Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Level land

I’m healing. Slowly and painfully, but I am recovering. My balance is poor and I stumble like a ten o’clock drunk sometimes, fearful of falling. Mornings are the worst. It is so hard to keep level until the meds kick in and my internal gyroscopes eventually begin to operate fitfully. My days are punctuated by periods of bewilderment at this turn of events and a sense of loss. Life has changed and not for the better. With no reason for the sudden onset of my vertigo the medical profession have told me ‘this will take time to pass’. How much time? Will I ever get back to normality? No answers, just shrugs of white coated shoulders……………..

Our holiday, touring around Europe by train was a welcome distraction but marred by people’s well meaning efforts to help the old guy who could’t walk properly. ‘Over here, sir, let us help you’. ‘Are you travelling alone?’ Here, have this seat’. I felt sick to my core at the helplessness. I’m too young to be a cripple. I am healing, can’t they see that?

the square in Krakow

It’s the dying days of the season here in Ireland with most fisheries closing at the end of this month. My worst season ever is almost over, slithering to an ignominious conclusion. The drought of 2018 was bad. That long, hot summer completely dried up some rivers and devastated the stocks on others. Salmon were scarce across the country and trout rarely ventured to look up from their work hoovering the bottom of the loughs. It was a season to forget for every angler I know.

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Conn, another poor season on this water too

We trolled diligently but failed to hook a single fish of note on the snaking Cashel River and we were not alone, we heard of nobody else having any success. The Cashel flows sedately through the flat lands between Ballyvary and the village of Park, home to shoals of fat Roach and Perch, numerous toothy Pike, a few large trout and our quarry the Atlantic Salmon. Only the roach thrived this summer and the solid, silvery salmon failed to appear at all.

A stretch of the Cashel river

The Cashel is about as far from your classic salmon river as it is possible to get. The wide, shallow runs interspersed with holding pools so beloved by generations of fishers on the Dee or Tweed are replaced by a narrow, deep channel which barely changes pace as it wends between the tussocks of bog grass. The channel was straightened and deepened by the OPW many years ago with the aim of reducing flooding. It could be argued this has been a success as the low lying flat lands drained and became fields where they had once been wild bog, full of birds and animals of all descriptions. Now they are sterile fields full of grass to feed cows and sheep. The land still floods sometimes but not as often as it used to, that water now runs off fast and causes flooding further downstream. The bird song stopped when the diggers turned off their diesels and clanked off on flatbeds to their next place of destruction. The salmon fishing has never recovered from this act of government sponsored thuggery and these days a small number of springers nose up the Cashel in high water followed by a trickle of grilse if there are any summer spates. From June onwards the river is pretty much unfishable due to dense weed growth caused by agricultural run off.

the hills of the Windy Gap in the distance, the Cashel meanders through the level lands into Lough Cullin

For all its unlovelyness this small river draws us back each year because in the past it was productive. We managed a few salmon each season and there were always those autumn days when we boated pike after pike. Not this year though. The salmon never did run the river and even the pesky pikes were absent. We tried it a few times on days when the conditions were good  and all our senses told us we should be contacting fish but the rods did not bend nor the reels screech. Shimmering spoons wobbled and weaved enticingly through the murky water but we would have been as well propping up a bar with pints of black porter to sup. We blanked again and again.

Not catching fish is the norm for us anglers. Hours slip past without anything much happening. We accept this because we anticipate the rare moments when a fish does bite. It’s that hope which is a vital but oft unspoken spur which keeps us fishing. Without hope we would not bother to fish. This season the flame of hope flickered and died on the banks of the Cashel amid the flat, silent fields. It feels like we have just done too much damage and there are not enough unfettered green spaces remaining.

Will we bother to fish the Cashel next season? At this stage we don’t think so. The hope which has been eroding since February doesn’t simply regenerate and the endless disappointments can’t be erased from the memory banks. Angling is all about hope and the belief that a fish will take your fly or bait at some point but that has been stretched to the limits of credulity this year on the Cashel river. Some late runners will swim up the river now the season is closing and the next spate will see them leap the falls at Carrowkeel as they head for the spawning redds. I doubt there are enough of them though to see the fortunes of this quirky fishery turned around.

