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.

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.

Hackle tied in
nearly finished the body


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.

This comes in a wide range of shades

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

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.

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

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.

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.


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



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