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

2019

With Christmas behind us now and the old year only hours left to run my thoughts are firmly fixed on the 2019 season. What will it bring? This used to be a time of mounting excitement but the collapse of fish stocks in and around Ireland mean there is more trepidation rather than anticipation these days.

A drift on Beltra

Looking back over many years, my angling year fitted into neat sections with the focus on wild brown trout and Atlantic salmon from February right through until the end of September. Only when the game fishing ended would I make any concerted effort to go sea fishing and piking was something I only did once a year. How things have changed! Lack of water early in the season reduced the rivers to a trickle of cold water and the trout went into hiding. Fly life was pretty much non-existent, so the joys of fishing a hatch of duns or a fall of spinners never materialise these days. Salmon too have become scarce with even the once prolific runs of summer grilse a now distant memory.

The Ridge pool on the Moy

Much as I try, it is hard to be optimistic about salmon fishing in 2019. Salmon fishers are used to disappointment, it’s part of our DNA. Long hours on the water without so much a tug on the line are the norm and we all accept this as part and parcel of our chosen sport. Dwindling stocks have turned the empty hours into empty weeks, months and seasons for most of us now. I know many good fishers who put in the hard hours over the past couple of seasons but failed to even hook a fish, let alone land one. Why should 2019 be any better when nothing has been done to help the salmon? There are more fish farms with all their pollution and sea lice. Industrial fishing continues unchecked, wiping out the food sources for the fish. Changing weather patterns seem to be having a detrimental effect of the fish and cycle of high/low water has been replaced with flood/drought. I fear another poor salmon season is about to start. Let’s hope I am wrong.

I’m hoping for more like this next season!

The long, painful drought of last spring and summer, combined with a near total lack of fly life ruined my trouting season on the rivers. I need to be more flexible this coming year, look for new venues and try new methods to winkle out the odd fish. So much will depend on the weather of course but the loss of natural flies means the trout must be feeding on other food forms such as small fish and crustaceans.

On the loughs I am planning on doing more trolling and have geared up accordingly. Not my favourite pastime by any means but when faced with otherwise hopeless conditions I needed to have a ‘plan B’.

I am also thinking about doing more Pike fishing if the trout and salmon are a wash out again. This will be a stretch for me as I have never really enjoyed Pike angling but I suppose any fishing is better than none at all. Again, I have invested in a range of lures and will give them a swim when the water warms up sufficiently.

So as this years ebbs away I still have much to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. I hope the same applies to each of you who have taken the time to read some of my ramblings on this blog. See you all next year!

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Remembering Bilberry Lake

Years ago I used to fish Bilberry Lake, half way between Castlebar and Westport. At the time this was a stocked trout fishery and the fishing is looked after by the Bilberry Angling Club. Membership was comprised mainly locals from Islandeady who did a small bit of fishing with a sprinkling of more experienced anglers. Having served on the committee of the club in the past I can vouch for the hard work and ‘never say die’ attitude of that angling club. Bilberry Lake has very limited spawning sites, just a few small streams, certainly not enough to support a viable head of trout in the lake. So the club used to get the fisheries board to stock it with brownies ever season. When this supply source of fish dried up due to the hatchery being closed Bilberry could no longer function as a trout fishery.

looking towards the reek

looking across Bilberry Lake towards the distant reek

The lake is shallow and surrounded by rich farmland, so the nutrient loaded waters rapidly weed up in the summer. Every summer the club put huge efforts into weed cutting, just to keep the lake fishable. A major competition for the McConnville Cup was organised every July which rivalled some of the bigger and more prestigious waters in terms of attendance and prizes. Fund raising, boats/engines, re-stocking, traffic management, prizes, and all the hundreds of other details were carefully worked out and every effort was made to make the three days a success. I understand the McConnville cup is still fished every July but it is held on Lough Mask these days

pumphouse shore

Autumn, trolling along the pumphouse shore

Bilberry was unlike the big lakes in almost every way and was much closer to an English stocked fishery in character. It was stocked solely with Brown Trout and they varied in size from 12 inches up to a couple of pounds with a small number overwintering and growing to a decent size. There are also a tiny number of native trout too.

reeds at the mouth of the river

reeds at the mouth of the river which links Bilberry to Lough Lannagh

Other scaly inhabitants are pike and perch. You would think that the pike would grow large in Bilberry, given that for years the angling club thoughtfully supplied them with free dinners by stocking the lake, but I haven’t seen any pike over 20 pounds caught there. What they lack in size they make up for in numbers and the lake simply teems with small pike in the 2 – 5 pound range.

So now that the trout have gone where do you fish on Bilberry Lake for Pike? The fish seem to hold in specific areas so it pays to give these particular attention. Looking out from the slipway near the graveyard the opposite shore is a great spot for a pike. A wind which favours that short section of shore will often produce some action. I find the main body of open water is a bit hit and miss but anywhere close to the reeds can give up a pike by quietly working your lure as close to the vegetation as you dare. Hayes’s Bay is a small, shallow bay which always holds a stock of small jacks. Again, a quiet approach pays dividends.

There is deep water just outside Hayes’s Bay but working around the corner brings you to ‘the pins’ a line of marker rods in a line which warn of a very shallow reef. This is a reliable area in any wind.

From the pins the lake stretches off into the distance and trolling plugs or spoons can give you a chance of a fish anywhere here. The shore then turns sharply round a point and into MacDonald’s Bay. I found the pike scarce in this bay but any I met were usually of a good size. Coming back out of MacDonald’s bay the shore runs down to the Pumphouse, a handy place to fish if nothing much is happening elsewhere.

For me, the hotspot for pike was all the way along from the German shore right up to the graveyard. I have seen large numbers of pike boated here, nothing too big mind, but the smaller fish seem to like lying between 5 and 50 yards right along that shoreline.

