Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Photos of Beltra

Not a post really, just some photos I took when fishing Lough Beltra yesterday. It was the annual Glenisland Co-op competition and although we did not meet any fish it was a great day out for all.

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the rules and regulations

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The new harbour beside the Boathouse is a great facility. The committee has worked tirelessly to improve the whole fishery

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Pulling out of the mouth of the river at the start of the day

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Ben on the engine as we motor down the lake. Notice how flat the water is, very poor conditions for fishing Beltra.

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Looking back towards the new boathouse which was officially opened by Enda Kenny this weekend

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Claret Bumble

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Drifting on Beltra

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The Golden Olive Shrimp is always worth a try on Lough Beltra

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We pulled in for a break

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The hut is a great job on days when the rain comes down. Matt Higgins and Matt Fahy were there when we pitched up so we had the craik with the lads.

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Boats in the harbour. Visitors are always welcome and the club hires out boats and engines.

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Back out on the lake again we fished hard in improving conditions but without success

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Nephin looking down on our efforts

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Back to the harbour at 3pm for a bite to eat and see how the other boats faired out

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Micky C, club secretary

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Here’s Jackie Deffley, one of the stalwarts of the club

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Jimmy Heneghen was there too.

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I guess this sums up the Glenisland Co-op,  a well run club with it’s root in the local community. Every day on Lough Beltra is an unforgettable experience.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Spate river tactics, part 2

OK, so in the first part of this post I discussed my views on the basics of rod, reel and line for fishing small spate rivers here  in Ireland. Today I want to talk about what we tie on the business end of our lines – the flies to use and how to fish them effectively.

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Choice of fly is purely personal and what works for one angler may be useless for another, so all I can do is give you some patterns which have worked for me over the years. Some you will be familiar with, others may be new to you. Let’s start with an old reliable – the Cascade.

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Standard Cascade. This one is dressed on a size 12 treble

There are more variations of this fly than you can shake a stick at, but the standard half black/half silver bodied original with yellow and orange hackles and a slim, long tail of yellow and orange bucktail is as good as any and better than most. A couple of strands of pearl flash in the tail add something I think but any more than that just looks wrong to me. If you really have no idea what to tie on you can do a lot worse than plump for this guy.

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Black and Gold Shrimp

I suspect this is actually a recognised pattern but I have not seen it written down anywhere so I just call it my Black and Gold Shrimp. A wound GP body feather tail, half black and half gold body with an orange cock hackle wound at the joint and both halves ribbed with oval gold. A head hackle of soft black cock and optional JC cheeks. Finish off with a red head. I love this fly!

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Eany Tailfire (Light)

I save this one for high/dirty water and tie it with a very long tail. It has been a great executioner for me tied on size 8 and 10 hooks and fished off a slow sinker.

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Hairy Mary

They don’t come much more traditional than the Hairy Mary. I like to wind my hackle after applying the wing so there is plenty of movement in the fly. Small sizes are definitely the best.

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Gold Bodied Willie Gunn (GBWG)

One from my homeland now. The GBWG has landed me many, many salmon over the years tied on tubes, waddington shanks and normal doubles and trebles. I now tie it cascade style for small rivers.

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Silver Garry

Another exiled Scot now – the Silver Garry. I like this one on bright days when the silver body looks good in the water.

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Shadow Shrimp

This fly is an ‘all or nothing’ pattern for me. I tie it on not really expecting any results and that is normally the case. BUT, some days the fish go mad for it so it earns it’s place in my box for those red letter occasions.

Black Pennel variant

Black Pennel variant

I have mentioned this fly elsewhere in my blog but it bears repeating just how good this simple fly is. A Black Pennel on a size 10 Kamasan B175 with a slim tail made of a few fibres of red bucktail will catch you grilse until the cows come home. I almost always fish it on a dropper where the small fly doesn’t seem to tangle the leader as much as larger flies.

