Setting out for trout with lots of mayfly and a repertoire of songs

Angling Notes: On the two-day trout fly-fishing competition on Lough Conn and Cullin, my boating partner showed his angling – and singing – skills


‘THE smaller ones are bigger over here!” Jackie Coyne said as he steered our boat to the northern shoreline close to Cloghans Bay. How right he was. Throughout the day, numerous trout came to our team of mayfly patterns, yet most fell agonisingly short of the 33cm (13in) size requirement.

The occasion was the 39th annual trout fly-fishing two-day competition hosted by Lough Conn and Cullin Anglers’ Association, with fishing out from Gortnor Abbey Pier on both days. There was a real air of excitement and camaraderie each morning as anglers prepared boats and engines to descend on this magnificent 14,000-acre lake.

Conditions were ideal, with plenty of cloud cover and a stiff breeze, and numerous “slicks” to trap the emerging and spent mayfly. All this plus a good helping of chat and song from my boating partner, the talented Jackie Coyne.

As a member of the Hardy Academy and casting instructor at Renvyle House Hotel, Jackie’s angling prowess regularly puts him in the winners’ enclosure. He is also a noted songwriter and singer, and his CD The Last Lakes of Kylemore is worthy of mention.

Perseverance paid off and while definite “counters” were lost, two made the cut for Jackie (not for me, unfortunately), sufficient to put him in a challenging position for the second day. However, he was up against stiff opposition with four trout for Seamus Kelly and three sets of three fish, to counteract.

My second day was equally memorable, spent with Martin Feerick, probably one of the finest trout anglers in the country. Martin, from Co Clare, is a perfectionist; he reads the wind and water with precision and, in this competition, experience told him where and when the mayfly was most likely to appear.

We travelled for miles – Cloghans Bay, Errew Point, Castlehill Bay, Cornakillew, to name a few – rarely staying in one place for any length of time. As last year’s winner, Martin started the second day with two fish and went on to add another trout to finish, once again, in the prizes.

But, at close of play, it was local knowledge that won out as Seamus Kelly from Cloghans (above) emerged a clear overall winner with six fish for 2.9kg, to take the coveted Tolan and Traynor Perpetual Cup, a 19ft Sheelin boat, sponsored by Michael McCabe, and a framed set of flies by Gary Binley.

“I fished Colman’s Shallows and Errew Bay both days with dry mayfly. This win makes it five boats from five different lakes,” he said with a smile.

As part of an ongoing survey to ascertain habitat of fish from different tributaries, fisheries officers took scale samples for DNA analysis in Belfast University. Results should determine those tributaries producing below par, or otherwise.

Congratulations to the committee on a well-organised competition that included two superb meals in Hiney’s of Crossmolina. Thanks also to the Cowmans of Shalom House for putting up with me for three days. Their three-star IBF-approved B&B, situated on the shores of Conn, is top-notch and great value (Tel: 096-31230)

Results: 1 S Kelly, 6 fish; 2 G Piggott, 4f; 3 I Cox, 3f; 4 G Kenny, 4f; 5 J Walsh, 4f. Ladies’ prize: O Walsh, 1f. Heaviest fish: P Ferris, 1.3kg.

81 anglers took part.

On Mask, the good fishing experienced over the past weeks began to slow a little, mainly due to more challenging weather conditions. The bright sunny days kept the bigger fish down, yet large numbers of small trout were still in abundance. Water levels continued to drop and hatches of mayfly were reasonable.

At the Galway Weir, a further drop in water levels saw another sluice gate closed on Monday, and conditions are now perfect for fly anglers, with one gate open. Twenty-two salmon were landed, mostly grilse, with good numbers of fish running on every tide.

Water levels on the Moy also dropped off quickly, making conditions more favourable on the lower Moy fisheries. More and more grilse are being observed in catches, with fresh spring salmon still featuring.

The Moy Fishery has now come into good order, including the first off the Cathedral Beat by 16-year-old David Andrews, Co Meath, weighing 3.2kg, on fly.

The 39th annual meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (Nasco) was held last week in Drogheda, Co Louth. The conference was attended by delegates from Canada, Denmark, EU member states, Norway, Russia and the US.

Irish participants included a Government delegation and representatives from NGOs including Salmon Watch Ireland and Loughs Agency.

Launching the meeting, the Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd, said: “This conference will continue the key work of Nasco, using the best scientific information and international cooperation to conserve and manage Atlantic salmon populations.”

AGM report next week.