Any trout angler would be happy with fifteen trout on the fly and every pike angler would be equally happy with a 26 pound pike so, as you can imagine, Gordon Grace and I were both very impressed with our 30 trout up to 2 pounds AND a pike of 26 pounds !

The technique is simple - on a fly fishing drift a free lined mackerel is allowed to drift along behind the boat, if a gillie or third angler is present, he can take this rod or if only two anglers are present one can deal with the pike rod while the other handles the boat. The wind speed will determine the depth at which the bait drifts and a float and lead may be necessary to avoid snags in shallow water or on calm days. My best results , for both trout and pike, have been on breezy days where no floats were needed - and trout come to the fly more easily on these days. My best pike by this method was twenty eight and a half pounds and all pike caught this way are lightly hooked and easily released.

Another, more obvious way to combine trout and pike fishing is to fly fish and lure fish on the same drift. It is amazing how good numbers of trout and sizeable pike can be caught in the same area - who said that pike and trout can’t live together? And you don’t just have to stick to the ‘pikey’ areas to catch pike and likewise for the trout. I’ve had some excellent trout fly fishing in pike spawning areas (do they eat pike eggs?) and the size of the trout in these areas is usually well above average. It’s not difficult for trout anglers to fish for pike but if any pikers reading this can’t fly fish then at least try to share a boat some time with a fly fisherman. It is a good way to learn a bit more about fish stocks in an area.

This excellent fly fishing in the Tourmakeady area of Lough Mask and these amazing big pike are a sign of a healthy and balanced environment, a rare thing in this modern world but fortunately still intact here in the West of Ireland. Most of the 30 trout mentioned previously were under or very close to the 30cm legal limit but as we were releasing all fish it didn’t make any difference and these smaller fish fought very hard for a few minutes and provided excellent sport to the fly. They took most flies offered to them, with a preference for a Golden Olive Bumble or Green Peter on the top dropper along with Bibio, Claret & Mallard and Connemara Black, in sizes 8 and 10.

At other times of the year and at different locations the average size is usually higher than this but the numbers of fish would be less. For example, on summer evenings huge brown sedges hatch in the sheltered, weedier areas in Tourmakeady and skitter across the surface of the water like mice. These substantial meals are irresistible to the bigger trout, and four and five pounders can be seen ‘head and tailing’ onto the flies, and if your well presented dry fly is in the right place it will go the same way. The last hour of daylight is the best time (between 10 pm and 11pm in June, July) and Green Peters and Murroughs seem to be favourite. Because the rise is often short lived you will be doing well if you get more than three trout but they could all be over three pounds and possibly up to six pounds. Try doing that in one hour at any other time of the day or year!

The attraction to Lough Mask for the serious fly fisherman or the specimen hunting piker is obvious, but there is another type of angler who finds a much wider range of attractions in the nature and environment of this mountain and lake district. I call them tourist anglers and for most of them catching a fish is not always high on their list of ‘items’ they want to catch. The scenery is the first thing that they always ‘catch’ and every day they go out they catch a new view or the same view in a different light or skyscape. For people who live and work in busy European towns, drifting along a reed fringed shoreline in an isolated bay on Mask with the lonely call of a curlew the only distraction is all they need to catch. Peregrine Falcons inhabit these remote glacial valleys and can often be heard calling at nesting time and, less often, seen aggressively defending their territory against marauding hooded crows by high speed aerobatics. Trolling is often frowned on by the purist game angler, but it does leave the visiting angler plenty of time to take in all these attractions and eventually, when a fish is caught, the beauty and quality of these wild creatures is not diminished by their method of capture.

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