Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, wetfly

The Carrowmore Bumble

This fly reminds me of a Mark 2 Ford Escort 1300. A reliable if unexciting run-around which has been tarted up by an enthusiast and is now all bling. The bells and whistles have been grafted on and it is now a much more exciting package all together.

The basis of this new fly is of course that wonderful old campaigner, the Claret Bumble. Originally tied to fool sea trout and brownies, the ever inventive Irish minds went to work on it years ago and it morphed into a very good salmon pattern by tying it on much larger hooks than the normal 12 and 10’s. Other refinements such as a flat gold tag, dying a topping sunburst and using that for a tail and adding knotted pheasant tail legs all made an appearance relatively lately. But the Carrowmore Bumble was born when the DNA of the Claret Bumble and Clan Chief was deliberately mixed. I personally have a hunch this could only be achieved after imbibing a large volume of Guinness but hard facts to support this supposition are scarce. The Clan Chief can be deadly for salmon, so mingling the attributes of the two flies was an excellent idea.

I have seen a couple of variations of this fly in other anglers boxes so I will give you two of these here today. The first one is probably the most common and is available commercially.

Hook: sizes 6 to 10 heavy weight trout hooks

Silk: black or brown 6/0

Tag: fine oval gold tinsel, about 5 turns

Tail: a Golden Pheasant crest feather with a doubled length of Globright no. 4 on top

Rib: oval silver tinsel

Body: medium claret seals fur

Body hackles: a black and a red cock hackle wound together

Head hackle: Guinea Fowl dyed blue

The second variation is the one I prefer.

Hook and silk are the same as above. I like the extra movement provided by the legs but they are optional.

Tag: Opal Mirage tinsel

Rib: oval silver tinsel

Body: medium claret seals fur

Body hackles: a black and a red cock hackle wound together

Legs: 6 cock pheasant tail herls knotted and tied in on each side and slightly raised. Can be natural or dyed claret

Head hackles: a long fibred claret cock hackle wound first followed by a grizzle cock hackle dyed blue.

Did you know there is a Green Peter version of the Clan Chief too? The Clan Peter it is called and while I have yet to use one it looks like it should work. Here is the dressing I was given last year.

Hook:  6 – 12

Tread: Fl. Yellow

Tag – Opal mirage

Tail: Globrite yellow under red

Body: Green seals fur

Rib: Oval gold

Body hackles: A grizzle cock hackle dyed green olive and natural red game cock hackle wound together

Wing: Hen pheasant tail

Head hackle: Red game cock

Head: Formed with the tying thread and coated with clear varnish

All of these flies will produce a salmon on Carrowmore on their day. I don’t class myself as any sort of an expert when it comes to fishing Carrowmore but I know my way around the place so I will write a short post on the fishery soon.

The title photo is Ben Baynes with a nice little salmon off Carrowmore a few seasons ago.

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bait fishing, trout fishing, Uncategorized

Early memories

Funny how some memories come back to you without any invitation. What makes the human mind decide to delve back into the past for no obvious reason? I can think of no ‘trigger’ for suddenly and unexpectedly thinking about Ord Dam the other day. I was not reminiscing about my angling past, nor my Scottish upbringing at the time. Just out of the blue I mentally leaped back to my formative years and a small pool of water by a back road just beyond the outskirts of Aberdeen. I can place the time of these recollections quite accurately as they coincided with one of life’s seminal decisions – I wanted (and received) a fly rod for my birthday. Ord Dam was to be one of the first places I used this weapon which was going to serve me so well as I took my first faltering steps learning the gentle art of fly fishing.

I don’t know what Ord Dam was built for, the ‘river’ feeding it was little more than an agricultural drain and in summer the flow over the concrete spillway was a tiny trickle, easily negotiated by young teenagers in wellies. I guess it was intended to impound water so that the fields would be well watered. There was a good path around the whole loch except for a bay on the Northern end near the road which was heavily overgrown with brambles. And, most importantly, it was stuffed full of wild brownies. That inconspicuous puddle held an inordinate stock of fish, way beyond what would have been imagined or dreamt of. On summer evenings as the light faded and the creatures of the night came snuffling out of their dens and holes, the surface of Ord Dam became pock marked with the rises of countless fish. It was that mental image, seared into my memory banks, of the darkening skies and the frantic rise which flashed back to me across the years.