Yesterday was a better day than the one before with only a couple of stumbles. A dizziness descended for maybe 20 minutes in the morning but it cleared it before anyone but me noticed. I am getting better!

Here is James McMurtry singing about another desolate flat landscape.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Around Conn and Cullin

Just some bits and pieces from the Conn/Cullin area to give you a feel for this part of Ireland. Let’s kick off with some figures shall we?

  • The Conn/Cullin catchment drains roughly 800 square miles of north County Mayo
  • Conn is a big lough, it covers roughly 48 km2 and has a maximum depth of 40 metres
  • Cullin, which sits to the south of Conn, covers just over 10 km2

The loughs are joined by a cut which replaced the old river and this is spanned by a bridge on the R310 road. The village of Pontoon is situated on the narrow isthmus which separates the two bodies of water. Two hotels in the village are currently both closed. There were hopes that at least Healy’s would open again next year but the existing building may have to be demolished and a new one built.

Healy’s hotel, Pontoon

The Pontoon Bridge hotel changed hands last year but it too is still shut. The local economy badly needs both of these hotels to open up.

pontoon-bridge-hotel-20018

The water level on Lough Conn was lowered by 1.83 m (6 feet) in the autumn of 1966 as part of the Moy Arterial Drainage Scheme. There is a general opinion in the area that this scheme had a negative effect on fish stocks in both loughs.

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the Lough Conn drainage area

In Irish folklore these loughs were created when the Celtic hero, Fionn MacCumhaill was out hunting boar with his two hounds named Conn and Cullin. The dogs were chasing a boar when water began gushing from the boar’s feet. The chase went on for days but eventually the steady flow of water from the boar drowned the poor dogs while simultaneously forming two lakes: Conn and Cullin.

The huge bulk of Nephin towers over Conn

pontoon

Back in the 1960’s there was a dance hall in Pontoon. Hugely popular in its day, people flocked to it to dance the night away. Legend has it that one night, towards the end of the evening, a girl was asked for a dance by a handsome young man. She stepped out with him and he turned out to be a superb dancer. She was having the time of her life until by chance she happened to look down. Instead feet the bold young fella walked on hooves – the devil himself was abroad in Pontoon!

pontoon

 

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Lough Conn stretches all the way from Crossmolina in the North to Pontoon in the south with fishing all over the whole body of water. As with most Irish loughs, the best fishing is in the shallows around the shoreline, island and offshore reefs. Unlike Mask and Corrib there is virtually no angling in the deeps.

Mayfly time and Brown’s Bay on Lough Conn is busy with anglers preparing to go out for the day

Fish stocks are but a shadow of what the were, Indeed, the population of Char seems to have died out completely. Surveys carried out many years ago suggested that a big majority of the trout from Lough Cullin spawned in the Castlebar river. Nowadays there are very few trout in Cullin and they have been replaced with coarse fish.

Ballyvary river

the Castlebar river

An angler trolling for salmon in the shallow waters of Lough Conn, off the mouth of the river Deel, Crosmolina

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Remembering Bilberry Lake

Years ago I used to fish Bilberry Lake, half way between Castlebar and Westport. At the time this was a stocked trout fishery and the fishing is looked after by the Bilberry Angling Club. Membership was comprised mainly locals from Islandeady who did a small bit of fishing with a sprinkling of more experienced anglers. Having served on the committee of the club in the past I can vouch for the hard work and ‘never say die’ attitude of that angling club. Bilberry Lake has very limited spawning sites, just a few small streams, certainly not enough to support a viable head of trout in the lake. So the club used to get the fisheries board to stock it with brownies ever season. When this supply source of fish dried up due to the hatchery being closed Bilberry could no longer function as a trout fishery.

