Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Painting

Deep in the furthest recesses of the fishing den there lay a small plastic box. It has been there for years and every now and then I opened it up either to add another item or wistfully shake my head at the waste of the contents. I kept promising myself that I would find the time and inclination to get around to sorting this mess out and this week I finally made the effort. I fished out the box and sorted though the contents – old spoons.

Mainly Toby’s, these were the lost souls of my tackle collection. The waifs and strays, the ugly ducklings if you will. I used to buy up old spoons whenever I saw them and along with the pristine gems there were the less fortunate ones. These had been left in the bottom of fishermens tackle boxes to go rusty, some looked like they had even been retrieved from the depths of a lake or river. Others had been used in salt water and never rinsed after use. In short, all of them were in extremely poor condition.

I removed all the rotten hooks, rings and swivels first. There were a couple of stick-on eyes to be scraped off too. Out came the fine sandpaper and they all were given a good rub down to remove any corrosion. Next, I cleaned them with warm soapy water and dried them off. Donning a pair of gloves I then cleaned them with nail polish remover to remove any traces of grease. To give me a good surface for the paint to adhere too I next gave them all a spray with some etch. Any that actually had a ‘good’ shiny side were only etched on the ‘bad’ side.

Spraying the etch

As a wee lad of 8 or 10 years old I used to love building model planes, you know, those ‘Airfix’ kits. Spitfires, Heinkels etc were carefully glued together and painted using those tiny tins of enamel paint sold under the trade name ‘Humbrol’. Hard as this is to believe, I still have a few of those old tins from my now very distant childhood and the paint inside is as good as ever! Once the etch had dried (it does not take very long at all) I got out the brushes and the wee tins and started painting. I didn’t have any red enamel (well, you didn’t see many red Spitfire’s did you?) so I had to use a water based acrylic instead. These ones will need to be epoxy coated. I’ll do another post on that process.

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My idea was just to give these old spoons a basic new colour scheme, nothing fancy you understand, just solid colours on one or both sides. I am firmly of the opinion that salmon react to the movement of the spoon rather than the colour, so a lick of red/black/green/yellow paint is not going to make a huge difference as far as I can see. Some of them I painted all black on both sides just to see if they will work. I have read that in coloured water an all black lure or fly is the easiest for the fish to see. Beyond catching the occasional grilse on a Black Pennel fly in a filthy brown spate I have no proof of this particular theory.

I am a bit short of hooks right now so the final assembly will need to wait but that will only be the work of  few minutes to dress each of the spoons with new split rings, barrel swivels and strong trebles (Owners for preference).

In amongst the Tobys there was a HUGE handmade spoon which was chromed on one side. I decided to give the concave side a lick of fl. yellow paint and it came out lovely. I’ll definitely give this one a try for the green fellas when the winter comes around again. You can see from the photos below this is a gigantic spoon.

A couple of days ago I unearthed a wee bag with three completely bald Kynoch’s in it. Needless to say they got the same treatment and they are now painted silver.

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The damned virus continues to take the lives of many good people and disrupt our daily routine for those of us who are spared. Messing about with some old lures and paints helps to occupy my mind during these dark days. I hope this post finds each and every one of you safe and well.

update, i found a few hooks so here is how some of Toby spoons turned out:

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scaled convex side

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Same spoons but this is the concave sides

I especially like the look of the all black ones, I have high hopes for them but it will be next year before they get a swim by the looks of thongs.

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

Club waters

It’s that time of year again, angling AGM’s are in full swing here in Ireland. There is always a rush to hold the annual general meetings just before the serious fishing starts. I recall that back in Scotland these meetings generally took place at the end of the previous year so that all the agreed changes could be brought into force well ahead of the fishing starting again. Things are much more relaxed in Ireland and AGM’s pepper the months of February and March despite the season being open for weeks before that.

