coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Silvers

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.

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.

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.

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Surf n’ Turf

Surf n’ Turf – That is a meal where your plate is filled with both beef and fish isn’t it? Read on dear readers, read on…..

I unexpectedly had a day to myself so I took off for a few hours on a tench lake in Roscommon. Lowfield lies close to the Shannon and reputedly holds good sized tench along with a few roach and bream. Rising early, I had a few small chores to do before heading off down the familiar trail east with the back of the car full of gear.

According to the IFI website there is only one stand on Lowfield with space on it for a couple of anglers, the rest of the shoreline consisting of thick reeds. This is a shallow, weedy lough and I was unsure what to expect. I have grown to associate deep water with big tench but that could just be coincidence.

I had never been on this part of Roscommon before and once I crossed the river at the pretty little village of Drumsna it was a matter of guesswork finding the lough. Wrong turns made the last few miles a torture but at last I found the tiny parking space. As soon as I got out of the car I could see this was going to be a challenging day. The ‘path’ to the lough was completely overgrown and indeed was not visible at all. Shouldering all my gear, I headed off into the undergrowth like Livingstone in search of the Nile. Stumbling through the dense green undergrowth was hard work and I was soon lathered in sweat. Ahead of me was just more of the same, tall grass, reeds and stunted bushes. A cut to my right and the woods to my left meant I was heading in the right direction but the vegetation became even more dense as I progressed further on. A machete would have been pretty useful in this lot. At last, I saw a glimpse of water in front of me through the thick reeds and the ground underfoot became soft and uneven. Of the fabled fishing stand there was no sign though. The cut was far too deep to cross and the trees on the other side barred me from turning over in that direction. A small stand of old trees was slightly to my left but further out but even getting that far felt impossible. In my prime I would have battled on but by now I was tired and despondent. I turned and with difficulty retraced my steps through the wilderness. Regaining the car I found lots of spiders had infiltrated my gear as I was pushing through the undergrowth, big brown ones, smaller brightly colour ones with spindly legs and those fast little lads that scurry about in the grass. I cleared as many as I could out and loaded up the car before departing.

I will go back to Lowfield next spring when the path should be more clear and the plants have died back. This is a lough which needs a bit of development. A few signs on the roads to it are badly required, there are a lot of small roads in the area and none of them have a signpost. The car park is a simple grass area and in wet conditions would be hard to exit. A firm path through the undergrowth is obviously required. The word is that the lough is full of what we call ‘cabbage’ here, thick bright green underwater plants which make the fishing very difficult. Perhaps there could be some weed cutting undertaken?

Retracing my journey I crossed the Shannon and turned back on to the N4. There is a lough you can see from the road called Annaghduff and I have never fished it. Turning off, I found a parking spot and loaded up with all my gear again. Through a gate into a field of rough pasture, I plodded off through the rushes in the general direction of the lough. First impressions were this field has been left fallow but I came across the occasional fresh cow pat, making me very wary indeed. Lots of cow pats obviously means lots of cows, occasional cow pats means only one cow and we all know what sex of cow is left in a field on his own. The field rose slightly in front of me, blocking the view of the lake. I made for the far edge where a line of trees grew. Breasting the rise, I scanned the country in front of me – BULL! Sure enough, sitting in the long grass a hundred yards straight in front of me sat a huge black animal. I will confess at that range it was not possible to medically confirm the sex of the vast creature but I’d be fairly sure it was a he and not a she. Spinning through 180 degrees I made an undignified exit, looking over my shoulder to see if he was coming after me. A seatbox (full), buckets, bag of ground bait (also full) and quiver of rods tends to slow ones progress somewhat, especially when plunging through knee high rushes in wellies and waterproofs. I was sweating again. A glance behind showed a pair of black ears and, horror of horrors, a pair of horns, poking over the rise in the ground, he was following alright. By now I was closing in on the gate and with one final mighty effort I made the six bar and was through it to safety. Looking over it I could not see the bull, he must have turned back after all. Bent over, I caught my breath and took a picture of the gate which saved me then plodded off back to the car. That had been a bit too close for comfort.

On the right side of the gate my heart was still thumping when I took this!