looking towards the reek

looking across Bilberry Lake towards the distant reek

The lake is shallow and surrounded by rich farmland, so the nutrient loaded waters rapidly weed up in the summer. Every summer the club put huge efforts into weed cutting, just to keep the lake fishable. A major competition for the McConnville Cup was organised every July which rivalled some of the bigger and more prestigious waters in terms of attendance and prizes. Fund raising, boats/engines, re-stocking, traffic management, prizes, and all the hundreds of other details were carefully worked out and every effort was made to make the three days a success. I understand the McConnville cup is still fished every July but it is held on Lough Mask these days

pumphouse shore

Autumn, trolling along the pumphouse shore

Bilberry was unlike the big lakes in almost every way and was much closer to an English stocked fishery in character. It was stocked solely with Brown Trout and they varied in size from 12 inches up to a couple of pounds with a small number overwintering and growing to a decent size. There are also a tiny number of native trout too.

reeds at the mouth of the river

reeds at the mouth of the river which links Bilberry to Lough Lannagh

Other scaly inhabitants are pike and perch. You would think that the pike would grow large in Bilberry, given that for years the angling club thoughtfully supplied them with free dinners by stocking the lake, but I haven’t seen any pike over 20 pounds caught there. What they lack in size they make up for in numbers and the lake simply teems with small pike in the 2 – 5 pound range.

So now that the trout have gone where do you fish on Bilberry Lake for Pike? The fish seem to hold in specific areas so it pays to give these particular attention. Looking out from the slipway near the graveyard the opposite shore is a great spot for a pike. A wind which favours that short section of shore will often produce some action. I find the main body of open water is a bit hit and miss but anywhere close to the reeds can give up a pike by quietly working your lure as close to the vegetation as you dare. Hayes’s Bay is a small, shallow bay which always holds a stock of small jacks. Again, a quiet approach pays dividends.

There is deep water just outside Hayes’s Bay but working around the corner brings you to ‘the pins’ a line of marker rods in a line which warn of a very shallow reef. This is a reliable area in any wind.

From the pins the lake stretches off into the distance and trolling plugs or spoons can give you a chance of a fish anywhere here. The shore then turns sharply round a point and into MacDonald’s Bay. I found the pike scarce in this bay but any I met were usually of a good size. Coming back out of MacDonald’s bay the shore runs down to the Pumphouse, a handy place to fish if nothing much is happening elsewhere.

For me, the hotspot for pike was all the way along from the German shore right up to the graveyard. I have seen large numbers of pike boated here, nothing too big mind, but the smaller fish seem to like lying between 5 and 50 yards right along that shoreline.

German shore

German shore

Near the pumphouse the river leaves Bilberry and flows down to Lough Lannagh. You can drive a boat along the short river and down into Lannagh where an even bigger population of small Pike can be found.

small pike nearly ready

small pike nearly ready for the net

The spoon that worked

…..and the spoon he took

I have never enjoyed deadbaiting for pike so I only use artificial lures or flies. Any of your favourite lures will catch fish but I found silver spoons very effective in the winter.

these Solvkroken were particularly good on Bilberry

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Split-ring the Atom!

Edinburgh Angling Centre – worth a visit if you are in Auld Reekie

During my recent visit to Scotland I dropped in by the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Just like its counterpart in Glasgow, this is a jaw-dropping cornucopia of everything any angler could every want or need. While I loved every minute of browsing the aisles I did feel a bit of a dinosaur amid all the new-fangled gear. The Pike baits in particular left me feeling distinctly elderly. Spoons and plugs make up the vast majority of my pike baits but these days you can buy the most amazingly accurate artificial fish (if you have deep enough pockets that is). I bought the bits and pieces I required but exited the building like a man who had seen a vision of the future, one he did not really fit into. I only dabble in Pike fishing as something to do during the close season for game fish. I can’t for the life of me see my wallet opening and £30 or £40 being exchanged for one of these super-duper glide baits.

I used to like the old ABU Atom for pike fishing and I recently had to re-arm one which I had picked up cheap somewhere. It was one of the 2 hook design so I thought I’d show you how to re-equip this bait (without sticking a dirty great treble into yourself). These Atoms with two hooks were buggers for casting as the top treble would catch on the line with infuriating frequency, but they are fine for trolling.

