coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

Little adoo at Gulladoo

I could tell she was unimpressed. There are a million jobs to be done around the house but I badly needed some time off to do a bit of fishing so I broached the subject of a day on the bank to my better half. The look said it all, there was no need for words but she took pity on me and I had my pass for the day.

Saturday morning saw me driving off down the road to Leitrim one more time, the first road trip in the ‘new’ car. I am still getting used to the Renault despite owning it for a couple of weeks now. The old Golf was like a second skin to me and this was the first long journey I was making since the old green car went off to the scrapyard. Our Scenic feels very roomy and the driving position is high. The smaller engine means a lot less power (and cheaper insurance) than I have been used to but as I tend to trundle slowly along the highways this is not a big issue. The boot, while large enough I suppose, is less voluminous than the Golf so gear has to be stowed on the back seats as well. Us humans are an adaptable bunch and I’ll soon grow accustomed to the car.

The drive gave me a chance to review the past few weeks. With only light traffic and good roads I could use the time to mull over what has been a continuingly challenging period. I started the new job since the last time I was fishing, our beloved cat, Theo, has gone missing, my old car was unceremoniously carted off to the breakers yard and of course Covid restrictions have tightened once again. For me, a day on the bank is something akin to pressing a reset button, giving me headspace to look at problems in a more positive light. By the time I pulled up in Carrick-on-Shannon the Renault was purring like a kitten and smelling ever so slightly of manure, courtesy of the freshly dug worms in the boot. Helen is going to have that non-plussed look on her face again I fear.

Maggots purchased, I returned to the car and set off for my destination along the winding R201 to Carrigallen and then south to my chosen venue for the day, Gulladoo Lough. We are half way through November so I was not anticipating hectic sport but just to be fishing would suffice today. Some fresh air and the peace that comes with being beside the water and hopefully a few small roach were the height of my ambitions.

I’ve passed Gulladoo a few times and kept telling myself I had to give it a try one day. A chilly November Saturday was possibly not the ideal time to try a new water but I had read it was a pretty consistent fishery and anyway I could scope it out for next summer. An unusually shaped water, there are two lakes joined by a narrow cut. Bream were the dominant species before but is sounded like roach were more likely to be caught these days. Some perch, pike, rudd and a smattering of tench also lived in the shallow waters. I had looked at ariel maps before planning this trip and could see some areas which looked to be pretty open and accessible for bank fishing. These lakes are very popular on the competition circuit so there must be plenty of space for all those anglers. I must admit though that I much prefer fishing off a stand or something similar. I like the solidity of concrete or strong timber under my feet when coarse fishing. There is only one double stand on Gulladoo and it is a disabled access one so if someone else with challenges was there or came along during my session I would have to move on to the bank but that’s OK.

I had grown accustomed to warm weather over the summer but today would be much cooler and I had dug out some winter clothes for today. Layers of shirt/fleeces and thick trousers were the order of the day. As a young fella I was almost immune to the level of cold we get here in Ireland. These days my old bones feel the slightest drop in temperature so wrapping up well is a necessity for me if I am to enjoy being outdoors at this time of the year. It is my hands that suffer the most as I hate wearing gloves which seem to remove all the touch and feeling from proceedings.

Will the drop in temperature increase the spread of Covid even further? Here in Ireland the numbers are already high and even more restrictions have been put in place including a return to working from home. I am vaccinated but resolutely refuse to download the vaccine pass which I consider to be a dangerous step towards a totalitarian state. I therefore don’t socialise at all and things like eating in a restaurant or going to the pub for a pint ceased for me two years ago. So be it, at least I have my angling for now.

My choice of gear today consists of my normal starting set up of two rods, one rigged with a feeder and the other with a waggler. I start with worm on the feeder, targeting bream while maggot on the float was more likely to tempt any roach or rudd. I don’t normally go into the detail of my rigs because I am new to coarse fishing and no expert but just for the record here is how I set up initially.

Swimfeeder: The 12 foot general purpose rod with a cheap 2500 size baitrunner reel loaded with 6 pound mono. To this I tied a 20 gram maggot feeder mounted on a twizzled boom made from 8 pound nylon. An 8 inch nylon tippet of 4 pound mono and a size 12 hook completed the set up. I fret over the hook length, always unsure if it would be better to go longer. I start off with a worm held on the hook with a couple of maggots.