German shore

German shore

Near the pumphouse the river leaves Bilberry and flows down to Lough Lannagh. You can drive a boat along the short river and down into Lannagh where an even bigger population of small Pike can be found.

small pike nearly ready

small pike nearly ready for the net

The spoon that worked

…..and the spoon he took

I have never enjoyed deadbaiting for pike so I only use artificial lures or flies. Any of your favourite lures will catch fish but I found silver spoons very effective in the winter.

these Solvkroken were particularly good on Bilberry

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Split-ring the Atom!

Edinburgh Angling Centre – worth a visit if you are in Auld Reekie

During my recent visit to Scotland I dropped in by the Edinburgh Angling Centre. Just like its counterpart in Glasgow, this is a jaw-dropping cornucopia of everything any angler could every want or need. While I loved every minute of browsing the aisles I did feel a bit of a dinosaur amid all the new-fangled gear. The Pike baits in particular left me feeling distinctly elderly. Spoons and plugs make up the vast majority of my pike baits but these days you can buy the most amazingly accurate artificial fish (if you have deep enough pockets that is). I bought the bits and pieces I required but exited the building like a man who had seen a vision of the future, one he did not really fit into. I only dabble in Pike fishing as something to do during the close season for game fish. I can’t for the life of me see my wallet opening and £30 or £40 being exchanged for one of these super-duper glide baits.

I used to like the old ABU Atom for pike fishing and I recently had to re-arm one which I had picked up cheap somewhere. It was one of the 2 hook design so I thought I’d show you how to re-equip this bait (without sticking a dirty great treble into yourself). These Atoms with two hooks were buggers for casting as the top treble would catch on the line with infuriating frequency, but they are fine for trolling.

All the old hooks and other gear were rotten so the first job was to remove and safely dispose of them. That left me with a bare spoon to work on.

all the rusty old fittings have been removed

The originals sported one split ring to hold the top hook but I prefer to fit two smaller split rings so the hook has freedom of movement. This is the most awkward job so I do this first.

2 small split rings for the top hook

Next you add the new split rings to the top and to the bottom of the spoon. Here I use slightly larger rings.

A barrel swivel goes on to the top split ring.

I like my Pike spoons to have a dash of red on them so I fit a small plastic Vee to the bottom split ring before adding the treble, in this case a size 4.

I keep a few of the red Vee’s in my box just for jobs like this

Fitting on the same split ring that the treble will go on to

Finally, add the top treble (same size or one size smaller than the tail treble). I cover the bottom treble with a plastic hook guard when putting on the top hook to save any accidents!

top treble added

There you go, a finished spoon. In a world of fancy thru-line, holographic printed 10 inch glide baits this old school spoon looks to be a very poor relation but it still catches Pike for me.

Ready for action

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Endings and beginnings

30th September signals the end of trout and salmon fishing in these parts, OK, so there are little bits of game angling to be found until the middle of October but basically it is all over for another season. 2015 will go down as an exceptionally poor year for most local anglers in Mayo, with poor salmon runs despite some excellent conditions. Trout fishing on the loughs was middling but the rivers were almost lifeless. The bright spot was sea fishing with good bags of rays caught from the shore and large shoals of mackerel close in. Pollock were scarce however.

Today I began to tidy up my fly gear and do some running repairs in preparation for the autumn sea angling and Pike fishing which will need to suffice until Christmas. The first task was to go through a couple of boxes of spoons to whittle the contents down a bit. Pike are not overly fussy so I can lighten the load by leaving the smaller lures at home.

I have a great liking for Solvkroken spoons for Pike and the Salamander range are exceptional fish catchers when the green lads are hammering small bait fish. The gold and copper coloured ones are my favourites.

If limited to only one spoon for Pike it would definitely be the Storauren. This fearsome looking spoon weighs in at a heafty 45grm, so it is excellent for searching deeper water. The flying trebles on each side are possibly a bit of overkill but this lure outfishes most others in my box. It comes in either silver of copper finishes.

I get these (and many other lures) from Freeney’s shop in Galway city. Any tackle shop which is also a pub is OK in my book! Do drop in if you happen to be in Galway, it is a great wee shop.

Next task was to repair a damaged sandeel which had been cut by a Ballan Wrasse on Clare Island during the summer. All that is required is a drop of supper glue in the cut and then hold it together until the glue sets.

Now I turned my attention to the Pike flybox. Catching Pike on the fly can be good fun so I usually take a fly rod with me when deliberately targeting the toothy yard of green. Some rather dodgy looking experimental patterns from many years ago were weeded out and the hooks stripped for re-use. Then I tied up a couple of lightweight tubes for use in shallow water as most of my Pike flies are weighted.

The last job was to resurrect some very old Blair Spoons which I intend trying for Pike this Autumn. As spinning for salmon has declined on the big east coast rivers of Scotland so has this veritable old lure fallen into disregard. I unearthed some in the shed and decided they may have a use as a Pike lure if I could shine them up again. A little elbow grease later and they look serviceble once more.

Before............

Before…………

After cleaning

After cleaning

Once I was happy with the shine on the Blair’s I went on the hunt for suitable hooks and this was where the afternoon descended into farce. Hooks of every conceivable size, pattern and make were located hiding in jacket pockets, tackle bags and boxes but none were the right size for this lure. I eventually managed to find a couple of trebles which will do for now but I must invest in some large trebles before I hit the water.

I hear there are still some Mackerel around so I may venture out for a few casts for them this weekend is conditions stay calm. After that it will be a case of piking as and when work allows. The ever entertaining ‘Saudi John’ (misnomer as he works in UAE) is home this week so we may succeed in dragging him out for a few casts.

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