4 lb grilse

Enough about patterns, how do you fish these flies? Simple down and across with a very slow retrieve works most of the time. Some days the fish prefer a quicker retrieve, so it pays to vary it a bit until you find what is working. Backing-up a pool can be extremely effective, especially on the long, deep flats we have on some stretches here. A strong upstream wind can make fishing these pools difficult but here is a wee trick which sometimes works – cast up and across for a change. I know this goes against everything you know about salmon fly fishing but trust me, on the flats in a big wind the upstream cast followed by a brisk retrieve works a treat.

low water, looking upstream on the straight run

Mending line is also something which I don’t see too many anglers doing and this is a pity as it can make the difference between success and failure. The mend is usually upstream (to allow the fly to travel slower through the pool), but when the grilse are in the mood to chase the fly a downstream mend can work a treat.

all you need (plus some decent water)

So, to sum up – Timing is everything, dropping water is best. Wear chest waders so you can access the river when required. Keep it simple, no need to swap line densities or flies every five minutes. Use small flies. Drop into the local pub for a pint or buy something from the shop in the village (they depend on passing trade). Talk to the local anglers, they have that vital knowledge and are usually willing to share it. That is about all I know!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Spate river tactics, part 1

Fishing the tiny streams for summer salmon and sea trout are the mainstay of my angling year. I don’t particularly enjoy elbowing my through the crowds for the chance of chucking worms or ironmongery into the slow, deep water of the River Moy so I tend to avoid that prolific system. The Galway Weir is a fabulous fishery but the crowds hanging over the parapet of the bridge put me off fishing there. I like my angling forrys to be secluded affairs, removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life. That means Galway is not an option for me either. So for river fishing for silver fish I opt for the narrow and overgrown spate streams which abound in the West of Ireland. Here is how I go about it….

small weir on the Bunowen

The first, and by far the most important stipulation for success is water. Plenty of water. I would go as far as to suggest that height of water contributes to about 90% of the success when fishing spate rivers. No water – no fish (well, not many anyway). The streams in the West are in general VERY spatey. With short and steep catchment areas the rain which falls in the early morning will have swollen the river by lunchtime and then returned it to summer low levels before the sun has set. Timing your trip is the most vital element in spate river angling. Too early and you just get a soaking and a big, dirty flood. Too late and you can walk across the best lies in wellies and not see a single fish. But time it right with the water falling after a couple of feet of a rise and sport can be brisk with both salmon and sea trout. A word about the fish before we go on. Grilse are the target these days since the sea trout were decimated by sea lice from the salmon cages offshore. The sea trout are trying to make a comeback but numbers are still pathetically low and all sea trout should be released by the angler.

A nice sea trout about to go back

A nice sea trout about to go back

Grilse numbers vary greatly from season to season but they are usually present after a good flood any time after May. Size wise these fish range from tiny 2 pounders right up to nicely proportioned fish of 5 or 6 pounds. Summer salmon are also around in small numbers and the odd springer which entered the river back in April can sometimes be landed. These fish are in no condition for the table and should be carefully returned to the river of course.

lovely small grilse

Locals often sling Flying ‘C’s and other similar metallic delights into the river and these certainly catch more than their fair share of grilse. It is only in exceptionally high water I resort to the spinner, not through any altruistic reasoning, I simply find the fly more productive. When a spinner hits the water the fisher must begin to retrieve immediately. It is very hard to ‘hang’ a spinner in such small pools so the spinner is retrieved briskly and the next cast is made to repeat the process. Using a fly rod I can ‘hang’ my flies over every lie and give the fish a better chance to decide to grab it. I often see spin fishers work through a small pool in 10 or 20 casts, whereas I can spend 30 minutes trying different angles and patterns in the same pool. The ability to roll cast is essential for small, overgrown streams. This, coupled with wading deeply allows you to cover the water effectively. Why deep wading? Although the rivers are small the banks are a profusion of trees, bushes and reeds. Getting into the water is often not just desirable, it is very often the only option. I make a point of figuring out where my exit from the river is going to be before I launch myself into it. Trying to wade back upstream against a strong flow is not pleasant, so make sure you know where the appropriate gap in the bank is situated ahead of any excitement. Tackle for this type of fishing is simple and every UK stillwater angler already possesses a rod and reel which will do the job admirably. A 10 or 11 footer rated for a no.7 or 8 line is perfect. I never bother with a double hander, the size of the anticipated catch and the short casting ranges mean a single handed rod can do all that will be required.

hardy sirrus reel

Don’t over-burden yourself with a vast range of lines of different densities. I only ever use a floater and a slow sinker. The floater covers pretty much all my needs and I only resort to the slow sinker in very high water or when fishing in a high wind on flat pools. Weight forward is the profile to go for as you want to load the rod quickly for the short casting which is the norm.

Leaders are also very simple. A heavy butt (to aid turnover) of about 18 inches is attached to the fly line by your own favourite method. I whip a loop on the end of my fly lines and then a bight loop on the heavy butt section to make the join. Leaders are 10 or 12 pound nylon straight through. I usually fish with two flies so I add a dropper to the leader which has a total length of about 9 or 10 feet.