Plan B had not been a success so I now decided to head off for Lough Rinn. Once back on the N4 and heading south it became clear that even that new plan was not going to be straight forward either. The road to Mohill which I wanted to take was closed for repairs meaning a long detour for me. About 20 minutes elapsed as I circumnavigated the detour before finally pulling into the amenity area on the west side of the lough. I knew there is a fine double stand behind the camping area so I set off for it only to find the stand fully occupied by a couple of other anglers. Toying with the idea of yet another move I instead decided to fish off of one of the large water sport piers. Being honest, I am not sure I was actually allowed to fish off them but as nobody else was around I took the chance and set up on the easterly floating pontoon. Spacious and stable, it proved to be a comfortable billet for the remainder of the day.

How’s that for a fishing stand! I strongly suspect I was not supposed to be here.

Reaching into my top pocket I pulled out my reading glasses, only to find them broken. The left lens was missing, no doubt I had done this when lugging the tackle around. A search in the bottom of my box revealed a long forgotten spare pair so all was not lost.

I fired a feeder 60 yards out towards the lanes and busied myself with the float rod. A solid bite halted that process and I wound in a descent bream of a couple of pounds. Plumbing up, I found only about three feet of water in front of me so I fished slightly over depth three rod lengths out. The feeder began to nod again and this time a roach came in, soon followed by some skimmers. The float rod was doing nothing so I broke it down and set up my little margin rod with a small open end feeder and cast it off to my right where it too began to take fish. Most of the fish were skimmers with the odd roach and hybrid to boot. A few pretty wee rudd were a welcome addition too.

Skimmers of various sizes came to hand and I had another good bream too, this one must have weighed about three pounds and I took some snaps of him before slipping him back. I then checked my phone and guess what? The photos of the bream had not come out! Bugger, I thought I had some good shots in the can but no, all I had was a slime covered phone but no pictures. The next skimmer I landed was held up for a photo but he struggled a bit in my hand as I posed the shot. I felt something on my arm but paid it no heed as I extracted the hook took the photo and released the fish. Casting out again I felt my left forearm was wet and investigation showed the fish had somehow managed to poop down the inside of my sleeve. Yes, I was covered in skimmer excrement and boy did it stink! I cleaned my self up as much as possible but the stench hung around all day until I could shower when I got home.

It is difficult to say how many fish I caught, a guess of about thirty sounds about right but it could have been more or less than that. This was my first time fishing Lough Rinn and to be honest it is a bit shallow for my liking. I prefer deeper water but on days like today beggars can’t be choosers. Being a larger lough it is open and while I had a nice peaceful day there it would be a different story in a wind. Maybe the fishing off the stand would have been into deeper water, it certainly looked ‘fishier’ than the pontoons.

I managed to snap off another swimfeeder when the line jammed around my reel as I was casting. I am very profligate with my end tackle when coarse fishing, losing or breaking feeders and floats almost every time I go out. My stock of feeders is now perilously low and I’ll need to buy some more soon. Floats are less of a problem as I own an inordinate quantity of them in all shapes and sizes. I like to keep a reserve of ground bait ingredients but this too has become sadly depleted owing to my frequent fishing trips lately. This summer has seen me catch an awful lot of fish but the price has been paid in lost or worn out tackle. This autumn I’ll make good the deficit though and restock as required.

Today had been a difficult one with a lot of setbacks. Access to the waters edge is often an issue here in Ireland and I just accept that sometimes it is not going to be possible to fish exactly where I want on any given day. When I got home I looked at a map and think there is another route into Lough Annaduff. I really wish the IFI would erect some more signs for us anglers. It would make life a whole lot easier for us and for very little expense.

You can feel the change in the seasons now, the air is different and the colours of the land are dimming. A few swallows were still hawking flies over Lough Rinn this afternoon but they will be gone shortly. The slight chill was not unpleasant today but in a few weeks time the cold will be here in force as we head towards winter. I have a summer of coarse fishing to look back on and those memories will keep me going through to the next season if I am spared that long. I hope to do some game fishing over the next few days. We will see what the weather brings.

