once they are gone.

The rain got heavier if anything and I was just contemplating packing up when the swimfeeder burst into life and something ran off, taking line from the reel. I struck but somehow contrived to miss the fish altogether. A fresh worm was impaled on the hook and I cast again to the same spot. While messing about with another small fish on the float rod a similar hard bite shook the swimfeeder rod and baitrunner reel let out some line. I struck once again and this time there was resistance. Something put a curve in the rod and I could feel it pulsating in the deeps water. What was this then? It fought hard so it was not a bream but it didn’t feel like a tench either. I was thinking to myself ‘this reminds me of’……… when I saw it under the surface. An eel! Quite a good one too. The usual palaver ensued with slime everywhere and me cursing as the fish escaped my grip while being unhooked. Eventually the job was done and the eel swam off slowly. While I consider eel to be the finest eating fish I won’t kill them as they are so rare.

By now I was wet and covered in slime from the bream and the eel. It was time to call it a day and head home so I dismantled everything as the heavens did their best impression of an Indian monsoon. Crossing the field I now had to negotiate the vertical slope topped with the barbed wire fence. Catching the wire in my left hand I swung myself up and caught the wooden post in my right then hauled myself up. I made it but elderly or infirm anglers would really struggle at this obstacle. It is a pity as the lough is a nice little venue for a pleasant few hours fishing. It would not take much investment to install a good metal stile.

So all in all it was a damp but productive few hours in county Sligo. The final tally was 15 roach (none better than 8 ounces), 8 perch, including a couple of 10 ounces fish, 2 hybrids, one bream and, of course, one eel. I make that 27 fish in about 3 hours in miserable conditions and a new water for me, enough to keep me happy anyway. There is another lake close by called Ballinascarrow which is pretty good apparently. I am planning on giving that a try in the autumn.

I’ll leave you with a few photos.

Where I hopped over the fence, you can’t see the drop on the other side from here though. You can just make out the stand I fished from.
Small perch. The two bigger ones I landed were caught during pouring rain, so no photos taken.
Bream
No words required!
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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, wetfly

32 – Episode 17, Antrim

Antrim occupies that far north eastern corner of the island of Ireland, an ancient kingdom with strong traditional links to my home country of Scotland. Indeed, I think I am right in saying there are but 12 scant miles of salt water at the closest point between the two countries. I recall being on holiday on the Scottish island of Islay many years ago, looking out from Port Ellen on a beautiful summer’s day and being amazed how clearly I could see Antrim on the horizon. A countryside of rugged coasts, hill farms and small towns, it has become famous as a result of it being some of the locations used in GoT. It was not dragons I would be searching for but a few much smaller and hopefully more obliging scaly creatures.

The northern part of Belfast city is in Antrim. The city sprawls across the lowlands on either side of the river Lagan with co. Down to the south and co. Antrim to the north. The river widens into a large bay and towns line both sides. Behind Carrickfergus on the Antrim side there are water supply reservoirs, some of which have been stocked with trout. Perhaps one of these could be a suitable venue? That was certainly my initial plan but I started reading up on trout fishing in Antrim and was surprised by just how much of it there is. Antrim’s rivers and loughs cater for a large and enthusiastic group of anglers who live in and around the county. I mulled the various options over but really found it hard to make a firm decision. In the end I hedged my bets in a quite unique way.

Up in the hills of northern Antrim there sits a lough called Dungonnell. It has been formed by a dam and holds some wild brown trout. This would be one of my target venues for the morning, up in the solitude of the glens with just the sheep and calling curlews for company. Hill lough trout are usually small creatures but fishing in lonely spots has a certain attraction for me. Having said that, I read that trout up to 5 pounds have been caught in this lough.

Dungonnell dam

For me this was going to be one of the longest journeys in my 32 project. Being perfectly honest, I have been putting this one on ‘the long finger’ for most of this year, always finding an excuse not to tackle it. This was solely based on the distance I would have to drive there and back. It would entail a very long day with considerably more time spent driving than actually fishing. That in turn meant less time to find fish and figure out how to catch one or two. Tiredness was obviously going to be a factor on the day as well.

I took a slightly different route but you can see how long this trip was

Initially planned for Tuesday, I felt ill that morning so postponed the trip 24 hours. The idea of a very long day behind the wheel when not feeling your best did not appeal so I drank plenty of fluids, got some rest and gathered my strength for the ‘morrow. Wednesday arrived, cloaked in grey and cool for the time of year. Feeling much improved, the bits and bobs required for the day were assembled and loaded in the half light. An early start was required as the trip to Dungonnell would take well over 4 hours behind the wheel. Through the never ending roadworks in Sligo just after 7 am, Enniskillen at 8 and then on to Dungannon. From there it was on to the long and winding road via flag bedecked Cookstown and Magherafelt to Toome. As I crossed the river Bann and an idea struck me, how about a few minutes fishing the Toome canal? This would only be a slight diversion and it was a piece of water I had heard of but never fished. I knew it was a famous pike fishery but I recalled reading somewhere it had roach, perch and bream in there too. I took an exit at the next roundabout and found a cark park right beside the canal. Quickly setting up a light spinning rod, I strolled along the path to a set of locks and was fishing a small jig within minutes. The water was very scummy further down but pretty clear at the locks. Some kids on paddleboards were having fun further up but they soon dropped down to close where I was fishing. Sure enough, the paddleboards were just the start and the jumping in to the water plus general mayhem quickly ensued. Changing to a float set up made not a whit of difference. I decamped to the canal above the locks for some peace and got plenty of it – not a bite did the float register. Loose feeding maggots failed to improve the situation and I finally admitted defeat. Returning to the car I was alarmed to find I had wasted two whole hours for no return. Tactically, my decision to try Toome had been a disaster. What would the rest of the day hold?

There is a ‘B’ road which leads from Toome to Ballymena via some twists and turns. From there, the A43 led me to the hamlet of Cargan then on to lesser roads until finally the dam hove into view. A small car park at the dam provided a safe spot to leave the car. The weather had deteriorated as I headed north and a thick mist cloaked the hills as I pulled up. Hungry, I indulged in a sandwich washed down with some coffee as the world turned grey and damp outside. Just as I finished my lunch the mist cleared slightly, time to crack on! Waterproof jacket, waistcoat and boots were donned, then I set up the old rod and reel with a peach line. A small daddy on the top, a size 14 Claret Bumble in the middle and a green-tailed Kate on the end.

I like to fish close in on hill loughs. They often deepen quite quickly as so the trout can usually be found near the edges. A slow and quiet approach is necessary though so as not to spook them. Short casts, show it to them then whip it away. Starting near the dam, I worked my way along the western shoreline with the wind coming over my right shoulder. It was immediately obvious the peach line I had taken to be a floater was in fact a sinker. No matter, I would fish just as happily with the wet line. The bank was rough so a neat ‘one step per cast’ fishing was not really feasible and instead I hopped from one rock or tussock to another, casting as wind and stance allowed. This is a lovely way to fish for trout, you have to concentrate on so many different factors to get it right.

Soon there was a sharp tug and a swirl but that trout did not stick. I cursed, took another step and cast again. Not long after that another fish tweaked one of the flies but he too was too quick for me. The mist returned. Flicking the flies out beyond an underwater rock brought an immediate response but no firm hook hold. I worked my way along the bank for perhaps two hundred yards, rising a dozen or more trout and not one of them did I manage to hook. By now it was raining properly and so I returned to the car. Time to get the thinking cap on!

