Fishing in Ireland, Pike

Here comes the rain again

The Eurithmics, fronted by fellow Aberdonian Annie Lennox, released hit after hit back in the ’80’s. ‘Here comes the rain again’ popped into my head as the sky darkened and huge, cold drops fell on us with ever increasing intensity as we putted along the shoreline. The downpour was so intense I had to bail water out of the boat. Huddled against the storm, I turned so the weather was at our backs as I squinted throught the semi-darkness to get my bearings. We must be mad fishing in this!

The past two Sundays have seen me out on lough Conn. I was not fishing but Frank was keen to reconnoiter the lough for pike so we braved the autumn weather. Last Sunday we tried the bottom end of the lough by dint of borrowing a boat based in Brown’s Bay (thanks Bob). Yesterday we used my boat, fishing all the way from Pike Bay to Gortnore. With the end of the trout and salmon season we had the whole lake to ourselves. Some might unkindly suggest that nobody else was foolish enough to be out on these days!

The same method was employed on both days, Frank set up two long trolling rods, one on each side, and trailed various lures 30 yards behind the slowly motoring boat. Both days were similar with variable winds, heavy showers and some bright spells. The noticeable recent drop in temperatures has had a dramatic effect on weeds and they are dying back rapidly. This was one reason for trying the lough, we thought it might just be possible to fish some places which have been out of bounds all summer due to the luxuriant weed growth. Conn is getting weedier with every passing year and whole bays are now unfishable after the mayfly.

Let me say right from the off that we blanked last Sunday. Not so much as a nibble came our way despite long hours trying different spots. Spoons and plugs flickered enticingly in the water but the pike were seriously unimpressed. Massbrooke, Colman Shallows, Terry point, Bilberry Island, Glass Island, Chain Island, Fir Tree Point and a host of others were tried but to no avail. The morning was spent motoring around, sometimes dry but mostly drenched, in an abortive effort to locate the pike. We could see the dark grey clouds hurrying in from the west before they unloaded on us. No sooner had we dried off when the next belt of rain arrived. It was a tough auld day to be sure. On the plus side, the high winds which had been promised never materialised and apart from squally conditions during downpours the wind was not an issue.

Yesterday we loaded up the boat after baling copious amounts of water from her then headed out for the northern end of Conn. I suggested Castlehill for a start as I know there are some good pike in there. My logic was based on the reeds where my boat is berthed. These reeds had been 5 feet tall only three weeks ago, now there had died back and were barely poking above the surface of the water. Also recent rain had pushed the water level in the lake up by a couple of feet. A combination of both these factors would allow us to troll the centre section of Castlehill with out too many hang ups in the weeds. Frank had clipped on a weedless Toby on one rod and a new pink and silver Mepp on the other. The first shower descended on us just as we rounded the point and entered the bay.

It took me a couple of runs to figure out where was fishable and where to avoid but I found some relatively weed free water and trolled up and down in the rain. The rod with the Mepp bucked and was pulled hard over so I killed the engine and wound in the other rod as Frank bent into what was obviously a good fish. I know from experience how hard these Castlehill pike fight and this lad was no exception, he really tested Franks knots all the way to the net. I slipped him into the meshes and hoisted him inboard, a fine, thick-set fish of around 16 or 17 pounds. The hooks took some delicate work with the long handled pliers to remove but he was soon back in the water. Cleaning up, we discussed the fish and Frank told me it was his best ever pike. I wish I had known, I would have taken a photo of it for him. The rain which had eased off a little earlier returned with a vengeance but we were soon fishing again. After the failures the previous Sunday it was good just to get a fish in the boat!

One more circuit of Castlehill then we set off for pastures new, trolling all the way. I hugged the shoreline and we slowly made our way around the two pins off the middle of Mayo via Chain island and Gallaghers. Up along the Errew shore in what can only be described as a biblical deluge, we set a course for the islands in a wind which had turned to the north. Lunch beckoned so we pulled in to the shore and brewed up, the sodden twigs for the Kelly Kettle creating more smoke than flames. It was a relief just to be able to stretch our legs though, a full day spent trolling makes for stiff joints!

Refreshed, we loaded up and turned for Roe island, one of the top spots in the northern part of the lough for trout. Would there be any pike there? I carefully steered the boat so the baits would cover the shallows, adjusting engine speed to cope with turns and changes in our attitude to the wind. The baits remained unmolested so it was off to Cloonaghmore next, going as close to the shore as I dared given the inevitable banks of weed below the surface of this shallow part of the lake. Again, all this normally productive water was lifeless so with Gortnore only a hundred yards distant I swung us around and began retracing our steps. All the way back to Castlehill the baits were behind us in the water but not a single bite did we get.

