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NATURE Night fishing for trout in Mayo

Outdoor Living
Man fishing at night

Night stalking at the trout haunt

Country sights and sounds

John Shelley

The moon rose big and fat and round to send a golden-red path across the lake as far as the boat. It hovered for an age just above the horizon, before finally climbing above the haze to shed a new light on the world. In the clear night it changed its hue; now it was no longer the marvellous giant blood orange it had been when it first appeared, but rather a great spotlight that cast crisp shadows behind me.
These nights are too rare. I sat there, afloat on a fading ripple, waiting for the trout I had seen and watched over the past weeks. I knew where he came to feed, and what it was he would be looking for. I was armed accordingly, my light fly rod fitted with tapered leader, the nylon finished with a small twist of cold steel, this finished with deer hair and the ginger hackle from the cape of a long-dead cockerel.
The breeze dropped away, leaving long slicks of quiet water between the last of the wavelets. One of these led to a little corner where reedbeds fell away to deeper water, where boulders lay with chasms between, where the boat would be tipping rock one moment and the next be over depths of 20 feet and more. I call this place The Point. The Point has been the haunt of many a fat trout over the years.
This is where I would find my fish. I had spotted him early in the year and had cast one fly after another in his direction. He had come to look on one occasion, showing me a yard of black and red spotted flank as he realised his error and drew back with a flurry of fins. After that I got to know something of his habits. He would feed a little early in the day and have a snack between one and two, but it was after dark that he liked to feast, gorging on the army of small flies that fall upon the water at that hour.
Perhaps age had set him in his ways; he was certainly regular in his habits. This night I would be waiting for him, and when he came to dine would drop my snare before his snout and pull him from his watery home. That was the plan, anyway.
Families of ducks came out of the reeds to feed on the insect hordes, swimming among the bulrushes to take food from the stems as well as from the water itself. Black-headed gulls continued on the wing, uttering harsh cries of alarm when they discovered me in their path. They, too, are insect eaters that continue to feed through these bright nights. Bats offered brief glimpses of themselves as they followed their crazy course and shared in the banquet.
There was certainly plenty of food available. Not only were the large caddis flies appearing in abundance, so were the chironomids, or buzzers, which flew in dense swarms many thousands strong, each one emitting a disconcerting, mosquito-like buzzing sound. They would be enough to send an angler home, if he didn’t know they would soon be back on the water, that is, where that trout, my trout, would be waiting to slaughter them by the score.
I rowed the boat quietly into position and checked my knots once more. Several smaller fish were already feeding just out of casting range. On any other night I would have chased after them, and perhaps taken a brace for the table. It was a struggle to sit and wait, and for a long while it seemed to be in vain that I had made the effort. But then, some 20 metres away, out of the near-dark, came a sound as of a cork being drawn from a bottle.
‘Dop,’ it went, then ‘dop, dop.’
I could see the rings left where the trout had broken the surface, and see the path the fish was taking. I left my fly in front of his nose, where I thought he must surely take it, but no, he ignored it and carried on past. Again I presented the lure and again it was left untouched. We played this game for 15 minutes or more, until I thought about changing the fly.
‘Dop’. I lifted the rod and away went the fish on a deep, plunging run until I knew he was down among the rocks, shaking his head violently to rid himself of this torment. For a minute I thought I had a chance, but then came the breeze to sweep the boat past The Point and onto open water. The line came back shortly, minus the fly, the cast severed by one of those sharp limestone ledges.
I went home happy, in the best place in the world, already plotting.