Float: The old 13 foot ABU float rod with the ABU Garcia Orra reel, again filled with 6 pound mono. A heavy waggler rated for 5BB attached via a float adaptor so I can change it easily and trapped in place with two shot. The rest of the shot are bulk immediately above the loop to loop connection and the tippets is made of 3 pound mono to a size 14 hook. Hooks are barbless in both cases. The reason for the shotting pattern is the presence of rudd in the lake and I want to get down fast to reduce the number of rudd I might otherwise hook. I would be interested to hear from any experienced anglers what rig they would use for similar waters here in Ireland.

For groundbait I make up a batch of brown and black crumb, porridge oats, some hemp, a few drops of vanilla, a tin of sweetcorn and a few maggots tossed in for good measure. Once again the blandishments of the groundbait advertisers has fallen on my deaf ears. The price of the bags of sweet or fishy smelling powders make me shudder and I can’t bring myself to part with big money for the latest sensational bag of goo. Maybe I am letting the side down here and I could triple my catches by investing in some prepared groundbait but for now I’ll stick to my own cheap and cheerful mix. I like the idea of particles in my groundbait, hence the tin of sweetcorn, but to brutally frank I have not a whit of evidence it makes any difference. I suppose I could adopt a more scientific approach and run trials with/without groundbait or using different mixes and compare results. That all sounds a bit too much like work to me so I’ll stick to my homespun methods and ingredients for now. Maybe next summer I will venture into the brave new world of commercially produced groundbaits.

Of course I was not able to pre-bait and this could potentially be a problem for me. Gulladoo is not huge by Irish standards but it is still a fairly big water and the perceived wisdom is that pre-baiting is pretty much essential for good fishing on the bigger waters. With the guts of a two hour drive to this venue there was no way I could just pop up the day before and heave in a pile of bait so I just have to take my chances today. This is partly the reason I tend to fish smaller, more intimate loughs rather than the big headline venues like Muckoo, Gara or even the Shannon. I’ll leave those to the locals or holiday anglers who are in the immediate area and can pre-bait as required. The best I can do is lob in a few balls of groundbait as soon as I arrive and hope for the best after that.

this little lot needs a thorough clean over Christmas

The box coarse tackle is looking a bit tatty right now after a lot of use over the past summer. It needs a good clean out and some items will have to be replaced. I bought a few hooks and a couple of small swimfeeders the other day as I was running low on both of them. How I manage to break/lose so many feeders is a mystery to me! The same goes for floats but there are lots of spares lurking in a box at home that I can always dip into for replacements.

Hook design is something I have not investigated fully for my coarse angling which is strange as I am very fussy about my game fishing hooks. I have been caught off guard a couple of times by big fish when using fine wire hooks, resulting in lost fish. I am guessing there has to be a balance between using fine wire hooks so they don’t burst the maggots but the same hooks being strong enough to land a 4 or 5 pound bream or tench. I now tend to use medium wire hooks on my swimfeeder rigs and fine wire ones on the float. The exceptions are one or two loughs which I know are home to big fish and there I step up hook strength accordingly on both feeder and float.

fine stand

Four loud ‘plop’s as I throw in balls of groundbait. The wind is blowing almost directly in my face and there is a heavy mist which mean I am soon very wet. I am on the right hand wing of the stand and lobbing the feeder towards the far bank. The float is the very devil to cast into the strong wind but I persevere as best I can. No bites are forthcoming so I change the feeder on to maggots but this fails to elicit any response either. I am loose feeding now, a few maggots each time I cast the float. Still nothing and the rain really gets going now with a heavy downpour which lasts about 30 minutes. Once the rain has passed I move to the left side of the stand and try there for a while but again, there is no signs of fish. I dry off a little and sit there, contemplating life in general. Sandwiches are consumed, washed down with some hot, reviving tea and I decide that since the wind has dropped a bit I will change to a lighter float. Of course this make not a whit of difference and I am still biteless.