By 4pm we were back in Castlehill. Frank had been trying different baits all day but now he was using two of the new Mepps, the pink one on one rod and a red one on the other. A perch grabbed the pink spoon, our only one for the day. I suspect the size 4 was just a bit too big for the small perch in the lough and a size 2 would possibly have caught some more. Within a few minutes the red Mepp lured a small jack which turned out to be the last fish of the day. A fish of around 4 pounds, it was thankfully lip hooked and soon returned unharmed.

So what did we learn from the last two Sundays? There are big stocks of pike in the lake but they can be very localised. The object of trolling the whole lake was to try and locate the pike at this time of year and based on our findings it looks pretty conclusive that Castlehill is where the green fellas are hanging out right now. Only a tiny fraction of the bay can be fished but in a few weeks time the weeds will have died and much more open water will be fishable. Frank likes to use small baits for pike and he catches a lot of them every year. I on the other hand prefer much bigger baits and I might leave my boat on the lough for a few weeks yet and try my big spoons in Castlehill before the end of the year. I think there are twenty and maybe even thirty pounders in there.

It is that time of year again and on Saturday the call went out for club members to help out with the boats on the Glenisland side of Beltra. A new slipway with rollers was built this summer and this was going to be our first time using the new facility. It worked a treat and in only 90 minutes the team had bailed all ten boats, dragged them out of the water and either turned them over in the field or stowed four of them in the boathouse. Many hands make light work and all that.

Looks like a police line up but in fact this was the boat lift crew for last weekend
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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, Pike

Strange times

13th September 2021. Not a breath of wind this morning. Dry brown leaves drop vertically to the ground in the still air. My planned fly fishing outing is a washout, sitting becalmed in a boat is not my idea of fun. Instead I don wellies, grab the fork and head down the garden to the muck heap where it is but a few minutes work to gather some worms. I’ll try Ballymote for bream.

I fished Bellanascarrig lough not so long ago and had a nice day catching roach, hybrids and bream so I figured another trip to that water would be a good test to see if that was just a fluke. Anyway, it would be a good way of using up the handful of maggots I had in the fridge.

The school run has reached epic proportions in Castlebar and it is gridlock until 9 am so I set off before the madness started. Why kids can’t just walk to school these days is beyond me. Do they completely lose the power of perambulation at rush hours? I head out on the old road to avoid the traffic and am soon humming along the tarmac to county Sligo. Past the limp green and red flags and those desolate looking signs urging on the Mayo football team who were playing in the final in Dublin at the weekend. They lost to a very good Tyrone team so the county is in mourning once again. Always next year lads, next year….

The lough is at the end of this lane

At the side of the lough I toy with the idea of using one of the other stands but the one I fished from last time is clear of weed so I set up there. A worm on the feeder rod is quickly accepted by a nice bream and I am off the mark before I have even set up the float rod. I miss another two bites on the feeder then connect with a perch. A roach and then a hybrid accept the maggots on the float rod. And so it goes on, most of the action on the float but the feeder chips in a few fish. It is a real mix of different species. Mainly skimmers and roach but with the odd hybrid and bream too. The fishing is hectic with bites coming fast and furious. The range of bites reflects the assortment of different species. Some are mere tremors, some spirited dives, a few are lovely sideways drifts and there are also exquisite lift bites when the float resembles Excalibur rising slowly from the lake.

A hard take on the feeder sees it jump and fall on the stand so I pick it up, strike and feel a heavy fish on the end of the line. This is a very good bream so I take my time and get the net ready. From where it was hooked, about fifty yards out, I have worked the fish about half way in when the most violent pull snaps the line and the fish is gone. What the hell happened there? While I did not catch sight of the fish it was certainly a heavy bream, I hazard a guess at about five pounds or so. I have not known a bream to turn and put such pressure on a rod before. Close inspection of the broken tippet reveals it did not part under pressure, nor did the knot slip (thank God) but was cleanly cut about three inches from the hook. A new, heavier, tippet is soon attached and I am back fishing in no time but my mind is on what has just happened and I try to figure out where I went wrong.

A small bream

More furious float action follows with fish after fish coming to hand. A voice behind me enquires how I am doing and I spend the next ten minutes chatting with one of the local IFI guys who is a mine of angling information. It is always a pleasure to converse with someone who is passionate about angling. The IFI often comes under criticism but when you talk to these lads you get some idea of how difficult their job is and the great knowledge they possess. With a wave Kevin is gone and I realise that I am hungry so I eat my sandwiches and drink the flask of hot coffee. With my concentration levels back up to DEFCON1 the procession of skimmers continues.

The shoal seem to move around, one minute they are only one rod length out and then they are thirty yards away. If I go even one cast without a bite I cast to a slightly different spot to keep in touch with the fish. I’m fishing over depth on the float and that means I pick up some weed occasionally but in general any movement on the float is a fish. There are a lot of imature bream around and only a few hybrids. Winding in a skimmer as normal the water behind him breaks in a huge swirl. The rod jolts then the skimmer is on its side at the waters edge in front of me. Pike!

