Rain was promised though, so we headed out onto Lough Carra as soon as we had breakfasted. It was to be just the three of us – Paul, Steven and myself; Padraig was away guiding on Mask.
When we came out of the Partry channel, we headed right instead of the left of yesterday. I remember well on my last trip seeing some big hatches of olives on an extensive weedbed in one of the larger bays, so I headed that way. In tight to the reeds there were plenty of swallows working and the odd olive dunn was in the air, though I think the birds were feeding on the reed smuts rather than olives.
Paul opted to fish nymphs and was soon into action with a lovely little Carra fish taken on a diawl bach. Both Steven and I had several swirls to our dry fly set-up, but no early hook-ups. As we drifted out further into the lake I took a fine trout of about a pound and a half on and olive dry. I had one more before we decided to have our brew on one of the islands.
Paul took charge of the Kelly kettle and Steven and I prepared the rolls. Whilst we lunched, it was apparent that there were a few mayflies starting to hatch and it wasn’t long before we spotted a trout working the edge of the ripple. Another boat came and joined us and we discovered that these were two anglers who fished Carra regularly and had been on the rough end of a spell of poor fishing. Only one small trout had come to their rods! Maybe we were not doing so badly after all.
Until lunchtime we had fished only two rods at a time, but we decided that the boats were long enough to have three of us fishing – provided we stuck to the "one-person-casting-at-a-time-rule." It worked well and few tangles followed. Paul stayed on the island for a little while longer, giving Steven a chance to have a go at the couple of fish that were now moving on the mayflies. One fish worked closer and closer and Steven covered it. I thought the flies were a little way behind the fish, but then the water erupted as Steven hooked into his first decent Carra brown. The fish gave a great account of itself and took some playing to the net. You will see from the picture what beautiful fish these are – there is no great need to catch great numbers when in such lovely surroundings, with fine company and the chance of a few quality fish.
We ended day two with seven fish in the boat – all hard-earned and hard fighting. The rain eventually moved in as promised and we decided on a reasonably early finish and a visit to Westport for a seafood supper.
Day three took us to the great Lough Mask. This has always been a special place to me since hearing tales of it from an old uncle many many years before I ever had the chance to fish it. We set out this Friday morning with a mixture of anticipation and fear – Mask is not a lake to play around with, and today we had a pretty serious wind to contend with. Padraig had booked another ghillie to assist him, as even following each other on the lake is not recommended. We motored along three-quarters the length of Mask before stopping for our first drift.
In a big, big wave I opted to fish my "Pommie" dries against Padraig’s Irish wets – devotion beyond sense probably, but I thought I could compete here as I have done elsewhere in the world! A day afloat with Padraig is fairly competitive as he is one of natures born winners! On each of the first four drifts Padraig moved a decent fish, whilst I was "empty." But then a fish just came and swallowed my olive dry. To say that the trout fought well for its size would be an understatement! I believed it to be at least four pounds, but when it came to the net it didn’t even make three pounds, but it was certainly a beautiful darkly-marked brown trout.
We met the others for lunch and heard their tales of big fish following their flies, but little in the bag. After the buffeting we had all received driving across the lough we expected a leisurely break, but Padraig was back into the boat (something to do with restoring his pride!) in no time and we tried some distant shores. The afternoon followed the pattern of the morning – Padraig getting more interest, but less hook-ups. We ended the day thoroughly tired, yet invigorated. As you would expect of a champion competitive angler, he came good in the end and just pipped me at the post, four fish to three, but I could claim the largest trout, and would not be too worried about using my dries again. In fact I think that on a day with even a moderate wind they would be far more "competitive" than they were in that huge wave.
Paul and Steven had some fishy stories to tell, and were entertained all day long by their ghillie, who had apparently been born kissing the Blarney Stone! No great catches were recorded, but we will return!
I will conclude the tales of the visit in my next piece.