coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland


I had a few hours of free time so headed off to county Leitrim once more, this time to fish on the canal near Keshcarrigan. This wee village is almost surrounded by lakes and is a coarse fisher’s heaven. Just for a change though the canal appealed to me so the long road east by north was travelled one more time. The village lies about half way between Carrick-on-Shannon and Ballinamore meaning it would take me about 90 minutes to get there from Mayo.

So why the canal? You see I have been doing some tench fishing lately and that involved using pretty heavy gear. Today I wanted to go back to angling with light tackle and the canal would demand a much more delicate approach. There are bream in the canal but the chances are it would be roach and perch that would be interested in my bait. I was secretly hoping to catch a good sized roach as although I have landed lots of them so far this year none have been any great size. Where I would be fishing is close to Lough Scur and my thinking was the big roach in Scur might drift down into the canal sometimes.

I brought along a feeder rod as a backup but I planned to use my little margin rod and the old ABU float rod. Some fresh maggots and a few worms would be my bait, keeping it old school you see. Having made up some simple leger weights by fixing a couple of swan shot on a short length of line to give me a sliding leger I was keen to see if they worked. I also brought along a couple of bags of frozen ground bait which had been lurking in the freezer at home. These had been leftovers from previous trips and rather than chuck it away I took it home and froze it. Just another little skirmish in my battle against waste.

A grey, cloudy day greeted me when I pulled into the car park beside the canal. A bit of wind was going to give me a few issues but otherwise it was a great day to be out in the fresh air again. Over the past couple of weeks the air temperature has been steadily dropping and today it barely made it into double figures. I love the autumn, it is my favourite season. The changing colours, more pleasant feel to the air and escape from the hustle and bustle of summers crowds make this a time for reflection.

The car park was right beside the pegs and a row of stands were off to my left but right in front of me was a big disabled stand. With nobody else around I decided to use this one but be ready to move should someone else arrive to fish. Access here is excellent with good walkways to the various stands.

Excellent access makes this venue a joy to fish

I set up the float rod with four pound line, a small waggler held in position with a couple of stops, shirt button shotting pattern and a 2.5 pound tippet to a size 16 barbless hook. Balls of ground bait, four to start with, went in and I loose fed on top of this with 6 – 8 maggots every cast. A small worm on a size 12 hook was my rig for the leger rod in the margin. There I sat, perched on my old black seat box, immersed in the quiet in the lee of a bush by the canal. Pondering life’s vagaries with a fishing rod in hand is one of my favourite pastimes and with so much going on at present it was a blessing to have time to myself in deepest Leitrim.

Waiting for it all to start

It was all quiet for the first 20 minutes or so. I fed the swim and got a feel for the venue. Three boats passed by in quick succession and I thought it was going to be a busy day for traffic but no, after that initial rush only a couple of other boats passed by during the rest of the session. Greetings and pleasantries were exchanged with the sailors who were making the best of the good weather. With 6 feet of water in front of me and clear ground behind, casting was a treat. At last the leger rod gave a tweak and out came a small skimmer. A couple more followed then a very small roach. I changed on to a tiny feeder and tried a bunch of maggots in an effort to tempt more roach. Although I tried the worm on both rods again later the fish much preferred the maggots. With the water looking very coloured I used a mix of red and white ones. This combination has become my ‘go to’ bait but it is a bit self fulfilling. Using it all the time means it catches fish!

Typical of the skimmers I caught today

Finally the float began to come good and a string of small fish fell to my double maggot on under the light waggler. The skimmers varied from a few ounces to about a pound but the roach were all tiny. It was noticeable that each time the canal started to flow (presumably when a lock gate was opened somewhere) the bites increased. I damaged the small hook while extracting it from a fish so changed it for a slightly bigger 14. The fish didn’t seem to care and I kept on catching at a steady pace, mainly on the float but the better fish seemed to fall for the feeder.

Chunky little hybrid on the feeder

Some bream appeared, one of them nearly giving me a heart attack when the bait runner went off like a train. Not big fish, the best might have weighed a couple of pounds, they were still very much appreciated. Of course everything got covered in snot but that is just bream fishing for you. The shoal must have drifted off again and sport slowed markedly after 3pm. I struggled on for another hour, mainly because I saw a good tench roll in front of me. I tried hard but could not interest him with maggot or worm so I called it a day at 4pm and packed up.