I unhooked the skimmer and find he has been wounded close to the anal fin and is bleeding. I returned him anyway as I have seen fish with much worse injuries survive. I didn’t see the pike, he just made the swirl so he must have been deep.

I spent the day fishing the same swim. At times the sport was hectic then it suddenly died off and all was quiet for perhaps fifteen minutes before they kicked off again. On three more occasions pike attacked fish I was reeling in. I saw two of those fish clearly and they were different pike. One, of about twelve pounds, made a spectacular leap in the air, turning a full somersault before crashing back onto the lough not 10 feet from where I was sitting. That one missed the skimmer altogether. The other was a smaller lad, about five pounds or so. He shot out of the water as he chased the hybrid I had been winding in, a wonderful leap like a fresh grilse. He too missed the skimmer he was after. The other pike grabbed the fish I was playing, a tug followed by a big splash and the poor skimmer was no more.

The more I think about it the more convinced I am that the large bream that I lost earlier in the day was eaten by a huge pike. How big that pike was I will never know but I had a good sized bream on and it had to be a large pike to attempt to eat it. The suddenness of the pull and the neatly cut line suggest to me a monster pike was responsible.

I have been coarse fishing on a number of different lakes for the past two years. During that time I have not seen a single pike attack on the fish I was winding in. Indeed, I can only recall one pike attack on a trout I was playing on lough Mask many years ago. Why then did I witness all these attacks in one session? Was this a learned response by the pike? Do they simply hang out around the fishing stands in the hope of a free meal? Or do they hear  ground bait balls hitting the water, sounding some sort of dinner gong for the pike? To witness one attack is unusual but to see 5 in one day must be some kind of a record. Strange times indeed. Obviously the lough has a good stock of pike and the next time I go to fish there I will bring a spinning rod with me.

I’m afraid there will be a sharp reduction in my angling effort. I have accepted a new full time job so my happy summer of fishing has come to an end.

Update:

The last day of September saw me return to Bellinascarrig again for another short session. The weather had turned colder and a fresh south wind was blowing up the lake when I was there. The first hour or so was a shambles for me, I couldn’t do anything right. I lost a feeder in some weeds, got the depth completely wrong on the float rod, lost a huge bream at the net and tangled my lines countless times. Finally, I got my act together and started to fish properly, catching skimmers in quick succession. A couple of roach, a tiny perch and one middling sized bream also came to hand but it was basically a skimmer bashing session. Now here is the interesting bit – on two occasions I saw pike chasing my catch as I wound it in. One was little more than a green swirl right behind the skimmer but the other jack launched itself out of the water in an effort to catch the fish.

Caught about 30 of these guys

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, trolling, trout fishing, Uncategorized

Bits and bobs

A cold start to the day so I am in the spare room which is filled with my fishing gear, sorting out some tackle for pike fishing which I hope to indulge in next week. Hot mug of coffee steaming in my hand, loosely organised chaos around me. School run traffic snarls along outside, the big white buses bringing the children in from the countryside. A normal late autumn day, well what passes for normal during lockdown. I had been tying some flies earlier in the week so there are packets of feathers and fur to be tidied away before I can pack a bag with the smaller items for piking. That got me thinking about the ancillary items we all bring along on a day’s fishing and how much of that we really need. My wide ranging angling exploits mean I am worse than most when it comes to carting a selection of bits and bobs around, usually on the basis that I ‘might’ need them.

We all carry too much gear with us when we go fishing. It is just a hazard of the sport. Here are some of the small items I have secreted about my person when I head off with rod and line. As you may have read before in other posts, I wear 4 different waistcoats for various types of fishing. One is for river trouting, another for salmon fly fishing. Then there is one for coarse angling and yet another for shore fishing. The smaller items listed below lurk in one or other of these waistcoats. The bigger items are in the different bags or boxes which I bring along.

The wee box contains a spark plug, sandpaper and shear pins

1. Tools. As someone who fished the big Irish loughs with old outboard engines I routinely set off with a tool kit in a bag just in case of a breakdown. Over the years this got me out of a few scrapes and also allowed me to help other anglers who had broken down. Now the proud owner of a decent engine, I still bring with me the small tool kit which came with the Honda. These basic tools all live in a small pocket in my lough fishing bag. I know where to put my hand on them in an emergency but I hope to never need them in anger. In the same pocket live a spare spark plug and a couple of spare shear pins.

A pair of heavy pliers lurk in the bottom of my bag too, handy for pulling out a stuck thole pin or other heavy jobs.

2. Knives. I carry around a small blue Swiss army type knife in my pocket all the time. Then there is a pocket knife in the bag. When I am sea fishing I bring a filleting knife too so I can deal with the catch at the water side.

3. Lighters. For obvious reasons. There is a wee metal tin with a couple of firelighters too for firing up the Kelly kettle.