I have been thinking long and hard about which clubs to join this year. The Glenisland Coop is a certainty for me as I love fishing Lough Beltra and find the club to be well run and focused on improving the fishery. It is so handy for me, being only 15 minutes drive from home and while salmon numbers are low there are still a few fish to chuck flies at on Beltra.

setting off for a day on Beltra

After that though I need to think about where else I want to spend fishing time this season. Despite the disastrous fishing I have endured on Lough Conn over the past few years I will no doubt keep heading back to that lake again this season. Again, it is close to home and easy to access. One positive of the poor fishing is that anglers have voted with their feet and even the best drifts are only lightly fished these days. I will no doubt moan and groan about the lack of fish but I will be back drifting and trolling the shallows on Conn again this season, God willing.

pulled in on the shore of Lough Conn

What about the Moy? Here is where it gets a bit tricky for me. I have been lucky enough to fish some of the finest beats of the Dee and Tweed in my time and at the other end of the scale joined the queue to fish down pools on hard pressed association waters both in Scotland and Ireland. Not being a wealthy man I need to accept that club waters will be a big part of my angling experience these days. The East Mayo Anglers waters are a fairly typical angling association with access to a lot of the river Moy. I have been a member in the past and I need to make up my mind if I will join again this season. Although the river opened for salmon fishing last month it has been unfishable due to the continued high water levels this spring. Will there be some springers around when the water recede? Probably yes.Will there be a lot of them? Almost certainly no! And so here is the conundrum, lots of angling pressure from a large and very active membership chasing a small number of fish. Space is going to be at a premium when conditions are favourable. Last season I abandoned trying to fish on a couple of occasions not because it was so busy on the bank but because I couldn’t even find a parking spot! That was at the start of the grilse run, the time when you really have the best chance of contacting a salmon. Instead, I spent ages driving the length of the beats and still couldn’t even nose the car into a space. God knows what the best fishing spots were like on those days.

The river Moy, sept'08

A very quiet day on the Gub, EMAA

For me, fishing should be relaxing, almost meditative. I dislike any elements of competition in my angling and don’t really like crowds on the riverbank. Club waters are always going to be a challenge for me and I can accept that I need to be more flexible when on busy river banks. It is a question of just how crowded the beat is I suppose. Is a couple of hundred Euro money well spent on a very busy club membership? Last season I only landed one fish from the EMAA but that was entirely my own fault as I hardly fished the river. I managed some enjoyable high water spinning in March and April but largely missed the rest of the year when the fly is usually better. I see that a photo of that one fish is on the EMAA website: https://www.eastmayoanglers.com/gallery/2019-season

And there is the nub of the problem, staring me squarely in the face; I need to get out fishing more often! I body-swerved the Moy last year telling myself it was too crowded when I should have gone looking for quieter spots. While there were relatively few fish around there were still some there to be caught if I had applied myself more to the task in hand. Part of the problem is that I don’t know the upper part of the river at all and this could be the solution for me, at least when the grilse are running. Springers are rarely encountered in the streamier upper section of the EMAA beats and the fly only section sees very little pressure until May or June. So instead of joining the throngs at the bridge or the high bank I will target the fly only stretch further up the river in 2020. There, decision made!

This dislike of crowds has certainly increased over the years. I can recall fishing Newburgh and the Macher Pool on the lower Ythan in Aberdeenshire as a lad when you literally had to push your way into a line of anglers to have a cast for the sea trout. I don’t know what it is like now for ADAA anglers but you used to be able to fish the worm from the bridge down to a marker pole on the North Bank of the Macher but when the fishing was good there would be scores of anglers shoulder-to-shoulder there. Nobody used a net, fish were just unceremoniously dragged out as the lucky angler reeled in furiously while walking backwards out of the water and up the shingle. I suspect there are way fewer fish there these days.

Ythan estuary

A little bit of me is hankering to fish Lough Carra this season. To be brutally honest the fishing on that lovely lake has been poor for many years now but it is such a gorgeous place to fish I might be tempted to give it a try again. The huge mayfly hatches are a thing of the past but the summer evening fishing when the sedges are hatching might still be good. The Carra club AGM is to be held tonight in Castlebar so I might brave the risk of infection of Covid-19 and go along to see what is happening. As a club the Carra boys are usually very active and there is always something going on to try and improve the fishing there.

