Battered But Not Beaten
It’s been an incredibly tough winter as an angler. The reality of the situation is that wave after wave of stormy weather has battered the country and rains have risen inland venues to unmanageable and almost unfishable levels.
The animation above gives a glimpse at the conveyor belt of storms that have been sweeping across us for the last couple of months. The image below was taken by the Air Corps and features what is usually part of the townland of Athlone, now swallowed by the burst River Shannon. Lough Corrib is up a couple of metres and in a lake nearly 180km square, that is a lot of excess water.
What this has done to the fishing is effectively kill it off altogether. Generally fish, like a lot of people, are creatures of comfort and like a certain degree of regularity. What continual storms do is they introduce wildly fluctuating levels of barometric pressure, water levels and water temperatures which are not good for fishing at all. Some degree of stability lends itself to good sport but wildly fluctuating conditions can do exactly the opposite.
There is all too common a thought that good anglers catch every time they go fishing. They don’t, you just hear about the good days. The blanks are usually kept to themselves. Commercial fisheries and watching angling celebrities on television give a skewed view of the sport. The expectation is to catch every time you go out.
I heard a story recently enough of a very well-known, even ‘famous’ angler who was shooting a show in Ireland. A friend found him on Lough Ree where he was pike fishing from the bank. The angler was using fourteen, yes 14, identical set ups spaced at intervals along the bank. Any time a run developed the camera crew would race to the rod and start filming, careful not to get the other rods in view.
The angler and crew played out this game for four days and what he gleaned from it all was less than fifteen minutes of footage that showed him catching two decent sized pike. Those who know no better would view the footage and think that Lough Ree is a sure thing, two pike in ten minutes. Those that know better can see the wood from the trees.
In short, I can’t remember a prolonged spell of fishing that has been worse than this. I see no point in only singing when I’m winning, that is just misleading. My mission is to try and give as balanced a view of Irish kayak angling from my perspective as is possible. The fact of the matter is that fishing isn’t all about catching and the beauty of the sport is that you are pitting your wits against Mother Nature. Ultimately she wins the war but we do get to take a battle or two here and there.
And therein lies the challenge. I’m not sure about you but I would become thoroughly bored if every fishing trip consisted of catching fish after fish after fish. Sure, I like to catch fish but it’s not the sole reason I go fishing. I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to approach the day. I like to be outside in the fresh air and I like to interact with Nature. Catching fish is just a welcome bonus on top of all that.
The reality of the situation is that nobody catches every time they go out. Nobody. We all have our blank spells and what makes a good angler stand out from the bad is being able to figure out why the catch rate is down and then trying to address it. Sometimes you can make a difference, sometimes you can’t. At this moment in time I can’t!
It’s not all bad though. It is coming close to the time when pike should start spawning. The few pictures I have seen of pike this winter have been lean fish, another sign that they are just not feeding well. I’m hoping the imminent spawning season will see a rush for the females to pack on some weight so as to be in top condition when the time comes. Days are starting to get longer and Spring is not far away. Hopefully the fishing will improve with lengthening days and rising spring temperatures.
Despite the poor run of fishing, I have been out on the water. I have been paddling as often as I can which has been usually twice or three times a week. I have been trying out some gear and I’ll have a few reviews up over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, just sit tight and dream of fish…………or go and visit the local aquarium……….