Until now, I had never had the opportunity to target pike on the River Erne system, Enniskillen. A new angling venue is always a challenge and can sometimes seem a little daunting at first. So, where do we start?
Navigational waterways such as the Erne and Shannon system have comprehensive and well-documented charts. These are easily obtained through local maritime outlets or online, and are highly recommended to begin the research required for success. Importantly, such charts high-light hidden dangers and give local water codes with regulations for safe practice, but also show many possible fish holding features to aid the quest. Reed beds, quiet bays away from the main flow, small river mouths that converge into the main river, ledges, deep holes and un-even, undulating river beds. These are superb fish holding areas for predators and prey alike.
Having studied the area in this way, Glenn loaded the co-ordinates of our likely looking hot spots into his GPS system prior to our trip. A modern luxury I know, but if you don’t own one, a simple “X marks the spot” on the map will do just as well. The plan was to launch at the “Round O” slipway, Enniskillen, and work upstream, concentrating on the areas previously highlighted. Any interesting features spotted on the fish finder or shoals of bait fish, would be an added bonus and duly noted. My long-time angling mate, Dessy Young would also join us on this trip. Although he is not a “piker” as such, a bit of trolling is quite easy to get to grips with.
Now, there are several useful angling methods when searching out a new water, and although I am not a fan, trolling is probably the most successful. It covers large areas of water quite quickly and can be split into three simple categories, trolling with artificial lures, trolling natural dead baits such as roach, perch etc and float trolling. Again, float trolling can be used with artificial lures or naturals if preferred. Our plan was to float troll natural baits with two rods, and troll a variety of artificial baits on the other two to see exactly which method would be most successful.
Glenn opted for the artificials, leaving me the headache of trolling roach, hopefully without them spinning through the water, corkscrew fashion. To prevent this, I tried a selection of purpose-made dead-bait mounts, designed to grip the fish, but incorporating a wobble blade to impart a realistic swimming action. Within minutes, upstream of the slipway where the river divides, a pike slammed into the float trolled wobble bait resulting in a respectable eight-pounder for the camera. What a great start and one up for the naturals.
A couple of repeat trolls produced nothing further and we continued on our journey upstream. Our second mark noted on the GPS, upstream of the castle, produced another small fish, on a roach again. The method of previously studying the admiralty chart was certainly paying dividends. Glenn switched to float trolled roach and his catch-rate improved immediately.
A quick run through the shallows at the Killyhevlin Hotel, and we were back into the slower, deeper channels, and with that, a rise in confidence. Dessy found a fish this time, and was truly delighted. As a dedicated sea angler, he hadn’t had a pike since he was knee high to a grass-hopper, and the capture brought back a wealth of memories!
Our move further upstream proved to be a wise suggestion, with quite a few fish finding our float-trolled dead-baits irresistible. On this occasion, we weren’t contacting any of the larger specimens, but it was rapidly becoming a busy day. This was really only a fact-finding mission, and when you are simply “dipping your toe”, it is fantastic to find a few fish to keep the interest going.
As our day eventually came to an end, and we headed back to the slip-way. It is always wise to travel during day-light on un-familiar water. This gave us time to reflect on our first pike expedition on the River Erne. It was interesting that many of the potential “hot-spots” we picked out on the navigation chart indeed proved to hold a few predators to target.