So about ten days ago the trout fishing season re opened in this part of the world. Naturally, I feel the obligation to re lubricate the finger joints and de rust this blog once again in anticipation for what I can only hope will be another successful year. As I sat munching my cornflakes this morning and admiring the view of both loughs Conn and Cullin from my kitchen window, both of which have taken on an unforgivingly cold shade of grey and reflect the bleak colourless winter landscape that now rules, a number of things crossed my mind.
To begin, I don’t think I can ever remember a winter that failed to raise the loughs’ water levels by more than a foot. There are old rocks that I usually watch in November and December as the water rises, darkens and cools that have stayed dry for the entirity of this winter. There is one particular stone in 6 arch bay that sits in about a foot of water during the height of summer. Above the water stands 7 feet of weathered granite, home only to resting cormorants and seagulls from time to time who paint it’s mossy faces white. During the usual blankets of thick rain and raging floods that we experience in November, this rock submerges beneath Conn’s menacing wintery waves. This year nought has changed since August, and seven feet of rock still stand where it has stood for the last 6 months.
As an angler, I don’t like change. The traditions that I have built up over the past few years now stand for nothing as I am presented with a brand new set of challenges. The old high water haunts are quite literally high and dry, while I am not sure if the fish will have moved into the areas that usually dont see dry daylight until April. Slightly warmer water temperatures, much lower water levels and much confusion reigns. The lack of salmon this year hasn’t gone unnoticed by my watchful eye either!
I know it’s all very pessimistic lingo, but I suppose it is simply my way of talking down the bubbly anticipation that I have for wetting a few lines again! The week just past has seen a subtle change in weather patterns. Storm Doris and a few of her smaller relatives visited our shores over the course of a few days and raised what had been a desperately low water table to a closer to normal height.
The first early season forays usually see me employ a less delicate approach to trout fishing than that of a daitnty fly rod and elegantly dressed flies. No, at this time of year the fish are deep, the water is cold, the air even colder. The lake bed holds a slightly warmer environment than the surface during the winter months, and bottom dwelling food sources such as hoglice, shrimps and snails keep the fish away from what little fly life can emerge. Tackling up with surface gear is all but a futile excercise to de grease the casting skills. The humble worm fished on the bottom offers a much varied, yet effective approach to getting a look at a few finned characters.
Wednesday night, amidst the drenching rain and howling wind, I braved the darkness and begun my preparation. As tempting as it is to collapse comfortably into a fireside armchair, rainy nights offer us an insight into a world that we rarely ever glimpse. All of the worms and slugs and damp loving creatures that are usually hidden from sight emerge to make the most of the moisture. I took with me a torch and a small worm box and took a stroll around outside, keeping near the gardens and bare soil as I went. Collecting worms in the wet is nearly as exciting as using them to catch trout! Some can be picked off the path where they have come out of the ground and are travelling in search of new soil. Others, usually the bigger worms will just poke their tails out of the soil, and if you’re not quick they’re gone as soon as the light hits them. Twenty minutes in the right places will see a good 40 or 50 decent worms, possibly even more. It certainly saves some backbreaking shovel work!
With a good stock of ‘ammunition’, I strolled down to one of my favourite shore spots this morning. The mist that still lay on the hills was stubbornly, but slowy lifting and the drizzly squalls looked to be following suit. A typical ledger setup suffices for worming. I like to fish 8lb mainline with a 4-6lb breaking strain hook length and keep about a foot and a half between the lead and the hook. Two worms on a size 8 completes the business end of the setup, and then it is just a case of punching it out as far away from the shore as possible.
This morning I fished 2 rods to maximise my chances as bites are usually few and far between. There is no need really for bite alarms and quiver tips (even though I use one myself) as the takes are usually solid and furious as the trout moves off with the bait, pulling strongly on the rod tip. Every so often a wave or a gust of wind will catch the line and give a lurch to the stomach, keeping the interest only to be replaced by bitter disappointment as it slacks off again. After an hour or so, I spotted the line tighten properly on the right hand rod. Could it be? Tension, excitement as I paused with one hand on the handle, the other on the reel. Three seconds…..four…. then definitive jerk of the rod tip as the line moved off once again. Lifting strongly I hooked my fish. It came quite easily and for a moment I thought it had come off, before a small swirl and a splash just as the lead weight rose out of the water, and a wee brownie of 7 or 8 inches careered into the net without much ado.
I gave a chuckle when I saw the two lobworms stuffed into its tiny mouth, but the hook sat nicely in the scissors and I had him on his way back to the watery depths that he came from in no time. For the second time today I turned to my tin of worms which sat on the bank to my left, only to spot the left hand rod bouncing merrily about. I whipped it up fairly fast and straight away felt the pulsing of a slightly better trout. After a short fight I landed the second fish, no more than an inch or 2 bigger than the first but still nice to see on this chilly morning.
I left soon after, content with my catch. Undoubtedly a nice way to open up the fishing season at this early point in the year. Although I had nothing for the frying pan, I managed to enjoy a return to the water with reasonable success. After such a dry winter, we are due a big fall of rain and I would expect it to come sooner rather than later based on the most recent weather patterns. That being the case, I may just return to hibernating for another month or two until things start to warm up properly!