4. Hook removal. All sorts of disgorgers depending on what I’m fishing for. Cheap plastic ones for removing tiny hooks from the mouths of roach and perch. Forceps for fetching flies from trout or salmon. A hefty ‘T’ bar for when I am out at sea and a proper disgorger for the pike.

5. Priests. It is rare for me to retain fresh water fish but I keep anything edible from salt water. An ancient chair leg with some lead in the business end lives in my sea fishing box. A small metal priest fashioned from a length of stainless bar by a papermill engineer 40 years ago comes with me when shore fishing. 

6. First aid. When messing around with hooks and knives it is inevitable you are going to break the skin on your hands at some point so I carry a few plasters with me.

7. Towels. Discarded dish towels are handy to tuck away in the bag. Game angling is not too dirty but sea fishing is a filthy business and I am forever washing and wiping my hands after cutting up bait or handling slimy fish. Mixing ground bait when I am coarse fishing means I am constantly cleaning up afterwards too. Helen has commented on the impossible task of finding a dish cloth in the house, there may just be a correlation with my fishing!

8. I mentioned thole pins earlier, I always have a couple of spares in the bottom of my bag. My own boat has fixed pins but I sometimes borrow a boat from friends and they may or may not have pins. To be at the side of the lough, the boat fully loaded and engine fixed on only to find you don’t have any pins is the very height of frustration. I know because it has happened to me not once but twice! Lesson learned the hard way.

9. The small boxes of ‘bits’. Spare hooks, swivels etc. live in a wee plastic box which in turn lives in my waistcoat. In fact, I have two of these wee boxes, one for game fishing (link and barrel swivels, treble hooks etc) and another one for coarse fishing (shot, pop up beads, float caps, leger links etc).

10. Clippers, nippers and scissors. I like those retracting zingers and they festoon my waistcoats. On them are various nippers and other implements for cutting line.

11. Hook sharpeners. A small stone comes with me when I am fly fishing in case a killing fly loses its sharpness. In other forms of fishing I simply change any hook which becomes dull or gets damaged but I am loathe to change a fly that is working. A few strikes with the stone soon returns the point to full use again.

12. A roll of electrical tape, a couple of safety pins, a needle or two, some cable ties. At different times and for different reasons all of these have proved useful and for the small amount of space they take up I always have them stowed away in a bag or waistcoat pocket. I once used a safety pin to replace a tip ring on a rod which I broke while fishing. It was not pretty but it allowed me to keep fishing for the rest of the day. Likewise, I cable-tied my reel on to a beachcaster when an old Fuji reel seat broke one night years ago. Just recently I used a cable tie to attach a thin rope to a winch on someone’s trailer. They take up very little space and weigh next to nothing so I will keep a few tucked away, ‘just in case’.

Theo inspecting the old bucket.

13. A bucket. Yep, a cheap and nasty plastic bucket which used to contain paint. Battered and bruised it has served me well for years and while it lacks in any atheistic beauty it performs numerous functions for me. Primarily it is for baling water out of the boat. Then I chuck any loose odds and ends into it while afloat. When coarse fishing I use it to hold water scooped from the lake or canal which in turn is used to wet ground bait and to wash my hands in. When shore fishing it is used to transport smelly bait to the mark and then take the catch home with me. Maybe I should invest in one of those branded buckets but I can’t bring myself to agree it would do these jobs any better than my old 10 litre job.

14. A spring balance. Here is where I have to hold my hand up and say this piece of kit is literally NEVER used. I hear you cynics out there saying that is because I never catch anything worth weighing and there is a modicum of truth in that observation. Be that as it may, even when I do land a good fish the exact weight is of absolutely no interest to me what-so-ever. Records, PB’s and all that stuff are for others. I am happy just to see a good fish then pop it back in the water with as little fuss as possible. It is a very nice brass spring balance mind you, a lovely thing to own even if it is redundant.

Written down, this is an extensive list and I am sure I have missed out other things. The big question is do I need all of this junk? There is no clear cut answer in my book. Some things, such as the tools for the outboard engine are really safety items and as such are a necessity for me. Others are less clear. ‘Needing’ an item is too general and to me it more a question of does the tool add to my angling pleasure? I can just about bite through lighter lines for example but a pair of clippers is much neater and easier for me. Do I need clippers and scissors – probably not but I find the scissors are better for dealing with heavier lines.

I am a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde I suppose. When fly fishing rivers I only take what I can carry in my waistcoat pockets. But when boat fishing I take the bloody kitchen sink with me!

The school run has eased off and it is quiet outside now. Chaffinches are squabbling in the garden. No sign yet of the winter visitors like redwings or fieldfares. Today is the say we learn if the lockdown restrictions will reduce to level 3 or not. Fingers crossed they will and that I can get out pike fishing next week. As you can see, I am all prepared!

