Lough Neagh Freshwater Lake
Lough Neagh (Loch Neathachis) is a large freshwater lake in Northern Ireland. The Lough Neagh Basin is a depression, built from several tectonic events which date as far back as 400 million years ago.
With an area of 396 square kilometres (153 square miles), it is the largest lake in the British Isles. Indeed it is the 15th largest freshwater lake in the European Union.
It supplies forty percent of Northern Ireland’s water. It’s main outflow is the Lower River Bann. This outflow runs for sixty kilometres (35 miles) from the top of the Lough, near Toome, up to the barmouth between Castlerock and Portstewart, where it discharges into the sea.
Table: Some Quick Facts About Lough Neagh
||Between 380 – 400 km²|
|Length of shoreline||Approximately 125 km|
|Maximum length||30.5 km (between South-West and North-East shores)|
|Maximum width||12.1 km (between the West and East shorelines)|
|Average depth||8.9 metres|
|Maximum depth||30 metres|
||Total Lough Neagh catchment area is about 5750 km²|
|Inflowing Rivers||Major Tributaries: Blackwater, Ballinderry, Moyola, Six Mile Water, Main and Upper Bann. Minor Tributaries: Glenavy and Crumlin.|
|Outflowing River||Lower Bann (flowing up from Toome, through the Bann valley and reaching the sea near Portstewart)|
||In bygone years, the Lough was used for coal, linen, diatomite, willow basket making and reed harvesting.|
|Current Industries||In modern times, there is fishing, agriculture, tourism, recreation, peat extraction, sand extraction and water extraction.
Lough Neagh has flowed up this natural valley to the sea since the last ice age.
Although less than twenty miles way from our farm, I don’t ever recall our family ever being on, or near, the Lough. But the River Bann, now that was a different story. The river runs up the Bann valley and through, or close to, most of the villages and locations that were predominant in my life – Portglenone, Kilrea, Coleraine and Portstewart.
In June 1892, a London fisherman and writer, Mr. C.W. Gedney, wrote a fascinating article for an English journal, on the virtues of fishing on the Lower Bann. His experiences were based on his time on the river in 1890 and 1892. I hope you enjoy!
IRISH FISHING QUARTERS
The River Bann i.e. the Lower Bann
Speaking broadly, trout-fishing is free all over Ireland. There may be exceptions, but they only go to prove the rule; and I have never met with them in my twenty years’ angling experiences of various parts of Ireland. If asked which was the river in Ireland which produced the best trout, I should say without hesitation that it was the River Bann; and that river only ranks second to the Shannon for big salmon.
The want of knowledge as to where to go is, no doubt, the chief deterrent to English anglers, and it is my present purpose to afford some information on the subject.
The River Itself
The lower reach of the river is at the “cuts” of Coleraine. These “cuts” are salmon-traps, into which the ascending fish push their way and find themselves in a wooden cage some twelve feet square, out of which they are netted by a man on the bridge, and packed off to the English markets.
The members of the club reserve to themselves for salmon a length of the river (which you may assume is not the worst), but there are times when the men on the upper ticket-water get the best sport, especially in a season of big floods.
The trout-fishing is splendid, and a dry-fly man can make grand baskets of fish from 1 lb. to 3 lb. in the aforesaid navigable channel, when there are good evening rises, and plenty of sedge-fly on the water. For trouting, however, the Bann is not a duffer’s river, because, except at the weir tails, it is too slow for the “chuck and chance it” style of fishing to succeed.
Kilrea is My Headquarters
Speaking broadly I should say that the Bann was at its best for salmon in the autumn, when there is a run of late salmon from the sea. My best scores have been made at Kilrea in September and October, but there are wet seasons when the fish get up in high water much earlier in the season.
Avoid August and the Smell of the Flax Pits
It will be gathered from these remarks that I recommend others to do as I do go to the Bann early for trout and late for salmon. Sea trout do not get up to Kilrea – except a few stray specimens – they turn off into the tributaries of which there are several rivers of considerable size which help to swell the volume of the Bann.
Bait: The Best Flies to Use
My best day on the Bann was made (two years ago) at the close of the season of 1890, when five fish ranging from 10 lb. to 20 lb. were brought to gaff and several were lost. That was, of course, an exceptional slice of luck and a man should be content with a salmon per day on this river. That top score above referred to, was preceded by a morning call on one of the most accomplished lady anglers in Ireland. Asked as to what salmon fly she recommended, as being most in favour on the length of water I was going to fish, she produced her angling diary and there stitched to the leaf was one of Dan’s black and gold, with tho entry beneath, “This fly killed fourteen salmon.”
Black and Gold Fly
In fact I had to cut off his orange and claret and substitute a black and gold, and he was actually cross with me for my high-handed proceeding. The result of the change was magical, for he was fast in the biggest fish of the day, before he had made many casts, and brought him safely to grass.
Truth to tell, he possessed a very gorgeous new gaff, which had been the object of some chaff, and nothing would satisfy him short of grassing his big salmon with this highly-burnished implement. The wretched thing snapped asunder like a piece of glass when the fish was “clipped,” and the only wonder was that we got him after all.
The caprice of salmon in the matter of flies is as great on the Bann as elsewhere, and whereas they were mad on the black and gold and Lord Randolph in 1890, they would not look at them in the corresponding period last season (1891), although the conditions as to atmosphere and height of water were precisely similar.
Going back to the trout-fishing for a moment, I ought to say that any kind of bait is allowed to he used, and the bulk of the local anglers rely upon the harmless necessary worm.
Decreasing Numbers of Pike
On another occasion, when the river was very high I had poled a cot up the foaming weir pool, with the aid of three men, and by the expenditure of an hour’s hard labour. There is a slack pool in the midst of this wild race of rushing water, where ascending fish rest awhile, and there I fully anticipated scoring a runner. With treble gut and a large fly, we were armed to do battle under conditions where the odds are very heavy against the angler, and we had not long to wait before a brute of a great pike took the fly, with a fair head-tail rise, and bolted down into the weir race like a rocket. I hung on like grim death, but it was hopeless to try to turn him, and there was nothing for it hut to follow him down. We killed the freshwater shark half a mile below where he was hooked, and the language bestowed upon him by the boatmen was enough to turn the rod rings green.
Getting to the Nearby River Maine
There are times when the tidal portion of the Bann itself contains lashins of sea-trout, and good fun is got by spinning for them, the worst part of this sport being that many fish break away, for they are very tender-mouthed.
There is a line of railway from Kilrea to Coleraine, so that anglers can run down for a change, with very little expenditure of time or money, and Portrush and the Causeway are but a little distance further on.
The River Bush at Bushmills
Lough Neagh Fishing
By C.W. Gedney, June 1892