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 the wind as soon as their wings were dry. I swapped baits before turning for home in the waves which had by now grown to a yard from trough to foaming crest.

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

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A nice Tay-rigged Rapala

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

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

 

 

 

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

Mixed fortunes on Lough Conn

The big southerly wind we were promised on the forecast didn’t really materialise after all. A steady force 5 brought mild, damp air up over Ireland and a good day for fishing. I had semi-packed the gear the night before so it was just some last minute additions that had to be slung into the VW before heading off for Pike Bay. Mayo was verdant and lush around me as I wound along the Lahardaun road with Conn on my right. The car park at Brown’s Bay was busy and lots of boats were already hard at it along the Massbrook shore.

Parked up close to the boat, I donned my gear in a heavy shower. This would be the pattern for the day, steady winds and occasional heavy showers. I trolled my way out of the bay and turned left into Castlehill, scanning the surface for any activity as I progressed deep into the shallow waters. No signs of life that I could see but some boats were covering drifts at the extreme edge of the bay close to the reeds beyond the mouth of the Addergoole river. I joined the queue but still can’t figure out why they were combing the water there – not a sign of fly or fish was to be seen! I gave it a couple of drifts then headed out of Castlehill and trolled down towards Massbrook. I saw my first mayfly of the day a few yards from the start of the Cornekillew shore, quickly followed by the first rise too. I pushed on down the shore a bit further before stowing the trolling rod and  setting up for a drift to take me back over the spot where I had seen the rise.

coming out of Castlehill bay

The wind was difficult as I was alone in the boat and with my weight at one end and just fresh air at the other she tended to dig in by the stern and slip sideways on the wind. I like to use this to my advantage when wet fly fishing on my own and ‘hang’ the bob fly for a long time as each cast fishes out. The wind forms a sag in the line as I am crossing it, giving the fish that extra few seconds to grab the flies. That tactic worked a treat today with browns nabbing a Green Peter on the the bob fly and hooking themselves in the scissors. A couple of smallish lads were quickly hussled to the boat before a better fish made a mistake and walloped the size 12 Connemara Black in the middle. I was thoroughly enjoying myself up until now, but then my good fortune deserted me.

a well proportioned brown

a bit thin but still a good trout

I had reached the end of the drift and wound in. Pulling the starter cord on the old Evenrude elicited only a cough and a splutter. I repeated the pull, the engine gave me a similar reply. Hmm, maybe she is cold and needs some choke? Nope, that didn’t work and by now I am well out in the deep water, a few hundred yards from shore. Maybe swearing at the inanimate object might help? Surprisingly, this had absolutely no effect what so ever! Nothing else for it, so I grabbed the oars and bent my back into turning the boat into the wind and rowing hard into the stiff breeze. Some fellow anglers from the midlands who had watched my antics came to congratulate me on my sterling efforts and to see if they could help in any way. I declined the offer as there were fish moving and those lads should be covering trout not ripping an engine apart. Being the owner of old engines I habitually carry spares and tools so I had the Evinrude’s spark plugs out in a jiffy (thinking that she had possibly oiled the plugs). The spark plugs looked good so I decided to call it a day and head back home. It was 2.30pm and I figured I was not going to lose much by that time of the day. Driving home I had time to think about the problem and a duff coil would seem to be the likely culprit today.

a few minutes after this photo was taken the old girl packed in

While it was a shame the day was cut short by mechanical failure I still enjoyed my time on the lough. Mayfly are still scarce but a few are fluttering around now. I will get the engine repaired during the week and be ready to hit the lough again next weekend.

even the Perch were taking the fly today

The lough is fishing well so if any of you are contemplating a wee trip to Conn the next couple of weeks should be good.

 

Late update: I hear the Castlebar Anglers club held a competition on Conn today. 18 anglers caught 7 trout between them.