I will discuss flies for spate rivers and some tactics which can make the difference in my next post

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Latest angling news from Mayo

We are into the last week of May and the fishing has finally started to pick up. The salmon are still scarce but  Carrowmore lake is reporting up to 11 salmon per day when conditions allow fishing to take place. Beltra is ticking over nicely with a steady stream of 8 – 12 pound fish. A small number of salmon have also appeared in Lough Conn, presumably part of the same run which saw improved catches on the River Moy last week. I encountered an early grilse yesterday outside Pike Bay on Conn and heard of many fish seen up at the top of the lake near the mouth of the Deel.

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an early grilse

The mayfly hatch is in full swing but anglers are reporting difficulty in meeting good sized trout. Mask and Conn appear to be stuffed with undersized brownies with very few larger trout in evidence, despite excellent hatches of greendrakes. Carra has yet to see the peak of the mayfly hatch but is producing the odd better fish to those who persevere.

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Undersized trout which took a Golden Olive Wulff

Castlebar Anglers club held a competition yesterday (Sunday) and the results were poor given the amount of fly on the water, the winner weighing in just two trout.

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Tony Baynes in charge of the weigh in at Healy’s Hotel, Pontoon

I have been having success fishing emergers in the surface film and casting to rising fish. While I am catching my fair share of the little lads I am picking up the occasional better one. A CDC emerger with a green grizzle hackle seems to be a pretty good fly at the moment.

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The successful emerger

As always, finding feeding fish is 90% of the battle and visitors are advised to talk to the locals to get the latest information. I sometimes see visiting anglers using drogues on the lakes here and this is to be discouraged for two reasons. The first is safety, underwater outcrops and shallows appear out of apparently deep water with no notice and in a high wind this can lead to swamping of the boat. The second reason is that it is better to drift with the wind so you cover as much water as possible. Trout can be active in relatively small areas at times, while on other occasions they are spread out over huge expanses of the lake. You need to cover a lot of ground to find the fish most days.

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Nephin from Lough Conn

Wind direction is also very important and certain drifts will produce fish when the wind blows from particular directions. Again, local advice is critical for success so don’t be afraid to chat to the locals!

The outlook for the next couple of weeks is positive. With the mayfly and olive hatches in full swing the trout should be active and provide excellent sport to both wet and dry fly. As always, the dap will bring up the best trout if you have the patience for this form of the sport (I don’t!). There is some rain forecast from Wednesday onwards and that should bring in some more fresh salmon if we have sufficient to raise the water levels.

Dry mayflies

Dry mayflies

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Conn tricks – catching trout on ham sandwiches

The word on the street was that there were salmon being caught in Lough Conn so I decided to head out today and give it an auld lash. My boat is on Cullin so it meant driving it across Cullin, under the bridge at Pontoon and motoring half way up lough Conn. The journey was uneventful and I was fishing an hour after leaving Healy’s Bay.

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Fellow trollers on Lough Conn today

I had a couple of trolling rods set up and with the engine turning over slowly I set about following the contours of the Massbrook shoreline in the company of a few other like minded souls.  Two hours later and there had been no action at all, not even a salmon jumping in the distance. However, the mayfly had been hatching in ever increasing numbers and the trout decided to put in an appearance. The air was full of swallows, martins and swifts chasing the unfortunate greendrakes and now the brown trout started to hammer them from below. Time for me to set up a fly rod, so I pulled into the shore.

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The first line of attack was a team of three wets. A good, rolling wave and a brisk westerly wind coupled with an overcast sky seemed to point towards the wet fly and sure enough I started to catch a few trout on a yellow hackled Green Peter, one of my own patterns which I especially like for Conn.

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My yellow hackled Green Peter

Trout were showing all over the lake now and takes were coming thick and fast. The only problem was the size of the fish, they were all between 12 and 14 ounces. This took me back a few years to when Conn produced great fishing for trout of this size. Later the average size increased dramatically but the fish were much more scarce. Maybe nature is reverting back to the old days. Anyway, I decided to change to the dry fly as the trout were obviously taking the duns as the sat on the surface drying their wings. I changed the cast and tied on a couple of dries. When I reached into my bag for floatant I came up empty-handed – no Gink! OK, I would try fishing the heavily hackles flies without waterproofing. I flicked out a short cast with untreated lies and the Yellow Wulff was snapped up immediately by a lively three-quarter-pounder. The Wulff was a bedraggled mess by the time I had freed the tout and popped it back into the lake. I needed to find some floatant urgently.