Wet mayflys for Carra

So, in summary, I will definitely join the Glenisland Coop and East Mayo Anglers. I may also join Carra too. I’ll go in search of quieter spots instead of braving the crowds and hopefully I’ll catch a few fish this year.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, trolling

Power handles

I took a few minutes to swap the standard handle on my old Ambassadeur 6000C for a shiny new power handle. I really like these bigger handles, they are so much nicer to use in the cold and wet which are so common here, especially early in the season.

The task itself is very easy, just take off the old handle and the new one should fit straight back on. I say ‘should’ because there are some power handles out there on the market which claim to fit Ambassadeurs but they don’t. It is a case of buyer beware.

The advantages for me are the bigger and more comfortable knob which sits in my hand perfectly and the greater cranking power you can get because the handle is longer. Winding seems to me to be smoother as well, I am guessing because of the counterweight on these handles.

The job went perfectly today and the reel is now ready for the new season (whenever the water recedes enough!)

New power handle fitted

This isn’t the first power handle conversion I have done, I have also fitted them to my 10000CA and the 7000C. I am now thinking of swapping the standard size double paddle handle on my 6500C as well.

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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, trolling

Goodbye old friend

Since I bought my shiny new Honda outboard last spring my venerable 9.9 Johnson has lain unused in the shed. With a brand new engine it seemed highly unlikely the old one would ever be used by me again so I decided to sell it. Better someone else getting some good from it than leaving it to rust in a corner.

‘Done Deal’ is an online website here in Ireland where you can sell just about anything as long as it is legal. Up until today I have never used its services but I wrote up an ad and posted it at 3.30pm. Within the hour I had my first call about the engine and the deal was done by 6pm. Hands were shaken and cash changed hands. So the old girl has gone but I feel strangely nostalgic about that old motor.

How do we humans become attached to things like cars and boat engines? It is not rational but never-the-less the memories of days spent out on the lake with the faithful Johnson came flooding back. It was on the back of my boat when I caught first salmon on the troll on Lough Conn all those years ago. The bright silver salmon was the reward for many days trolling and I felt I had earned that one. It snaffled silver Toby pulled across a well know lie and the engine performed faultlessly during all the previous days mooching up and down Conn’s western shoreline.

corrib, lisloughrey bay in May

on lough Corrib

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. There was the day on Lough Mask when Mick and I were out in the deeps beyond the islands when it refused to start after a drift. Pull as hard as I might the damn thing would not start and so, with one oar each, Mick and I pulled and strained all the way back to Cushlough under a blazing sun. It turned out a small linkage had broken but we were not to know that out there in the middle of the lake. My arms ached for days after that incident!

Shintalla Beag

Mask in a flat calm, Shintalla Beag with another boat off the northern tip of the island

The Johnson was a long shift and this could be a blessing or a pain in the rear end. In a big wind when the waves reached 5 or 6 feet in height the Johnson’s propeller stayed under the water at all times, very comforting when driving in such extreme conditions. But the dense weeds on Lough Cullin reach close to the surface and I spent many days constantly pulling up the motor to clear the prop fouled with raft of weeds there. It also meant I had to be very careful, especially on the Mask as it was easy to strike the bottom, as the well chipped propeller testified. I went through three props in my time with that engine, all damaged by the stones on the bottom of Lough Mask. My preference for fishing the shallows was most definitely at odds with the length of the outboard. Please note my new engine is a short shaft model – I may have learned something in my old age.

Ooops!

No more will I sweat and curse the sheer weight of the old white engine while dragging it out of the car and on to the boat. I’ll miss the throaty roar as she sprang into life after a few pulls of the cord (she was always a good starter). That healthy kick as I opened the throttle used to bring a smile to my face, she was nippy enough for one so ancient. The smell of the two stroke oil and the little patch glistening on the surface of the lough when she kicked into life are things of the past now. It is the end of an era for me but in a way I am happy the engine has gone. It was too heavy for me now and the pollution from a two stroke is hard to justify these days. Her time had come and I had to move on. The new Honda shimmers under the light in the shed, basking in her beauty and reliability while the Johnson was carted off ignominiously to an uncertain future. I don’t know if the buyer plans to use the engine or if she will be stripped for parts. Either way, our paths have diverged and there is a patch of free space in the shed now that wasn’t there this morning. Goodbye old friend, I caught many fish as saw wondrous things thanks to you.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Red Rapalas

Over the years I have heard of other anglers painting Rapalas red and having great success with them. I always meant to do the same but somehow never got around to actually painting any myself. Then a heard that Rapala actually produced a red coloured plug themselves but only in very small numbers. So the hunt was on to find and buy some examples.

