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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salmon fishing

Toby, Sinky and the net

Not really about fishing at all, but I thought this tale of modern life was worth the telling……….

ABU Toby, this one is the copper K version

eBay is great, isn’t it! Any old tat turns up on it and if you are like me then simply trolling through the various categories is entertaining enough without even making a purchase. There are bargains galore and rip offs in equal quantity. While I have personally never made any large purchases on eBay, I do enjoy perusing it for old lures. Not your collectable stuff now (way too expensive for a poverty-stricken angler like me), just old fashioned work-a-day lures that I have used for all my angling life.

I have this theory which may or may not hold water. Old ABU lures are better at catching fish than the new ones (sorry ABU Garcia). The exact reasoning for my long and dearly held suspicions lacks any scientific basis, so this remains very firmly in the realm of theoretical hypothesis. The modern lures don’t feel right to me somehow. They appear to me to be manufactured from cheap alloys and their action in the water does not seem to me to be so energetic. I am not alone is this view and I know other anglers who share my ill-defined beliefs when it comes to comparing Scandinavian and far eastern metalwork. Of course, a happy hunting ground on the net for original Swedish ABU lures is eBay. That is where this modern day tale starts………

18gm Gold Toby in good condition. I don’t like the silver hook though so I will change that

I was at it again you see. In a hotel room after work with time on my hands and a good internet connection. eBay beckoned and I started clicking through the fishing lures on offer. Rare! Vintage! Very Scarce!!! All the usual sales techniques were being fully deployed to ensnare the unwary. Toby’s which on closer inspection turned out to be Shanny’s (a copy made in the Far East for Woolworths), ‘Vintage’ devons at eye-watering prices which you can still buy new online for a few bob,  Rapalas with wonky diving vanes and a host of boxes containing varying amounts of angling rubbish. In amongst this piscatorial flotsam and jetsam there were some gems and I latched on to a box of old lures which were reasonably priced. A few clicks with the mouse and I was done. I would have forgotten about the old box I had bid on but eBay kindly sends you reminders to keep old duffers like me to keep me on the ball. To cut to the chase, I won the auction!

My prize consisted of a grand total of 16 old ABU spoons contained in a neat little bronze coloured plastic box with a clear lid and internal divisions. Most were Toby’s but there were also a couple of old ‘Salar’ spoons too. I must confess that I was pretty chuffed at acquiring this bargain, even if a couple of the spoons were ones I already had in my box. For whatever reason there is a glut of Zebra coloured Toby’s out there and I have enough of that pattern to last me several lifetimes. Then again, that grand old angler, George Gordon swore by an 18 gram Zebra Toby and did great execution with it back in the day on the Mugiemoss beat of the Don. Here is a photo of George with his best ever salmon, a whopping great 35 pounder!

And here is where this everyday tale of modern shopping takes a funny turn. When paying for my newly purchased trove I noticed the name of the seller ‘denisthefish’ and his address – Aberdeen. A couple of emails soon established the truth, ‘denisthefish’ was none other than Sinky Sinclair! Long, long ago I used to work and fish with Denis ‘Sinky’ Sinclair. I left Aberdeen in my twenties, never to return and lost touch with most of my friends and workmates up there. Yet, after all these years here I was, back in touch with the bold Sinky. Denis, now in his seventies, still fishes the lower Don but he tells me the fishing is but a shadow of what it used to be. He only managed to catch two salmon last season on beats where we would have previously classed two fish in a day as a reasonable outing.

The lower beats of the river Don in Aberdeenshire have waxed and wained as salmon fisheries over the years. The waters of the Don were harnessed to provide power and process water for a large number of mills, leaving the river scarred and altered to meet the needs of the industrialists. The salmon dwindled in numbers to the point where the only way fish could survive was to run through the lower beats during high water. The river became little more than an open sewer for many years. Yet, somehow the fish kept returning to spawn and by the seventies new environmental legislation began to force the mills and utilities to add better waste treatment plants. Amazingly, the river healed itself, spates scoured the filth accumulated over centuries from the bottom. Weed growth returned and with it the invertebrate life to support trout and young salmon. Salmon numbers surged and the seventies saw some spectacular angling on the lower beats. As I worked in the papermills during that time I had access to a couple of beats which produced memorable days fishing. One of those beats was at the back of Donside, where Sinky and I searched the depths of the pools with minnows and spoons. The mills have gone now, replaced with smart new houses. All just a memory now.

The Millionair’s pool on the Mugiemoss beat

The Saugh pool with Mugiemoss mills on the opposite bank

The wee bronze coloured box and its contents duly arrived. I was delighted with them but even more pleased to have been in touch with Sinky again. It just shows how interconnected we in the western world are to each other. You can bet that when I tie on one of those spoons and drag it through the waters of Lough Conn this season my thoughts will drift back to those halcyon days when me and Sinky used to fish at the back of the mill.

Nether Don and St. Macher's cathedral

Nether Don and St. Macher’s cathedral

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