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Lough Levally

Close to mighty Lough Conn there sits another, much smaller body of water. Pretty well unknown except to the locals, lough Levally is home to a stock of pike. I’ve known about this lough since I moved to the area 23 years ago but have never fished it. Pike have never excited me as a quarry so why would I fish for them when the delights of trouting on Conn was but a short distance away? There are some trout in it but they are few and far between. I also strongly suspected that a few salmon run into the lough, swimming up the small river that flows into Conn at Addergoole cemetery. There certainly is not a big stock of salmonoids in Levally. No, Levally is a pike fishery and it is now pike fishing season. With level 3 lockdown firmly in place Ben and I decided that piking was better than sitting at home twiddling our thumbs so we made arrangements to try Levally this Saturday.

The lough is roughly a mile long and half a mile wide, big enough to keep us gainfully occupied for the day. I don’t know how deep it is but given the local geography I doubt if it is more than 30 feet deep. I stand to be corrected on this though so if any of you have fished Levally and used a sounder I’d like to know if there are deeps there. Regarding the size of the fish in the lough, that has long been the source of much speculation in the area. I reckon most pike waters harbour the occasional larger than normal fish but there were tales of monstrous pike in Levally. Dragging smallish lures behind a boat is definitely not the best way of hooking the biggest pike though and we were not anticipating anything we could not handle. I brought along some big soft baits to try and tempt a leviathan just in case.

Not being expert pike anglers we just planned a sedate day trolling lures. I like silver spoons for pike at this time of the year and although I chop and change lures frequently throughout the day it is usually a silver spoon which produces the best fishing for me.  I brought along my trusty old ABU Atlantic 443S rod with a 6000C on it filled with 30lb braid. ‘Old Yellar’ is ideal for this job and has just the right combination of suppleness and backbone for heavy trolling. As an alternative I took an old 11 footer with me too. On a slow day it gives you something else to fiddle about with (on a busy day it can be a curse).

I know there are pike experts who take their fishing very seriously and are equipped to cover every inch of water effectively. We are less scientific and sort of motor slowly along over spots we think look likely. Some days we catch loads but on others our haphazard methods reap little in the way of fishy rewards. C’est la vie.

Ben’s 17 foot boat was already on the trailer when we met in the yard at 10am. We packed our gear in to his jeep and motored off down the Pontoon Road under grey skies that foretold of rain to come. At the side of the lough it was but a few minutes work to launch the boat, lock up the trailer and head out into the unknown. I started off with my favourite spoon, a silver Solvkroken Storauren. These Norwegian lures have a great action in the water and at 45grams swim that bit deeper than some of the other spoons I use. The copper coloured version can be good some days too. It says on the packaging the spoon is good for pike (obviously) and trout. Trout! The damn thing is bigger than some of the trout I catch!

We had barely motored 200 yards when my rod bucked and the reel screamed, very good pike tore line off the reel somewhere behind the boat. I only had him on for a few seconds before there was a sickening slackening of the line and I forlornly wound in my line, the shop bought trace had snapped at the swivel and the fish was gone with my silver spoon. I have no idea how big that pike was but he certainly pulled like a big one.

Gathering myself I tied on a new trace, this time one I had made myself. I clipped on another spoon and we set off again, aiming to circumnavigate the lake just to look for any likely spots. The end of the lake farthest from the car park was shallow and weedy but both of us hooked and lost pike in that area. As we passed an old wall that ran into the lake I had a firm take and after a good fight boated a nice pike of about 6 pounds. Further on a small Jack grabbed the same silver spoon and was quickly wound in. Then it was Ben’s turn and he boated a five pounder on an old Atom spoon in green and gold. By now it was time to break out the sandwiches and coffee which we hungrily consumed amid heavy showers. I tried a couple of other lures including a massive pink plastic squid. Another pike took a fancy to a rainbow trout softbait and once again this fish was in the 5-6 pound class. Ben picked up another similar sized fish around the same time. The action was steady if not hectic.

I could have chanced a smile!

Heavy rain returned, drenching us in the downpour. We motored on through a pewter coloured world. I had changed lures again and was now using a huge handmade chrome spoon which I had painted fl. lime on the reverse side. I lost one fish before boating another 2, each very lightly hooked in the front of the mouth.

On our last section before we packed up we both hook pike at exactly the same time. Both were around 6 pounds and they fought very well. My one managed to take a chunk out of my left thumb as I was unhooking it and I bled profusely for the next hour or so.

We headed back to the shore, damp and getting cold now. The day had been enjoyable and Levally had given us some sport with a total of eight pike to the boat. Once again the weather had been a mix of sunshine and heavy showers, maybe on a better day the lake would have given up more of its residents.

One week later……………

We decided to try another local lake the following Saturday. This time we fished Carrowmore lake (not to be confused with the famous salmon and seatrout fishery in Erris). This body of water lies near Manulla and has a reputation of being dour but holding a few good sized pike.