I eventually tracked down a couple of different ones. Both are in a colour called Red Hologram Flake, the Rapala colour code being FRHF. The red paint has been infused with very fine holographic glitter which to the human eye looks very good indeed. Whether the fish find it equally attractive has yet to be proved as the season is over now and it will be next spring before these plugs get a swim.

5cm red rapala

The first one I bought is a 7cm model, one of those ‘Team Esko’ lures with the cranked lip which according to the blurb on the back of the box are made in Estonia these days. 7cm is really too small for early season trolling but is a fine size for the summer grilse. They have a different action to the original models and I have not used the Team Esko ones before.

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Later, I found a bog standard 9cm floating Rapala in the same red hologram flake colour so I snapped that one up too. This is a good all round size and I use this or 11cm are my ‘go too’ sizes for trolling on Lough Conn. I have yet to find a red 11cm but I will keep looking.

As yet untried, I guess that there is every possibility these lures will be useless but somehow I don’t think so. Red was always a popular colour on Lough Conn and the action of the various types of Rapalas have been the downfall of so many fish for me over the years I have a bit of faith in these two crimson beauties. I will keep an eye out for more of these red Rapalas as I think they will catch fish. Some colours don’t inspire me with confidence, the blue and silver ones for example have never caught me a salmon despite being universally popular. I like gold, orange and silver with a black back.

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While I was searching for the red ones I spotted an ad online for a ‘large vintage Rapala’. The accompanying photo did not give any idea of the size but I took a punt on it and bought it anyway, thinking it would be a 13cm original. What turned up was a pristine example of the 18cm Magnum in brown and gold livery. It even came in the original box. While I am sure the local Pike would love to chew on this fabulous lure it is just too pretty to be used. Instead, I will add this to my collection of lures for show only. I think this amazing lure dates from the late 1960’s or early ‘70s by the look of it. It really is stunning!

Have any of you who read this blog had any success with the Scatter Rap Rapalas? I have only acquired some recently and have not had the opportunity to try them for an extended period. The idea that they swerve about like a wounded fish is appealing but I wonder if they are good fish catchers. One of the ones I bought is in ‘Gold of Lapland’ colours and it looks wonderful!

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Gold of Lapland Scatter Rap

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, wetfly

Choices

Saturday was a day of labour for me but I planned to sneak off for some fishing on Sunday. Modern life is so full it seems to get harder with every passing day to dedicate downtime for fishing or other relaxation. I had narrowed down my choice of venue to either the Moy or Lough Conn, leaving the final decision until the last minute. I knew both venues were producing a small number of fresh salmon so it would come down to the weather conditions on the day.

Sunday morning saw a gusty westerly wind blowing under thick clouds in a lead coloured sky, perfect for Lough Conn! Decision made, I loaded the car and pulled off, happy in the knowledge I had made the right move. The world seemed to consist only of grey as I motored North though drizzle and mist. So much for the Irish summer! It did ease off  bit by the time I parked the car on the verge of the boreen next the the boat. My mobile squawed into life and Ben was on the other end – with news he had just landed a very fresh grilse on a Hairy Mary. Of course he was fishing the Moy!

Well, here I was now so I bailed the boat, loaded up and scoured the car for a hat. No headgear was to be found so I set off bare-headed (if you ave read my last post you will know this is not an uncommon failing on my part). The west wind suited a good drift I often fish in Castlehill Bay so I headed there first. Green Peter, Claret Bumble and a Watson’s seemed to be reasonable choices given the overhead conditions and I fished them with a floating line due in part to the masses of weeds in the bay. It all looked quite promising as I fished a few short drifts in quick succession. Then i tried drifting further out in the bay but there were no takers. Flogging the waves with a cast of three flies was proving to be a waste of time so I pulled in to the shore and set up a pair of trolling rods.

