I have just returned from a short week-end on Lough Mask, Galway in pursuit of the stunning Brown Trout this area is famous for. We spent the whole session trolling in an attempt to sort out a specimen (anything over the magical 10lb barrier). Andy Wolsey joined me on this adventure, as usual, but un-like most of our angling trips, neither of us are too familiar with this method, or indeed, the Lough itself.
This is my second attempt to find a double-figure fish on Lough Mask, but with each angling session, information and confidence are growing, so much in fact that I feel “Terry’s ten-pounder” is looming just over the horizon! I am slowly getting the general feel of the water, and what it will take to catch that fish of a life-time. I think it’s just a simple matter of persistence now. So frustrating that Mask is a five hour drive from home!
We arranged to meet Sid and Derick at the venue. They had almost as far to go as Andy and I, travelling up from Cork with their well-equipped Sheelin in tow. Dubliner Nick Ward and his son Conor would also join us. Between the three boat crews, Nick has the most experience on this water having tempted many large fish over the years. Hopefully his experience would rub off a little, and expand our knowledge of this water and the trolling method.
On our first session, Nick explained the area we would fish, pointing out under-water hazards and possible fish-holding areas. Lough Mask is similar to Lough Corrib in as much as there are large expanses of very deep water, but interspersed with shallow limestone reefs, some of which rise dangerously close to the surface. If possible, it is always recommended and beneficial to use a local guide, but with Nick’s prior experience, and being equipped with quality GPS and sonar, we were in reasonably safe hands.
I must admit, trolling is not my favourite angling method, but on this occasion the weather was kind to us, and the stunning mountainous scenery made this session extremely enjoyable and less of a task. We soon found fish marking, and were able to distinguish between the hoards of bait-fish hovering close to the lake-bed with larger individual fish cruising the thermal climes.
By the end of our session, Sidney had lost a powerful fish on the down-rigger, and I had landed a small trout taken on a lure. Nick’s experience shone through with a six and a seven pound fish, both caught and quickly released. Nick was only here for one day and certainly made the most of it, but we had another session remaining. Hopefully enough to find a Lough Mask monster!
Day two, and with the good weather holding, we were reasonably optimistic at least one of our team would find a decent fish. On the previous day, we had put in quite a lot of mileage, looking for marks, testing how our Roach dead-baits “swam” on their mounts and surveying the nature and topography of the Lough. Today we would head for the area that showed most promise and stay on it, concentrating on tempting what we imagined to be large trout “pinging” the sonar. They certainly weren’t Pike, as we covered them enough times but they simply refused to play!
Towards the second half of the session, Sid hit lucky, the down-rigger proving to be a handy piece of armoury for this type of angling. Although she didn’t make the double figure mark, an absolutely stunning fish pushing the scales round to seven pounds. This gave us a much needed shot in the arm and we were firmly focused once again in search of that elusive double. Andy saved a blank with another small fish taken on a lure, but just as we thought that was all we were going to get, his trolled dead-bait rod buckled under pressure from an obviously better fish. A jolt of the engine to set the hooks, and a god fight ensued.
I took a few camera shots from distance, hoping to get an aerial shot, but as the fish neared the boat, put the camera away. I couldn’t afford to mess up with the landing net. The trout appeared a rod length away, and easily broke the ten-pound barrier. With net in position, another foot, come on Andy, another foot! The trout held its position and calmly shook its head from side to side, once, twice, three times and hooks out! Inches from the net, I just couldn’t reach, as it slowly turned and headed for the safety of the depths.
So close this time to achieving our target species, and yet miles away! I am certain that this story will ring true with almost all anglers. We were obviously gutted, but that’s part and parcel of angling and a major part of the challenge. Shake off the failure and keep going. This was the closest we have come so far, and I know for sure, if god spares me, I will be back again and get the trophy shot, watch this space!