I had noticed that every rise to my flies had happened within the first couple of pulls of my retrieve, and after that the fish had shown no interest. The sinking line had to go, I was convinced the trout wanted a fly high in the water. A search in the reel case soon produced a yellow floater the right size and in a few minutes I had a new leader tied on too. Next the flies came under scrutiny. The rises I had been able to see all seemed to be at the middle or tail positions. Maybe the claret bumble was a bit too small? I put a size 12 version in the middle of the new leader. The green-tailed Kate made way for a Bibio on the tail. Perhaps the green tail was too gaudy? What about the bob fly though? Scanning the contents of the box my eyes fell on a row of my much loved deer hair caddis. Grey ones, green bodied ones, black ones with a wee silver tip – all were good patterns but somehow not quite what I wanted today. Then I spotted it, a fiery brown DH caddis on a size 14 hook – perfect! Experienced anglers reading this will know that feeling you get sometimes, a knowing this fly is going to work today. Carefully I tied the little caddis fly on to the top dropper. The rain had eased a little again so I ventured back to the waters edge.

Casting the old yellow line was a joy, it fairly sailed out across wind and wave. Working my way along the same stretch of rocky as before but the water felt lifeless and of trout there was no sign. I plugged away, timing my casts to coincide with lulls in the gusty wind. A splash and sharp tug broke the rhythm of the casts, this one was hooked. It fought with dash and verve for a small trout but he came to hand without any drama and I had my prize, an Antrim brownie. Of course the Fiery Brown DH caddis nestled in the corner of his mouth. Dark, as most hill lough fish are, he was soon back in his watery abode none the worse for his mistake. The fish was no sooner released when the heavens opened and I made a bolt for the car. Waiting for a while, in the end I decided to change venue again so I packed up, happy with my solitary success.

The successful fly. They don’t look much but the DH caddis is a real killer pattern

Now for a trek along the byroads of northern Ireland and a complete change of angling experiences again. I was headed for the short Movanagher canal near the village of Kilrea to do a bit of float fishing. Here the River Bann is blocked by a weir and to allow boats to navigate it a canal was dug along the right bank and fitted with a set of lock gates. The coarse fish greatly appreciated this section of quiet flowing water and promptly took up residence. Roach, pike, perch and bream allegedly inhabit the canal now and it is a popular venue for matches. I thought that some maggots might tempt one or two of them so I set off down narrow roads bereft of signposts. I had a vague idea of where I was going but to be honest there was a lot of guesswork involved as I crawled along narrow country roads hemmed in by hedges and lacking in signs. One junction completely flummoxed me but I found an alternative road. It took me an hour but I finally made it to my destination.

After parking up I surveyed the canal and decided on one of the old concrete pegs as my swim for the remainder of the afternoon. Not that there is much to pick between them all but this one, number 4 as it turns out, would do for me. This being Northern Ireland I was only allowed to use one rod when coarse fishing so I had brought along the 12 foot rod and a small amount of coarse gear. Plumbing up I found the water was about ten feet deep in the middle. Different venues have different rules about the use of groundbait here in the north but you are allowed to use it on this wee canal. I mixed some up and tossed in three balls to try and attract in some fish then cast out my crystal waggler float with a pair of red maggots on a size 14 hook. The maggots which were left over from my last coarse fishing outing the previous week and had come from the bait fridge at home were turning to casters so I added them to the ground bait. I waited. In fact, I waited for the better part of an hour before anything happened.

My swim

Trickling in a steady stream of loose fed maggots is a favorite tactic of mine and today was no different. 6 or 8 maggots chucked in every second cast feels about right to me and I feel sure this helped to pull a few perch into the swim. My surroundings were lovely and the old concrete fishing pegs provided comfortable lodgings. After the rough terrain and soggy conditions of Dungonnell it felt like pure luxury to have a seat and a firm, level footing. The contrasts between the two angling genres can be stark sometimes but both fly and float exert a huge appeal on me. What is it they say? ‘A change is as good as a rest’. I’ll drink to that. Finally, the crystal gave a wobble then dived and I was in. A smallish perch was quickly reeled in, unhooked and released. More followed in a steady procession. The first one was small but the were some 8 ounce ones too. Bites varied between subtle little dips of the float to instant disappearances or sideways pulls. A tally of seven was reached before the sky darkened in the east and the rain came back again. It was half-past-four in the afternoon. Of roach and bream there was no sign and pulling out small perch had lost something of its appeal. It was time to head home again so I packed up and began the long journey west. Traffic was much lighter but but there were still a few late summer tractors on the road and it was nearly nine pm before I turned into the driveway at home in Mayo.

Typical of the perch I caught

When I got home I mulled over the logistics of the day. I had been driving for a total of ten hours and had fished three venues for a total of five-and-a-half hours. I had driven a total of 675 kilometres, by far the longest journey of the 32 project to date. All for seven small perch and a solitary half pound brownie. BUT (and this is important), I had landed fish in county Antrim. Trying the canal at Toome had proved to be a mistake but that’s fishing and there no guarantees so I accept the blank and move on. Similarly, the trek across country to try and catch fish at Kilrea was a lot of effort for not much return in terms of fish caught but I saw a bit of the countryside and enjoyed fishing that venue. I recall reading somewhere that these canals fish better in high water conditions when the coarse species seek shelter from heavy flows in the main river. On another day I feel sure both canals would fish well. If Dungonnell lough was close to me I would have it haunted! It is a beautiful upland fishery and if the trout are all around the size of the one I landed it would be a great place for someone like me. Instead, it is literally at the other end of the country and as such I will probably never fish it again.

Seventeen down, fifteen to go. Realistically I am not going to complete all 32 counties by the end of this year. I could push it but trying to cram them all in over the next few weeks feels like too much. Many of the remaining ones will involve long distance trips much like Antrim and these are very time consuming. As of now I am thinking of tackling the last three northern counties next, Derry, Tyrone and Down. It was lovely to fish the fly again after a summer of coarse fishing so I think more fluff chucking could be on the cards. That could change as well of course but for now I will take a look at my options in those three counties.

I will buy some little stickers and mark the different lines on my reel spools. Although I have rationalised them into some sort of order I am still guessing when it comes to densities and profiles. That will be a nice little job for me one winter’s evening. Hard to believe we only have 6 weeks of the game angling season left. Where did 2021 go?

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Fisherman’s blues

Some days everything goes according to plans but then there are other days………..

Researching possible coarse fishing venues near to me often threw up references to ‘Lakehill Pond’ but the exact location of this small lake could not be found. I knew it was between Ballyhaunis and Knock but no more detail than that could be gleaned from the internet. A couple of old photos of a very ‘tenchy’ looking pond turned up on a fishing website, just serving to add to my frustration. On and off for a year now I have been trying to find the place. Finally, I sussed it out and located it right next to a road outside of the village of Knock. It was very definitely worth a closer look. The weather is still very wet and windy here in Mayo, far from ideal conditions for tench fishing but the season is rapidly heading towards a close so I figured it was best to give the pond a try regardless. Anyway, I had some maggots and a couple of worms left over from my last session and it would be a sin to waste them.

Lakehill pond is right in the middle of the screenshot

After recent outings my tackle box was a right old mess with hastily removed end gear chucked in there along with all sorts of odds and ends. I took a bit of time to tidy up and tie a few new rigs the previous day so at least I was a little better organised. In particular, I wanted to try and break recent ducks using the feeder. I suspected the pond could be deep so feeders may offer the best chance of a fish. I really needed to up my game a few notches though.