Looking down to Massbrook in the distance

The wind by now had swung from dead West to southerly and it had picked up strength as well. Sunshine broke through the clouds and within the space of only a few minutes the whole feel of the day had changed. Down over the lies I fished but without response or indeed, even seeing a fish of any kind. I passed a fellow troller who signalled he had a fish so I stuck manfully to the task in hand. The wind changed direction again, this time backing westerly once more and turning very gusty. Holding the line was hard as the wind caught the bows and tried to swing the boat around.

Some items for the day. Coffee, keys for the boat locks, some swivels (in the old cigar box) and a few baits

The shallows at Massbrook extend out into the main body of the lake for some considerable distance and I ploughed up and down them for a good hour without eliciting any sort of a response form the fish. I headed next to ‘Mary Robinson’s’ shore (we still call it that even though the ex-President no longer owns that land). There is a good lie at the first pin but just as I was coming up to it the Rapala on the right hand rod snagged the bottom. Mild panic ensured as I cleared the other rod but found the Finnish plug was well and truly stuck. I heaved in some slack and wound it around a tholl pin and hey presto! something gave and I recovered some line. The reason for the solid connection soon became clear, I had snagged another line. More pulling/cursing on my part finally freed this old line and I hauled in about 30 yards of very heavy braid. Also attached was a Toby T but to my disappointment it was only a Garcia model instead of a good Swedish one.

I had no sooner got back into action when the same thing happened again! This time another chunk of heavy braid came in to the boat with an ancient and mangled Flying C. Both pieces of braid were very heavy, I’d estimate they were at least 60 or 70 pound breaking strain. One looked pretty recent but the other line had lain on the bottom for a long time by the look of it.

nasty mess of heavy braid

I turned for home, hope slipping away like the white foam trail from the engine. Then, at the most northern part of Massbrook shore the 12 gram copper Smash was grabbed by a grilse. Lifting into him I could tell this was a small fish but after only 30 seconds or so he shook himself free of the hook and he was gone. As it turns out that was the only action for the day despite another few drifts with the flies in Castlehill.

All in all it appears that I made the wrong choice and I should have headed to the river Moy instead of trying my luck on Lough Conn. This is what happens when I am not fishing often enough, I get rusty and miss out on opportunities because I have not been close to the river/lake. With detailed knowledge I may well have gone to the river instead of the lake today and had a better chance of contacting a fish as a result. On the plus side at least I removed some line which had been snagged on the bottom and or a few brief seconds the rod was bent and fish was on. I’ll settle for that today.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Around Conn

The forecast was for rain but I nipped out to have a couple of hours on lough Conn this morning before the deluge started. It’s Sunday and the weekend feels like it it has slipped by already so a trip to my favourite lake was definitely in order. Now normally all the gear is nestled in the back of the old car but today I had to load up from scratch, something that always worries me these days what with my appalling memory. In the recent past i have forgotten a rod, the petrol tank for the engine, the boat keys and don’t start me of the number of occasions I have left home without a net! Today though all went smoothly and every item which was required made it safely to the lakeside.

I wonder how often I have driven the winding road to Pike Bay? It must in the hundreds by now, yet I still love the the twenty odd minutes cruising through the green countryside. I know every twist and turn (and pothole) by now but it is a journey full of happy memories for me. Days when the fish were biting or just that ease of mind knowing I was heading to the fishing. Today was going to be a difficult day no doubt with very few fish around, but I didn’t care, at least I would be out on the water.

start of the day

A leaden sky hung over the every changing vistas as the old green VW snaked along the road, alternately hemmed in by trees or exposed to views across the bog to the high ground to the west. Of wind there was not much to nil, but the forecast assured me that would change as the day wore on and a good blow was to be expected later. It had rained as I packed the car but that shower moved off to the north and it was dry until I turned on to the boreen down to Pike Bay. Big, fat rain drops splattered the windscreen from there to the spot where the boat is berthed, maybe this was going to be another damp outing for me after all. Setting up the rods and stowing the gear on board took me only a few minutes then I was off. The bank of reeds between me and open water were negotiated using the oars, it being too thick to chance using the outboard. I have done that before and only succeeded in wrapping the wire-like reed stems around the prop. Pulling on the oars in unison I cleared the reeds in no time and their soft ‘swish’ on the sides of the grey boat soon gave way to silence.