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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Lough Na Blaithi

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of the road for this old reel

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

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

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

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

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coarse fishing

Loose feed vs groundbait

Here is a question for all you coarse anglers out there. What is your decision process when deciding to opt for loose feeding or ground baiting? As a newbie I am still confused about which to use. Due to the lockdown last year there were no other anglers around to learn off of so I have been trying to puzzle all this out on my own.

My coarse angling was confined to natural stillwaters and canals last year and my planned trips to fish the rivers for winter roach this month are obviously on hold due to the pandemic. My target species are roach, bream, hybrids, rudd and perch but being of easy virtue I accept anything that is willing to bite. Bear in mind we don’t have crucians, chub, dace, carp, ruffe or catfish here (Ok so there are a tiny number of carp fisheries in Ireland but none near me). My methods are normally one rod on the waggler and the other either touch legering in the margins or a swimfeeder further out. I don’t fish with the pole. Looking back the float probably catches 60% of the fish, a worm legered in the margins about 30% and a measly 10% fall to the swimfeeder. Maggot tempts most of my fish but the worm is very good too. To date I have found sweetcorn useless and have not tried other baits such as bread, paste or even casters.

Sweetcorn, the only thing I have caught on this was a bloody pike!

From the above is looks to me like I am very inefficient with the swimfeeder and too conservative with my bait choice. Watching videos by expert anglers has confused me more than anything. Do all these fancy groundbaits really make such a difference? Does some mush labelled ‘crab and coconut’ or whatever really drive the fish mad? I am deeply reluctant to fork out 6 or 7 Euro for such smelly delicacies on the off chance they will attract a few fish into a swim. But then again my brown crumb with some maggots approach is none too successful so far. I did reasonably well one day when I added some vanilla to the groundbait but have not had the opportunity to try that experiment again.

Up till now my typical approach is to fire in some balls of groundbait, usually brown crumb with a few maggots, while I am setting up. I will throw in some more balls for the first 20 minutes or so and if I start catching I will either loose feed a trickle of maggots or chuck in the odd ball of groundbait. I must admit this does not seem to work too well as I often catch in short bursts and can’t seem to hold a shoal in front of me. What am I doing wrong? It has crossed my mind that I am overfeeding but judging by the videos it doesn’t look like it. As a rough guide, half a pint of maggots and a small tub of worms will last me a 4 or 5 hour session, usually with some left over. I use a bag of brown crumb in that time too.

I like watching Greame Pullen’s ‘Totally awesome fishing show’, it is both entertaining and informative. He makes up a cheap groundbait based on bran and no.1 horse feed, something I might try this year. None of the tackle shops in the immediate area stock things like groundbait and I have no desire to buy that fancy stuff online. I want to make my own and the TAF recipe looks to be as good as any I have seen.

Watching all those videos I was struck by the fact they are often filmed on days when conditions are perfect. ‘It’s a lovely day on the such-and-such canal’ says the angler sitting on the banks of a picture perfect swim and the water is not the colour of oxtail soup or the wind blowing a hooley (my normal conditions). I am maybe just impatient and just need to stick to the basics and I’ll pick up the tricks of the trade. Any ideas from you guys would be deeply appreciated!

Just a quick update on what is happening here in Ireland. The level 5 lockdown is still in force and is being rigorously enforced by the guards. No travel beyond 5km unless you are travelling to work. That means for virtually all anglers there is no fishing. The death rate and rate of infection are both stubbornly high so it is unlikely the restrictions will be lifted any time soon. Here in Mayo we have some of the highest per capita rates in the country which is a bit scary. Areas like Belmullet have been particularly badly hit.

Stay safe out there!

A further update:

It is the autumn of 2021 and I have had a reasonably successful summer’s coarse fishing. My ‘normal’ ground bait now consists of roughly 40% brown or black crumb, 20% sweetcorn, 20% liquidised biscuits (custard cremes for choice), 10% hemp and 10% casters. This has been slowly refined over a few months and I am pretty happy with it. My coarse angling is on mixed, natural fisheries where roach, bream, perch and tench are the usual species encountered and sometimes rudd and hybrids show up too. My rational for the mix is the crumb provides the base, sweetness comes from the biscuits, hemp to attract the roach and caster + corn to provide particles. Trickling in a stream of loose maggots is my standard approach nowadays and I am finding much greater success than last year.

