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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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

A few hours on the Cashel

First day of April. Where did March go? Still feeling ever-so-slightly under the weather from an excess of alcoholic beverages last night when the alarm woke me this morning I rose to complete some chores before heading off for a bit of fishing. There are fish being caught just about everywhere in the area right now but Ben fancied a crack at the Cashel River today.

the source of my woes – someone (who shall remain nameless) decided a round of shots would be a great idea last night! Johnnie Mchales pub in Castlebar

Tea-coloured and running a couple of feet above summer level, the river looked very ‘fishy’ when we rocked up at a little after 11am. This river needs high levels to attract the fish in and we certainly had near perfect conditions today. Recent reports were less encouraging though and we had no confirmed catches to feed our optimism. Undeterred, we tackled up and set off upstream. Ben was using a recent acquisition, an old glass fibre ABU Atlantic spinning rod in a rather fetching blue colour which he had picked up at a car boot sale. For a rod that must be all of 40 years old it was in fantastic condition.

I commenced operations with  silver and gold ‘Salmo’ Toby to give the fish a real mouthful. We chatted as the outboard pushed up gently up river taking in the glorious spring day and revelling in the new growth around us. A pair of Sand Martins swooped across our bows, the first I have seen this year and a sure sign that Spring has truly arrived.

It would be nice to tell you the fishing was fruitful but we blanked. that’s not exactly true as I boated a small Pike of around 4 pounds just as we were about to pack up. But there was no sign of salmon despite the perfection of the days conditions. No matter, it has been one of those days it was just good to be out in the countryside after a winter cooped up indoors.

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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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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Hopes of a salmon

Today there is an air of excitement around the town as the Mayo GAA team are in semi-final action against Tipperary this afternoon. Cars bedecked with green and red flags are heading across the country to watch the game in Dublin, full of hope and anticipation. I on the other hand, am off to try my luck on the Cashel River. Recent rain has pushed water levels up in the Moy system and I hope to intercept some late running grilse.

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On the Cashel

Later…………….

OK, so that didn’t quite go to plan. The weather was perfect and the fiver was dropping after a small flood. All in all the conditions could not have been better for salmon fishing. Pulse suitably quickened, the boat was emptied of water in double quick time and the gear safely stowed before motoring upstream to troll over the likely lies. I clipped on an orange and gold Rapala to start with and trailed it 30 yards behind the boat. Soon enough the rod gave a rattle but it was only a small Perch. More of these followed throughout the session.

Ben got off the mark with a tiny Pike followed by  couple of reasonably big perch which I claimed for supper. Not many people eat perch but they are very good and I would encourage you to try them. I don’t know what stocks are like elsewhere but in these parts there are large shoals of these lovely fish, so one or two for the pot won’t cause too much of a problem.

The fishing was a bit slow so i decided to give a small copper Toby a swim. We have a great fondness for the old original Tobies, the ones which were made in SWEDEN by ABU. The newer ones just don’t seem to be as effective and I would have a tarnished old original before a bright new copy any day of the week. Unfortunately the fish shunned this theory and the copper Toby was substituted later on for another Rapala.

An original Toby

The rain started around noon and with the wind grew stronger. By then we had turned right at the meetings of the waters and were trying our luck on the Clydagh River. Again, our hopes of meeting salar were dashed and in the gathering gloom we about-turned and headed back down river. There seem to be very few salmon around this season, a very worrying trend indeed. I’m going trout fishing the next time I am out.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, wetfly

All quiet on the western lakes

Sunday was a fishing day. Thick clouds scurried across the sky, driven by a strong south-westerly. The air was warm and moist. There had been rain last week and the ground was still damp. Yes, Sunday was most definitely a fishing day. The only trouble is that nobody had explained this to the fish.

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Clouds on Nephin

 

We rendezvoused at 9.30am and I tossed the gear into the back of the van, glad to be out in the fresh air again after a long period separated from the fishing by work and other commitments. I used to always manage to make time for fishing but this year that ability has deserted me, leaving me wistfully imagining days on the river or lake but never actually making to the bank or boat. The mayfly season has come and gone without me being able to cast a fly and the spring salmon were spared my dodgy casting and poor fly choices this year. So the drive out to Lough Cullin was an enjoyable catch up of all the local fishing news, who caught what and where.  The plan was simple, move my boat from Cullin, drive it under the bridge at Pontoon and relocate her in Brown’s Bay on the Conn. From there we would head up the lake to cover the usual salmon lies with the fly and the trolling rods were taken along in case we lost the wind.

