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2003-02-26 Nelson's guide to top spots to fish in beautiful North-West

When Yeats said he went out to the Hazelwood because `a fire was in his head', that was fair enough as I have done that myself.

 

But when he went on to say he caught `a little silver trout' by hooking ` a berry to a thread', I think he may have been exercising artistic license. Not only does his fishing technique sound a tad suspect, but unless the stocks of trout in Lough Gill were dramatically different 100 years ago, it is unlikely that he would have managed to trap a trout by such simple means.

 

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fisherman at any stretch of the imagination, but I do come from a long line of fishermen and fisherwomen, and I can't help but feel a certain guilt for having broken that chain. While at home in Hazelwood recently, I happened upon a booklet brought out by my father over 20 years ago, with a cover map by my sister, which was a brief guide to fishing in Sligo.

 

The many lakes we have in our North-West `Lake District' offer, as we well know, scenery second to none, but also varying levels of fishing. Lough Gill's fishing opens on January 1 and continues until the end of May, where fly-fishing, trolling and spinning are all on offer, though the salmon and trout can be elusive to say the least. Pike, bream and perch are more plentiful. Since the booklet was compiled, the salmon and trout numbers have declined, sadly due to pollution, and possibly the Bonet drainage scheme.

 

One of my top beauty spots is Glencar Lake, and its fishing is looked after by Sligo Anglers Association and Manorhamilton Anglers, depending on which end of the lake is being fished. Glencar's fish population has gone down, though not as dramatically as Gill, but you may hook yourself a Spring salmon or a grilse, or a sea-trout from the end of June. Colgagh lake is not as popular with anglers, though it is less polluted and has a steady stock of trout lurking in its depths, and it is a deep lake.

 

As I drive home past Boyle and across `the Curlews' (thankfully a less perilous drive now) my first sight of my county is lovely Lough Arrow - only about a 45-minute drive from Sligo city off the Dublin road. Lough Arrow was sadly `fished-out' years ago, but at its best is one of the finest fly-fishing lakes in the country, especially at dusk. Fishing on Arrow starts in April, is big at `Mayfly' time, and continues until September. Many of the most colourful characters associated with fishing in Sligo are sadly no longer with us - one that stands out in my memory is the late Tommy Flynn from Lough Arrow, a friend of the family, and one of the finest fiddle virtuosos in the county.

 

Last year, I devoted an entire column to that jewel in the Ox mountains, Lough Talt, and the lovely Mrs Haran at the Lough Talt Inn. Thankfully, there has not been much change here since my youth. Across the border in Leitrim is the well-stocked Lough Melvin, approachable via Kinlough, and across the border in Mayo is the equally well-stocked Lough Conn, best approached via Cloughans or Crossmolina.

 

Many of Sligo's rivers also have a lot of fine fishing to offer. Ballysadare river has been commercially and rod fished for years having been significantly improved by the Cooper family. The Collooney river also has a healthy stock of brown trout. Ignoring the shopping trolleys and general pollution, the Garavogue's waters are some of the best in Sligo. Drumcliffe river, the Bonet, the Owenbeg and Owenmore are all worth a visit, and across the border in Mayo, the Moy and Deale rivers also have loads to offer. Sligo Anglers' and Manorhamilton Anglers will help you further, and will also give you licensing details, as will Barton Smith's.

Finally, Sligo Bay has an abundance of mackerel, pollock, flats, tope and a wealth of other sea-fish which can be caught either off the rocks or in boats from Mullaghmore, to Raughley right across to Aughris. I am afraid I have neither the inclination, nor the patience, but maybe some of you are hooking your berry to your thread as we speak.