Fishing in Ireland

As good as it gets

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The bridge, good water below here

19th March. The bright and warm weather is unusual for this time of year and I decide to go fishing, hoping the good weather will have raised water temperatures and brought the trout on the feed. So with Bob Seger blasting out on the CD in the car I motor down to the River Robe again.

I park up near a bridge and take a peek over the parapet. The water is at pretty much at a perfect height and colour and even at the first glance I see Stoneflys hatching. There are lots of them in the air already and it is only 10.30am, so it could be a heavy hatch today. I set up a team of wets, tying on the same three I used the last time I was out, then I head down to the first pool.

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The first pool below the bridge

Half way down the pool the line tightens and a 12 oz trout comes easily to hand. It had taken the Plover and Hare’s ear on the middle dropper. A good start.

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The first of the day

I work my way downstream, fishing carefully and searching out all the likely spots. Having fished this stretch many times I know these pools well and am full of confidence that more trout will come along. This confidence begins to evaporate though as no further offers are forthcoming. More of a concern is the total lack of surface activity despite the now heavy hatch of stoneflys and a steady stream of Large Dark Olives. One or two Iron Blue Duns are also hatching so it is unusual for the trout not to feed on or near the surface. By now the sun is very strong and maybe this is keeping the trout near the bottom.

Break through!

I change the top dropper for another beaded nymph and try to pay more attention to any shaded lies under the far bank. This requires a lot of concentration to avoid hanging the flys up on bushes and branches on the other bank. I am absorbed in this task, watching where each cast lands and making small adjustments to angles, mends and speed. I’m happy the flies are fishing properly and I slowly make my way down river either crouched down to keep of the skyline or wading close to my own bank when required. It’s hot and bright and I am in a world of my own here.

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I cast as close to the far bank as I dare (the actual spot is above) and as soon as my flies touch the surface a large brown head appears and then promptly disappears as my line tightens. It is obviously a good fish and he tugs and runs with spirit but I get him to the net without much hassle.

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The Plover and Heare’s Ear has done the business again. I was lucky on this occasion as my cast must have landed just as he was looking up. I estimate his weight at nearly a pound and a half and after a quick couple of pics he is popped back into the water.

I continue to work my way down the river. A kingfisher darts past, a flash of azure and orange. Another couple of smallish brownies are caught and released, then one of nearly a pound comes to the net. 5 so far and it is not even noon yet.

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 Poult Bloa. This one is heavily dressed for fast water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have only seen 2 fish rise so far, hence the reason I am sticking with the wet fly.

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I lose two fish in quick succession, both of them hooked at reasonably long range (for a small river). To mitigate this I find a gap in the thick gorse and bramble bushes and try again but this proves to be a mistake. The line catches on a bramble bush and I spend ages retrieving line and flies.

I pick up a small trout and lose another of similar size and I push on down to a good pool I know.

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Another small lad is landed quickly after only 3 casts in the neck of the pool and I rise another soon afterwards. I cast again and the fish has another go at the fly but fails to make contact. Lift, cast, mend and lengthen the line so I can try to induce a take with a slow pull as the cast reaches the trout’s lie. Bang, it works like a dream and the reel loses 5 yards of line in one rush. But there is something wrong – I see the trout as he comes to the surface and he is no more than 8 inches long. Then is dawns on me, I have hooked two at the same time!

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A good job they were not bigger!

They are like 2 peas in a pod and both are safely returned. It has been years since that has happened to me. The rest of the pool is fished out with further action and I trudge on again to a tricky little pool below. There are very few flies hatching now and I have already decided to call it a day after I fish this one

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Half way down the pool I catch a lovely 12 incher on a Poult Bloa which I had just tied on. Every fisher knows that warm glow of self satisfaction when a newly wetted fly does the business. It must be like a football manager making a substitution and the new striker goes and bangs in a goal right away.