The rod was a glass fibre made by the Clan company in the Trossacks. Nine and a half feet long (all the better in case I hooked a sea trout George in Brown’s tackle shop earnestly informed me), you could nearly tie a knot in it, it was so soft. It was my present on the occasion of the celebration of my arrival on this rocky planet 13 years earlier. I loved that rod. Isn’t it funny how we become so attached to crappy tackle just because it was our first? Perhaps the same could apply to motor bikes, cars or even girlfriends but let’s not go there right now. Over the years that rod suffered an immense degree of physical abuse and by the time I gave it away to a young lad many years later it was a couple of inches shorter thanks to an unpleasant argument with a car boot and sported two very obvious extra joins where the normal two-piece set up was increased to four pieces when I fell off a bicycle while cycling home from the river Don one day. These days we would say it had ‘character’.

Ord Dam

Back to Ord Dam…………… I probably blanked more often that I landed fish there until I discovered the nefarious joys of float fishing maggots for trout. Perhaps I should feel deep shame admitting to this foul deed. Maybe there is help for reformed maggot drowners who hold meetings in drafty halls to support each other as they struggle to come to terms with the enormity of what they did. The thing is, trout are suckers for maggots and young lads who go fishing simply want to catch as many fish as they can, regardless of methodology employed. So floats and maggots became part of my armoury for fishing Ord Dam until the nine foot six fly rod entered my life. The timeless joy of watching the brightly coloured top of the float was replaced virtually overnight by the physical challenge of learning to cast a fly. Simple decisions such as one maggot or two were rendered obsolete when I was now confronted by the bewildering choice of artificial creations. In short, Ord Dam became a fly fishing classroom for me and while my fellow maggot drowners (yes you, Mickey Gibson, Alan Robertson, Bobby and Callum) stuck grimly to the float fishing slaughter I would wander the banks casting, getting caught on weeds, bushes, trees and very occasionally small trout. While my first fly-caught trout was taken on the Kintore beat of the Don most of the next few dozen were landed in Ord Dam. These fish were small, one or two of them might have made 12 ounces but most weighed half a pound or less and I longed to catch something bigger but in those days access to good water was beyond my reach so the tiddlers in the dam suffered my inept attentions instead.

I wish I could go back to those day of innocence and wonder when every trip to the dam was exciting and joyous. I can fish any number of first class lakes and rivers these days but that sense of unbridled fun I experienced as a thirteen year old learning to cast on the dam has long gone. Exactly when and how it slipped out of my life I can’t pinpoint, maybe it was gradually eroded like a pebble in a stream.

Many years later I returned to Aberdeen to visit family and as I was driving out the back road to Banchory I took a notion to look at the dam again. Something like 25 years had elapsed since I had fished there so I wasn’t expecting too much and unfortunately I was right to prepare myself for disappointment. The water level was considerably lower than before and the whole loch was a mass of weed with no clear water to be seen. I didn’t linger and drove off feeling chastised for even stopping there in the first place. Childhood fishing spots are, like old motorbikes and girlfriends, best left in corners of our memory rather than seen again in the harsh light of reality.

Footnote: All may not be so bad at Ord Dam after all. A quick google search has revealed that the dam is now under the control of Aberdeen City Council Countryside ranger service. The photo accompanying this post is the property of the service and it shows the water back to a good level and free of the weed.

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Fishing in Ireland

The small loughs

Most people associate lough fishing in this area with the big waters like Conn and Mask. While most of the angling effort is expended on these impressive fisheries there are ample opportunities for the angler who enjoys less dramatic sport on a range of smaller loughs around Castlebar. Let me me tell you about three of them today.

 

Just a short walk along the Pontoon road from me lies Tucker’s lough, a small and well stocked lake with a fine head of small wild brown trout. Most of it is pretty much inaccessible due to soft margins and large reed beds, but you can get enough elbow room to cast at a couple of places. I find this lough is good in April and May before the weeds choke the water and the fishing becomes an exercise in clearing green stuff from your flies. I have yet to hear of any monster from Tucker’s and the trout are smaller than I would like, but in those occasions when I only have an hour to spare and heading out in a boat on Conn is not feasible I can still fish from the shore on Tucker’s and winkle out a fish or two.

 

Next we have Lough na Gcearch which I have only fished once and come off the water without even a pull at the flies. Not that that poor performance is anything out of the ordinary as this small water has a local reputation for being dour. The trout are supposed to be bottom feeders and attain a good size with rumours of massive brownies over 3 pounds inhabiting the lough. It is entirely possible as the limestone on the bottom would tend to indicate excellent feeding potential. I am intending to give this water a few casts this coming season to try to winkle out one one the spotted leviathans from the watery depths.

