I did an article about my session on Mask last month on how I was trolling dead baits and lures for ferox trout, that session resulted in me landing one 7lb trout in 36 hours. As most trout anglers know the Cong canal is only a few minutes away from the source of Lough Mask and as I am into specimen hunting and the fishing on Mask was slow I decided to drop down to it to see how high and fast was. As I arrived, I could see that it was that bit high and a lot faster than recent years. As I walked the few spots that I usually fish, I could see otters swimming across to the far bank. I could not believe that they could hunt in this fast moving water. As I reached Cong village I saw a notice on a gate that said if you want to fish, there is a fee of €20 [I found that charge to be fair as it was his back garden.] I decided to knock on the door and have a chat with the owner, as we were speaking he was telling me it is catch and release and only ten anglers will be allowed to fish at any one time, that is still a lot of anglers for such a small area. Overall, it is good news for the trout and any angler that wants to fish it for the next few months. As there was going to be three of my friends fishing on the 17th I had to pay my €20 and give a deposit to hold the spots for the lads as they were arriving at 10.30pm. As the opening day neared, I could feel the excitement building, I was thinking about having my trout rod bent into a monster brown. It was now 10pm and the lads were only twenty minutes away. As I was setting up my rods I could see an otter sliding into the water, I then started to worry and wonder was there any trout left for us to catch. Time would tell. As the lads arrived, the owner brought out a pot of tea and biscuits; he then explained the rules and the consequences if there are broken. With a few minutes remaining and the owner counting down, all ten anglers got ready to cast. With twelve bells ringing, the season opened and all lines hit the water without a pull. Every cast without a fish made us all start to believe the otters had eaten all the trout. With dreams of landing the big one dissipating, Ross broke the silence by shouting “I am in”. As the fish was netted he knew it could be close to the five-pound specimen mark, but sadly, it was only four and a half pounds. Still a beautiful fish though.
Ross Macklin with the first Cong canal trout of 2015 that took a roach dead bait
It was three hours later when my rod bent over and unbelievably it was the same fish that Ross landed! Again it made all of us worry is there any other trout in this section. It was an hour or so later before Duncan Cole hooked the third trout of the night. It was a larger trout and was using the fast water to its advantage. Every time I put the net into the water the fish could avoid it , and when I put the net behind it for the last time the top hook that was out of it mouth got stuck in the net. This enabled me to net it and allowed the trout to throw the other hook [what a disaster]. Day light started to make an appearance and so were many anglers, most of them were disgusted and left after they saw the notice. Some would not pay the money and the others wanted to take fish. The good news was all that were left were genuine sport anglers. As it brightened, Michael Cullinane landed a cracking 7.5lb ferox that had a small otter bite on its side.
Michael Cullinane with this 7lb 8oz male ferox the first specimen from the Cong canal of 2015
With the fish put back Mick told me he had a few takes before that fish but was unable to hook them. He invited me to take a cast and as the worms bounced along the bottom, I got a hit but sadly I missed it. The same thing happened with my next cast, I decided to change from a size 8 to a size 4 and as the bait was in the same area, I got that magical feeling when the line twitches on your finger as the rod thumps. As that happened I lifted the rod and the hook set, it gave a few head shakes before it made a run down river, with line coming of my reel I knew it would have to stop as there was a grate stopping it from going any further. This grate is to prevent salmon from running up the Cong canal and trout getting into Corrib from Mask. With the fish tired out Mick netted my 7lb 3oz cracker.
My first specimen trout of 2015 that took four worms on a size 4 hook, the bait was kept close to the bottom with a bouncing Betty
As 6 anglers were fishing a one-angler swim the lines were starting to cross and it became a bit frustrating
Half an hour passed before Mick decided to change from worms to a small Roach and with the first run down river he hit another trout over 7lb that gave a good account of itself. As we took the size 6 treble hook out of its mouth, it spat up a small trout. It was now 9am and I decided to stay until 11am before I was going back out on the lake. With the canal running so fast, it made it near impossible to fish the top end of the garden.
Michael Cullinane with another trout over seven pounds that took a roach
As the morning was getting brighter still, Duncan Cole and I were fishing side-by-side talking about Twaite shad fishing on the River Barrow and the trout he lost earlier until his rod looped round. He sharply lifted into a fish and it seemed to have lots of weight behind. Like most of the big fish, it headed for the grate downstream. As he walked along the wall, I felt a pull on my line and as I lifted to check was I stuck on the bottom the rod taped like if a small trout was plucking at the bait. As I lifted the rod higher, the fish hit back hard. With Duncan fighting his fish down at the grate, I knew I had to hold my trout up river as far away as I could until he landed his trout. With savage pressure on rod and line, I was just about able to hold it far enough away that Duncan could net his fish. With his fish landed, I eased off the clutch on my reel so I could played the fish properly.
Duncan Cole with a well-deserved 11lb 1oz trout it made up for the one he lost and put a smile on his face
This 8lb 4oz trout had me under pressure for ten minutes until Duncan landed his fish
With all fish put back and most of the gear put away I decided to go up to the top of the garden for the last cast and as you all know that means more than one cast. The water was swirling and boiling as it ripped through. With every cast I kept adding lead to my line and keeping my rod high to lessen the surface drag. By the fifth or sixth cast, I was able to feel the bottom, with the right amount of lead attached to the line I was able to hook and landed a two-pound trout. The next few casts I put to the far bank and as the river swirled it seemed to keep my bait in the same area. I got a gentle knock and as I lifted the bait to the surface, I could see a large trout spitting out the worms. With a quick retrieve, I re-baited and cast back over. As the bait was sinking, I said to Ross that it was a big fish and like before the rod twitched but this time I struck hard. With the hook set, the fish ran towards my side of the canal. In addition, as I was fighting it I thought it was a small trout. It started to go slowly down river and as there was a tree obstructing me, I had to put more pressure on to see could I get it back up to me but It made no difference, it was still heading down river. I had no choice but to get the rod and line around the tree, the only drawback was no one could help me because if they took the rod off me I would not be able to calm it. As I was bear hugging the tree, trying to guiding the rod tip and line around the branches I could picture myself falling in. With the tricky bit done, all I had to do was swap the rod from my right hand to my left, and yes, I was praying I would not fall in. With the rod swapped to my left and my two feet safely on the ground, I now could focus on landing the trout. With the fish holding from mid channel to the far bank for over twenty minutes, I was starting to believe that it might be foul hooked. As I put more pressure on the trout it made a run at the grate [I sure the trout was a fan of Free Willy] because it nearly got over it.
With the trout nearly getting over the grate Duncan and Ross have the landing nets ready as I tried to get the fish under control
It took another twenty heart thumping minutes before she came to the net and with one swoop of the net by Ross, she was netted. With the hook out of it mouth and on the scales, it weighed in at 13lb 9oz and a length of 82cm.
It is an amazing feeling landing a large fish especially when it a trout of 13lb 9oz remember stick to the rule always have that last cast
With the trout returned, I decided to stop fish and let other anglers have a crack at these unbelievable looking hard fighting fish
Leon Cullinane with a cracking specimen brown trout