Fishing in Ireland

Dredging is not the answer

It is raining today. It rained yesterday and the day before that. The countryside around here in Co. Mayo is totally waterlogged and serious flooding is occurring as I write this post. People’s livelihoods and homes are threatened by this prolonged period of wet weather and they are understandably angry with a government who they blame for a lack of action after flooding last winter. Now voices are being raised to dredge the rivers. While I fully understand the desperate need of those under water, dredging rivers will not fix the problem.

Ireland has a long and ignoble history of dredging river courses. During the ’50’s and ’60’s the OPW systematically dredged most of the rivers in the country. Diggers scooped thousands and thousands of tons of gravel and rock from the bed and dumped it on the banks. Rivers were straightened so that the water could flow more quickly. What was left when the machines rumbled away was little more than a shallow drain, devoid of life and of no use to man or wildlife.

While all this was happening the government also introduce schemes for planting huge numbers of conifers on upland ground at the head of the rivers. These had the effect of allowing rain water to be very quickly funnelled into the rivers, both denuding the already poor soil of the last vestiges of nutrition and increasing the risk of flooding downstream. Towns and cities grew and they added tot he problems as efficient drains led more water into the rivers too. Lowland rough pastures have been ‘improved’ by digging deep ditches to drain new fields of grass for cattle production. In short, we have done everything possible to remove the ability of the ground to soak up water.

I have little or no faith in the political system here in Ireland, whatever it takes to get a vote is going to be the new policy. With so many people clammering for rivers to be dredged I can see 2016 being the year when a lot of our rivers are once again turned into canals. The really sad part of this is that it won’t stop the flooding. Until the uplands are rehabilitated we will continue to see flooding and the resultant loss of property and homes. dredged channel

A dredged stretch of the Manual River.

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

Clousers

The weather started off fine this morning but shortly after Nessie and I had completed our walk in the woods our latest weather system hit Mayo with a vengence. ‘Frank’ is now blowing a hoolie and depositing an impressive quantity of rain on us, so I took to the vice in the afternoon and tied up some Clouser minnows. I have a good few already in the box but today I made some in more subtle colours than the bright greens and blacks I usually use. Here are some pics:

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These are all tied ‘hi-style’ meaning all the bucktail is on the underside of the hook and not on both sides as it was in the original. A body is also added to give more flash to the fly. Hopefully these will give me a few fish next summer.

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Fishing in Ireland, shore fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

It’s that time of the year

I have never liked Christmas. Even as a kid I found the whole thing a waste of time and once I had discovered fishing this time of the year became unbearable. No fishing to be had, terrible weather and still the seemingly never-ending month of January to suffer until the new season opens.

With nothing better to do I console myself with carrying out all the little jobs of repair and replace in my tackle boxes and fly wallets. Rusty hooks are discarded and replaced with nice, sharp ones. I review the serried ranks of trout and salmon flies like some sort of piscatorial Sergent-Major, weeding out those which are sub-standard. A chewed hackle or broken ribbing are sufficient reason for the axe to fall and the gaps created are an incentive for me to spend more time at the vice.

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I didn’t manage to fish very much last season, so most of the fly boxes require only a cursory top-up. The exception this Christmas is the box of spiders which looked a bit forlorn last week. A couple of tying sessions has put that right though and along side the usual suspects there are a few of my new patterns to try out next Spring.

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Spinning tackle, by the very nature of the technique, takes a hammering and so I go through the lures and replace rusty split rings, dodgy swivels and bend hooks. While others are immersed in ho, ho, ho-ing and other such nonsense I am beavering away with pliers and WD-40. About 20 Devon mounts had to be discarded and new ones made up this week, using those wonderful Owner treble hooks.

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Next job for me is the shore fishing gear. I was horribly disorganised last summer and my box seemed to be full to overflowing but it contained practically nothing that I really needed. On one trip I could only find 2 four ounce weights at the bottom of the box. On another occasion I ‘lost’ both spools of elastic (only to find them the next day). I not only need to organise the box better but I need to drastically reduce the amount of gear I bring with me. Wish me luck!

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Flies for Lough Conn, part 1

Every year hundreds of anglers from every corner of the world travel to County Mayo to fish Lough Conn. I used to be one of the hoard and can remember the intense excitement preparing for the trips, that deep rooted anticipation of each detail of how the fishing would be. Perhaps the greatest thrill was tying up flies for the trip on the long, dark winter nights. The pages of angling magazines were  thumbed and the merest details of last seasons killers slavishly adhered too. Now that I live close to the lough and can fish it more or less when I want to that sense of urgency to create exactly each potential new fly has all but disappeared, but the memories of preparing for those trips still lingers like the after taste of a good malt. It’s almost a metaphore for the way my whole life has changed since moving to Ireland; that strict adherence to detail with everything planned and double checked has been replaced with a more gentle acceptance that there is a need to enjoy what life brings and not to attempt to control it too much.

This series of posts are intended to give visiting anglers some basic information about patterns which have worked for me on Lough Conn over the years. It is far from exhaustive and should be taken as rough guide rather than an exact piece of scientific reasoning.  To prevent you all being bored to tears with a super long blog I will post this in a number of sections as individual posts.