All the old hooks and other gear were rotten so the first job was to remove and safely dispose of them. That left me with a bare spoon to work on.

all the rusty old fittings have been removed

The originals sported one split ring to hold the top hook but I prefer to fit two smaller split rings so the hook has freedom of movement. This is the most awkward job so I do this first.

2 small split rings for the top hook

Next you add the new split rings to the top and to the bottom of the spoon. Here I use slightly larger rings.

A barrel swivel goes on to the top split ring.

I like my Pike spoons to have a dash of red on them so I fit a small plastic Vee to the bottom split ring before adding the treble, in this case a size 4.

I keep a few of the red Vee’s in my box just for jobs like this

Fitting on the same split ring that the treble will go on to

Finally, add the top treble (same size or one size smaller than the tail treble). I cover the bottom treble with a plastic hook guard when putting on the top hook to save any accidents!

top treble added

There you go, a finished spoon. In a world of fancy thru-line, holographic printed 10 inch glide baits this old school spoon looks to be a very poor relation but it still catches Pike for me.

Ready for action

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling

Multiplication

1970’s ABU ambassadeurs (from a tightlines catalogue)

Why on earth do I own 5 different ABU multipliers you may well ask? Surely just one of these venerable old multiplying reels is enough for any fisher? Two of them may seem overkill and any more is simply rampant hedonism. The answer is that I don’t need them all but I use them for slightly different roles. So today I thought you might like to see what I use these old wonders of Scandinavian mechanical engineering for. Let’s start with the big lads, the 7000’s

ABU Ambassadeur 7000 and 7000C

a pair of very grubby looking 7000’s.

They built them tough in Sweden! This pair are my heavy beachcasting reels. Both date from the early ‘80’s and continue to serve me well despite horrific abuse over the intervening decades. Purchased new (from Somer’s in Aberdeen when they were still in the tiny shop in Thistle Street if my memory serves me correctly), these monsters were at the time regarded as the very best reels for surf casting. The competition has improved over the years and at the same time I feel the modern AB Garcia’s are not as strong as the old reels.

my red 7000, showing a few battle scars

These pairs are certainly no match for modern multipliers but these days my fishing does not require gargantuan casts to the far horizon. Although they look beat up I’m hopeful they will see me out as, despite outward appearances, I have maintained and lubricated them regularly. The red 7000 in particular carries many battle scars, the result of long forgotten finger-tip scrambles down steep rocks to get to remote marks. I used to take just my 6 ounce beachcaster and the 7000 with me when attacking the more extreme marks, meaning scrapes and scratches for both rod and reel as I slithered down granite and basalt outcrops. This reel is built like a tank and soaked up the punishment, no matter how extreme the mark was.

Rock marks like this one in Donegal were tough on my gear

Black 7000C

So what is the difference between a 7000 and a 7000C? Ball bearings is the answer. The old original 7000 came with brass bushings on the spool while the 7000C sports stainless steel roller bearings. These super-duper bearings should give much better performance but in practice I found that there was not much to pick between the two reels. The numbers stamped on the reel foot tells me the red 7000 dates from 1980 and the black ‘C’ from just two years later, so they are both knocking on for 40 years old!

The level wind on a 7000. Removing this improves casting performance markedly

Size and line capacity of the 7000’s is identical and they are both beasts of reels, strong and reliable in even the most extreme conditions. I have two 7000’s because I often fish with a pair of beachcasters. This allows me to push one bait out a long way and drop the other bait closer to the shore. I can also try different baits and rigs by using both rods/reels. On a slow day this keeps me ticking along, just reeling to check the baits, making small changes or trying out different rigs. On a day when the fish are biting it can lead to high excitement as both rods go off at the same time!

ABU Ambassadeur 6500C3

Next in line I possess an elderly 6500C3. I have seen beautiful examples of this type of reel; the chrome rockets in particular are pure fishing porn! My one is a somewhat shabby model dating from 1999 which I picked up second-hand. It is more Nora Batty than Marilyn Munro I am afraid. 6500’s are among the most popular beach reels and the various versions can been seen in action across the globe wherever distance casting is required. If you are in the market for a 6500 you need to decide if you are going to plump for one with or without the level wind. The sports mags and ultracast’s were superb reels with no level wind to slow them down. My old C3 has a level wind but is still a fine casting machine. I’ve tweaked my one a little by replacing the spool bearings with semi-ceramics.