Somewhat unusually, I wanted to make a late start to this session so I set off at 3 pm. Circumstances have forced me to fish during the middle part of the day lately and miss the prime times of ‘early and late’ but today I had the permission of ‘er indoors for an evening beside the water. The final few items were tucked into the car and then I was off on the road eastwards. Anticipation is always such a huge part of my fishing and I was looking forward to trying the pond for the the first time. From what I had read (and that was not much) there would only be tench in the pond so I could focus all my attention on them. I didn’t pick up any hint of large tench in my reading though so I suspected the fish would run to maybe three pounds. Even that size of a tench puts up a good fight so I’d be using six pound line today. Kiltimagh was busy as I took the Knock road out of the village, standing water in every dip of the tarmac. Untidy, rough fields and bog slipped past on either side of the narrow road until the spire of the Basilica hove into view and I threaded my way past the religious trinket shops and on to the old Ballyhaunis road, only 3 miles from my destination.

A small grassy parking space at the side of the road was greatly appreciated and I was soon through a gate held shut with baling wire and marching through the long damp grass looking for a fishing stand. The first stand I came to was in a shockingly dangerous condition so I passed that one and found what remained of the next stand. It was in bits and could not be used. What little wood remained was rotten. Scanning the rest of the pond it seemed there was another stand in the far corner but it too was badly damaged. I set up on the bank, more than a little dismayed at the state of the stands.

Lakehill pond and what remains of one of the stands

Tying on a new rig, I fired the swimfeeder out, the size 12 hook baited with a bunch of red maggots. Groundbait balls featuring some corn as particle bait were roughly formed then chucked in. A strong wind was blowing directly towards me so I settled down to fish with just the feeder. Barely had the bait settled on the bottom before I had my first bite, a tappy little affair which led to me connecting to the first fish of the session. A tiny, stunted roach came meekly to hand. Maybe a one off, I thought as I re-baited and cast out again. Another small bite and another minuscule roach. This scenario was repeated again and again. The pond seemed to be filled with tiny roach and nothing else.

Stunted, skinny and greedy, I was plagued by these roach

I stuck it out for a while but in the end I packed up. That was when the next disaster unfolded. My red maggots were in a square two pint box and the lid had come off as I was fishing, allowing pretty much all of the bait to wriggle out. They were all around me and when I lifted the seatbox up the ground was crimson with grubs. Nothing else for it, I had to pick up as many as I could and pop them back in the box from whence they came. Let me assure that herding maggots is not one of life’s great pleasures and I spent the next ten minutes grabbing baby bluebottles from the muck. A lot of them escaped and will no doubt provide sustenance to the local critters but I corralled enough to see me through the next part of my evening. I trudged off in the direction of the car, stepping in the smelliest cow pat I have ever encountered on my way. I had to wash my wellies before I could get in the car.

Eaton’s Lake is just over the hill from Lakehill pond so I decamped there around 6 pm. The already muddy path was partially flooded after recent rain making just getting to the stands a bit tricky. I made it though and set up the swimfeeder again. While I was setting up the float rod the feeder produced a couple of fish, a roach and a perch. Once I got going with the float rod I started to catch a fish each cast but they were just tiny perch. At last the loaded crystal waggler took a more determined dive and out came a small hybrid after a bit of a scrap. I had started with a size 14 hook under the float but I dropped to a 16, tipped with a pair of maggots. At least I was out of the wind here and time slipped past as I caught perch after perch, interspersed with the odd roach and hybrid.

Tiny perch
A typical Eaton’s lake hybrid

By about 8.40pm I had had enough, the midges were out in force now and the bites were drying up so I packed my gear and headed for the car. I stepped off the wooden fishing stand my right foot disappeared into a couple of feet of gooey mud. I tried to steady myself by taking a step with my left foot but it sank even deeper and I lost my balance, falling into the muck on my left side. I managed to extricate myself without any harm being done but I was filthy and a bit wet despite my waterproofs. It was not far to where the car was parked and I was just a bit dirty once I had removed my gear. It had been a fitting end to a poor day.

So, what great life lessons did I learn today? My optimism as I headed for Lakehill pond was dramatically deflated upon arrival. The pond is in awful condition and requires a huge amount of work to turn it into a decent fishery. I am going to write to the local IFI about it as I honestly believe the pond is dangerous and should either be closed to the public or remedial works urgently undertaken. That people have introduced roach to the pond verges on criminal and while there are probably tench still swimming around in there it is now nigh on impossible to catch them as the stunted roach grab the hook as soon as it hits the bottom.

Eaton’s has yet to give up a good fish for me. There is clearly a big head of small fish in it but just yanking out 4 inch perch is not really a terribly exciting prospect for me. This evening I landed 9 small hybrids, 6 small roach and a scatter of minute perch. How many perch? I was not counting but I’d hazard a guess at maybe 30 or more. At the end of the day, Eaton’s is only 30 minutes drive from home so I may try it again in the future but I would rather spend more time behind the wheel and fish better waters in Leitrim and Roscommon.

A less than successful evening for me but look, that is how life is. There are plenty of people lying in hospital beds who would have given anything just to be out in the fresh air messing about beside a lake in Ireland. Maybe I will have better luck on my next outing with the rods.

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

A tale of two days

My new found love of coarse fishing has made a right old mess of my normally straight forward season. It is usually a case of no fishing in January or February then a gradual build up during the spring months as I fish for trout and salmon. Some sea trouting in the summer then another burst of activity with the fly rods through the months of August and September before a bit of piking and sea fishing during the autumn months. Now I have to shoe-horn in my sessions with float and feeder so the past two days were spent practicing these methods before the trout fishing explodes on me again. Here is how two similar days on two different waters panned out.

Thursday

The weather forecast was gloomy, expect heavy rain and possible thunder and lightening. Regardless, I set off for a small lake in Leitrim with tench on my mind. Light rain accompanied me along the road there but nothing too serious. I set up a swimfeeder on one rod and a waggler on the other and waited to see what would transpire. The rain got heavier and the world descended into shades of silver and grey as the downpour gathered strength. I sat it out, my oilskin coat keeping the worst of the water off me. Balls of groundbait sailed in perfect arcs through the rain to plop into the swims in more or less the right places. The float never budged and the feeder rod failed to register even a nibble. The rain was fairly hammering down by now. The maggots on both rigs were not doing the business today so I wound in the waggler and changed hooks. On went a size 10 and I broke a worm in half, adding both sections to the hook and tipping it off with a couple of maggots. This would hopefully prevent the worm pieces from wriggling free. The rain seemed to be easing off a little for now as I re-cast close to the lilypads.

The worm sections had been in the water for a while and I decided to reel in and check they were still wriggling. Lifting the rod to wind in I immediately felt a strong fish on the end. I swear there was no bite, no dip of the float prior to me lifting the rod. A nice tench fought well but was soon netted, about 2.5 pounds in weight so quite small for this lough. It swam off strongly once free from the barbless hook.

Busying myself re-baiting and casting both rods I hardly noticed the rain had returned. Big, fat drops were falling now and grew in intensity over the next few minutes. I hunkered down once again. Luckily the wind was blowing from behind me so I stayed relatively dry as the monsoon lashed down. Although I continued fishing it was impossible to see the float in these conditions. The minutes passed and at last the rain eased off a little. All my gear was thoroughly soaked by now though.