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

More news from nowhere

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Sunday. The weather is promised to get fine again later in the day so I decided to try my luck on Lough Conn for a few hours. The word on the street is that a small number of salmon and grilse has been running the Moy and a few have been landed all the way from the Ridge Pool up to the East Mayo Anglers water. I am hoping that at least some of these fish have turned into Lough Conn.

I load the car with engine, petrol tank and gear then head up the road. Nick Cave and the Badseeds are blasting out ‘more news from nowhere’ on the CD player. I love the juxtaposition of Nick’s tale of Greek mythology and the seedy video which accompanies it with my innocent journey through the glorious Mayo countryside. I am off down quiet country roads and winding lanes to Pike Bay where my boat is safely moored.

I get the boat ready but the wind is set North-North-East and the far horizon is shimmering blue already. Hopes of a decent day’s are fading before I even pull the cord and the old Johnson outboard splutters into life. Ah well, I am here anyway so I will give it a lash. Motoring up into Castlehill Bay there is no sign of fly life and the swallows are absent. I set up a team of wet flies for a start and drift across the bay a couple of times without stirring anything. No flies, no rising fish and no offers and by 11am the sun is burning in the sky and the wind is dropping. It is going to be a hard day out here!

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A cup of coffee and couple of tomato sandwiches are consumed as I set up a pair of trolling rods and head off down towards Massbrook. Something small grabs a bait soon after I get going but it quickly shakes the hooks (no mean feat considering the trebles on a Rapala). I’m constantly scanning the surface for any signs of fly life but the lough looks and feels absolutely dead. The light is now brassy and these conditions are very difficult for the trout angler on the western lakes. Of course I could break out the fast sinking lines and head out into the deeps to search for small trout feeding on daphnia but I am no lover of that type of fishing.

At the entrance to Pike Bay the rod with a small silver Toby on it jerks into life. I reel in a small fish and am surprised to see a small sea trout has taken the bait. Just as I reach out to land it the hooks fly out and the fish swims off none the worse for its adventure. Sea trout are not common in Lough Conn, despite good numbers being present down at the mouth of the River Moy. This one was only a small lad, less than a pound in weight by the look of it.

I double back and am heading down Cornakillew when the Rapala is taken again. Any hopes of Salar are quickly dashed and a brownie is boated. This one has swallowed the bait and so he gets a tap on the head and into the bag for my dinner tonight. He will be about a pound and a quarter in weight and is a well-shaped fish.

I take the opportunity to change the link swivel (which looks a bit suspect to me) and the bait. Since the Rapala is interesting small fish I think I will stick to them but go for a jointed version with a bit more wiggle to it in an effort to arouse the salmon.

Still no fly life. A solitary mayfly lands in the boat with me but that’s it. The heat is building and the sun burns down on me. Time to head home I think. One last turn around the pin yields a firm knock which turns out to be a Perch.

It seems I can catch anything today except the salmon I am really after! Back in Pike Bay I unload the boat and chuck everything into the back of the car, it’s too hot to take much care now and I just want to get back home in time to cut the grass.

Alder

Alder

Lessons from today? The Rapala is certainly worth more time on the end of the line. Not only did it lure some (admittedly small) fish but it is easy to use in the weedy conditions which are with us now until the end of the season. The floating models are a joy to use on the troll and they pop up to the top if you have to stop to play a fish on the other rod.

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

The lack of fly life during the day is not unusual on Conn at this time of year and the heat today suggests it is time to think about evening fishing. I might try the rivers again this week, Blue Winged Olives should be on the menu in the evenings and sedges in the darkness could elicit the attention of the bigger trout.

Back in the car I swing the wheel and slowly head down the narrow winding track back towards civilisation. So that’s it for now, I have no more news from nowhwere …………

Update: The trout made a fabulous dinner. When I was cleaning it I discovered that I had inadvertently been ‘matching the hatch’ by using the Rapala – the fish was stuffed with perch fry.

Link to the salubriously sleazy ‘more news from nowhere’ video:

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