Traditionally my trout season has always started in the middle of February, somewhere out West, originally I was taken over to Lough Conn, I drifted south, fishing Mask, and recently giving Corrib the benefit of my madness, for fly-fishing the Loughs in February’s chill does take a certain amount of something other than sane common sense! Even with the onset of our all year round rainbow fisheries, fly-fishing for Pike now almost run of the mill, (I’ve been doing that for years…usually on dry Daddies, pearly dabblers, klinkhamers etc.), I look forward to the ‘Opening Day’ from New-years on.
This year due to other commitments my trip to Lough Corrib on the opening day, February 15th, was a one-day affair. I picked Noel up at his house shortly before 5am, loaded his fishing tackle etc. and hit the road about 5.05. The morning proved to be very foggy and after 100 miles of driving I had to take a break, as I was becoming goggle-eyed and fast approaching splitting headache condition. Out came the flask and a cup of coffee was poured…..yeachhhhhhhhhhh…I should have steeped the flask a bit longer. (It has been lying idle for about 5 months!). After 15 minutes I set off again, arriving Galway City about 8.45, we had averaged only 40 miles an hour but we pulled into the hotel for breakfast anyway, hunger overtaking the need to arrive for an early start. Breakfast finished we then set out the last 30 miles through the Connemara countryside up to Basil Shields, just outside Oughterard, by this time the fog had lifted and the last leg was a pleasant drive.
Arriving at the lake, we organised our boat, put the outboard on and……… “Oh Sh*t” we had forgotten to fill the petrol tank! (again, !!!) some things never change!
I hopped into the van, back up the road and filled up at the pumps, added the oil and shot back to Basil’s.
By the time we had tackled up and were pulling out from the dock it was 11am. a slow start. We weren’t too worried however as the Lough was mirror calm, under a bright sky, dire conditions for fishing fly. Because the conditions were so bad Noel and I had set up two heavy spinning rods with weighted sprats so as we left Portcarron bay we trolled the Sprats behind the boat, looking for one of the Large fish that inhabit the Lough. On our way out of the bay my rod thumped around and for a brief period I could feel a good fish on, but, the hook failed to hold and away it went. We then continued out of the bay towards the nearest Island, Inishcash.
As we made our way to Inishcash, we saw fish move to buzzers in front of the Island and reeled in the Sprats to try cast a fly over the fish. With no breeze at all we couldn’t get close to them so we decided to troll the sprats again and took a lazy arc around Inishcash. As we motored along the back of the Island I spotted a double figure fish lazily taking Duckfly off the surface, but, as there were two other boats trolling in the area around the Island, just trolled by the fish as trying the fly was a waste of time, he would be put down by one of the other boats even if we had been able to glide into position without spooking him. We then motored out over the long shallow, across to Malachy’s Island and back to Inishcash, before we had got bored trolling. We then decided to persist with the fly rods, even though the conditions were adverse to any likely success.
Moving on towards Portcarron point to try the flies in the rocky shallows outside bog bay, as it is a good spot to find fish feeding on shrimp and hog louse, we fished a combination of hares ear nymphs and invicta patterns. After half an hour of trying to fish and row at the same time, (anything to move the boat) we decided to pull up onto the shore along the point to boil the Kettle and have lunch.
After a leisurely lunch, we were sitting back, watching the world go by, when we noticed a herringbone ripple appearing on the Lough in front of us. Things were looking up! Loading the kettle and remnants of our lunch hurriedly into the boat we pushed out again as the ripple increased. I decided to head straight to Inishcash, where we had seen feeding fish earlier, and, while motoring across replaced my flies on the cast, putting a small sooty spider on the top, a small black spider in the middle and a wingless Peter-ross on the point all size 14.
Setting the boat to drift a particular line to the Island, we started fishing farther out from the shore than where we expected the fish to be, so as not to spook any feeding trout. Within two minutes a fish rolled over Noel’s top dropper, a connemara black tied as a Bumble and he was in, I carried on fishing as he played it, and, as it was ready for the net, flicked my line out and did the honours, netting a fine wild Corrib fish a fraction under 2lb. By the time Noel had removed the hook from his fish I was in, this fish taking the Peter-Ross variant, and shortly netted a fine trout of 1½ pounds. Fifty yards further on as we approached the shore Noel rose and missed a small fish. I pulled on the Oar to move us fractionally, allowing us to skirt the point of the Island and as we passed two fish rose to my top two flies simultaneously and on the strike I managed to set the hook in one. The fish turned out to be small and ended up coming off as I attempted swinging him to hand.
We moved no more fish on that drift, so swung around to do the same drift again but found no more fish. The wind switched direction and slackened off again, turning into a bare herringbone ripple. We fished a couple of different drifts but to no avail, so with 30 minutes of light left we decided to troll the sprats again as we meandered in past Inishgarraun back into Basils jetty. As the boat passed Lees point heading into Corrib View Bay, Noel had his sprat viciously assaulted, the fish however came off very quickly, just as mine had earlier in the day. That was to be the last action and we motored on into shore, cold and tired, but happy.
We packed the van, said our good-byes, slagged a few of the ‘blanking’ Mates and headed back to Dublin, leaving the Lough and its fish behind. Overall, and considering the poor conditions, we had done better than most with fish in the boat. Any day spent on Corrib is a good day, but to open the season without blanking is a very good day, as the fishing is very hit and miss this early in the year.
The few fish caught seemed to be in fine condition though, with very few ‘slats’ or un-recovered fish reported.
The journey back to Dublin drifted past lost in the conversation and post mortem of the days fishing, a short break in Kinnegad with a well deserved Pint for Noel and Coffee for me saw us looking forward to the Midland Loughs opening on 1st March. Now those Ennell fish should be on the feed by then, pray god there’s a little wind, or better still, a lot of wind!