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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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coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Into the light

Let me say straight away that I am a dyed-in-the-wool game fisher. Brought up on river fishing with fly and spinner I missed out on coarse fishing completely all my life, up until now. I’m on solid ground when it comes to chasing trout and salmon and have a reasonably firm grasp of the basics when angling for those species. To a degree I have kept up with the technical and tactical advances in game fishing over the years as well. Of poles, groundbait and keepnets I know not a jot, at least I didn’t up until very recently.

My new project of aiming to catch at least one fish from each county in Ireland has inadvertently led me down a very different path though, one which is proving to be bewildering but at the same time an interesting challenge. I need to learn how to catch coarse fish from scratch, so the last few weeks have been an education for me. To be perfectly honest I have caught way more coarse fish either by accident or design on fly tackle than I have on floats and legers.

A small roach caught on the fly

My fishing den has shelves groaning under the weight of books on fishing from skinny little booklets on individual rivers to mighty tomes encompassing the minutest details of game and sea fishing. What you won’t find there are books on coarse fishing. I scanned the dustcovers for any stray coarse angling books which I might have forgotten about but could only find one slim volume which gave some brief details of the different species but nothing on angling methods. From the pages of this book I gleaned that Bream were common in Ireland along with Perch but that other mainstays of English coarse fishing such as chub and barbel were absent completely and carp were scarce. Of course we have countless millions of tiny roach in virtually all our Irish waterways these days and I have been told in the past about some lakes which are full of that most handsome of fish, the rudd. At least this narrowed things down a bit for me.

The internet can be viewed as one of the great evils of our times but it certainly came to my rescue when researching coarse fishing methods these last few weeks. YouTube is jam packed with useful instructional videos on how to catch just about anything that swims and there were hours spent watching experts haul out impressively large bags of bream and roach using methods and baits which could have been developed on the moon for all I know. I admit to being fascinated by pole fishing, the concept that you take your rod apart every time you hook a fish seems so alien to me! I very quickly dismissed poles and whips (whips are shorter poles apparently) from my potential armoury as being too cumbersome and expensive for my needs. I want to be able to spent short sessions at new waters meaning I will probably have to move a fair bit to find good spots, setting up all the equipment for pole fishing looks like it takes the organisational ability and heaving lifting of a military regiment.

A Common Cary I caught a few years ago in England on freelined bread

I already owned a float rod, a cheap Shakespeare jobbie that landed me some roach and carp back in England many moons ago. I can clearly recall the alarming bend in that rod when a good sized carp took off for the other side of the lake but it was only ever used a few times and remains in good nick. It will do nicely for float fishing for roach and rudd and anything else that can be tempted on the stick or waggler. Ferreting around in various tackle boxes yielded some old floats and a box of mixed split shot but no line that was light enough for making hook lengths. And so the shopping list began. I guess I knew it would come to this and that some excuse to spend money on fishing tackle would be found. My research on the internet was raising lots of questions and there were obvious gaps in my equipment just as there was in my knowledge. Bottom fishing was a case in point.

Carp fighting

A carp breaks the surface as he feels to hook

Watching the experts on YouTube it became obvious that feeders are a major form of fishing for bottom dwelling species such as bream and tench. The concept of a small device which carries ground bait close to your baited hook is the mainstay of much bottom fishing and this appears to have now flourished into a cornucopia of tackle to cope with every possible variable within the basic method. The rods to hurl the rigs prodigious distances, the details of the rigs themselves and the baits used all held me in close attention and I soaked in all this new-fangled knowledge like a sponge.

I needed a rod for feeder fishing but I was not going to go mad on one of the new specialist feeder rods which are eye-wateringly expensive. It seems that fishing big Irish lakes for bream often involves long, accurate casting of the feeder on large beds of ground bait. Add in the wind which is a feature of this part of the world and you can see that long rods for distance casting in difficult conditions are a real bonus. But I am not planning on jumping into the extreme end of coarse fishing. I want easy venues (to start with at least) where casts are going to be of more normal proportions, depth of water won’t be excessive and the stresses and strains on tackle will be commensurately less. Those of you who follow this blog will recognise where this is all heading – I needed an old ABU rod!