Gradually the downpour eased off completely and the lough was still and calm in front of me. The air was cooler and fresher after the rain and I could actually see what I was doing again. I fished on, concentrating hard on the details of casting and baiting. The second bite when it came was typical for this venue, the float ever-so-slowly dipped and finally slid below the surface and I struck into another solid fish. This one fought really hard, powerful, surging runs towards the reeds and then a dash to try and get under the stand. I got him in the end, a fine tench of about five pounds or so. I wish I had taken more time photographing this one as the snaps I have do not do this magnificent fish justice.

Apologies for the poor photo

Back came the rain again! I suppose I had about 20 minutes of dry weather then the deluge commenced once more. The sky turned a menacing dark blue/grey colour and the pale clouds scurried across the countryside. It cleared to the north and the same pattern of bites when the rain stopped was repeated, this time by another fine tench but he shot straight into the lilypads and no amount of pulling on my part could free him. The line eventually snapped and the fish was gone. I got a very brief look at him as he rolled in the lilies and I thought he was another five pounder. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

A twitchy little bite brought me a good sized skimmer and the very next cast I hooked but lost a second one. Then the small bream were gone as quickly as they had arrived. The sky seemed to be so low it was touching the ground and there was a heat and ‘tension’ in the air which I did not like. It felt to me like there could be lightening so I hastily packed everything up and slogged back through the sodden fields to the car. I had no sooner reached the motor when there was an ominous rumble of thunder close by. I didn’t see any flashes of lightening but I felt vindicated in my decision to call it a day. The drive home to Mayo was punctuated with heavy showers and minor floods on the roads.

So Thursday gave me two nice tench and a skimmer which I felt was not too bad in the conditions. What I find interesting is that the feeder did not get a single bite, all the action was on the float set up. More research is needed by me on swimfeeders as I suspect I should be catching more fish on the feeder.

Consulting the forecast it seemed that Friday was going to be a very similar type of day weather-wise. I dried out my gear as best I could and hatched a plan for the ‘morrow.

Friday

I could hear the rain hammering on the window as soon as I woke. I will admit I wavered a little, another day out in the rain seemed to be madness when tucked up in a warm bed but the lure of fishing is too strong for mere mortal anglers like me. Anyway, where as yesterday had been a fishery well known to me this time I was going to try a completely new water.

Unusually, this was a coarse trip in Mayo. According to the IFI website ‘Eatons Lake also holds good stocks of coarse fish’. A bit short on detail, I took this to mean rudd, roach and bream were likely candidates with possibly the outside chance of a tench. I had heard of this small lough a while ago but could not find it. Looking on various maps proved to be fruitless as Eaton’s was not shown on any of them. That it was situated between Ballyhaunis and Knock was beyond dispute but there are a few small loughs in that area and it was only when I used Google maps that I eventually found it. Peering intently at the screen I could make out a couple of fishing stands and even a small space on the road where I could park so today I’d pay this reed-fringed lough a visit.

This would be a short session, I had to be back home for mid-afternoon meaning I could only spend about 4 hours fishing. I had some left over maggots and even a couple of worms from Thursday so there would be enough bait for the half day. Only 30 minutes from home I pulled over on to a wide grass verge opposite the small lake. This was the place all right. It was the work of a few minutes to get gowned up and ready to go. The lake is just across a small field and through a stand of trees but the reeds and grass were above head height. It looked like the scene from a Vietnam war movie, I could imagine Charley was going to open up on me at any time! Along the wet track through the trees I went until I could make out the metal rail on a fishing stand. I was here!

I was soon fishing and took time to take in my surroundings. There were three stands, I was on the middle one simply because it was the first one I saw. The lake was a nice size and the water clear. Reeds and lily pads fringed the edges all the way around the lake, making a pretty sight. Plumbing the depth I found ten feet of water close in and three rod lengths out was too deep for normal float fishing. A feeder seemed to be the best option for the deep water and I rigged a light float from the margins.

The first hour passed with no signs of action but I kept feeding the swims with balls of groundbait and some loose fed maggots. Finally, the float gave a wee dip and I wound in a small roach, saving the blank for me. Next, a perch showed up, soon followed by a very small brother of the first one. The next hour was pretty steady with bites and fish landed but none of them were any size. All the fish fell to the float, there only being one half-hearted bite on the feeder which came to nothing. Then the rain started. It absolutely poured down for about 30 minutes, drenching me and all my gear. It eased off to a heavy mist eventually and the fish started to bite again. Some small roach, small perch and a nice small hybrid came to hand before it was time to call it a day. Counting up, 4 roach, 4 perch and two hybrids was the tally.

So what to make of Eaton’s Lake? I failed to catch anything of any size today but I suppose just catching 10 fish on a new water can’t be sniffed at. The lack of fish on the feeder is worrying me and I need to find out where I am going wrong. There was deep water three rod lengths out, too deep for the float (unless I rigged up a slider). It shouted ‘Bream’ to me and I had confidence that a worm on a feeder rig would work but it didn’t. On the plus side the lake is close to home by my standards, only half-an-hour’s drive is less than half my normal travel time to Carrick-on-Shannon for example. That alone makes it worth further exploration in my book. There is another lake close by which could also be worth a try but I need to find out how to access that one as it would entail crossing someone’s land.

So there you have it, two consecutive days on two different lakes with two different outcomes. As I write this post the heavens have opened and the street outside is under water. The local rivers will rise this weekend and the salmon will be running. The coarse rods will be tucked away for the next while…………………..

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32- Episode 16, Monaghan

Where do you even begin with county Monaghan? Seriously, was there ever a place so well endowed with coarse fishing venues? A hell of a lot of head scratching went into deciding where to fish to tick this Ulster county off my list but in the end I made a decision, well sort of…….

Monaghan is in the Republic, another one of the border counties which butts up against the UK. Cavan, Meath and Louth encircle it from west to east and it pokes up into the UK like a big, jagged tooth. Characterised by the rolling drumlin landscape, this is a fertile farming area of small fields and hedgerows. There are no large centres of population here, Monaghan Town and Carrickmacross being the two main towns.

I scoured the internet for information about the angling opportunities in Monaghan and was not disappointed by the range of venues available to anglers. I know I am critical of the IFI (often justified) but they seem to be on top of things in this county and there is a wealth of information for anyone who wants to fish here. In addition, and slightly unusually for Ireland, there has been a lot of development work carried out to improve access for anglers. Car parks, footpaths and fishing stands are common on the lakes in this part of the country. This is hugely appreciated and the IFI should be congratulated for this excellent work.

I looked at Ballybay and around Clones, both very tempting centres with a lot of lakes to try. In the end though I opted for Carrickmacross. I liked the look of some of the surrounding lakes and felt I would have a good chance of landing some fish there. Truth be told I have actually caught fish in Monaghan before. Many years ago I worked in a papermill in Aberdeen and the product was sent to various plants in Britain and Ireland for further processing. One of those plants was in Kingscourt, co. Cavan. I got to know some of the lads in that plant and visited them in 1979 for a bit of fishing. I stayed with Pat at his house in Carrickmacross and we fished for trout in some of the local lakes. There were some great nights drinking porter till the wee hours after successful days with the rods. Happy days indeed. For the purposes of this ‘32’ project I would disregard those triumphs of long ago and pit my wits against the fishes of Monaghan once again.