A word first about hook sizes. Too often I meet visiting anglers who are fishing with flies which I consider are too big on Lough Conn. As a general rule the trout on Conn tend to want slightly smaller flies than on Mask or Carra. Where I would use a size 10 on Carra  would drop to a size 12 on Conn. Of course there are exceptions but when making flies for this particular lake think of size 12 as your normal size with a few size 10’s for special conditions. I rarely use anything as large as a size 8 unless I am targeting grilse.

I will take as read that you will have ‘standard’ lough flies already in your fly box. By that I mean the following patterns:

Green Peter, Fiery Brown, Golden Olive Dabbler, Connemara Black, Bibio, Jungle Bunny, Gorgeous George, Daddies, Claret Bumble, Golden Olive Bumble etc.

Let’s start with some patterns for the early part of the season. While there are duckfly hatches on lough Conn they are not as dense as those on Corrib or the better duckfly holes on Mask. I am guessing this has something to do with the topography of the lake bottom. There certainly plenty of duckfly hatching in February – April but they are well spread out across the lake meaning local hotspots are rare. Regardless, visitors will need some duckfly patterns to meet the occasion of feeding fish and hatching buzzers.

Patterns: Peter Ross, White winged duckfly, Watson’s Bumble, Blae and Black and assorted buzzer patterns.

I use a variation of the Peter Ross which has worked for me in difficult conditions at Duckfly time. High winds and rough water are not good for fishing during a duckfly hatch but I found that a Peter Ross with some added bling will pull a few trout when you can see flies hatching but there is no sign of trout feeding. I presume they are still eating the pupa as they ascend to hatch but normal buzzer fishing is out of the question in a big wind. Give this one a try when faced with this situation.

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Hen cape, dyed fl.red

Standard dressing for the Peter Ross except the black hackle is replaced with one dyed florescent red (you can get the dye from Veniard). I also add some tails of GP tippets dyed the same colour and use Holographic silver tinsel for the rear part of the body. Sizes 12 and 14 have worked for me and I fish this one on the tail on the cast.

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Hackle tied in

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nearly finished the body

 

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Finished fly

Next up is a white winged hatching buzzer which does well in calm conditions when a more exact profile is required. I use some fine dubbing from Frankie McPhillips to make the abdomen and thorax.

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This comes in a wide range of shades

The wings are white poly and are tied in spent fashion using figure of eight turns.

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Tie the wings in first

I also add a short tuft of the same material as a tail. The rib is fine Fl. red floss.

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Tail tied in. Both wings and tail will be trimmed to length later.

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Finished fly

The Silver Dabbler is a fly which works all year round but it does great work early in the season. I like to fish it on a sinking line on Conn on those all too common days when nothing is showing on the surface. There are more variations of the Silver Dabbler than you could shake a stick at, but here are three which I use.

The original Dabbler sported a seal’s fur body but a silver tinsel bodied variant was quick to follow. I still use that one with the only addition being a couple of strands of flash added to the cloak.

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An original tying of the Silver Dabbler

Next we have the red headed version. This is identical to the fly above except the head is formed with Globrite no. 4 floss. This makes a good aiming point for the fish and it can work wonders some days.

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Red-headed Silver Dabbler

Finally I tie a fry imitating version with a red floss tag under the tail, a pearl tinsel body, grizzle body hackle, small Jungle Cock cheeks and a red head. A few strands of pearl flash are also added to the cloak.

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Lookout for some more posts on flies for Conn over the coming weeks.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Invicta variants

Possibly one of the most effective all-round wet flies every concocted, the Invicta will catch trout from the first day of the season to the last. Invented in the mid nineteenth century by a chap called Ogden, it has spawned a wide range of variations and I want to share a couple of those with you today.

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Bright and easy to use, Mirage Opal tinsel

First up, the Pearly Invicta is a good fly for the times when trout become preoccupied feeding on pin fry. They can become notoriously hard to catch when this happens, probably because they have so many targets to aim for that our flies stand little chance of being singled out. When I suspect this is what is happening I look to fish quiet corners close to weed beds and work my flies in an erratic retrieve to simulate a wounded fish. I like to tie both the Silver Dabbler and the Pearly Invicta on to my cast for this type of situation.

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Tying a Pearly Invicta

My tying of the Pearly Invicta has a Golden Pheasant topping for the tail and a body of Mirage Opal tinsel for the body, ribbed with fine silver wire. The body hackle is taken from a ginger cock cape and the throat is made of Guinea Fowl dyed bright blue. A wing of hen pheasant tail is over laid with 2 or 3 strands of pearl flash.

