fly tying, salmon fishing

The Crunchie Shrimp

I first tied this fly more years ago than I care to remember. I had read somewhere about using sweet wrappers to form the bodies on flies and experimented with a couple of ideas. This was pre-multi-coloured holo tinsel days and a box of Cadbury’s chocolates provided some pink, blue and red shiny wrappers. None of the resultant flies worked but the germ of the idea had been sown and I later hit on using Crunchie wrappers to make bodies. For those of you  not familiar with this particular confectionery the Crunchie bar comes in a brassy gold foil wrapping.

By carefully opening the bar and flattening the wrapper you can cut a few narrow strips which can then be wound as a body. The beauty of this material is the colour, it is a lovely deep, brassy shade. I will take you through the tying process of the Crunchie Shrimp.

  1. With the hook in the vice start the tying silk at the eye and catch in a soft dark ginger cock hackle

2. Next tie in a cock hackle dyed Fire Orange which is slightly shorter in barb length than the ginger one. Run the tying silk down to a point 2/5ths of the way to the bend.

3. Here you tie in another dark ginger cock hackle, again, shorter in barb length than the first hackle.

4. Now catch in a slim bunch of orange dyed Bucktail hair to form the tail which should be approximately the same length as the hook. At the same time tie in a piece of fine oval gold tinsel which will be used as a rib. If desired, tie in a tag of oval gold at the end of the body.

5. Take one of the narrow strips of foil wrapper you previously cut and whip this in. now run the tying silk back up to the point where the middle hackle is tied in.

6. Wind the foil up the body in touching turns and tie it in at the middle hackle. Cut off the excess. Rib with open turns of oval gold, tie in a remove the waste end.

7. Wind the middle hackle, 3 turns is usually about right. Tie in and cut of the excess.

8. Now repeat the foil/rib used on the rear half of the body to form the front half. As a variant you can use orange floss silk to make the front body.

9. Wind the orange hackle and tie off as usual.

10. The ginger head hackle is given 3 or 4 turns now and tied in in the usual way.

11. Form a neat head with the tying silk and whip finish.

12. I like to give the head a coat or two of red varnish to finish it off.

There you have it! Tied on sizes 6 – 14 this is a good pattern for salmon and grilse.

Happy tying!

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Salmon jumping the falls on the River Clydagh

Some rain last night give the local rivers a small lift. Trout and salmon ran the local falls on the Clydagh river today. No signs of any big fish but a steady flow of small grilse and wild brownies leapt the falls as we watched for a half-an-hour this afternoon.

I posted a short video clip here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKgB7rJhEKg

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

October Piking

I snuck off for an afternoon’s piking today. The weather was so mild it seemed a pity to spend it indoors so I gathered up some gear and borrowed a boat for a few hours. It always amazes me how much gear I require for even just a short outing. Engine, fuel tank, tackle boxes and all the rest of it adds up to a mountain of stuff to be packed into the car, unpacked at the river and then loaded into the boat only for the whole damn process to be reversed once the fishing is over.

  The boat was moored across a field from where I parked the car and the normally empty field had a couple of inhabitants today in the shape of fairly sturdy cattle who couldn’t resist a close inspection of my portable mountain of gear.

I tackled up and headed upstream trailing two baits 20 yards behind the boat. A jointed plug adorned one rod and a big copper spoon was on the other. It was the spoon which did most of the damage today and the plug was replaced with a green and gold Toby at some point. Three pike were boated pretty quickly before it all went quiet and I was left to motor through the deep channel in perfect peace.

The unseasonably warm weather was tempered by an awkward wind which made handling the boat in the narrow river a bit tricky. One tiny jack took the spoon up near  the top part of the river but apart from that it was quiet, time to turn around and head back to where I had started. First I pulled into the side to stretch my legs and have a bite to eat.

Back on the water again the fish seemed to have woken up as I meandered downstream. Hits came fast and furious as Pike up to 7 pounds smash into the big copper spoon. Most of them are smaller lads of only a couple of pounds but it is great sport.

I called it a day after boating the tenth fish of the afternoon and moored up just before 4pm. Driving home I reflected on the day and in particular on the distribution of the pike. All bar one tiny Jack had been taken on the lower part of the river. was this an indication the Pike were dropping down towards the lake?

This calm spell of weather can’t last much longer so today may have been my last fishing trip for a while. If it is, at least I can say the rod was well bent!

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

The Blair Spoon Project

So I have a few old Blair Spoons knocking around in my tackle box. Not those poor copies which you buy online these days; no – these are the real thing, hand made on Royal Deeside. I bought them when I was in my teens and they gave me a few salmon fished slow and deep in cold spring water. They cast well and flutter beautifully in the current but my examples have not seen action for decades. Maybe that is about to change…………………..

The lower Dee, home of the Blair Spoon

The lower Dee, home of the Blair Spoon

For those of you unfamiliar with the Blair Spoon it is a salmon lure, about 3 inches long, copper on one side and silver on the other. I have this mad idea that by changing the colour scheme it could work for Pike around here. Some ferreting around in my endless boxes of disused rubbish unearthed some ancient tins of Humbrol enamel paint. A nice dark green, a pale, watery yellow and a rather fetching fl. orange were prised open to reveal some still usable liquid. God alone knows what Humbrol made this paint out of – these tins a forty years old if they are a day!