We dragged the 17 footer to the ramp and launched her with little fuss. This is a nice lake to troll and we circled the reed beds and tree lined shores for the next few hours. Ben lost one and I managed to boat a couple of pike, one lad of around 4 pounds and a much better one which we both reckoned was a twenty pounder. The photo does not do this magnificent fish justice!

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, Pike

32 – Episode 2, County Roscommon

Friday 14th August 2020

The day dawned fine and fair as promised by the forecasters. An easterly breeze blew across the garden as I surveyed the flowers and pulled out the odd weed. Where shall I fish today?  The eternal question needed a swift answer and looking at the thin clouds I plumped for lough Conn. Out came the outboard engine and fuel tank, the fishing bag and rods to be stowed in the car. But wait! The thin cloud cover had broken already and blue sky was filling the heavens above me. That wind seemed to have dropped to a mere zephyr too. Conn would be terribly hard work in a flat calm and brilliant sunshine. Maybe I needed to re-think my plans. It was a few minutes work to empty the car again and fill it with coarse gear. I would go to County Roscommon for the day and try to chalk off another of the 32 counties.

In the townland of Creeve, some miles to the North of Strokestown, there is a lake with excellent access, Lough Cloonahee. It apparently is home to Bream, Rudd and Hybrids so it sounded like a good place for a novice like me. My local filling station provided a shot of diesel for the car and a couple of loaves of bread for bait then I hit the road. As always, actually finding the lough was harder than it should be. The brown signposts pointing out the fishing lakes were either missing or pointing in the wrong directions but I managed to figure it out and found the lough without too much hassle. In the small, rough carpark I got chatting to the local farmer about this and that, as you do. What with the Covid he had seen virtually no anglers this year so he had no idea how the lake was fishing. A quick look at the water revealed the good folks of Roscommon had seen a lot of rain recently as the fine wooden walkway which stretches for 30 metres along the shore was partially submerged. I tackled up and found a dry spot off to the right to commence operations.

Plumbing the depth I found 15 feet of water close in so I set up the float rod with 3 pound straight through and a size 14 hook adorned with a single ear of sweetcorn. My feeder rod and old Cardinal reel full of 6 pound mono was rigged with an open cage feeder and a size 10 hook tied to 9 inches of 3 pound. 3 ears of sweetcorn were pushed on to this hook and I lobbed it out a few yards. This process was repeated a few times so the feeder full of bread and corn could unload in the same area to try and attract the fish to me. I also loose fed corn into the swim as I fished.

Time flew by as I made small adjustments to the rigs and re-baited frequently. About an hour into the session I lifted the feeder rod to recast and felt a sharp tug. Striking, I met fierce resistance and I was into a good fish. What was this now? It felt heavy so it might be a bream and images of slab-sided bronze fish filled my head. Off on another run went the fish, so it definitely was not a bream! Still unseen she hugged the bottom shaking her head and making lunges in different directions. Maybe it was a huge Rudd, there were supposed to be some big ‘uns in here. No, Rudd would be higher up in the water column. What about a Hybrid? After all they are supposed to be great scrappers. I applied as much pressure as I dare with the 3 pound breaking strain tippet foremost in my thoughts. Up came the beast and she broke the surface – it was a blooming Pike! The battle raged for a while longer but I admit I could scarcely care less if the fish broke free. She didn’t and at the second attempt she slipped into the meshes and was lifted out. I thought it must surely be foul hooked but no, the pike had taken the sweetcorn fair and square with the hook nicely placed in the scissors.

Quickly unhooked, I slid her back into the water. It was only later when I had cleaned off the slime, changed the hook link, re-baited and got the rod back in the water that it dawned on me – I had managed to catch a fish in Roscommon!

watching that float

More groundbait, more waiting and re-casting, more nothing happening. I tried a bigger hook with numerous ears of corn on it but that didn’t work. I tried moving to the other end of the walkway and setting up there in a nice looking swim. That was a similar failure. In the end I gave up and packed away the gear. It was mid-afternoon so I would get back home in good time. If it hadn’t been for that suicidal pike I would have blanked. I know I caught a nice fish and I should be happy about that but it felt like cheating somehow. I was not fishing for pike and had set up to catch roach or bream. Beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

While the lake was very high it was not too coloured and I am not going to blame conditions for my lack of success. According to the IFI website Cloonahee holds Bream, Roach, Perch, Hybrids and even some Tench but none of them distained to take my bait. I am of the opinion that using sweetcorn was the problem. In future I will make sure I have a range of baits with me so I can swap as required. For now, I am just happy to have captured a fish in Roscommon.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Baits

Spent an hour this afternoon sorting out the bait boxes. Some unsuccessful ones have been relegated while others were given new split rings or hooks. All set for the new season now!

Always plenty of old Swedish Toby spoons in my box!