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The move was accomplished easily enough and Ben saw three salmon showing on Cullin as he motored up. The area these fish were occupying was covered in weed, making any thoughts of casting to them redundant. They were to be the only salmon we saw all day! A new berth was found in the bay and we loaded the gear before setting off in confident mood. The wind had slackened but there was just enough of a wave to give us hope. And so we started, rhythmically casting an retrieving, deft strokes on the oar keeping us on or close the contours of the bottom. Weed beds had spread in some parts of the drift and a new reed bed is growing rapidly some distance out into the lake now where once it was open water.

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Notice how calm the lake had become

A small brownie leaped two feet into the air close to the stern as we drifted but of the silver lads there was not a trace. After a few drifts the wind dropped to a mere zephyr so we opted for dragging the ironmongery around. Tobies were the obvious choice so 10 and 18 gram models were given a swim. On dark days like this I like to use a copper spoon, but on Sunday it failed to elicit any response. A silver Toby was given its chance to shine but was similarly ignored. This was hard going!

18gr Copper Toby, most effective on dark days in my opinion

Agreement was reached that it was time for a bite to eat. We pulled into the shore and brewed up, dissecting the intricacies of our demise. Very few other boats  were on the water, a sure indication that fish were in short supply. Salmon were coming into the Moy system of which Lough Conn is a part, but in small numbers for the time of year. It looked like very few of these fish were running in Conn. Sandwiches were munched and tea slurped but there was no urgency to return to the water. Ben changed his cast while I took some photos, all at a snail’s pace. Funny how enthusiasm wanes in the face of blank sessions. As experienced fishers we know that any cast can bring a fish but today we expected to at least see some salmon showing and the emptiness of the lake was hard to face. Lunch over we returned to the fray but our hearts just were not in it.

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A rather damp Connemara Black

By mid-afternoon we decided to call it a day. Conditions had been good but with few fish in the lake we were always going to be up against it. At least the boat had been moved and we had caught up on the fishing gossip. Maybe next time…………….

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Green instead of silver

It has been quiet all week. Work has taken me up to Belfast and then hours in front of the computer screen, severely curtailing my fishing. Late August and that nagging sense that another season is slipping away from me pervades my thoughts. Ben had some success on Lough Innagh but I couldn’t make that trip so I was itching to get out and do some salmon fishing. Conditions were not great though on Saturday and we settled for a morning on the Cashel River.

This is unusual fishing as we troll a slow section of a river. I baled the 17 footer and we loaded up before driving under the bridge and up river. Baits we left streaming out behind us and we settled into the day, ignoring the mist which left everything damp to the touch. Rapalas were the first lures we tried, a rather natty silver lad with a red tail on the end hook on one rod while I tried my favourite orange and gold floater.

We were soon in action, one rod giving a good solid thump as something fishy grabbed the Rapala as we rounded a bend. It was soon obvious this was no salmon as a small Pike thrashed on top of the water.

The river is full of these pests. Some days it can be a case of a Pike every few minutes and we can only guess at the huge toll of salmon smolts this infestation takes every season. We boated a few more on Saturday but none of any great size.

We kept this one and then resumed fishing. The weeds were very thick and the lures became snagged occasionally. Even the engine fouled sometimes in the weedbeds, necessitating  a stop to clear the propeller.

You can see from the photographs why we troll this river. The banks are heavily overgrown and access is virtually nil. Fly fishing is not an option with the slow, deep water and no room for a back cast due to the trees and bushes.

We fished as far upstream as was possible before the weed became too heavy and we retreated back downstream. Under the bridge again we fished all the way down to Lough Cullen.

I used the quiet time to fix a damaged plug. This old lure had received some damage from pike earlier this year and the hooks were in poor shape.

The loop for attaching the line was out of alignment, causing the plug to swim on its side. Some delicate work with a pliers sorted that problem and the lure was returned to the box for another day.

Around 2 pm we called it a day. Half-a-dozen pike was all we could manage between us and not even a sight of a salmon. Maybe next week……………

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