I wanted to retain the copper so I spent some time burnishing that side of one of the spoons until it shone.

Then I gave the previously silver side a couple of coats of dark green and set it aside to dry. Once dry it looked a bit plain, so I dabbed on some yellow spots and livened the whole job up by further spots, this time using that racy hot orange.

Hmm, it looked OK but I felt it required a bit more ‘bling’. I like a touch of red on my pike lures so I went foraging for another appropriate bauble. I thought I would have one of those little red plastic tails you get on some lures in my gear but came up empty-handed. I could have robbed one of of another pike lure but that seemed to be defeating the purpose so, in the best traditions of ‘Blue Peter’ I decided to make a tail. Some old plastic tops from food jars would do the job nicely.

A few minutes work with a sharp knife and the drill gave me a perfectly serviceable tail which was then attached to the split ring on the end of the spoon.

All finished. To my eye this is a nice lure that should work for the green beasties. The trouble is that the fish usually see things completely differently. I will give it a swim the next time I am out anyway and report back to you all.

Update!

I have also tried painting the silver side of one of my Blair Spoons with fire orange paint. Three coats applied and it has come up a very interesting deep orange colour. what do you think?


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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

All hands on deck

At the end of each season the boats have to be taken out of the lake and safely stored for the winter. Today was the day for this task on the Glenisland Coop side of Lough Beltra. Yesterdays heavy rain had passed and the evening was cool and bright as the club members gathered on the shore.

All the boats were partially filled with water and the first task was to bale each of them out. As each boat was emptied it was rowed around to the beach were it could be dragged out by a combination of willing hands and Phil’s 4×4.

Glenisland boats sport 4 ‘removable’ thole pins but these can be the very devil to extract after spending the season in-situ. Vice grips and muscle power removed them all but some required a degree of persuasion.

A boat lift is all about team work and we all ‘mucked in’ to drag the boats out in good time. Using the 4×4 to drag the boats the few yards up from the beach was a great help. Phil was a bit heavy with the right foot and he set off like he was starting the Paris to Dakar rally each time, but sure that’s young lads and fast cars for you! (Below, here is Phil giving his grand-daughter a spin in a boat)

We worked on for an hour or more as the sun sank towards the western horizon and the hills of Mayo turned deep, solemn indigo. We spaced the boats carefully so we can get at them for sanding and varnishing later on. Some went in the boat house while the remained were overturned and raised on old tyres outside.

By the time we had nestled the final boat on some worn out Goodyear’s it was getting dark and the lads began to drift off home. I clicked the shutter a few more times to catch some photos and said my farewells to the others. There is a sadness at this time of year when the boats and gear are stowed away. The nip in the air, shortening days and partings on the lake shore signal the beginning of another close season. As much as missing the fishing we all miss the camaraderie, the messing and the craik.

And so we left lovely Lough Beltra for another year. Those of us spared to see next March will be back to tackle up at the boathouse, filled with anticipation and no doubt braving cold winds/high water/scarce springers. I can’t wait!

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, sea trout fishing, shore fishing, SWFF

Saltwater fly patterns

There is still time to enjoy a few casts in the sea before the winter gales arrive in earnest, so here are some of my favourite fly patterns for chucking into the briney. I don’t tend to go in for very complex patterns and even my range of colours is limited, but all the flies here will catch you Mackerel, Pollock and Saithe. Let’s start with the good old Clouser minnow.

This example is tied with white Bucktail, a couple of strands of flash and bead chain eyes. I also like Black, green and pink versions too. Bucktail is hard wearing and moves well in the water.

Next we have a Black Worm pattern:

I tied this up years ago to imitate a swimming Ragworm. The tail is made of Black or dark brown marabou and the body is of black fritz. A heavy gold cone head adds weight and makes the work move enticingly on a jerky retrieve. As there are very, very few ragworm on the west coast of Ireland this fly should not work – but it does and can be very good for Pollack early in the season.

A basic sandeel pattern now, one which won’t tax your tying skills to any great extent. Whip a slim bunch of fl. green hair and a couple of strands of your favourite flash to the top of a smallish hook and there you are! It works a treat when stripped back quickly.

Lefty’s Deceiver is a great fly and I always have a few in my box. Apart from my white/black/pink/green ones I also use this version. Tail is made of white cock hackles, back to back with some added flash, a tinsel body of either silver or gold and an under wing tied below the hook of white Bucktail. The top wing is yellow/orange/black Bucktail. Add eyes if you like.

Rogan’s Gadget is an unusual looking beastie but the sea trout love this fly. I make the body from flat braid to give it a little more shape than flat tinsel. Mallard flank (either natural or dyed) is tied in at the tail then pulled over the back and tied down. The head can be formed from either bronze Peacock herl or dubbed Glister (the later takes more punishment from the fishes teeth).

