Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing

Still quiet on Conn

Conn (again) today. Like some sort of a piscatorial junkie I had to go back there again to get another ‘fix’. Previous disappointments were pushed to the dark recesses of my memory and I packed tons of gear and even more optimism before setting off.

Hazy day on Lough Conn

Let me get this off my chest straight away – I failed to catch anything of any consequence today. Conditions were good and the weather was kind for a change so I don’t really have any excuses. I tried hard and used all my knowledge of the lough but still came up short. My hopes were initially pinned on the first of the years salmon showing up but there was no sign of them today. After trolling and fly fishing over a couple of normally productive lies I pulled into the shore to swap over to a cast of trout flies.

a very full boat!

I met a pair of experienced fishers from the midlands who were on the last day of a three day trip to the Conn. They had not caught a fish during their stay! A few mayfly were hatching out so I decided to drift the edges of Castlehill Bay. A number of other boats had the same idea, making for a busy day on the oars to keep clear of everyone else.

boats on Lough Conn

With a steady breeze behind me I drifted right across the bay, then repeated the exercise for good measure. Two small trout nipped at the flies and I saw only three natural rises in the distance during those lengthy drifts. Maybe some of the other boats saw some action but I didn’t see anyone bending a rod into a fish. The few mays which were hatching seemed to thin out and the hatch stopped altogether. Time to move on!

On the move

I set up the trolling rods again and turned into the wind, the engine pushing me slowly southwards. A Toby on one line and a nice copper ABU Salar on the other, it was time to hunker down as the mist rolled in.

mist coming down over Nephin

mist coming down over Nephin

The long haul down the Massbrook shore was fishless and the return journey equally unproductive. No trout rose and no salmon jumped clear of the water. In these conditions it was hard to believe this was Lough Conn. the only action came in the shape of a tiny 8 inch trout which grabbed a 12 gram Toby. Luckily. the wee fella was lightly hooked and soon returned.

mayfly

an out of focus mayfly!

Mayfly shuck

Mayfly shuck

With the mayfly hatch finally underway there must be hopes the lough will start to fish soon. I will probably back next weekend to mainline on the Conn!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Sunday

It looks increasingly likely that my planned time off work will come to a shuddering halt way too early so I have been packing in some fishing over the past two days. Last Sunday I did some trolling for salmon.

It started of grey. Very grey. A thick mist had turned the world silvery and damp as I waited to be picked up. At least the daffodils are blooming. We were dropping a boat off on the river and had agreed to fish during the morning. These simple plans were predicated on the rise on water levels due to recent rainfall. Salmon have been nosing into the Moy system in small numbers for a couple of weeks now so there seemed to be a chance they had penetrated far enough upstream for us to intercept them. With dry, settled weather forecast for the coming week Sunday looked like the best opportunity to catch a fresh springer.

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We launched the boat and tackled up. The river looked perfect, high but dropping and clarity was even better than we had anticipated. Confidence high, we motored off upstream to cover the best lies. The winter spent re-equipping my trolling gear now stood me in good stead, new rod, line and lures were all at hand and ready for action. Unfortunately nobody had informed the fish that we were properly armed. The stillness of the weather was perfectly reflected by the comatose fish.

Tried a sliver Salmo first………………

Next I tied on a Zebra Toby

And finally a gold Toby Smash got a swim

The early mist lifted to leave a lovely Spring day. The trees and shrubs are still a long way behind where they should be but with the increase in air temperatures there should be a spurt in growth over the next few days. Now is wonderful time to be out and about in the Irish countryside. New life will blossom very quickly as winter finally retreats. The swallows will return this week after their arduous journeys from Africa and the trout will start to feed on the newly hatched flies. That dread coldness which has haunted the country since last October will lift and warmth from Europe will envelope us in Ireland. Optimism is returning along with new plans and ideas. It is amazing what benefits some good weather can bring!

On the troll

Even the improved climatic conditions failed to liven the salmon for us this morning though and we returned to the launching site near the bridge empty-handed. This is not unusual for the river these days as the runs of salmon grow smaller and smaller each year. By noon we were bumping along the road home.