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Ham sandwiches, that staple of the anglers lunchbox came to my rescue. I had a couple of rather sorry looking examples of porcine slices ‘twixt granary bread lurking in a box. The bits of pig were not my focus of attention, it was the butter which fired my imagination. Surely a dab of butter worked into the dressing of the flies would aid them to float? I had never tried it before but lacking any other suitable material it was worth a bash. I scraped some butter from a sandwich and rubbed into a Wulff. At first it looked to be a disaster but when the butter melted it soaked into the yellow fly and seemed to be OK. Feeling rather pleased with myself I set off on the next drift.

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A Yellow Wulff lathered in butter!

There was a good wave now and the flies would sometimes disappear from view behind a wave. After only a few casts the Wulff disappeared OK but in the middle of an impressive swirl. I tightened into the fish and played him out but the fly came out of him mouth at the side of the boat. No matter, it was only a small lad. The question was was the fly still going to float? You bet it did! It fairly bobbed about on the surface and tempted another half-a-dozen trout before I called it a day.

As I was tidying the boat to prepare for the long run home to Healy’s Bay I noticed a large, brownish fly on one of the seats. The first Murrough of the year.

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A Murrough that thought he was a mayfly

OK, so I didn’t catch a salmon and the trout I boated were of humble proportions. But still it was a great day to be out between wind and wave (just where Admiral Lord Nelson liked his grape shot to arrive). I will be dropping into Frank Baynes tackle shop for some Gink before I venture out again though!

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A very out of focus pic of a trout with my Green Peter in its mouth

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Muddler headed Golden Olive

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Nephin cloaked in mist

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Tying small trebles

It’s been raining for a few days now and the rivers are in spate. Some salmon are running and a few have been caught, but not by me! My last outing resulted in one pike, all be it a good one of just over twenty pounds. As we are now into the month of May my thoughts have turned to the upcoming grilse run and the gaps in my fly box.

I tied up a few tiny trebles today as I was completely out of these useful flies. I don’t use them much these days but when the river is dead low and the grilse hard to catch I reach for these little beauties. I first used these in Scotland many years ago after seeing an excellent fisher tie them for sea trout. I was using tiny tubes for grilse and figured the small trebles should be just as good. They certainly are and I can recommend them to you. Yes, they are fiddly to tie but you only need a few for the really difficult days. Here is how I make them.

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1. Take a size 16 treble and start the tying silk behind the eye. The secret of tying these flies is to keep the number of turns of silk to the minimum. 8/0 thread is a good size to use. Here I will make a Stoats Tail.

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2. Select a golden pheasant topping. I prefer to use a large one as it is easier to handle at this stage.

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3. Tie the topping in on top of the hook with tight wraps of the silk and then continue to the start of the bends.

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4. Now catch in a length of fine oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib. Run the silk back up towards the eye in tight, touching turns.

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5. You can make the body from black floss silk but I prefer to use black holographic tinsel instead. Tie in a piece leaving a gap behind the eye of the hook.

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6. Wind the tinsel down to where the rib and tail are tied in then back up again to the eye. Tie the tinsel off with the silk and cut off the waste.

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7. Now wind the silver tinsel rib in open turns up the body and tie that off too. Remove the waste.

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8. I form the wing/hackle from dyed black squirrel tail hair. Firstly cut a small bunch of hair from the tail and offer it up to the top of the hook.

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9. Use the ‘pinch and loop’ method of tying the hair on. This is a bit tricky on such a small treble but take your time and adjust the length of the hair before tightening the silk. Don’t take too many turns!

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10. I now reverse the vice and and repeat the winging process below the hook. Use a slightly shorter and slimmer bunch of hair for this.

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11. Return the vice to the normal position and trim off the excess hair. Form a neat head with the tying silk and whip finish with the tying silk. Remove the waste end.

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12. The fly finished and ready for a couple of coats of varnish on the head.

You can tie just about any fly you like on these small trebles but I prefer simple hairwings and shrimps like these:

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Cascade

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAllys Shrimp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack and Gold Shrimp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARed and Silver Shrimp

A word of warning; do not use these tiny trebles if there are smolts or other small fish in the river. They are intended for use in late summer when the small lads have migrated. The trebles are efficient hookers of grilse but can cause terrible damage to small fish so please be mindful of this before you try them out.

Small flies won’t fish properly on heavy leaders so use something around 5 or 6 pound breaking strain. Vary the retrieve till you find what the fish are looking for, some days a very quick retrieve is effective. Hope you enjoy tying and using these patterns!

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