Finally we have Lough Ben, one of my favourite small loughs to fish. For a water which is situated close to a popular road it is surprisingly lightly fished. The average trout in this lough is probably around the half pound but I have taken ones closer to a pound from it in the past. Again, I regard this water as an early season venue with March / April my preferred time to cast a line here (the season opens on 20th March). The fish are free-rising and there are good hatches of buzzers. Claret Duns also hatch out early in the season and I have used a Grouse and Claret to good effect here.

 

Normal lough patterns will work just dandy on all of these loughs and I particularly like the Butcher, March Brown, Grouse and Claret, Watson’s Bumble and Golden Olive in sizes 12 and 14. I tend to use a floating line even when nothing is showing as the water in these small loughs is never very deep.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Spate river fly design

What makes a good spate river fly?

I tie hundreds of flies every year. I used to tie much, much more but these days a few hundred come off my vice and most of those are tied during the quiet winter period. Due to the nature of the fishing in the West of Ireland these flies fall readily into groups, trout: river dry, wet and nymph, lough trout dry and wet and finally salmon river and lough. I have never really thought too much about the distinction between the salmon flies I use in flowing water as opposed to the ones for the loughs but they are fundamentally different and here is my reasoning.

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Hairy Mary, classic pattern for spate rivers

A large part of my reasoning for using differing lough vs river patterns is due to the movement of the flies in the water. On rivers there is a flow which acts on the hook and materials and causes the fly to move both in the current and within itself. Lough flies have a different role in that they will be moved largely by the angler drawing in the line and also in the ‘Z’ axis as the waves in the lough rise and fall.

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Shrimps and Cascades

Perhaps the greatest difference is the hooks I use. On the river I still favour trebles and doubles with a small single occupying the dropper position on the leader. I like the weight of the trebles and doubles and the way they ’grip’ the water much better than singles which travel much higher in the water.

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An Eany Tailfire tied on those lovely Loop doubles

 

Fly design for spate rivers

I normally fish with two flies on the river and accept I may lose the occasional fish when the trailing/dangling free fly snags on a bush /tree/bottom (in practice I find this happens so rarely that it can be disregarded). I like to be able to offer the fish two different patterns on the same cast and will take a lot of convincing that this is more effective than the normal single fly approach. The only downside of fishing a dropper for me is the inevitable tangles suffered when casting into high winds.

Now picture the scene on a typical west coast spate river. Small, often deep pools, occasional long deep canal like stretches and short fast runs connecting these features. River width can vary from 3 to 30 yards and there will be lots of obstacles like trees and bushes. All in all, a world away from the beautifully tended, wide, smooth running ‘classic’ rivers of the Scottish East coast. As you can imagine, this has a big bearing on the flies I use here.

high water water on a spate river

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The Dee at Cairnton, a world away from my local spate rivers

There is very little in the way of spring salmon fishing here, so grilse are the target from May to September. Always on the move, these fish are often encountered is small groups and sport can be brisk when you bump into these pods of fish. Your flies need to be presented at a level in the water to attract their attention and the received wisdom is that needs to be in the top foot or so of the water column. There are minor tactics like skating flies but generally speaking you present the flies sub-surface. This is why I prefer my river patterns dressed on trebles and doubles. These flies sink immediately they hit the water, unlike single hooked patterns which have a nasty tendency to skate on the surface due to their much lighter weight. I have experimented with weighted flies and even adding weight to the leader but met with poor success so far.

Sinking lines or sink tips are useful to a degree and I admit a fondness for homemade sink-tips. My argument against them is based on that critical first few second after the flies hit the water when I need them to sink instantly instead of waiting for them to be dragged under by the line. On narrow, heavily overgrown spate rivers fish are often found lying hard against the bank, so casts need to be accurate and the fly simply must sink immediately it hits the water. I have experimented with small brass tubes in the past and found them to be pretty useful but I still prefer trebles or doubles for this work.

So my preferred set up on spate rivers when fishing for salmon is a small treble on the point, usually a size 10 down to a 14 with a small single hooked pattern on the dropper. Dropper length is roughly 4 to 6 inches. I will talk about patterns in another post.

no.5

A small,coloured grilse from a spate river about to go back

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