My plan was a simple one. On the outskirts of Carrickmacross there are three lakes in particular which are grouped within a few miles of each other so if I was struggling on one water it would be easy to switch venue. Here is what the IFI have to say about all three lakes:

1. Monalty Lake is located approximately 3.25km S.E. of Carrickmacross on the R178 Dundalk road on the right hand side of the road. Turn right after approximately 3.25kms and this roadway runs right beside the lake. There are a number of swims on this eastern shoreline and parking and access is also located in this area. Some local fishermen fish from small punts moored to platforms in the lake and boat fishing can produce the best results as the mobility allows the angler to locate the feeding shoals. This lake covers an area of 16 hectares with depths to 6m. This lake holds good stocks of fish including roach, rudd, bream, hybrids, tench, pike and eels. Bream, hybrids and tench to specimen size are to be found in this water and annually it records many specimen bream over 9 and 10 lbs in weight and the Specimen Fish Committee certifies these fish. Maggots, sweetcorn and bread are all effective baits. Anglers fishing in the early months of March and April and the later months of August, September and October produce best results.

2. Lisanisk is located on the R178 Dundalk road on the outskirts of Carrickmacross and is well developed. A spacious off road car park is provided and there are a number of angling stands on the road side of the lake. This 5-hectare lake has a maximum depth of 2.5m and produces great tench fishing. A number of large carp have also been taken in recent times. As well as tench and carp this lake holds good stocks of bream, roach, hybrids perch and some pike. This lake has a very weedy bottom as is best fished by float or pole.

3. Capragh Lake is located on the Crossmaglen road 4.5km N.E. of Carrickmacross. This lake has a good off road car park beside the lakeshore and there are many fishing stands around the lake. This lake which covers an area of approximately 12 hectares has depths ranging from 3m to 12m. This lake contains bream to specimen size and good stocks of roach, rudd, tench, perch and pike. Pike anglers will also find it possible to launch a boat on this lake’.

I think you will agree these are good, concise appraisals of all three lakes. I planned to start on Lisanisk and if that was no good make a move to Monalty with Capragh as a final back up should I still be fishless by mid-afternoon. I like having back up plans on these trips, it gives me a way out if one venue is not fishing well. I guess there is an argument that I dilute my attention to one venue by holding one or more in reserve. That is certainly a possibility but I find the peace of mind knowing there is a ‘plan B’ more of a benefit than a hindrance. The drawback with all of this was with three water to fish it was turning in to a very long day.

Another plus point for me in Carrickmacross was the tackle shop there. Anglers Choice have a huge range of gear and bait so I planned to hit the shop first when I arrived in the town. The guys there would also have up to date information about where the fish were being caught. https://anglerschoice.ie

It is the night before and it is Bank holiday Monday and so Helen and I go for a bite to eat for the first time in a year or so. We have to dine outside the restaurant but its a warm evening and we enjoy a lovely meal and some wine. Probably too much wine as we return home and sit outside in the garden talking till the wee hours. Eventually we retire for what is left of the night and at 5am my alarm sounds. Time to get up and go fishing but boy am I tired! As a youngster a scant 3 hours in my bed was more than sufficient but at my advanced age I need much longer to be able to function properly the next day. Bleary eyed, I shuffle around the house gathering up my gear. It takes me ages to load up the car and make something to eat.

With all this talk of big fish I pack my heavy leger rod and a reel with eight pound line on it. I have no plans to directly target the carp that were in Lisanisk but the heavy line would give me a fighting chance of landing one if it picked up my bait accidentally.  I have tangled with carp before and they are doughty fighters but the old ABU rod would be a match for all but the biggest of the species. Lisanisk held tench apparently and they would be my target species if I fished on that lake but carp could very well snaffle a bait intended for Tinca Tinca. A look in the bait fridge reveals half a pint of red maggots which were still in good condition and also a few worms so I brought them along for the ride. I could add them to the groundbait if nothing else. One last check that I have everything with me then I switch on the engine and hit the road.

Monaghan is another one of those awkward journeys for me with a trek through the middle of Ireland. Three hours behind the wheel should see me there I figured but slow traffic, especially tractors, can stretch that out when on some of the lesser roads I would be travelling. I wanted to arrive in Carrickmacross at 9am but I am late in leaving.

Longford, Ballyjamesduff and Kingscourt were negotiated as I ploughed on ever eastwards. I am getting used to the roads in this neck of the woods now. With the old car and no sat nav. I rely on map reading and memory to find my way around the highways and byways of Ireland. There are occasional lapses but I possess and good sense of direction and generally manage to find my way around pretty easily. Road signs are much better than they were when I first came to Ireland but there are still many smaller roads which are unmarked. While the road was quiet for the first few miles the plague of summertime tractors soon slowed me down.

I arrived in Carrickmacross after rush hour and the streets were not too busy as I tried to find my way to the tackle shop. Angler’s choice is just to the north of the town centre, pretty easy to find. Once inside I buy some fresh maggots and a bag of groundbait. It would be easy to part with some serious cash here, it is a cornucopia of coarse angling tackle and I have to steel myself not to but some goodies. Back in the car I need to make a decision on where to start and I plump for Lisanisk. It is the closest and from what I have read it might be the easiest. I am low on energy this morning and not looking for any major challenges, Lisanisk will do to begin with. Back through the town and it is only a short journey to the small car park which serves the lake. Once I have got all the gear I need out of the back of the car I slowly make my way to the bank and find some fishing stands. With no local knowledge I simply pick one at random and proceed to tackle up.

a swim on Lisanisk lake

I decide to leave the heavy leger rod in the car and instead bring the 13 foot float rod and the 12 foot swimfeeder. I tie on a helicopter rig and a maggot feeder on the 12 footer and bait up with a bunch of maggots on a size 10 hook. Groundbait is mixed and balls tossed in and then I cast out, just a couple of rod lengths out, hard up against the lily pads. I turn my attention to setting up the float rod but this takes me ages as the swimfeeder get bites right from the off. I miss the first couple before setting the hook in the third one. A small skimmer comes to hand, is snapped and quickly popped back into the green water.

The first skimmer

More skimmers are lost and landed before I finally get the float rod into action. A size 12 baited with 4 maggots doesn’t even get time to settle on the bottom before the float dips and a tiny rudd is hooked. The water seems to be filled with rudd feeding close to the surface but every cast sees the float dip and the little rascals have either robbed the maggots or they are wound in. It is all action as both rods are constantly getting bites. In the end I give up with the float, the hook is sinking too slowly, giving the rudd the opportunity to nip the baited hook on every cast. I concentrate on the swimfeeder instead. This lake must support a huge head of fish because virtually every cast receives the attention of the rudd or skimmers.

After a couple of hours I consider a move but a combination of lethargy on my part (induced by last nights frivolities) and a belief that something bigger must come into the swim sooner or later due to the heavy feeding I am giving it means I sit tight in the same spot for the whole session. Of course nothing bigger does show up and instead I swing a steady flow of pewter coloured skimmers and tiny golden rudd to my hand. I tried chopped worm but the rudd found them easy to strip from the hook even as it was sinking quickly past them. By 2.30pm I have had enough and decide to call it a day. By then I have landed 31 skimmers and 17 rudd. The biggest of the skimmers would not even reach a pound in weight and everything is covered in snot. My rods and reels, the lines and end tackle are all caked in slime from the skimmers. My clothes and skin are liberally dosed with the stuff too so there will be a big clean up when I get home. Taking down the rods and the short trudge back to the car seem to sap the final vestiges of energy from me and the long road home feels like impending torture. Once I am moving though the journey back home passes quickly enough and I turn into the driveway before 6pm.