The sky darkens ominously and the rain starts to fall again driven by a rising wind. The temperature is dropping too, turning the day in a bit of a challenge. I see that shower out and a thin strip of blue sky emerges in the west. Checking the time I decide the options for me here are very limited so I pack up and head back the way I came. In an effort to rescue something from the day I plot a course for the canal at Leitrim Village.

would the canal save the blank

Pulling up in the gravel car park beside the locks I set up just the float rod. Leaving the feeder gear, ground bait and even the landing net in the car I cross the canal and find a spot to try. Depth adjusted, I loose feed some maggots and concentrate hard on the float which is difficult to see in the rapidly fading light. I miss one half-hearted bite but the next time the float dips I hook a small roach. Success at last! The very next cast yields another similar sized roach then it all goes quiet once more. My final cast of the day produces a small perch but by then I am getting cold and so I retrace my steps back to the car. I have been fishing the canal for about an hour or so. Roadworks push me miles out of my way as I head for Mayo, making for a long and tedious journey so I fiddle with all the buttons and switches in the car trying to figure out what they all do.

obliging roach

All that time, effort and planning only resulted in three small fish. I knew at the outset I was chancing my arm going prospecting on a large new water on the verge of winter. I suspect the roach are forming up into big shoals and moving into the rivers now, Gulladoo certainly felt devoid of life today. For me the day was not a total washout, time spent by the water is never wasted and I was able to take time to contemplate what is going on in my tiny corner of the universe.

The chatter on the airwaves here is all about another lockdown before Christmas so there is every possibility today was my last outing of 2021. If it was I went out with a whimper instead of a bang!

sun dips below the horizon and another days fishing comes to an end

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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.

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.

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32 – Episode 3, Leitrim

It is the 10th September 2020 and yesterday I decided to tackle another county, this time our near neighbour Leitrim. In one sense this should be a very easy place to catch a few fish as Leitrim is full of lakes brimming with fish. My issues are around exactly what kind of fish. You see Leitrim is a coarse fishers paradise but I am no expert at coarse angling, hence my reticence. An awful lot of online study had gone into today’s trip, venues abound but finding the right one was hard work. It had to hold plenty of fish (obviously) be easy to find, have adequate parking nearby and some structures to fish from. Irish banks tend to be wild and overgrown and as a novice I want to be standing on something stable. Those criteria narrowed down the choice considerably as many of the loughs in the area are pretty wild and poorly served with infrastructure.

I eventually hatched a plan to fish a small lough called Drumgorman Lake, about 3 km to the south of Drumshanbo. According to the IFI website it held Bream, Roach, Perch and Pike. There were some stands to fish from and a carpark right next to the water. The main road from Carrick-on-Shannon to Drumshanbo ran next to the shoreline. It sounded perfect.

Thursday morning was dry and the winds were light but forecast to pick up through the day. All the relevant gear was chucked in the back of the motor and I hit the road, bound for lovely Leitrim. For a change the N5 was pretty quiet and I trundled happily on, heading east and listening to the usual gloom on the radio. Brexit this, Covid that, the latest depressing updates on the total mismanagement of global issues. At least the fishing would take my mind off all of this crap for a while. Somewhere between Frenchpark and Carrick the road had been dug up and I had to divert through Boyle, a town I had never been in before. Negotiating the strange one-way system in the town, I emerged on the N4 road and turned towards Carrick. There is a canal only a few yards along the road which looked pretty fishy to me (one for another day). The green and pleasant scenery rushed by as I ploughed on eastwards.

If you have been following my early exploits in coarse fishing you will recall that I have lost faith in sweetcorn as bait. This time I was determined to get some maggots so I stopped off at the Carrick Angling Centre to pick up a pint. I opted for red ones and invested in some brown crumb for ground bait while I was at it. Next, some brown bread from the local Gala store on the corner of Bridge Street (for me to make myself a sandwich) and I was off on the final, short leg of the journey up the R280 and through Leitrim Village. I very nearly drove past the small carpark at the side of the lake as it is not signposted! Gear was hastily unpacked, rods pushed together and I set up on a fine new-ish looking disabled stand. With nobody else around I elected to fish from the stand. A handful of maggots were tossed in while I set up two rods, the 12 foot Shakespeare with a Daiwa Harrier and my lovely little ABU Legerlite with the old Cardinal 444A. Both had 6 pound nylon on them. I put a small swimfeeder on the 12 footer, loaded it with maggots and put 3 maggots on a size 12 then cast it out. A couple of swan shot is all the weight the Legerlite needs and I added a link of pound and a half nylon to a size 14 crystal bend, tipped with a pair of maggots. This rod was cast to the left.