The Honda burst into life at the third pull and I puttered out of the bay, streaming three lines behind me. The rain got heavier.

Using three rods to troll on Irish loughs in not unusual, indeed I have heard of experienced trollers using more that that number with great success. It is easy enough when you are motoring along, the fun and games really begin when you either hit a fish or snag on the bottom. Suddenly you are faced with decisions on which rod to grab. If it is a fish I like to strike, slacken off the drag a bit then turn my attention to the other rods. It is necessary to get those other lines out of harms way a soon as possible. Today there were no fish but there were plenty of weeds.

on the troll

On a line I troll frequently I snagged all three baits simultaneously. All three appeared to be absolutely solid so I came to a halt then knocked the engine into reverse. The following wind had strengthened and was coming from the quarter, making the boat drift very awkwardly indeed. So there I was, hand on the tiller trying hard to keep the right line while also attempting to reel in the slack line on all three rods. Needless to say this was more than a man with the normal quota of arms and hands was able to do. Slack line was stripped in but it still managed to wrap itself around the engine, creating a rare old tangle in the process. I was being pushed quickly on to the shore so I cut my losses and pulled in all three baits then motored for a shore in the lee of the wind when I could sort myself out. Two rods were quickly sorted out but the braid on the cardinal reel was in a hopeless fankle which necessitated a swift chop. That’s the trouble with braid – once it get into a tangle it is very hard to clear it.

Knotted braid

I lost a few yards of braid but at least I was back out fishing again in a few minutes. I trolled all the way down to Massbrook in a strong headwind, the spray lashing me in the face as I hunkered down in the back of the boat. In those conditions I would expect to see the odd salmon pitching in the distance but not today. A few late mayfly were hatching out but nothing molested them and they zoomed off on the wind as soon as their wings were dry. I swapped baits before turning for home in the waves which had by now grown to a yard from trough to foaming crest.

Using three rods allowed me to try three different baits at the same time. A Swedish silver and copper Toby, an orange and gold Rapala and a copper spoon I bought in Poland last year were given a swim on the way back up the lake. Sometimes I use the same baits on two rods but in different sizes or weights to search at different depths. I can’t say I have ever resorted to using three identical baits at the same time but I know many anglers do that.

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A nice Tay-rigged Rapala

The return trip failed to produce any action either and the intensity of the rain grew with every passing minute. I had planned for many hours on the water but there is little joy to be found when the cold water runs down the back of your neck. Pike Bay and the warmth of the car beckoned and I answered the call gladly. Another fishless few hours for me then, a dreaded blank no less. To say this is the norm now for salmon fishers is an understatement. The poor salmon have been hunted to the very edge of extinction from what I can see and it is hard to see the situation improving. The Moy system, which Lough Conn is part of, is one of the last to hold on to a decent run of fish but even here there is a decline in numbers.

This latest belt of rain will hasten the grilse run and they will be moving up river over the coming week. I’ll try to sneak away for a few hours after work over the upcoming days. Salmon angling is all about putting in the hard hours on the water.

 

 

 

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

Getting ready

‘Tis the end of January and the time to prepare for the upcoming season is upon us game anglers in Ireland. I know that some early rivers opened weeks ago but for me and most of the lads I fish with the months of February and March mark the true beginning of another year on the water. In truth, I have been fiddling away all winter getting my tired old gear (both fresh and salt water) into better shape. There is something very satisfying about doing these small jobs, a feeling of pent up excitement mingled with the realism that previous poor seasons have beaten you down with. Hope springs eternal in the heart of every fisher. Here are some of the tasks which I have either completed or am still in the middle of.

fly lines hanging up

Rods have all been checked and any minor repairs such as re-whipping rings undertaken. With so little fishing done last season there were no issues on this front other than cleaning some muck and scales from the sea rods. I always give my rods and reels a good hose down with fresh water after a day’s sea angling but even still there seem to be scales and slime lodged in some nooks and crannies. The rollers on my boat rod also got a bit of lubrication while I was at it. The fly rods just required nothing more than a cursory wipe down as the rings, handles and reel seats were all in good nick.