A postmortem of the day would reveal the previous nights revelries meant I was barely fit for an arduous journey and a lot of fishing. I should have moved after the first hour and tried to find better quality fish but I was just too tired. I know I am going to regret not fishing the other lakes as I had originally planned. There is a hell of a lot of coarse fishing around Carrickmacross and I will make plans to visit there again. Any coarse anglers contemplating a trip to fish in Ireland could do a lot worse than basing themselves in Carrickmacross. It’s a busy town with all the facilities you could want on a fishing holiday and there are plenty of lakes to pick from within a few miles.

Today was something of a milestone. I have now landed fish in 16 of the 32 Irish counties, exactly half way to my goal. While disappointed in my performance today I am pretty chuffed with progress to date.

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Tinca time

Awake in the early morning I twitch the curtains open a fraction to check the weather. Bright and calm, well that’s no use! I turn over and close my eyes again for another hour of fitful sleep. The alarm jolts me out of slumber and I pull on some clothes before opening the curtains. Lo and behold! The sky is a patchwork of fluffy grey clouds, it is going to be a fishing day after all. Sandwiches are made and coffee brewed, double check I have everything I need then set off on the road. I am Leitim bound again.

There is no wind in town today, meaning it will be poor conditions on the big loughs so instead I will go hunting tench and bream in a small lake. The maggots in the ‘fridge have morphed into casters so I bring them along to add to ground bait but I need to pick up some fresh maggots and maybe a few worms. I have been losing tench on a regular basis lately so I had previously filled my reels with heavier line and made up some new heavy rigs. Feeling much better prepared there is a feeling of confidence in me (never a good sign). The road is quiet as I plough ever east by north through Mayo and Roscommon till I finally cross the Shannon into Leitrim at Carrick. Coin is exchanged for a pint of red maggots at the shop then I hit the road again on the final leg of the journey.

There is nobody fishing when I arrive there so I set up and have two rods on feeders. A wind is blowing from left to right, ruffling the surface a bit. The stink of slurry spreading fills the air and I can hear the farmer at work with tractor and muck spreader nearby. The clouds have thickened but it does not look like we will have rain today. I have a waterproof coat on, just in case.

In an attempt to attract some fish into the swim I feed heavily, balls catapulted in on a regular basis for 4 hours or so. During that time I have a couple of very half-hearted little bites which come to nothing. Bees buzz around me and gorgeous damselflies in azure and deep ruby red flit among the reeds. I dip my net in a few time to see if the weeds are harbouring any wildlife and find huge waterboatmen, snails and various other grubs in abundance. Although quite small this lough is extremely rich.

I mull over what is (not) happening and decide to persevere with the feeder on one rod but change the other on to the float. An antenna, heavily shotted, a six pound hook link to a size 12 baited with a bunch of maggots was soon rigged. I placed the bulk shot immediately below the float with a single swan shot to lie on the bottom and the 6 inch hook length over depth. I was really hedging my bets by doing this. There are roach on this lough and I thought maybe the small bites were coming from them. The bunch of maggots would attract bream or tench too. I loose fed some maggots and started fishing the float.

Sure enough, the bites started to come, slowly at first but increasing in frequency over the next hour. I kept feeding balls of groundbait and some maggots to keep the fish in my swim. The roach were mainly small but a couple of them were decent fish. A solitary perch showed up, the first one I have every caught from this lake. The hook was snagging on weeds frequently as I was fishing over depth so when the tip of the float slowly sank out of view I thought nothing of it and lifted the rod to free the hook. The old rod heaved over into a serious curve and the reel sang, that was not weeds or even a 6 ounce roach! The fight went on for a while, the tench darting for the lily pads and reeds and me applying side strain to stop it in its tracks. I tested the six pound hook length to its limit but everything held and I slipped the net under my prize. A fine fish of between three and four pounds I guessed. A couple of quick photos and the fish was safely released.

Re-baited, the rig was sent back out again and after only a few more casts the float did the same slow sinking trick and I lifted into a second tench which could have been the big brother of the first one. The fight was similarly dogged and the feeling of relief when the fish hit the meshes was real. This one had a scar on his right flank but otherwise was in great condition. I find tench such beautiful creatures, the olive colour, that paddle of a tail, those teeny-tiny red eyes all make for an iconic freshwater fish.

you can just make out the size 12 hook in his lip

I fished on, catching some more roach but in the end it went a bit quiet so I packed up and headed off homewards. It was a 90 minute drive in increasingly heavy traffic but I made it home safely. Sorting through my tackle I made a quite alarming discovery. I use differently coloured pins in my rig wallets to identify different strengths of line. Yellow ones are 6 pound breaking strain and I had tied on a hook length to the float rig which had been held in place by a yellow pin. Alas, I had somehow used the wrong coloured pin when tying the hook lengths and on examination the one I was using this afternoon was in fact four pound breaking strain! I had been piling on the pressure full sure I was connected to the fish with 6 pound. My job for tomorrow is to go through the rig wallets with a fine tooth comb and make sure everything is in order.

At least I have ended that run of losing tench. With no rain forecast for the coming week I may have another tench session soon.

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32 – Episode 15, Dublin

Part 1, June 2021

‘And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal’

Dublin. The Irish sea to the east, the mountains of Wicklow to the south and the rich farmlands of the pale to west and north. The depressingly inevitable scatter of commuter belt towns encircling it. Capital of the republic and home to more than a quarter of the entire population, here was an angling challenge for me! I know parts of the city quite well having worked there for a brief period but most of it is outwith my ken. The sprawling housing estates and business parks are a mystery to me and will always remain so. Dubliners (‘Dubs’ to the rest of the population) are a mixed lot, some of the nicest people I have ever met hail from the fair city but it has a nasty side too but then again I expect you can say the same for every large conurbation. Tourists flock to Dublin and are well catered for by all manner of paddywhackery but the attractions and blandishments of the city centre were not for me. I had fish on my mind.

It was not too easy finding a spot to try and catch a fish in Dublin. The county boundaries basically just encompass the city itself with very little rural ground. I thought long and hard about sea fishing from the piers at the harbour of Dun Laorghaire, the transient home of the ferries to England, as I have read they get lots of mackerel there in the summer. The thing is, mackerel are either there in numbers or they are not, so there was a high risk of driving all the way to south county Dublin only to find there were no fish present. I needed somewhere a little less risky. That was when I started to think about the canals. Both the Royal and the Grand canals flow through the city and they both have reasonable stocks of coarse fish. Just knowing perch, bream and roach were definitely present gave me a bit of confidence. The internet is full of video footage of guys catching pike in the very heart of the city with traffic a few feet away and commuters watching as they haul out an essox. I am too private for that level of publicity so I settled on a stretch of the royal canal far from the madding crowd and right on the county border.

Better stretches of the royal canal are to be found further west but the whole point was to catch a fish in Dublin county so I nailed my colours to the mast and made my plans for this section of the Royal Canal to the east of Leixlip. The stretch between Collins and Cope bridges has seen some decent fishing over the last few years so I figured it was worth a try. Normally I bring everything possible with me when coarse fishing but this time it would be different. I needed to be able to roam the canal to find feeding fish and that meant travelling light. I’d bring the old 13 foot float rod and a reel full of 4 pound line then the rest of my tackle and bait would have to fit in the pockets of my waistcoat or the small rucksack on my back. The plan was to float fish but with some feeders and weights in the bag I could swap to bottom fishing if necessary. In the car I would have a spinning rod in case I failed to catch any bream or roach. I figured that small spinners might tempt a jack pike if all else failed. I must confess all this sounded decidedly sketchy and fairly major doubts cruised the backwaters of my mind. Lacking a better plan I decided to go with this one.