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Pat McHale invented the next variant many years ago and it continues to give grand service to those who know of it right up to today. This dressing is identical to the original Invicta with two important exceptions. The Golden Pheasant tail is replaced with one of bright red wool. The body hackle is still the red game colour of the old fly but instead of using a cock hackle it is replaced with one taken from a hen. The softer fibres seem to make a big difference. I have caught so many trout on this fly over the years it has earned a regular place on my lough cast in just about any conditions.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay on Lough Mask. The Red-tailed Invicta once gave me a wonderful afternoon’s sport here during a hatch of Lake Olives

Sizes for both of these patterns range from size 8’s (think Lough Carra in a big, rolling wave) right down to size 14’s for the hill loughs. I can’t say I have ever caught a salmon on either of these flies but Pat McHale tells a stirring tale of boating a fine 9 pound springer on a Red-tailed Invicta one time off the Colman Shallows on Lough Conn. The way Pat tells it you could almost be in the boat with him when the reel screamed as the fish grabbed the size 8 fly.

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A Red-tailed Invicta

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

A small Stonefly nymph

Some seasons we get a reasonable hatch of early stoneflies on the River Robe, so in anticipation of next year I made up a wee stonefly nymph along the lines of those great big American patterns.

To get a bit of depth when using this pattern I have added a 2.8mm copper bead. Begin by threading this on to a size 12 wet fly hook (here I have used a Kamasan B170). Push the bead to the bend of the hook while you start some brown tying silk and then catch in a pair of goose biots, dyed dark brown. These point forwards and are positioned either side of the hook eye. Now bind down the ends of the biots and whip finish before cutting the silk and wastes ends.

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Biots tied in and silk whipped to finish. Bead pushed back up to the eye. Then re-start the tying silk behind the bead

Now push the copper bead back up to the eye over the silk base. Re-start the tying silk behind the bead and run touching turns down to the bend.

Here you catch in another pair of biots but this time they face backwards to form a forked tail. Tie in a length of vinyl rib (I used rust coloured here) and take the silk up to about halfway between the bend and the bead.

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Tails tied in

Wind the vinyl rib to form the body and tie it down.

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Abdomen formed of vinyl rib

Next, take a section of herl from a Canada Goose body feather and tie it in. this will form the wing pads. Now dub the tying silk with a mixture of dark brown and dirty olive seals fur.

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Goose herl tied in

Wind the dubbed silk to form a bulky thorax, then pull the goose herl over the back, securing it immediately behind the bead.

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Remove the excess herl and whip finish. Now you get out the dubbing needle and tease out some fur from each side of the thorax to suggest legs.

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Teasing out the seal’s fur

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All it needs now is a slight trim with the scissors

Trim off any excessively long fibres and varnish the whip finish.

As yet untested, but this pattern should work next March! I will also tie up some with additional lead under the dressing for dropping into deeper holes.

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Fishing in Ireland

A weekend with Desmond

I am not sure about this new fad for naming weather systems. It all seems to be a bit childlike and the jaunty wee names they have dreamt up for each successive depression are far to ‘cosy’ for the reality of a boisterous westerly gale. Regardless of my moaning, ‘Desmond’ put in an impressive appearance this weekend, lashing us here in Ireland with high winds and rain in biblical proportions. Fishing was of course out of the question but I had dog-sitting duties to perform which entailed getting out in the elements on Saturday and Sunday.

Wellies and waterproofs were donned on Saturday morning and I went off to perform my duties minding the dogs. The rain, while not of monsoon proportions was never the less steady and unrelenting. Gusts of wind drove the moisture into every possible chink in my waterproof armour and the only good point I could discern was the mildness in the air.

Meg and Gem, the two Springer Spaniels in question, paid no heed to the weather and just carried on doing what gun dogs do best – getting filthy and sodden while dashing about the bog like a pair of whirling Dervishes. The rain had started around lunchtime of Friday, so by the time I was walking the dogs on Saturday morning the ground was waterlogged and the rivers around here  were no longer confined by the banks. And still it rained.

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I cross the River Clydagh via a small bridge and the river here was barreling along, the colour of oxtail soup and sweeping all manner of debris downstream.

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Desmond was still noisy and wet when I went to bed on Saturday night but he eventually ran out of steam sometime during the dark hours and I awoke to a perfectly calm, bright day on Sunday morning. Off I went to clean out the pens, feed the dogs, and most importantly take them for a walk. After much excitement and tail wagging we finally all settled into the van and headed North through a vista of flooded fields and water choked drains.

We bounced along the dirt track leading to the bridge, trying (unsuccessfully) to dodge the alarming large potholes until we reached to river. In the short space of time since the rain had stopped the Clydagh had dropped fully three feet.

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This kind of extreme spate is due to the terrible land usage in the catchment. Coniferous plantations had ruined the natural ability of the ground to soak up and hold water. Instead it simply runs off, swelling the upper river very quickly. The problems are compounded further downstream when much of the low lying land has been drained to create poor quality pasture.

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The dogs ran about like complete lunatics for a while as I enjoyed the lovely calm day, made all the more welcome after Desmond’s rumbustious appearance. The bog was awash and even parts of the land which looked firm gave way underfoot. I rounded them up and I picked my way back to the van, me sidestepping puddles that the dogs took great delight in ploughing through. Time for home a well earned cuppa. The next storm is apparently going to be called ‘Eva’, which somehow makes me think of a slinky femme fatale in a James Bond movie rather than a nasty gales from the South West. Maybe I am just over thinking all of this – Meg and Gem didn’t seem to give two hoots about the whole affair.

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