The cheap Shakespeare reel I bought earlier this year started to grind horribly during the afternoon. I fished on with it but I fear it is on its last legs already. I only purchased it because it is a 2500 size baitrunner and all my other baitrunners are much bigger. Up until now it has been a good wee reel and I will open it up to see what has gone wrong. The past couple of outings I’ve used an ABU Garcia Orra and this is a nice smooth reel. I had bought it for salmon fishing but one tussle with a ten pounder convinced me the drag wasn’t up to the job. It languished at the bottom of a drawer for a while until I hit on the idea of spooling it with light line for coarse fishing.

I had wanted a day of sport on light tackle and that was exactly what I got in the end. No monsters but a steady trickle of silvers and a few bream and hybrids to boot. The only disappointment was the size of the roach, they were very, very small. I really enjoyed fishing there and will definitely return to those pegs again. Two of the fish I landed were badly scarred by pike so there must be a few of the green lads hanging about in the vicinity of the stands. I might bring a spinning rod with me the next time I come to Keshcarrigan.

coarse fishing

Lock 13

I like the Ballinamore canal. It is stuffed with fish for one thing and due to the wrecked tourist season it is pretty quiet meaning I can fish with relatively little disturbance from passing boats. Today I tried a new spot for me at lock 13 about half way between Leitrim Village and Keshcarrigan. Thursdays are a good day for me to head off to the canal as I can drop Helen at her work and mosey on up to the canal via Carrick-on-Shannon where I can buy some bait.

I routinely refer to this canal as the ‘Ballinamore’ but it has various names. Probably the right one is ‘the Ballinamore, Ballyconnel canal. Part of it could rightly be referred to as the Woodford river as this river was straightened and canalised to form part of the waterway. In common with most Irish canals, this one was an economic disaster, fell into ruin and has been repaired and is now used for pleasure craft. It links the Erne catchment in the north to the Shannon. What interests us anglers is the good stocks of roach, bream, hybrids, perch and pike. Some rudd and tench are also present

So why Lock 13? It is reasonably close for me and it looks like a spot where the roach will shoal up. As I explore the different parts of the canal I am slowly building up a picture of where to fish and where to avoid so this was going to be another one of those sessions where I was planning on doing more learning than fishing. My usual canal set up of the light leger rod for fishing in the margins and a float rod for the main channel were in the back of the car.

A car park beside the locks was a huge benefit for me and I parked up and unloaded all the gear. It’s mid-summer now and the air is warm. We have had some rain recently so the salmon and sea trout are running but I want to avoid the crowds and just do some gentle canal fishing instead. I find the lock and park up. Only a few people around and a boat is passing through the lock as I tackle up. Immediately below the lock there is a flat concrete structure where I can fish from with ease. The canal is very dirty due to recent rain.

A few balls of groundbait plop into the swim and I start to fish. Another boat uses the lock and operations are suspended while the brown water rushes past, churning up twigs and rubbish from the bottom. My ground bait has been washed away so I feed the swim again and re-start. This would be the nature of the session as there is an unexpectedly high volume of boat traffic today.

The leger rod gives a nod and I wind in a tiny perch. Next the float disappears slowly and another small perch wriggles on the end. I have to wrestle a small branch out on the float rod after my hook catches on it in the murky water. I loose feed a few maggots and am soon rewarded with the first of a string of roach. None of them are any great size but I do love catching these pretty fish.

The hours pass and a pattern can be observed. Every time the lock gates are opened and the swim is disturbed it takes about 20 minutes for the fish to come back on the feed. I move further downstream to see if this is any better but apart from one good roach which falls off at the net I hook nothing there. I pack up and head home in time for a nice dinner.

I guess this is a fairly typical angling day on the canal, a few smallish fish on light tackle amid calming surroundings. On a day like today with no wind to speak of the loughs would be dreadfully hard work where as a short session on the canal is very relaxing. What is interesting is my growing confidence as I ever-so-slowly amass snippets of knowledge with every trip here. It is easy to dismiss a few tiddlers as a waste of time but I see it very differently. Angling means different things to different people. The pressure of the competitions attracts some, trying to catch their PB is the goal for others. I happen to fall into the category of those anglers who use angling as an escape from everyday life and just enjoy being out by the water messing about and hopefully catching a few fish but not becoming overly stressed if I blank. Lock 13 provided me with a lovely few hours of solitary relaxation.

Leitrim is fast becoming my ‘go to’ place for coarse fishing. The range of venues is breath-taking and the opportunities seem to be almost endless. In these difficult times I don’t like to plan too far in advance so instead I watch the weather and decide if each day is a game fishing day or one for coarse fishing. I am well aware of how blessed I am to live here and have so much angling on my doorstep.

Next week is forecast to be one of light winds and overcast skies – looks like I will be heading for Leitrim again!

A fine pond snail which was on a branch I pulled out