Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Late season on Conn

September on the western lakes can be an enigma, days when the trout seem to be suicidal are tempered with ones when they fail to respond in what appear to be perfect conditions. Years ago we could look forward to the last late hatches of olives in some bays and of course a fall of daddies or hoppers if there was a wind. The collapse of insect populations means it is unlikely we get those opportunities now. Undeterred, a day on Conn beckoned, plans were laid and tackle dusted down once more time.

The summer was very quiet on Conn this year. Not much action meant local anglers stayed away while visitor numbers were curtailed due to Covid. Two periods of hot, bright weather drove water levels down and made for next to impossible angling conditions. So here we are in September with only a scant few days left of the trout season. Light winds were forecast for the day ahead, sapping my confidence before even setting off in the morning.

I would not be fishing today, instead I would ghillie for two good anglers. John and Bob have fished Conn for years and today I was on the oars as they tried for a late season trout or two. We met up at Gillaroo Bay which was busier than usual as there was a competition on and anglers were all preparing to go out. The fellas arrived and it was great to see them both again so there was a bit of catching up to be done as we loaded the boat.

The wind was coming out of the south, a good direction for Conn but it meant my initial plan to fish the Colman Shallows had to be changed. With only a light breeze the shallows, which lie in the lee of the land, would be too calm so instead I headed up to Massbrooke and we set up on the drift 80 yards out in a nice wave but driving rain. Wet flies were the order of the day and the lads began short lining in good style. I worked the oar, sometimes just to keep the line but also to manoeuvre around shallows and rocks. The forecast of light winds was incorrect, the actually wind rose and fell throughout the day and was quite strong in the afternoon.

The first couple of drifts were fishless but we saw a few trout rocketing out of the water. This behaviour is not well understood and various theories have been put forward about it. Shaking parasites, daphnia feeding, aggressive behaviour as spawning approaches – these and many other causes are all possibilities. Today though I figured the trout might still be chasing fry in the shallows so I tied on some tinsel bodied patterns for the lads. Soon John’s rod bent into a normal sized Conn brownie. It had taken the Pearly Invicta dressed on a size 12 hook. We fished on and John repeated the trick with a lovely butter-yellow trout, also on the Invicta. Bob decided to  try and pull a trout up to a dry fly so he changed over. All this time the rain came and went but it had been a very wet morning and we were pretty damp already. The wind, which had been light to start with, had picked up and we now had a good wave of a couple of feet. I floated the idea of heading back down to the Colman Shallows and so we set off in a flurry of spray, crashing through the waves as we ploughed south and set up on a nice drift at the shallows.

The shallows are a popular drift and being so easily accessible from Gillaroo bay they receive a lot of attention. Today we drifted from the big island all the way to the western pins off the little island. This is perfect trout country with rocks and shallow water under the keel all the way. The fish were uncooperative though and by now it was well after 1pm so we called it time for lunch.

The twigs I rustled up for the kettle were damp (understatement – they were soaking wet) and it took a while to get the old Kelly fired up but we got there eventually and enjoyed the simple pleasure of a hot drink and a bite to eat while stretching our legs on the shore. Some visiting anglers find the Irish obsession with stopping for lunch a waste of good fishing time but in fact it is an integral part of lough fishing. Chatting over a cuppa amid the scenery of the Irish countryside is one of life’s great joys and it gives you a chance to unwind after the high levels of concentration when fishing. On days when the fishing is good, lunch can be prepared and consumed fairly quickly but on slow days the break is a much more leisurely affair. Thankfully, today the rain had eased off and we ate in comparative dryness. The wind fell away again as we ate so once again we took off for Massbrooke once lunch was over. Bob’s 8hp Tohatsu made short work of the trip. I’m not familiar with these engines but it ran faultlessly and they seem to be a strong motor. With a good wave up the lake I convinced Bob to change back to a team of wets.

The rain began to fall heavily just as we set up on the first drift after lunch. I dislike fishing in heavy rain simply because in all my years of angling I have never experienced good fishing in a downpour. In fairness to both anglers they stuck manfully to the cause, casting rhythmically, steady retrieves, clean lift-offs and no tangles despite the encroaching cold and wetness in their arms. John struck into his third trout of the day, a slightly smaller lad this time who once again had taken the pearly tail fly.

We had only drifted a few yards more when not one but two salmon showed in front of the boat. We had seen a few salmon pitching in the distance before but these fish were quite close so I rowed quickly over so the lads could cover them. The fish refused to come up again and we drifted harmlessly over the lies. I tied on a largish Green Peter to Johns cast and Bob did the same with his leader in case we came upon some more salar. It was not to be though and the last fish in the boat today was a small brownie for Bob which took that old reliable, a small Bibio on the dropper.

We called it a day around 5pm, steaming back though choppy waters and arriving back in the bay wet to the skin. Any day afloat on an Irish lough is a good day and it was a pleasure to be out with two good anglers who appreciate the beauty and ever changing moods of lough Conn. The catch was somewhat disappointing in what were essentially good fishing conditions. Once again, it was noticeable there was no fly life on the lough at all. We did not see a single caddis, mayfly or midge on the water or in the air. This has been the case all summer and it is deeply concerning that insect populations appear to be collapsing.

September is flying past us and the end of the season is almost here. Hard to believe the 2021 trout and salmon season ends in a few days, it feels like we have only just got going.

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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, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

New plugs

In Galway yesterday so I dropped into the tackle shops to see if there was anything new. I came across a plug made by ABU Garcia called the Tormentor. I think this has been around for  while, it is just I hadn’t seen them until now. Jointed and unjointed are available so I invested in one of each.20161112_1258451

The only colours I found were silver/black, gold / orange and a lime green which looked OK for Pike but not for salmon. There may be other colours in the range so I will keep an eye out for them. The only sizes I saw in Galway were 11cm, fairly substantial baits! They are definitely available in smaller sizes too which could be useful for grilse.

When compared to a 11cm Rapala these Tormentors look like they have been on steroids. I suspect they will flash and reflect light much better than the normal Rapala which may be an advantage in murky water. Here is a link to the ABU Garcia youtube videos of the swimming action of these plugs:

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I also bought a Cormoran N35 Minnow. These are beautifully crafted plugs with amazingly detailed bodies. The one I bought is coloured like a baby Brown Trout. At only 7 grams it would be light to cast but I intend trolling it behind the boat so casting weight is not a concern. The makers claim this small plug (only 85mm long) swims at a depth of 1.5 metres, and that is just about the right level for most of the trolling I do on Lough Conn. Any deeper and you are plagued with snagging on the bottom.

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For now they will all have to reside in the lure box with the rest of my salmon plugs, tucked away in the tackle bag until next spring.

 

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