The all important ‘made in sweden’ logo

Smaller and neater than their big cousins, the 6500 range are lovely reels in use. They somehow just feel ‘right’. This is important to me. When I’m fishing I like my gear to be an extension of myself, both physically and emotionally. The sense of ‘oneness’ adds hugely to my enjoyment of a day on the water. Over the years I have owned some rods and reels which I never really felt were right, despite hefty price tags and well-known brand names.

In case you are wondering, the difference between a 6500 and a 6000 reel is the 6500 has higher gearing and therefore a faster retrive speed.

I use the 6500C3 for lighter beach and rock work in saltwater. Spool capacity is one hundred and fifty yards of 20 pound mono, not nearly as good as the 7000 but then again it is not so agricultural as the big old 7000’s. Paired with my 4 ounce beachcaster it can chuck a lead a fair old distance.

This one needs a good clean!

The topic of handles always inspires a lively debate among Ambassadeur owners. To some it is sacrilege to change any part of the hallowed reels. To others , and I fall into this category, upgrading your reel can be a good thing if it is done well. 6500’s came with a small double paddle handle which were fiddly on the beach in the cold and wet. Power handles for retro-fitting became widely available and these are a useful upgrade in my opinion. I am thinking of changing the double paddle handle on this reel for a power handle.

ABU Ambassadeur 5500C

Boys oh boys, this is a dream of a reel! I use it for casting and trolling for salmon (I know, what a waste using a 5500C for dragging metal behind a boat!!!). Everything about the 5500C oozes class; smooth and light yet strong and aesthetically gorgeous. Of all my ABU multipliers this is my favourite. ABU made a range of different 5500’s over a long production run and you can see why these little beauties were so popular. Essentially a narrower 6500, the 5500 series are favoured by salmon and pike anglers. I think those who pursue catfish in the States use them too.

The free spool control is sensitive on this reel

My example dates from 1973 but there is hardly a mark on it and it fishes perfectly. The only downside of this reel is that it does not have a clicker. I’d like that refinement for those all too rare occasions when a salmon grabs the bait and that wonderful sound of the clicker screaming fills the air!

not mine, but examples like this pristine 5000 cost thousands to buy

 

ABU Ambassadeur 4500CB

Finally, we come to a bit of an oddball – a 1980’s 4500CB. These reels would not be very common here in Ireland as they were designed for the USA market where small baitcasting reels were developed for use by bass fishermen. Flipping jerk baits for large mouths required a reel with specific characteristics and the small ABU’s were hugely popular across the pond. From what I can gather, they have been largely replaced by those fancy new baitcasting reels that look like something out of a Batman movie!

I picked my one up on ebay for a smallish sum. It is in good condition but cannot be described as pretty. It’s functional but not eye-catching. I have seen some lovely examples out there, gorgeous wee reels in lustrous dark green, silver or Florida orange hues. Again, the pretty ones command high prices in the marketplace.

The ‘CB’ denotes that this reel has an unusual sophistication – a self-centring level-wind no less! I must confess that exactly how this is an advantage in every day fishing escapes me, but it is a sweet little reel which I bought specifically for trolling. These reels were designed to hold 10 pound breaking strain nylon but I reckoned that was close enough in diameter to modern 30 pound b/s braid. Trolling for salmon here-abouts does not require massive line capacity of a reel, one hundred yards is more than sufficient as you can turn the boat and follow even the mightiest fish out to deeper water. As the reel for my ‘poker’ – the short middle rod when trolling – it only has about  15 yards of line out when fishing. The 4500CB accepts 120 yards of heavy braid, meeting all my requirements in a neat little package. This reel also has a level-wind which does seem to be overkill considering the narrow spool, but hey, why not flaunt it if you got it!