This is not the most taxing way to fish but on days like Sunday it gives you an opportunity to sit back and take in the wonders of the natural world around you. A kingfisher flashed past us at one point, a blur of petrol blue and burnt orange. Larks were high above the fields and a huge cock pheasant broke cover close by us on the bank. Some days it is about more than  just catching a fish.

audience

The afternoon was spent doing family stuff then off for a walk along the beach out at Mulranney. Tired, I went to bed early. I planned to fish the River Robe on Monday., maybe the trout would be more responsive!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Kynoch mounts

Catholes

River Tay, home of the Kynoch

Buying up raggedy old Kynoch Killers for refurbishment over the close season kept me entertained until the season started. The palavor of painting the plugs with all the messing about that entailed was good fun. By extension, the finished baits now required new mounts to complete the job. I use two slightly different versions and here is how I make them.

double barrel swivel

The main ingredient of the mount is a double barrel swivel. These are readily available from major retailers and are handy for this job as they are just the right size for threading through the hole in the plug.

split rings

Fit a large split ring on to one end of the double swivel. This ring needs to be big enough that it won’t pull through the hole.  Add a large treble to the split ring and voila!

The other version I use has an additional swivel in it. This allows the hook to be positioned further down the bait and may (or may not!) improve hooking.  When you see the position of the hook on the Tomic plugs it is further back than on the ‘normal’  Kynoch and that is what I am aiming for.

Follow all the instructions above but don’t fit the treble. Instead you add a normal barrel swivel to the large split ring.

Next, I fit a smaller split ring to the other end of the barrel swivel.

Now for the business end – the hook. My preference is for a decent sized treble and the Owner hooks are very good. For a normal Kynoch I like a size 1/0

Here is a completed version two mount (top) with the constituent parts below

Fancy a change? Those lovely red Owner trebles look good on these mounts!

Nice hooks!

My box of Kynochs

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Conn this afternoon

It is bitterly cold again today but the call of the lough was just too strong so I gave Conn a lash after lunch. A bright morning had given way to dull and breezy afternoon as I set off, the back of the car jammed full of all manner of gear.

How much gear do I need!

I heaved my prehistoric 9.9 out of the car and on to the boat. Hooking up the petrol tank I pulled the starter cord – nothing! Every year I suffer the same ritual with this old motor. I try to start it and it refuses to budge for about 20 minutes and then, without warning on the hundredth pull it flickers into life. Clipping a couple of Toby’s on to the rods I headed out into the lough. The North-Easter was bloody freezing and the waves topped the side of the boat a few times, requiring some swift bucket action to keep my gear relatively dry. Three lads were worming from the bank, huffing and puffing as they tried to keep warm. Not a method of fishing I subscribe too but it is a tradition in these parts and people who never normally come near the loughs drown earthworms for a few days each Spring.

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I trolled for a while but to be honest I was more intent on seeing the engine in action and looking for any signs of life on the water. The prolonged cold weather has set nature back and there is still no sign of the trees and shrubs greening up with new foliage. Disappointingly, I saw no fly life or any signs of fish while out today.

Motoring up into Castlehill bay I could see a boat in the distance. Thinking at first they were trout fishers I headed in their direction, hoping to ask if they had any sport today. As I got closer it became clear the boat contained 4 Pike anglers. It became even more obvious that they were moored exactly over the lie I hoped to troll over! All four were busily hurling gigantic swim baits towards a reed bed so I left them to it and turned back for home.

Not even the Pike were biting this afternoon

Headin’ home

It was always going to be an uphill battle to find a salmon today. There are fish in the system, between 20 and 30 have been landed so far in total. Most of those have come from the Ballina area but a couple have been caught at Pontoon Bridge so there is a chance one or two have penetrated further into the lough.

Just being out in the fresh air was a tonic. We anglers spend large chunks of each year dreaming of being out on the water with rod and line so we need to make the best of every opportunity that arises. On the plus side for me today the old engine ran perfectly once we had overcome the initial starting problems. I feel much more confident in my lures after the big clear out over the winter and the replacements which now fill my tackle bag. All we need now is for the weather to warm up a bit.

Toby ‘T’

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Kynochs and other plugs

Flat calm on Lough Conn, no use for the fly so trolling is the best option on a day like this

A confession first, I don’t know much about Kynochs and their kin. You see they were never really part of my armoury when I fished in Scotland and they are far from common here in Ireland. I am becoming more interested in them now though as I seem to be doing more and more trolling each season. With less and less time available to fish every season I have to take whatever conditions are allotted to me, meaning I am confronted with days of flat calm and/or dazzling sunshine. Faced with hopeless weather for the fly, I need to be flexible and that’s when the trolling rods come out. ABU Toby’s are the first choice but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Kynoch should work too. With apologies to the stalwart harling men and women of the Tay, here is the little I know of these plugs.

This plug originated in USA back in the 1940’s and it was made of wood in the beginning. Somewhere along the line the Luhr Jensen company became involved and turned it into the plastic J plug. I don’t know how or when the plug crossed the Atlantic but Iain Kynoch a fisherman and and toolmaker picked up the lure and pretty soon the Kynoch Killer was born. Iain patented the lure and ABU of Sweden made the Kynoch Killer under licence between 1973 and 1976. I think I am right in saying that the moulds are still in hands of someone in Scotland.