When ABU where still making all their gear in Sweden back in the seventies and eighties they produced a range of coarse fishing rods in both fibreglass and carbon. I quickly found a couple of old leger rods, one light and one medium, which were going for a song and duly snapped them up. An old Cardinal 444A seemed to be a good reel to match up with these rods and filling it with 6 pound line gave me a pretty balanced outfit for basic feeder fishing. OK, so these rods are heavy by todays standards but look, I will be fishing short sessions so fatigue won’t be an issue.

I have also been picking up different types and weights of feeders. Each have their own niche and it looks like I need different ones for different scenarios. I can see a lot of experimentation is going to be required but that is a large part of the fun from my perspective. I remain unsure if I need to expand into method feeders as they seem to be more specialised and the carp fishing lads love them. For now I will stick to simple cage, block and open end feeders for a start anyway. I might be wrong but feeders look like the kind of thing which will get stuck on the bottom easily and so I am anticipating losses. My 6 pound breaking strain running line is hardly going to be fit for much pulling and dragging if the gets snagged in weeds or rocks.

The whole issue of groundbait is another minefield. The experts all agree that Irish bream require huge volumes of groundbait to attract the fish to your swim and to hold them there. Hugely expensive bags of prepared groundbait in an amazing array of flavours and textures seemed to be used by the top fishers but I am unconvinced as yet that I need to go down this road. For a start I will be avoiding the big, deep loughs with their shoals of specimen sized ‘dustbin lids’. I get that you need copious amounts of ground bait to pull the shoals in to casting range on these challenging venues and that little old me with a handful of bread or sweetcorn would likely be fishing barren water most of the time on the big loughs. But I want to cut my teeth on much smaller venues where I already have a good chance of covering fish. Big bags of huge fish simply don’t excite me and a modest catch from an intimate lough are much more appealing to this newbe. I was thinking of making a simple groundbait out of a mix of bread and bran but most of the research I have done suggests your groundbait for Irish waters needs to be dark in colour. Brown flake may be the way to go but I will figure something out.

Hook baits opens up another can of worms (sorry). My small amount of previous coarse angling involved bread paste on a size 14 hook dangling below a stick float and I saw no reason to doubt this would work here in Ireland too. While bread is used it looks like maggots, coloured red preferably, are a better bet for most fish. That presents a slight problem as nobody in my area stocks maggots and I will have to buy them locally when I go coarse fishing. The humble worm is also used a lot and they will be easier to lay my hands on. Even easier again is that old reliable sweetcorn. I am hoping sweetcorn does work as I can have a few tins stowed in the car ready for use at any time.

Roach

Small roach, probably one of the species I will target

When to go coarse fishing is all a bit of a mystery too. With no close season here in Ireland I can in theory go fishing every day of the year but obviously some times are much better than others. I had always imagined coarse fishing was a summer sport, lazy days watching the tip of the float under blue sky. It turns out hardy coarse anglers go about their business in winter too. Tench seem to be a summer only fish but the others can be caught all year round. This very interesting for me as the option of fishing outside the game angling season has great appeal. Then again, sitting hunched up against the lashing rain in a howling gales does not sound too great! The jury is out on winter fishing for now.

So after all my hours of research it looks like I will be targeting Bream, Roach, Rudd and Tench this summer. I will float fish or use feeders and have all the gear I now require bar a landing net which I will pick up sometime soon. Venues will be carefully chosen for size, ease of access and species present rather than looking for specimen sized fish or heavy bags. Over the course of the past few months my perception of coarse fishing has completely altered. Previously I had no interest in the sport at all. It looked difficult and far too technical for me with the outcome not worth the effort and expense. Now, I am looking forward to learning new techniques and catching new species in the heart of the Irish countryside. From a fog of confusion back in the autumn I can now see some glimmers of light. Whether this new found insight into coarse fishing will translate into fish on the bank remains to be seen but it has been fun just learning more about this fascinating branch of our sport.

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