The decision to buy an old 4500C was deliberately taken to give me a reel purely for matching up with the poker rod and 30 pound braid. Then I mixed things up a bit! A fella in New Jersey was selling off some spools for my reel at a very, very low price so I simply had to buy all three of them. Now I am in the happy position of being able to switch the wee reel between different uses as required.

spare spools for the 4500 CB

If under extreme duress, you were to restrict me to only one of the above reels I would have to plump for the 6500C. It can easily do everything the others can do. I bought the 7000’s at a time when I was rock fishing (frequently in the dark) for winter cod on Scotland’s North East coast. Heavy leads, slung into the teeth of a gale amid mountainous seas needed tough reels and the big 7000’s could handle the stresses and strains with aplomb. They have easier lives now, gently lobbing baits into summer seas for doggies and rays. The 6500C is build for this type of shore fishing and would work just fine when casting or trolling for salmon too.

The 5500C is probably slightly under-gunned for rock fishing. It is perfect for salmon fishing though. It is a pure joy to fish with when casting heavy baits (20 – 40 grams). It is hard to put into words but this reel somehow just feels ‘right’.

The baby of the pack, the 4500CB is very much a specialist piece of equipment for Irish fishing, too small by far for most ‘normal’ angling situations here. But it does exactly what I require of it so it has earned its place in my tackle bag. Now that I have spare spools for it I can also use it for other situations where light lines are required.

So that is the reason I have acquired all these different reels over the years; I don’t really need them all but each one is a delight to use and they add to my enjoyment each time I use them. The small differences between then give them individual characters. The doughty, world worn heftiness of the old 7000’s is a million miles removed from the genteel, silken feel of the 5000C or the dinky wee 4500CB. I get huge enjoyment out of using these old reels, the workmanship and design are timeless and fit well with my values when it comes to fishing gear.

If you hanker after an old, Swedish manufactured Ambassadeur yourself they are easy to find secondhand. Expect to pay big money for rare models in mint (or even unused) condition. There are many collectors who track down the finest examples for their display cabinets. Reels with minor surface wear can be had for a lot less. Of course there are some extremely dodgy reels floating around the secondhand market and it is very much a case of ‘buyer beware’.  Look out for reel which exhibit heavy corrosion (especially on the cage), cracked side plates or grinding gears and avoid these like the plague. Spare parts are easily available but if you have a lot of work to do to a reel it soon becomes quite expensive. Oh, and a word of caution – owning old Ambassadeurs can quickly become an addiction (see above!). Don’t go buying gear you can’t afford.

Please don’t run away with the notion that I am an expert on these old Ambassadeurs – I assure that I am anything but that! Check out youtube for lots of videos on cleaning, strip down and upgrades for these reels. There is a wealth of information out there. Then there are the specialist collectors who have websites you can visit to drool over their immaculate reels. If you really want to get into collecting these reels in a serious way then the bibles written by Simon Shimomura, author of not one, but three books on collectable Ambassadeur reels. I will leave you with multiple photos!

Clockwise from the left: 4500CB, 6500C and 5500C

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Pink squid anyone?

OK, so this is a bit ‘left field’ but I saw this big pink coloured artificial squid advertised and I thought it might work for pike. I know what you are thinking – Pike live in fresh water and have never seen a squid, pink or any other colour for that matter. But I will give it a try and see if the toothy green lads respond to it.

As it arrived, with small silver trebles

I bought it for a fiver from a bloke in Oldham on ebay.  When it arrived I decided the hooks were wrong so I changed them. They looked too small for the size of the lure to me. There is a second treble lurking in amongst those tentacles.

That’s better! A pair of size 2 bronze trebles added

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Kynochs and other plugs

Flat calm on Lough Conn, no use for the fly so trolling is the best option on a day like this

A confession first, I don’t know much about Kynochs and their kin. You see they were never really part of my armoury when I fished in Scotland and they are far from common here in Ireland. I am becoming more interested in them now though as I seem to be doing more and more trolling each season. With less and less time available to fish every season I have to take whatever conditions are allotted to me, meaning I am confronted with days of flat calm and/or dazzling sunshine. Faced with hopeless weather for the fly, I need to be flexible and that’s when the trolling rods come out. ABU Toby’s are the first choice but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Kynoch should work too. With apologies to the stalwart harling men and women of the Tay, here is the little I know of these plugs.