This one can be dated fairly accurately

Another, very similar plug called the ‘Lucky Louis’, also hails from America. This is very similar in shape and size to the Kynoch. Then there is the Tomic. Around the same size, this one hails from Canada where it is used used for mooching on the great lakes and the western seaboard. And of course there is the Tay Lure itself. Same shape and design but this one runs deeper in the water.

Colours range from all gold, through silver and green to ruby red and include the famous pink and white variant. Tomics come in a wide range of often garish colours.

All of these plugs were designed for the same use, trolling or harling behind a boat. The quarry is usually salmon but pike and lake trout also fall for their charms. The concave face of these plugs forces the water over the top of them, pushing them down deep, important in the strong, deep flows of the lower Tay. I am hoping they will also run deep on Lough Conn and seek out salmon from lies which other lures are fishing too high above.

Lough Conn

I have been buying up a few of these plugs over the winter, some as good as new and others in varying states of disrepair. They seem to appear in sudden flashes on ebay. I don’t see any for weeks on end then there are lots to be had. Some are sold singly but it is common to see them offered for sale in wee batches of 4 or 6 plugs. This is a mixed blessing as you can quickly acquire a range of baits but very soon you find ‘repeats’ and you buy 6 baits when you only really want a couple of them.

Sizes of all these plugs range from 3 inches to just over 5 inches for the big Tomics. I have also bought a few larger examples with pike in mind. As I said, the condition of these lures varies greatly, some being unused while others appear to have been dredged from the bottom of the river before being offered for sale! I quite enjoy messing about with paints and brushes, so I have given a few of the more worn ones a new lease of life with vibrant colours. If you go on to Youtube and you can enter a world of super-artistic guys who make fabulous baits out of scraps of timber or by making their own moulds and casting plastic plugs then spraying them to amazingly high standards. I especially enjoy the handmade fisherman’s videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/paulpadam

While I am in complete awe of their abilities my own skills are somewhat lacking when it comes to fancy paintwork. I settle for some quick licks with a brush and some new hooks. I have also invested in a cheap second-hand air brush and will attempt to do a slightly more professional job when painting lures in the future.

This one definitely needs a lick of paint!

on the drying rack after getting a base coat of matt white (there are some devons getting the beauty treatment too)

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once the base coats are dry I can begin to build up the colours I want

I am planning of trying the pink version next season. I understand pink was (is?) a very popular colour on the Tay but I can’t say that I have used or even seen a pink plug fished on Lough Conn. I don’t see why a pink coloured lure wouldn’t work and maybe just the fact that it is something different could be in its favour. I have one pink Kynoch in the box ready for the 2018 season, so let’s hope it does the business in the spring.

The J Plugs are available in metallic finishes for those occasions when you really want to waken the fish up!

An ABU Kynoch after some cleaning up. This is the ‘trouty’ colour scheme

In terms of how to fish these plugs it seems to be fairly straight forward. A shortish rod sticking out the back of the boat, commonly referred too as the poker and an old reel that will hold enough 20 pound line will do. The Kynoch is then fished quite close to the boat, around 15 yards for example. This allows the lure to work in the turbulence created by the engine, adding to the crazy darting action it already demonstrates.

I will post some pics of the finished Kynochs once the paint jobs are done.

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

A quiet day on Conn

Saturday, 21.30 hrs: The modern version of jungle drums were beating a few minutes ago when I received a text to let me know that 7 or 8 salmon had been seen jumping on Lough Conn earlier today. That makes sense as I know there have been fresh fish running the river Moy for the past 2 weeks now. The gear is already stacked in the hall ready for the morning. I’ll need to buy some petrol for the outboard in the morning but apart from that small chore I will be good to go tomorrow.

Sunday, 6am: I am awake as usual and get up to do some odds and ends around before going fishing. Shirts for next week are ironed, dishes from yesterday evening are washed and dried, the pets, all that sort of thing. the weather looks good today with a stiff breeze out of the south-west and good cloud cover. The occasional showers which passed over Ireland yesterday have gone, leaving damp and cool conditions.

Oasis on the CD player as I drove out the quiet road to Pontoon. I was never really a fan but they had a couple of good tracks so I cranked up the volume and enjoyed the guitars as the green, green countryside slipped past. The boat required a little teeming (is that an Irish word or does everyone use it? Must check dictionary………….) after the recent showers but she was good to go apart from that.

looking south towards Pontoon Bridge from the Massbrook shore

All loaded up, I pushed off and motored around the pin and started drifting across the mouth of Castlehill in a nice 6 inch ripple. Once again, the most obvious problem was the all too evident lack of fly life. No olives, buzzers, peters or mayflies were on the water. with no response to the wets I set up a trolling for and turned her into the stiff wind and chugged down the Massbrook shore, over the salmon lies which I had hoped would be tenanted today.

