The Irish Angle: The Inner Lakes of Lough Ree
Dave Houghton opens up the first of a new series looking at some Irish angling adventures with a visit to the inner lakes of Lough Ree.
Intrigue and secrecy have always been part of the coarse angling scene in Ireland and none more so more than the tales of huge catches of bream and tench on the inner lakes of Lough Ree, near to Athlone. This is a special place where only the most intrepid coarse fishermen ventured in search of soft-bottomed, rich water and fascinating reed fringed pools where they plundered specimen rudd, bream and tench.
Mouth-watering whispered stories were etched into my mind but those intrepid explorers have largely disappeared – perhaps to an even more heavenly place – leaving the fish to fend for themselves.
A twist of fate revealed the exact small lake where the majority of the big fish had taken up residence, though with such a vast area of water there must be massive shoals dotted throughout the inner lakes.
“Swear to me that you won’t tell anyone it was me who led you here”, my nervous collaborator whispered.
A bottle of decent whiskey did the trick and I was steered quickly out from Coosan Point, directly into the most promising waterway where he headed the boat into a small channel between high reeds and then Hey Presto! It was perfect …and got even better.
We were in Coosan Lough; a very fishy looking lake with depths up to 40ft and lily pads edging along the high reeds. My fantastic guide steered me into what looked like a narrow dead-end but was in fact a bottleneck leading into a pool that I guess was 100 metres long and 50 across.
And as if that wasn’t enough, we ploughed our way back into the main lake and headed off to a second concealed water that was also alive with fish and proved to be a very lively spot, especially for rudd and roach.
When I telephoned my angling pals - Billy Delves, match secretary to St Helens AA and an Angler’s Mail reporter, along with Frank Lythgoe who is the Warrington Anglers’ Association secretary – they were salivating when I explained the situation and it was to be our summer expedition.
The object wasn’t just about catching fish that had never before seen a baited hook, but a whole mish-mash of emotions arising from boyhood memories.
Catching the Fish
We devoted three days to serious boat fishing on the Inner Lakes and particularly the ‘Forgotten Lake’. The water was clear and the margins alive with splashing rudd ranging from an ounce to 1lb that could be caught on every cast with a short pole. There were various types of weed but once the depth increased they thinned out and we concentrated on those areas.
Frank focussed on the pole and was most successful at 14 metres. His hook bait choice ranged from red maggot, then corn, worm for a while and then he stuck with 10mm pellet. His best catch included a lot of tench between 5 and 6lb, plus a smattering of decent bream to 6lb despite losing quite a lot of fish.
Meanwhile, Billy stuck to a running line and a 13ft rod casting about 20 metres – into 3.5 metres depth – with three red maggots on a size 12 hook. The extra bit of distance put him in shallower water that was loaded with fish including a best bream of 7lb 8oz, lots of tench and a smattering of brightly coloured rudd.
“I’d love another crack at the lake but this time would rake the bottom to remove the loose weed.” Said Bill. “Most of the time our bait was laid on top of the weed and I reckon we were picking off those few fish that stuck their head above the cover. It must have cut our catch rate”, he added.
We largely ignored the masses of rudd that splashed about in the margins but one evening we targeted them and enjoyed a fish-a-chuck up to 12 ounces, which was great fun on both the pole and waggler.
Where to Stay and Fish
The best place to stay is at Shannon Holidays at Carnakilla Point, near to Glasson and a 15 minute drive into Athlone. The facilities are excellent.
You will need a boat and engine to tackle the inner lakes effectively and friendly owner Owen will do everything he can to help – including how to handle the boat if you are a newcomer and there is a very good slipway for anyone bringing their own boat.
We had a three-bedroomed chalet that had everything we needed and stayed on site every night having brought a few bottles of wine, plus some cans… oh yes, and some food, to keep us going!