Looking after reels is a big job when you own as many as I do. Regular readers will be aware that I have been re-building some old multipliers this winter, something I find deeply satisfying. I’ve also cleaned and lubricated all my other reels so they are fit for the rigours of the new season. I know that some anglers send their reels off to have this job carried out for them but I like to do it myself and it engenders a degree of confidence in my tackle if I know how they work and that I have the oil and grease in the right place (and in the right amount). Mine are all in fine fettle now and ready for the off next month.

Fly lines which had been unwound from the reels and cleaned in October are now being loaded back on to the self same reels, a laborious job punctuated by swearing at the not infrequent knots I seem to incur. I am thinking about investing in some new fly lines as most of mine are many years old now. The bewildering array of tapers and densities mean I have to do my homework first though. Why is fishing so complicated these days?

A big chunk of my winter evening were spent sorting out and fixing my unfeasably large collection of baits what with cleaning them and fitting new hooks and swivels. That task was completed a couple of weeks ago bar a few strays which keep cropping in in jacket pockets, old tobacco tins and other odd corners.

I also rationalised the boxes of baits so I know where most things are. The same went for the other small items such as swivels and hooks. Hopefully the unedifying sight of me tipping the contents of my bag out on to the bottom of the boat to track down missing items is not going to be repeated this coming season!

Speaking about the bags, I gave the various tackle bags a good clean and then reorganised them all. Fishermen’s tackle bags are akin to Pandora’s box, opening them up unleashes powerful forces, especially smells. When going through the contents of my old blue bag I found gear I’ve been lugging around for years which were never used, so a drastic reorganisation was called for.

I have owned my black shore fishing tackle box for a few years but have never really managed to organise it properly. It is either overloaded and unwieldy or spartan to the point where it contains nothing that I need. I can’t find that happy medium it seems. I’m now contemplating an internal modular system so that I can switch it around depending on what type of fish I am after on any given day. For example, there is no point in lugging float tackle with me when I am fishing off a beach. It needs more thought but I need to be better organised that I am just now. I must ‘7S’ my black box!

It looks OK in this shot but trust me, this shore fishing box is a perpetual disaster area

One change I am going to make this coming season is to carry a few made up leaders with me. This is a simple expedient to work around my failing eyesight and reduce lost time on the bank. Many years ago I was drifting the west shore of Lough Conn one May morning when I happened across some rising trout. Earlier that day I had tied on a leader from my bulging cast wallet. A nice sized trout walloped my tail fly and soon after setting the hook he jumped and the leader parted at the knot. Annoyed at myself for tying a shoddy half blood I tidied up the end of the leader and tied on another fly. Fish were all around me now and I placed the fly perfectly in front of a cruising fish a few casts later. The offer was accepted and a large wild trout set off at pace for the deep water close by. My smile faded quickly from my face when that fish snapped me too. Winding in a gave the leader a tug and it snapped like cotton thread. The nylon had aged in the years that leader must have been lurking in the cast wallet. Lesson learned, I vowed then and there to stop carrying made up leaders and I have stuck to that rigidly – until now. From now on, the simple expedient of scribbling a date on the cast carrier will let me know how old the leader is and when I should dispose of them.

Conn shoreline

The various fly boxes are looking a bit healthier now after some fly tying over the winter months. After a bit of rationalisation I was able to ditch two boxes that I used to take on trips to the rivers for trout. That still leaves me with six boxes though!

There is time yet to tie up a few more killer patterns and the only type I feel seriously under gunned is emergers. I’ll rattle up a few this week and have them ready for those exciting days when the fish are on the top of the water and flies are hatching. With a storm blowing outside and the windows rattling those balmy days seem a long way off. I will also tie up some shrimp copies for the trout. With so little in the way of fly life last year I will make more effort to fish deep with grammus patterns this time around. While I do a fair bit of deep nymphing I am planning a much more targeted approach with a greater focus on shrimps rather than stoneflys and empherid nymphs which seem to be in such short supply these days.

So while the days oh so gradually lengthen I will continue my making and mending, fiddling and foostering and generally edging my way towards the new season in the sure and certain hope that there will be some days in amongst the blanks.

The boat and engines need some work but I’ll go over them in another post.

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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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