The drop off (Yes, I know you can hardly see it!)

There is a major drop off which I like to troll over and I tried to capture it for you but as you can see it is not too distinct. On one side of the boat there is about 3 feet of water and the stones on the bottom are clearly visible; look over the other side and you are peering into an abyss, only inky blackness to be seen. here is a great place for pike as the patrol this edge but salmon and trout also favour this border between two worlds.

Cuppa

A nice cup of cinnamon tea kept my spirits up as I ploughed through the waves a couple of hundred yards off the Massbrook shore. Still no flies to be seen and certainly no silvery salmon leaping clear of the water! Trolling is a dull game but it gives you a chance to look around and plan drifts with the fly rod. the wind direction and strength made the lower part of Massbrook a good location to try the fly so I killed the engine and set to it with the 11 footer and a team of three.

A trout rod (#6) and a heavier one for salmon (#8)

I had only dropped the flies over the side at the start of the first drift when it was taken by a small lad of 8 inches. He fell off as I swung him in, saving me the problem of handling an undersized fish. Next cast and a repeat of the same with a similar sized fish. the drift gave me 4 of these small trout but no trace of large game.

other boats were finding fish in the area

I rowed close in for the next drift, dodging occasional rocks with the oar and still catching immature brownies. A bright green bumble was doing most of the damage on the bob. I finished the second drift well out in the main lake as the shallow water here stretches out a fair distance from the shore. Still no signs of salmon though and since it was salmo salar I was really wanting to catch it seemed prudent to go back to trolling again over the usual spots where they lie. I changed to a gold spoon and dragged it 30 yards behind the boat for the next couple of hours in excellent conditions.

boats on the move

Other boats wee constantly coming and going, a sure sign the fishing is hard. I pulled in to stretch my legs at one point and contemplated possible options.

pulled in

The reports of salmon jumping offered only a slight comfort. Once salmon get in to lough Conn there are no barriers to them and within hours they can be anywhere in this large body of water. Most will head right for the mouth of the river Deel and that certainly seemed to be what had happened this week.

40 shades of green

Time always speeds up when I’m fishing and a glance at the phone showed I had better think about starting for home. Still the other boats were dashing too and fro, 15hp engines straining and white wakes snaking across the surface.

flat out

I took a leisurely spin back to Pike Bay and tried a few casts around the pin with the salmon rod but by then my enthusiasm had waned considerably. I pulled the starter cord one last time and motored back to the reed bed where the boat is berthed.

The highlight of the day came on the road back home. Out of the grass on my side of the road, about 50 yards in front of me a Pine Martin appeared. Without even looking in my direction he hopped across the tarmac and disappeared into the trees on the other side. I saw him very clearly and I am positive it was a Martin. It’s unusual to see them in broad daylight like this. It’s great to see these marvelous creatures making a comeback after years of persecution.

Guess what! Teem is a real word after all!

teem2

[teem]
Spell Syllables
verb (used with or without object)
1.

to empty or pour out; discharge.
OriginExpand
1250-1300; Middle English temen < Old Norse tæma to empty, derivativeof tōmr empty, cognate with Old English tōm free from
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Fishing in Ireland, trolling, wetfly

Boat out today

My boat was kindly moved from the yard to Lough Conn for me yesterday while I was at work so today I partly repaid the debt by helping Ben to launch a boat on Lough Cullin. We like to keep a boat there for those times when we just have an hour of two to spare and can nip out the road to fly fish for trout or do some trolling for salmon. Cullin is not nearly as productive as the Conn but it is grand for a short session.

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At this time of the year we would expect huge hatches of duckfly on Cullin. The muddy bottom is ideal for the midges and April is the height of the season for the buzzers on this particular lake. But I spotted precisely two tiny duckfly today in 3 hours on the lake. Maybe everything is just running a bit later than normal.

The rumour doing the rounds in the local area is that Healy’s Hotel has been bought and will reopen under new management in about 18 months. If true, this is great news for the parish of Pontoon which needs all the local business it can muster. There also seems to be some movement in the sale of the Pontoon Bridge hotel too.

There was little wind this morning and coupled with no hatch of duckfly we were left with the options of simply launching the boat or going for an hour’s trolling. Deciding to drag some metalwork around for a while, we headed off towards the bridge and get it an auld lash around the pins there. Sad to report we drew a blank but it was lovely to be out in the fresh air and to have the boat safely launched.

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