Sometimes the fish can be a bit picky and a more accurate imitation of baitfish is required. Something like this which is made from different colours of hair with dyed mallard flank cheeks a glued on eyes can sometimes save the day for you.

Here is an all-black Deceiver with JC eyes. One to use in the dark or in very coloured water.

And finally, the old reliable flash-on-a-hook. Look, there are days when the fish are shoaling and willing to grab anything which is pulled in front of them. There is no point in using complex patterns under these circumstances so have some simple flashy lures on hand for those red-letter days. Silver, Pearl or Blue all seem to work equally well.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Ballina

Herself wanted to pick up a few things in Ballina so we drove up there yesterday. For those who don’t know this area Ballina is a bustling little town on the River Moy and the famous Ridge pool is right in the middle of the town only a few yards from the main street.Helen went off to do her bits and I took a wander down to the river to see what was happening there now the season is over.

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With no rain to speak of recently the Moy was low. During a spate the river rumbles impressively under the bridges but in low water it loses much of its splendour. On an overcast day like Saturday with the hum of activity from the local shops and businesses the river felt almost forgotten, the casting and wading over for another year and the the waters looking lonely,empty and cold.

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Cathedral Beat, looking up towards the Ridge pool

Some tiny fry were jumping in the shallows as I scanned the cathedral beat for signs of life. The Cathedral Beat is immediately below the Ridge Pool and is a nice piece of water in terms of flow and structure but it is very busy so I don’t bother fishing it (I like a bit of elbow room when wielding a fly rod). A heavy swirl well below where I was standing caught my eye so I moved down river to see what had caused the commotion. It looked to be too big a disturbance to be a salmon and sure enough a head appeared some 30 yards from me in the current – a seal.

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These lads often chase the salmon up the river as far as the Ridge pool and they can do a lot of damage in the confined spaces of a river. Nothing can be done about this, as culling seals is not an option. Large numbers of seals live in the Moy estuary and can be seen sunning themselves on sandbanks further down river. I watched as he swam up to the bridge before he disappeared from view. I checked the time – I had to go and meet herself. Like the seal, I was due to get a bite to eat.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, trolling

Endings and beginnings

30th September signals the end of trout and salmon fishing in these parts, OK, so there are little bits of game angling to be found until the middle of October but basically it is all over for another season. 2015 will go down as an exceptionally poor year for most local anglers in Mayo, with poor salmon runs despite some excellent conditions. Trout fishing on the loughs was middling but the rivers were almost lifeless. The bright spot was sea fishing with good bags of rays caught from the shore and large shoals of mackerel close in. Pollock were scarce however.

Today I began to tidy up my fly gear and do some running repairs in preparation for the autumn sea angling and Pike fishing which will need to suffice until Christmas. The first task was to go through a couple of boxes of spoons to whittle the contents down a bit. Pike are not overly fussy so I can lighten the load by leaving the smaller lures at home.

I have a great liking for Solvkroken spoons for Pike and the Salamander range are exceptional fish catchers when the green lads are hammering small bait fish. The gold and copper coloured ones are my favourites.

If limited to only one spoon for Pike it would definitely be the Storauren. This fearsome looking spoon weighs in at a heafty 45grm, so it is excellent for searching deeper water. The flying trebles on each side are possibly a bit of overkill but this lure outfishes most others in my box. It comes in either silver of copper finishes.

I get these (and many other lures) from Freeney’s shop in Galway city. Any tackle shop which is also a pub is OK in my book! Do drop in if you happen to be in Galway, it is a great wee shop.

Next task was to repair a damaged sandeel which had been cut by a Ballan Wrasse on Clare Island during the summer. All that is required is a drop of supper glue in the cut and then hold it together until the glue sets.

Now I turned my attention to the Pike flybox. Catching Pike on the fly can be good fun so I usually take a fly rod with me when deliberately targeting the toothy yard of green. Some rather dodgy looking experimental patterns from many years ago were weeded out and the hooks stripped for re-use. Then I tied up a couple of lightweight tubes for use in shallow water as most of my Pike flies are weighted.

The last job was to resurrect some very old Blair Spoons which I intend trying for Pike this Autumn. As spinning for salmon has declined on the big east coast rivers of Scotland so has this veritable old lure fallen into disregard. I unearthed some in the shed and decided they may have a use as a Pike lure if I could shine them up again. A little elbow grease later and they look serviceble once more.

Before............

Before…………

After cleaning

After cleaning

Once I was happy with the shine on the Blair’s I went on the hunt for suitable hooks and this was where the afternoon descended into farce. Hooks of every conceivable size, pattern and make were located hiding in jacket pockets, tackle bags and boxes but none were the right size for this lure. I eventually managed to find a couple of trebles which will do for now but I must invest in some large trebles before I hit the water.

I hear there are still some Mackerel around so I may venture out for a few casts for them this weekend is conditions stay calm. After that it will be a case of piking as and when work allows. The ever entertaining ‘Saudi John’ (misnomer as he works in UAE) is home this week so we may succeed in dragging him out for a few casts.

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