It was with much enthusiasm that I loaded the rods into the car in anticipation that I had heard Ballykeel had been stocked with 1000 brown trout. For those that don’t know Ballykeel, it a a rich Lough governed by the DAERA covering 21.4 hectares. It is a truly scenic Lough that boasts a variety of species like roach, pike, perch and the stocked Brown Trout (although I believe I have caught some properly wild specimens here too). It is a Lough that I hold dear to my heart and a place that has a serious following by a number of friendly, regular anglers. It is a fly fishing only venue that also allows for Pike fly fishing with a game angling DAERA licence/permit.
Ballykeel’s history is varied. There have been tales told of monster pike netted by the department and moved to other fisheries and stories they have been just “removed” to help the trout stocks. There are also stories of “great depths” of over 100 feet in certain parts of the Lough and some of these are very close to shore. I’m glad in this more modern world that the pike are now an accepted part of this very important eco-system and the removal of (especially big pike) could have a serious negative impact on this fishery as it already may have done so to a certain extent. As for the “huge” depths – no one knows for sure!
However, with a 6 wt trout rod and a 10 wt pike rod in hand, I embarked on a familiar journey through the field (which is the entrance) to a lough which was sun kissed. The temperature read 23 degrees centigrade and the wind was very light coming from the north north west. Shades and a broad rimed hat were the order of the day with sun cream on the arms, face and neck! These were hardly great trout fishing conditions but the question was raised – would you rather be at home in this weather or out here in the most beautiful place on earth – question answered!
On approach to the lough I could see several anglers in the nearside bay. I surveyed the wind direction and decided I would avoid the crowds and access the first wooden platform on the right side of the lough which, had a perfect left to right wind blowing into that corner which was perfect for my right handed casting. Now this Lough has a few very “unfriendly” fly casting areas but as I walked towards the wooden platform I noticed a commotion in the water close to the “style on the point” – trout were crashing into masses of fry! (see the video footage!). The fry were scattering on the surface in an attempt to escape being eaten by the trout! This is truly a sight!
Off came my 16′ 3 fly cast of CdC dries and on went a shorter 12′ leader with one fry imitation of approx 1.5″ long to copy the fry in the water. There were thousands of fry present. I had a couple of follows and a nip but no positive takes. I reverted back to my retrieve for pike flies – same difference – keep it varied and make it look like an injured fish which is fast but jerky and slow at the same time (work that one out lol). A long slow pull, two short jerky pulls and one fast short pull – BANG fish on! I hooked the fish in about 1.5 ‘ of water with a cast along the bank. As the day went on though, the fish proved very difficult in the hot weather.
With the trout engrossed on the fry, it was hard to encourage a take whatever fry pattern I tried! Down went the 6wt rod and out came the 10 wt rod with a black bunny snake lure. Bang! fish on immediately – however this pike was not even half the size of the lure and was perfectly hooked though the nostril!
I decided to call it a day and retire home to light the BBQ (which may well be the last of the season) I stalled with the other guys to have a little craic at the entrance bay. Trout were still showing and having a big interest in the fry however, it was one very angry pike that took a trout lure and held on! 15 minutes later and a very broad backed pike came to the net. All agreed it was a very welcome catch and it was returned quickly to prosper for another day.
The Wandering Fisherman.