I check everything is in order and re-cast. This is an awkward pool, there are multiple flows and a big back eddy at my side. Keeping the flies moving and controlling the line is difficult. To get under the bushes on the far bank I have to side cast too, so this rapidly degenerates into some kind of technical examination of my skills. To be honest I had all but forgotten about the trout until an almighty wallop brought me back to reality. Fish on!

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Safely in the net

This turns out to be a cracking brownie of around a pound. Back he goes and I wind in and start the long walk back to the car. As I re-trace my steps I ponder the day. 11 trout, all on wets. No surface activity. A good ratio of hooked to landed. I pack the gear into the car and take one last look at the river. For a river trout fisher days like today are just about as good as it gets.

Warren Zevon seems like a suitable choice of music for the journey home and I join in heartily as I head first west to Ballinrobe then north to Castlebar. I don’t think the smile left my face the whole way!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Bibio’s

Bibios are so widely used that you may be forgiven for thinking that you know all about them. A great fly early in the season when you need something dark and a handy pattern if there are salmon around. What else is there to know? A hell of a lot is the answer!

Let’s start with the basics. Here is the original pattern:

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Hook: 8 – 10 wet fly hooks

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: red seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

This is still a fantastic fly which catches thousands of fish every season. Sizes have gone from big salmon irons like the size 4’s used on Beltra in the spring right down to tiny size 16’s for copying small midges on hill lochs. Some tyers prefer a claret instead of red centre band.

Somewhere along the line somebody had the bright idea of adding jungle Cock cheeks to the fly and the Jungle Bunny was born. It is normal to position the JC cheeks so that they sit up a bit.

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The Jungle Bunny

Then the body colours began to get some attention and we saw the introduction of the four banded Bibio:

Hook: same as above

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 4 parts, 1: orange seals fur, 2: black seals fur, 3: orange seals fur, 4: black seal’s fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

The lads from Kerry came up with this variant:

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Hook: as above

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: bright green seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

When pearl tinsel first became available it was quickly incorporated into the Bibio.

Tying silk: Black

Ribs: 2 ribs, first is medium width pearl tinsel wound opposite direction, rib 2 is fine silver wire wound normally and used to secure the body hackle

Body: in 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: red or orange seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: Black cock hackle, palmered

Head hackle: a brown partridge hackle

Next the fur body itself was change to include tinsel. Thus was born the Pearly Bibio, a widely used variant of the standard dressing

Pearly Bibio

A Pearly Bibio

Hook: 8 – 14 wet fly hooks (Kamasan 170 is fine)

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: pearl tinsel, 2: red seals fur, 3: pearl tinsel

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A brown English partridge hackle

Of course you can add jungle cock to a Pearly Bibio and make a Pearly Jungle Bunny.

From the English competition scene we learned of the snatcher design and the Bibio was quickly given that make over too.

Hook: curved grub hook, size 10 – 12

Tag: Globrite floss, no.4

Rib: silver wire

Body: Black synthetic dubbing

Body hackle: short fibred black cock hackle

Thorax: Red fur

Cheeks: white turkey biots (yellow, sunburst or red biots are also alternatives)

Head hackle: Black cock, longer in fibre than the body hackle

Of course all of the foregoing patterns can be converted to snatchers with a little thought.

Oh, then we have tails. Some people like to have tails on all their flies so the Bibio grew a lime green tail which is particularly attractive to Rainbows (I can’t confirm this myself having never tried it but the fly certainly looks good)

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Lime Tail Bibio

Still with me? OK, now it gets interesting because one obvious addition to any bushy fly destined for the top dropper position on a cast is a muddler head. Tying a deer hair head on to the Bibio turned a good salmon fly into a great one. The choice of colour is usually between natural or dyed black and I much prefer the black option.

I could go on! Every season there is a new twist on the Bibio theme and they all catch a fish or two on their day. The essential essence of the fly has not changed though, black body with a dash of some colour in the middle and black body and head hackles. If I was restricted to just one Bibio it would be the Jungle Bunny for me.

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