18 gram tigers

Salmo Toby. These don’t get much use here in Ireland but I like having them in the box just in case

Hi-Lo. Never caught a salmon on one of these but they are good for Pike

These are pure deadly for Pike

Another Pike spoon. I’m not a lover of Pike fishing but some days they are the only action available

Old ABU Glimmy spoons, lovely action in the water

ABU Plankton

ABU Salar. Very slow, rolling action in the water. As you can see I like the copper ones.

Small Rapalas and ABU Killer. When absolutely nothing is moving and the weather is against you these can sometimes produce a perch or trout

Rapalas. Always worth a try

one of the boxes before it was cleaned out. All the smaller baits have a new billet now.

Now all neatly stowed away in the bag.

We have had days of high winds and heavy rain here in the west. All the rivers are huge and there is some localised flooding. No fishing for a while to come as there is more bad weather forecast for the coming week.

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike

Time for reflection

I went fishing this morning, nothing unusual about that I guess. The purpose of this session was not so much about catching fish (which is just as well as I blanked) as taking some time to reflect on how things are going for me now. As luck would have it the mirror flat calm of the day provided a spectacular backdrop as I cleared my mind in the fresh autumnal air.

the boat on a flat calm Bilberry lake

Gear was purposely stowed on board and the engine coughed into life at the third sharp tug on the pull-cord. Off I went, feeding line out through the rings until 30 or so yards separated me at one end and a shiny, silvery spoon on the other. The Pike could not care less about my choice of bait and they stayed out of my way for a couple hours, leaving me to my musings as the battered grey boat circled and swung around reed beds and headlands. I was deep in thought.

water receding on the slipway

The reason for all this deep pondering is I have reached the end of my latest contract at work and now have to decide what to do, carry on in senior management or go off on my own and try something new. I have become somewhat jaded and uninspired lately and it feels like I need a new challenge but jumping ship and going off in an entirely new tangent feels like a big step at my time of life. I needed space and quiet to allow me to get my head around the new reality and a spot of fishing has always been a great help to me over the years when in such a contemplative mood.

close to the reeds, usually a good spot for a Pike but not today

In the past decisions like this were relatively easy for me to make, whatever was the risky/challenging/unexpected course of action would inevitably be the route I would take. Advancing years have made me more circumspect though and I had to think the options through in detail this time rather than simply jump with both feet as I had previously done. Time is not really on my side anymore so this has to be the right move. With no sign of a Pike I swapped baits and tried a new tack, pointing the prow towards the German Shore.

The utter peace was the ideal backdrop to me day, nothing to distract me or interfere with my thinking. I weighed up the pros and cons of each option open to me and then considered any other ideas which popped into my head. Getting back into the international circuit once again had a certain appeal but the more I examined it the less attractive the notion of starting once again in Africa or the Middle East became. At 40 hopping on and off planes and living in dodgy foreign hotels was a breeze but now, 20 years later, the gloss has faded from long periods away from home. The rod arched over alarmingly and the reel squawked into life. A good Pike shook his head somewhere behind the boat and he managed to throw the hooks. I wished him well and carried on my way.

Slowly, some clarity of thought and an understanding of my real wants came into view. My priorities solidified and a clear course of action could be plotted. Once the basics of my plans were firmly established I could fiddle about with the details at a later time, for now I just needed to be 100% sure about which direction to head in and I achieved that this morning as the Honda chugged and the delightful Irish countryside slid gently past. Fishing fulfils so many different purposes for us anglers, some obvious and others more vague and partially hidden from sight. Today I needed space and quiet and Bilberry came to my rescue.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Single hooks?

Any of you tried single hooks on your salmon baits? I have not (yet) but plan to give them a go this coming season so that returning fish is going to be easier

Here is an ABU Killer which I have changed the hooks on. To me it looks a bit odd but that will just be due to the newness of seeing a bait I have spent a lifetime altered like this.

I am not going to do all the baits in my box, just a handful of them and see how that works out in terms of hooking and holding fish as well as ease of release.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

2019

With Christmas behind us now and the old year only hours left to run my thoughts are firmly fixed on the 2019 season. What will it bring? This used to be a time of mounting excitement but the collapse of fish stocks in and around Ireland mean there is more trepidation rather than anticipation these days.

A drift on Beltra

Looking back over many years, my angling year fitted into neat sections with the focus on wild brown trout and Atlantic salmon from February right through until the end of September. Only when the game fishing ended would I make any concerted effort to go sea fishing and piking was something I only did once a year. How things have changed! Lack of water early in the season reduced the rivers to a trickle of cold water and the trout went into hiding. Fly life was pretty much non-existent, so the joys of fishing a hatch of duns or a fall of spinners never materialise these days. Salmon too have become scarce with even the once prolific runs of summer grilse a now distant memory.