The Royal Canal stretches from the centre of Dublin to the Camlin River at Cloondara, just before it meets the Shannon near Tarmonbarry in county Longford. There is also a connecting stretch which runs all the way to Longford town but this has not been repaired (yet). Begun in the dying years of the 18th century, it took many decades to complete and like so many other canals was soon overtaken by the new-fangled railways. It fell into disuse and was only resurrected again in 2010. Now it is used for recreation instead of commerce and there are plans for the tow path to form part of the ambitious cycleway which links Moscow to Galway. I was not planning anything remotely as taxing!

Although I had read that the canal basically fished all year round I wanted to go there early in the season before the weeds became too overgrown. Once the water starts to warm up in late April and May the canals here in Ireland rapidly fill with all manner of vegetation. Good for the fish as this provides habitat for their food but a right royal pain in the derriere for us anglers. Lockdown and then family commitments knocked those plans on the head and instead it would be the tail end of June before I made the trip east. My weed rake was most definitely going to be required regardless of the time of year so it was checked and carefully packed in the small rucksack/stool I was taking along.

Work has taken me to the fair city many, many times so the journey there would hold few surprises. Setting off very early on a Sunday morning was deliberate for a couple of reasons. During the week traffic at peak times can be horrendous and I wanted to avoid the worst of the jams so planned to be there before it peaked. Parking near where I wanted to fish was going to be very limited so I wanted to find a safe spot before anyone else. A supplementary reason was the afore mentioned tench in the canal and early mornings are traditionally the prime time for those fish.

More like jungle warfare then fishing!

I felt uncommonly excited about the upcoming trip to Dublin. This new found enthusiasm for a day on the water has been pent up due to the covid. Looking back, for a number of years I have been very jaded and at times even not enjoyed my fishing. I suspect I had fallen victim to a self-inflicted malaise. We all fish for different reasons, some want to win competitions, others to test their skill. For some it is the social interaction with fellow anglers and others it is catching the biggest/most fish. I most enjoy the mental conundrums faced when starting out a day, solving the problems which end in a bite/rise/take. Where are the fish, what are they eating, how can I attract them? These and a thousand other challenges are what I love about fishing and it was a dereliction of my mental approach to the questions which sucked the enjoyment out of my angling. It had all become very similar and to a degree predictable for me. The small amount of fishing I was able to do during 2020 changed all of that mainly due to the coarse fishing I began to learn about. Turning up at a new venue, using gear I was unfamiliar with and trying to catch species I’d not captured previously proved to be invigorating and mentally challenging. This also had an unexpected side benefit in that I appreciated my game fishing so much more, possibly because my fishing consciousness had been reawakened. Now the idea of a day on the canal trying to catch a roach or skimmer has me genuinely excited.

So off down the long road I went. Leaving the motorway just as it enters the city I found my way to a spot near the canal and parked up. I had been ruthless when packing the rucksack the night before and only the bare essentials had made the final cut. For bait I had some worms and maggots and there was some sweetcorn hiding in the bottom of the rucksack too. My plan was simple, if necessary I would clear a swim with the rake and then fish single maggot below a small waggler. Loose feed a few maggots to try and attract and then hold some fish. If that didn’t work then move along and try another swim. Repeat this until I found some fish. Other than a gentle bend there were no obvious features on this part of the canal to attract fish, they could be anywhere.

Stringing up the old float rod with the Daiwa reel and 4 pound line I took in my surroundings. The railway track on the other side of the canal follows it closely for many miles. The rumble of traffic on the motorways could still be heard too. While not exactly urban fishing it was still much more noisy than I am used to. No harm, the whole point of the ’32’ project was to sample as many different angling experiences as possible while catching fish in each county. Canal fishing in an urban environment was every bit as valid as fly fishing for trout in the wilds of Connemara.

I found a likely looking swim and gave it a rake to clear some of the weeds and stir up the bottom a bit. Plumbing the depth I found only 3 feet of water in the middle. A small crystal waggler was my first choice. Setting the float so the hook would be on the bottom I tied on a two pound hook length with a size 20 attached. Bait would be a single red maggot and I tossed in a few others as loose feed. I was fishing at last! The reason for fishing so light was the clarity of the water, it really was gin clear. I figured my usual 3/4 maggots on a size 12 was going to be too much.

Sunday morning joggers and dog walkers were out in numbers and among them that most heinous of the great unwashed – the passer-by who thinks they know all about fishing. What starts off as a casual ‘caught anything yet?’ quickly degenerates into a full blown instructional lecture, based on this person’s encyclopedic angling knowledge gleaned from that one time they went fishing on holiday.

I fished hard, raking out swims, baiting them up, fixing the float in an icy glaze for hours. I tried different spots, went down to one pound hook length, used chopped worm then tried worm and maggot. Floats were changed for ever lighter ones, shotting patterns adjusted to change the rate of fall and I loose fed maggots into swims all day. All of this failed to produce even a nibble. The hot sun beat down on me as the insects buzzed around in the heat. Nothing at all stirred though until a tiny perch fell for a single red maggot. Only slightly longer than my thumb, this fish was barely out of the cradle. I am sure it is the smallest perch I have every caught in my long angling career. That was it, that was the total for a whole day fishing the Royal Canal in Dublin. At 5pm I packed up and headed for the car and the long road back to Mayo. I was gutted.

I drove home crest fallen, not even I could count the tiny perch as being an acceptable fish. I would have to try again at a later date. I knew when I started this odyssey I was bound to blank sometimes but failing so spectacularly in Dublin was hard to swallow. The long road west seemed to take an age to negotiate and all the while I was asking myself what I could have done differently. I saw no signs of a good fish all day, bar a few minnows in the margins the place looked dead. No tiny bubbles rising to indicate fish grubbing about on the bottom or dark shapes drifting slowly through the weeds. I had fished fine all day and I really didn’t think I was scaring fish off. I need to learn lessons on days like this but I don’t know where to start with this one. The fact I saw no other anglers is perhaps an indication that the fishing was poor.

It was very much a case of back to the drawing board for me. I spent a significant amount of time searching for another venue. I didn’t fancy returning to the Royal canal after the abject failure in June so I had to find somewhere else, but where?

Part two, the end of July 2021

‘In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty……………….’

The wounds of my last foray to the capital have healed so it is time to return to the scene of the crime. In the end I decided to try the other canal in the city, the Grand Canal. It too has stocks of pike, perch and roach, is of a similar depth and construction as the Royal but links Dublin harbour with the Shannon in Offaly via a more southerly route. My idea was to fish it with jigs, looking for perch and jacks around the lock gates where there should be less weeds. I’d bring some maggots with me too so I had options if the jigs failed to produce. This would be ‘urban’ fishing, a backpack with some small bits and a rod, not much else. The section of the canal I was targeting passes through a landscape of industrial and commercial sites with some housing mixed in. Busy roads and even a motorway crossed the waterway and the towpath is heavily used by everyone from friendly dog walkers to drug addicts and criminals. It would be far removed from my usual gentle days of solitude in a small boat on a western lough!

