November 16th, 2002 – by: pauric_doherty
The lovely sunshine over the lake, at about 8 in the morning
Every year around the start of November, a local fishing phenomenon in Donegal
starts! The Char fishing season is approaching! Char are from the Salmon/Trout family and are sometimes called Atlantic char. The char come up form the deep parts of the lake for about 3 to 4 weeks a year, at the start of winter to spawn on the shallow lake shore. There are only a few lakes in the world that are supposed to contain char fish. Most of them are based in Scandinavia, but a few are based in colder northern European countried
Catching char is a talent that not many people other than locals have. The fish themselves are quite small and have small weak mouths. Char are normally attracted to white or red maggots but have also been known to be caught on bits of bread (only by locals though).
The other fishermen on the shores of the lake. The lake was like glass with the Bluestack mountain range in the background
The fish do not actually bite the bait, they normally 'suck' or 'hoover' the bait into their mouth! This is what makes catching them a skill. Most locals use a cut down piece of cork as a float, blackened by a naked flame to make it easier to see in the water. Some people also use very sensitive pencil floats! The fisherman stands focused on the float to see it 'bobble' or sink. You then 'snatch' at the fishing rod/pole and literally whip the fish out of the water, up over your head and onto the shoreline behind you. It takes the same required technique to quickly lift the fish out of the water, over your head and onto the shoreline in one action as it is to make a whip crack at the desired person/animal/location! Many fish have been propelled straight up into the air and back into the water again by peopl who have not mastered the action .
My dad, the lone fisherman on the lake. A picture perfect shot!
... and that can be a chance missed!
Locals who have mastered the act can go down to the lake and catch anything up to 5 or 6 dozen (60 to 72) char in about 2 hours where as some fishermen may have been standing there all day and not even had a single bite. It is not uncommon to not catch any char on your first 2 or 3 outings. The best advice is to try and copy a local's technique and tackle ... oh and keep trying of course!
It can be very cold at this time of year in Ireland with temperatures around 3 to 7 degree centigrade and with the combination of rain, standing up to your knees in a cold lake, and the sometimes inactive fishing, it is highly advidseable to take some sandwiches and normally a thermos or 2 of soup with you to keep the body warm. The hot soup also helps warm the very cold fingers and hands! It can be a tough experience for a day or even a few hours, but the fish do taste lovely and in my opinion are worth it!