I started mixing up some ground bait and fired a few balls of it into the coloured water but almost right away I started to get bites. The steady wind blowing from left to right was making bite detection a bit hit and miss but soon enough I connected with a fish on the Legerlite. Winding in, I found what has to be the smallest Perch in the world hanging on to my hook. Ah well, at least it was a start.

More ground bait mixing and throwing and more small bites followed but I wasn’t connecting with them. Changing the swimfeeder size 12 for a size 14 seemed to help and when I struck a solid bite there was some weight on the end. A lovely Roach of about 8 ounces came to hand, was photographed and quickly released. Happy days!

More missed bites followed and I changed down in hook size again, this time to an 18 and a single maggot. Bites promptly stopped altogether on that rod but I picked up another good Roach on the Legerlite. Clouds had been building and sure enough the rain started and the wind picked up, making conditions less than favourable. Hunkering down I surveyed my swim and thought the tree roots next to me looked like the perfect spot for a Perch to set up home. Re-baiting, I literally lowered my rig down at my feet into the roots and waited. I didn’t have long to wait as a lively bite resulted in a firm hook up and a nice perch as soon in my hand.

All the time a somewhat scruffy Robin kept me company, darting down to grab any stray maggots that had crawled out of the bait box. He was obviously well used to this trick.

Time flew by as the rain first eased off then returned with a vengeance. Bites dried up so I tried to liven things up with even more ground bait. Trying some casts to my right brought a flurry of bites and a few small Roach but I was soaked through by now so I decided to call it a day. Sheltering under the trees, I broke down the rods and tucked all the bits and pieces away before turning the key in the ignition and heading off homeward. Everything was sopping wet and will need to be dried out thoroughly before I venture out again. Note to self – must buy a new waterproof ¾ length jacket. The one I am using belonged to my father and is worn out.

So, what to make of the day and what lessons were learned? Firstly, and probably most importantly, I caught some fish in County Leitrim. I has set out to try and catch Bream, Roach or Perch and had landed 2 out of the 3. Shame I didn’t connect with any Bream but I was absolutely delighted to catch the Roach. The first couple were really pretty fish and I now get why some anglers fish so hard for this species. My choice of bait was vindicated and I will make a lot of effort to get maggots when I am going coarse fishing. Not wasting time trying to float fish in the wind was a good move (I think). Dropping the bait into the tree roots looking for Perch was a success too.

On the negative side I failed to catch a Bream (again) and I badly want to land a few of these fish. I read that they should be easy to catch but they are eluding me right now. OK so they are slimy and don’t really fight but I still want to catch some! I will persevere and read up some more on the species, then target them specifically on my next outing. I also need to figure out my choice of hooks because I missed a large percentage of the bites I got. Dropping down in size reduced bite numbers but increased hook ups until I went to a size 18, then all action on that rod ceased. Why? And my hooking ratio was terrible so maybe I need to think about different styles of hook? My ground baiting was a bit haphazard and I need to think about the quantity and frequency of groundbait. I could not hold the shoal of roach in front of me and this means I was doing something wrong. I don’t know did I over feed or not put enough in. I need to look into hair rigs as they could help me to convert bites into solid hook ups. I’ll do some research first before buying the bits and bobs.

Swimfeeders break! I started by tying on a nice little maggot feeder but after a few casts I noticed there was something wrong with it and a little crack had turned into chunks of the plastic body falling off. I changed it for a sturdier one but I will buy some new feeders so I have a good stock. On the subject of tackle, my tackle box badly needs to better organised. I seemed to be constantly rummaging around for hooks/line and could never just put my hand on what I wanted. The list of potential improvements goes on and on but today was a step in the right direction for me. Will I ever give up my game and sea fishing to concentrate on coarse? Not a chance! Having said that, I am fascinated by this branch of the sport and can’t wait to get back out there chasing Bream and Roach again.

So that is Leitrim ticked off the list, making it the third county out of the 32. It is a largely unspoilt county with a huge amount of coarse fishing. If I was a visiting angler the idea of holidaying in Carrick-on-Shannon would be very appealing. It is a nice wee town with lots of accommodation options, plenty of bars and restaurants. The river Shannon flows through the town and there are dozens of good fishing lakes within easy reach. For me, it is just over an hour’s drive from home so I will be coming back to the area from now on.

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