The Ridge pool on the Moy

Much as I try, it is hard to be optimistic about salmon fishing in 2019. Salmon fishers are used to disappointment, it’s part of our DNA. Long hours on the water without so much a tug on the line are the norm and we all accept this as part and parcel of our chosen sport. Dwindling stocks have turned the empty hours into empty weeks, months and seasons for most of us now. I know many good fishers who put in the hard hours over the past couple of seasons but failed to even hook a fish, let alone land one. Why should 2019 be any better when nothing has been done to help the salmon? There are more fish farms with all their pollution and sea lice. Industrial fishing continues unchecked, wiping out the food sources for the fish. Changing weather patterns seem to be having a detrimental effect of the fish and cycle of high/low water has been replaced with flood/drought. I fear another poor salmon season is about to start. Let’s hope I am wrong.

I’m hoping for more like this next season!

The long, painful drought of last spring and summer, combined with a near total lack of fly life ruined my trouting season on the rivers. I need to be more flexible this coming year, look for new venues and try new methods to winkle out the odd fish. So much will depend on the weather of course but the loss of natural flies means the trout must be feeding on other food forms such as small fish and crustaceans.

On the loughs I am planning on doing more trolling and have geared up accordingly. Not my favourite pastime by any means but when faced with otherwise hopeless conditions I needed to have a ‘plan B’.

I am also thinking about doing more Pike fishing if the trout and salmon are a wash out again. This will be a stretch for me as I have never really enjoyed Pike angling but I suppose any fishing is better than none at all. Again, I have invested in a range of lures and will give them a swim when the water warms up sufficiently.

So as this years ebbs away I still have much to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. I hope the same applies to each of you who have taken the time to read some of my ramblings on this blog. See you all next year!

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Lucky Strike

With the collapse of all salmon stocks here in Ireland and the disastrous state of the trout fisheries I am turning more and more to Pike fishing so that I can at least get out occasionally with rod and line. I can’t be bothered messing around with dead baits so I spin or troll for pike in the loughs and my favourite lures are spoons. Big spoons.

I bought an old silver ‘Lucky Strike’ spoon the other day for a few cents. I’ve not owned one of these spoons before so I am keen to give it a swim. I imagine it will work for pike here in Ireland but they were designed for salmon trolling in Canada from what I can gather. This is a large lure, deeply indented to give it a flamboyant action in the water. Plain silver, front and back it looks to have the attributes of a spoon that our big Pike like to attack in cold water.

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This specimen, while in reasonable condition, needed some TLC before I could use it. Big Pike need to be treated with respect so any possible weaknesses in your gear need to be addressed.

Removing the old split ring

  • The swivel looked to be on the small side to me so I changed it for a more substantial one.
  • The top split ring was rusty and had to be changed.
  • The treble hook was in need of some TLC. Surface rust had to be rubbed off and the points sharpened.
  • To give the hook plenty of distance from the broad end of the spoon I added a second split ring between the spoon and the hook. I personally don’t think enough attention is paid to the relationship between spoon dimensions and the size of the hook attached to it. The simple expedient of adding an extra split ring takes only a few minutes but can make the difference sometimes. Pike hooks need to err on the big side in my book. When you open the mouth of even a modestly sized pike the gape is massive. It must be hard for a hook to find a good hook hold in there sometimes.
  • While I was at it I swapped the tiny red plastic tail and put a much bigger one on in its place. An old traditionalist at heart, I like a bit of red on my Pike lures. The wee red tail I took off was just the right size to adorn another, smaller spoon (waste not, want not).

 

The new, larger red tail

I don’t do a lot of pike fishing but this old spoon will be near the top of my list to troll during the coming winter. Silver spoons have always been a favourite lure of mine and they seem to do their best work in cold water conditions. Selecting the right spoon on any given day is far from an exact science and sometimes a different size, action or colour can do the trick when an old reliable has an off-day. A big snap link swivel on the end the trace allows easy and quick changes, something which is important on cold, wet days when any additional effort is best avoided.

Two other lures came in the same packet as the Lucky Strike, a big ABU Atom and a copper Toby. The Atom is one of those black and gold Zebra coloured ones in the 35 gram size. It will find a home in my box of Pike lures too. Over the years I have boated a number of Pike on Atom’s but can’t say they have been particularly effective. Smaller ones work well for jacks  but then those fish are not overly fussy.

The Atom, in reasonable condition

The copper Toby is a handy 30 gram Salmo version, the only drawback is that is is not a Swedish one. Not yet sure if I will hang on to this one or sell it on.

The weather is turning colder now and it is time for me to get back into fly tying mode. I have no excuses, the boxes of hooks and drawers full of feathers await my attention. Both salmon and trout fly boxes have ominous gaps in the serried ranks which need addressed before the next season starts. Old reliables will be tied but I have some new patterns in my head too. I’ll be sure to post my efforts here so keep an eye out for them.

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