This plug originated in USA back in the 1940’s and it was made of wood in the beginning. Somewhere along the line the Luhr Jensen company became involved and turned it into the plastic J plug. I don’t know how or when the plug crossed the Atlantic but Iain Kynoch a fisherman and and toolmaker picked up the lure and pretty soon the Kynoch Killer was born. Iain patented the lure and ABU of Sweden made the Kynoch Killer under licence between 1973 and 1976. I think I am right in saying that the moulds are still in hands of someone in Scotland.

This one can be dated fairly accurately

Another, very similar plug called the ‘Lucky Louis’, also hails from America. This is very similar in shape and size to the Kynoch. Then there is the Tomic. Around the same size, this one hails from Canada where it is used used for mooching on the great lakes and the western seaboard. And of course there is the Tay Lure itself. Same shape and design but this one runs deeper in the water.

Colours range from all gold, through silver and green to ruby red and include the famous pink and white variant. Tomics come in a wide range of often garish colours.

All of these plugs were designed for the same use, trolling or harling behind a boat. The quarry is usually salmon but pike and lake trout also fall for their charms. The concave face of these plugs forces the water over the top of them, pushing them down deep, important in the strong, deep flows of the lower Tay. I am hoping they will also run deep on Lough Conn and seek out salmon from lies which other lures are fishing too high above.

Lough Conn

I have been buying up a few of these plugs over the winter, some as good as new and others in varying states of disrepair. They seem to appear in sudden flashes on ebay. I don’t see any for weeks on end then there are lots to be had. Some are sold singly but it is common to see them offered for sale in wee batches of 4 or 6 plugs. This is a mixed blessing as you can quickly acquire a range of baits but very soon you find ‘repeats’ and you buy 6 baits when you only really want a couple of them.

Sizes of all these plugs range from 3 inches to just over 5 inches for the big Tomics. I have also bought a few larger examples with pike in mind. As I said, the condition of these lures varies greatly, some being unused while others appear to have been dredged from the bottom of the river before being offered for sale! I quite enjoy messing about with paints and brushes, so I have given a few of the more worn ones a new lease of life with vibrant colours. If you go on to Youtube and you can enter a world of super-artistic guys who make fabulous baits out of scraps of timber or by making their own moulds and casting plastic plugs then spraying them to amazingly high standards. I especially enjoy the handmade fisherman’s videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/paulpadam

While I am in complete awe of their abilities my own skills are somewhat lacking when it comes to fancy paintwork. I settle for some quick licks with a brush and some new hooks. I have also invested in a cheap second-hand air brush and will attempt to do a slightly more professional job when painting lures in the future.

This one definitely needs a lick of paint!

on the drying rack after getting a base coat of matt white (there are some devons getting the beauty treatment too)

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once the base coats are dry I can begin to build up the colours I want

I am planning of trying the pink version next season. I understand pink was (is?) a very popular colour on the Tay but I can’t say that I have used or even seen a pink plug fished on Lough Conn. I don’t see why a pink coloured lure wouldn’t work and maybe just the fact that it is something different could be in its favour. I have one pink Kynoch in the box ready for the 2018 season, so let’s hope it does the business in the spring.

The J Plugs are available in metallic finishes for those occasions when you really want to waken the fish up!

An ABU Kynoch after some cleaning up. This is the ‘trouty’ colour scheme

In terms of how to fish these plugs it seems to be fairly straight forward. A shortish rod sticking out the back of the boat, commonly referred too as the poker and an old reel that will hold enough 20 pound line will do. The Kynoch is then fished quite close to the boat, around 15 yards for example. This allows the lure to work in the turbulence created by the engine, adding to the crazy darting action it already demonstrates.

I will post some pics of the finished Kynochs once the paint jobs are done.

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