I don’t own any specific jigging or drop shotting rods or reels so I would just make do with an old spinning rod and a small fixed spool filled with light fluorocarbon line. I was not anticipating hooking anything large so I did not bother with a net. The whole idea was that I could quickly move between different spots until I found a few fish. The majority of the canal would be shallow and weedy but I hoped to find deeper, clearer water at the locks which were strung out along my chosen stretch.

I eschewed another early start, to beat the rush hour traffic on a weekday I would need to be on the road at 3am so instead I opted for a more leisurely mid-morning start and departed Castlebar at 9 o’clock on a slightly misty summers day. The M50 was not too busy when I got there and I turned off at the Red Cow then found a parking spot near to the canal. Would this be another disaster or could I wangle out a few decent fish today? I admit to being nervous about leaving the car parked in such a dodgy area but I figured nobody would want to steal such an old wreck and made sure not to leave anything of any value inside. From my research I figured I could reach a total of six locks if I pushed it and my hope was they would be less weedy than the open stretches of canal.

My chosen rod for the day was a light 7 foot ABU spinning rod of great vintage. I had bought it in Aberdeen in the 1970’s but to be honest it had hardly been used since then. The brown fibreglass is still in great condition. Rated for 2 – 10 grams it should be OK for what I demanded of it. I matched it with my elderly Daiwa Harrier fixed spool reel, a cheap and cheerful set up which should see me through the day. In my small rucksack I had stowed some soft baits, a few small spinners and plugs, a plastic box of hooks/weights/swivels/floats and a couple of small bait boxes containing the live bait. No net, weed rake or other essentials. I set off for the closest lock, feeling full of trepidation. With one failure already under my belt I was under pressure to do much better this time. Beyond watching some very entertaining videos on dropshotting I know nothing about this method, adding considerably to the challenge. The guys on YouTube made all look so easy, just jiggle the wee lure up and down and perch or pike magically appear on the hook. I treated the videos with a healthy dose of Scottish skepticism.

The first spot I tried

I started off with a basic drop shot set up of a 3.5 gram weight and one of those swivel/hook thingys which I stuck a small plastic grub on (you can tell already that I am out of my depth here). The maggots in my bucket were the back up but I needed to feel I was ‘doing something’ this time rather than waiting for a float to dip. I manfully strode up to the nearest lock, a steely glint in my eye. ‘Make my day suckers’ I muttered in my best Clint Eastwood voice as I dropped the grub into the dirty water by the lock gate. I jiggled it up and just like I had seen in the videos. Nothing. I must have the wrong colour – I changed to a yellowish one and tried again. Nope, no good. I moved the weight a bit closer to the lure so it would fish closer to the bottom. Nothing. I tried casting and then bumping the weight along the bottom. That didn’t work either. I tried both sides of the lock gates but with a similar lack of success.

‘Yer’s not goin’ ta catch any bleedin’ fish there mister’. The broad Dublin accent from a child’s mouth is always a shock to me and here were a pair of ankle-biters behind me. ‘Ders fishes up der’ said the other one pointing to nowhere in particular. ‘We seen a fella fishin’ der before’. I thanked them for their advice and walked off up the path. An hour had gone and I was still to see a fish let alone hook one. The next lock was further away than I thought but I sauntered up there under the grey clouds, trying to figure out what to try next. I settled on sticking with the drop shot for now.

The next set of locks were much more promising. A deep, clear pool below the gates was fishable but try as hard as I might I could see no fish swimming in it. The flow from over the top of the gates created a fast flow immediately below and it screamed ‘perch’ to me. I checked the terminal tackle was in order and lowered it into the water. With the clarity of the water I could watch the jig as it descended into the depths and didn’t a pair of good sized perch rush out of nowhere and try to grab the plastic grub. They missed it and I wound in to try to repeat the exercise. A solitary perch came to investigate this time but he too declined to bite. To cut a long story short I drop-shotted this spot for the next 20 minutes and most drops I had a follow but not one fish actually swallowed the lure. Time for a re-think.

It looks horrible but I could actually see right to the bottom of 10 feet of water here

I only had the spinning rod with me but it would have to do. I rigged a small crystal waggler float, plumbed up and added a 2.5 pound tail with a size 16 hook. A pair of red maggots where sent wriggling into the water. After only the second or third drop (it was not even a cast) the float bobbed and I struck into a roach which promptly fell off the hook as I was swinging it in. Damn! I couldn’t count that one. A few minutes later the float disappeared and I lifted into a modestly proportioned perch which made it safely to my sweaty paw.

First perch

I fished on and landed one more perch and a roach. The fast current and back eddy was making bite detection tricky. The float slowly sank and I lifted to free the hook from the weeds only to see a huge perch surface with my hook in his mouth. He gave a slow roll and was gone. He hadn’t been far of a couple of pounds in weight that lad! I could see what was happening here, the currents were strong and very variable so I was losing contact with the hook as it was washed in different directions deep below (there was about 10-12 feet of water). I took off the crystal float and in its place went a hefty pellet waggler, rated for 3 grams. I then put my bulk shot just above the hook and changed up to a size 12 holding a bunch of maggots. Some loose feed then I dropped in the new set up. It took a while but eventually the float dipped and I lifted into a nice perch. It wasn’t the big lad I had lost but it was still an OK fish. I caught another roach, no great size but very pretty. For some reason I decided to take another look at the pool below the run I was fishing. Laying the rod down I watched intently for a while, my eyes slowly adjusting to the water. Sure enough, I could make out a dark shape on the bottom, then another and many more. There were perch in there and what was probably roach too. I slung the big blue float out and the maggots settled on the bottom. Minutes passed but then the float trembled and I struck into a nice perch.

Some kids, under the supervision of 3 adults stopped at the lock above me. I paid then no heed as I was considering another change of tackle to fish lighter in the gin-clear pool. There was the usual noise you associate with a gang of kids then a resounding splash as one of them jumped in to the water above the lock. The others soon followed and they were having great fun. I was concentrating very hard on my float when out of the blue a wet-suited child hurled herself directly into the swim, not 2 yards from my float! Letting out a howl of delight as she surfaced, a broad grin on her face. She next extolled the virtues of the water and encouraged her pals to join her. But now every self-respecting fish was in the next parish so I wound in. One of the accompanying adults came over to me and said the kids would not be there long and they would be out of the water in a hour or so. I thought about it for a while but decided to head back to the car. On the way I dropped the float into the dark water under a bridge and in three casts pulled out a small roach and two small perch.

Back at the car I took down the rod and slung all the gear in the back. Some random lad tried to cadge a cigarette from me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I slammed the car door shut and locked them before speeding off, leaving him shouting something unprintable towards me.

So, what to make of all that? I had landed 6 perch and 3 roach so I was reasonably happy with the result. Only that I had found the fish below the lock I fear I would have returned to Mayo with another blank. It was very irritating that the kids showed up just as I had found a shoal of fish but that is life and we just need to move on when stuff like that happens. The little spinning rod was a poor tool for fishing the float but the alternative of dragging more than one rod with me today was just not an option for me. Drop-shotting still needs further investigation. It certainly got a response from the perch but they would not actually take the plastic. I will do some more research and maybe even invest in some of those dinky little ‘creature’ baits.

Dublin has been very firmly crossed off my ‘to do’ list. Two trips across the full width of Ireland it had taken but I had done what I had set out to achieve. It looked to me as if the stretch I was fishing used to be good. There were concrete pegs all along the towpath but they were all badly overgrown and had not been used for years. I’ll be honest, I won’t be in a rush to fish there again but it was an experience and I learned a bit more about fishing.

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