Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Spring but no Springers

 

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Rain over the bank holiday weekend has pushed up water levels a bit so we decided to try for a springer today. Waiting for Ben outside the house in warm sunshine it really felt like spring was here at last. The trees were filled with chirping birds amid the early blossoms.

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Lovely spring morning, for a start at least

I caught up on all Ben’s news on the short journey out to the river  (he had a 10 pounder off Lagduff on the Owenduff on Saturday) and we assessed the chances for today. The river had risen over a foot but was now dropping back . Word was that a couple of salmon had been caught on the Moy system recently, one at Pontoon bridge and another at Foxford. All of this sounded good and we were pretty hopeful there was going to be a fish or two in the river today. Peering over the bridge the water was tinged, but not too coloured. Gear was hastily stowed on the boat and we motored up river in good spirits.

An hour later and we were beginning to flag. No signs of fish at all and the warmth of the morning was disipating as clouds rolled in from the south west. A thin drizzle began to fall, washing our confidence away. Conversation died and we sat hunched in the boat, each  of us lost in our own thoughts. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, off went Ben’s rod as something fishy grabbed his Kynoch. After the first run everything went dead and we both knew what that meant – PIKE.

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Note how the Kynoch has slid up the line and out of harm’s way

This lad headed for the weeds and had to be bullied back out into open water before he could be boated.

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Coming to hand

By the time we pulled in to have a bit of lunch we had 3 pike between us, all between 4 and 5 pounds in weight. Of the silvery salmon there was no sign. After a soggy lunch, consumed behind a brier in a cold and wetting mist, we met some fellow anglers who were bait fishing with similar results as ourselves. And so we turned for home and headed back the way we had come. Another pike and then 2 trout were boated as we retraced our steps. Both trout were, just like the ones we had on Friday, in perfect condition, deep bodied and well fed. I suspect these are fish from Lough Cullin which came up the river to spawn and have hung around due to the good food supply.

 

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trailing some weed, another Pike comes to the boat

We called it a day when we got back below the bridge and tackled down at a leasurely pace. Salmon fishing is a numbers game, the more often you fish the more salmon you will catch. Today was not our turn but that wont stop us from trying again soon.

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Get out of those weeds!

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Snow on Nephin today

With work beckoning tomorrow and the forecast of cool, wet weather for the whole week I am now resigned to no more fishing until next weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Good Friday

How did you spend Good Friday? I had a busy day on and around the water here in Mayo and this is a short summary of a typical day for me when I am not working.

Ben called in this morning and asked for help launching his boat on Lough Beltra. We agreed that the day was going to be too stormy for fishing the lough but it would be good to have the boat ready for action next week. He had already loaded the boat on to a trailer and so we ate a leisurely breakfast in Cafe Rua before hauling the boat out the Newport  Road and into Glenisland.

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Pulled up at the car park

When we arrived at the car park there were a couple of cars there, indicating at least one boat was fishing. The wind was from the South West and beginning to gust strongly with the promise of a much harder blow as the day wore on.

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The harbour

We launched the boat but made a bit of a mess of it in the wind and she slewed badly as we pushed her in.We had to scramble to free the boat, Ben getting into the water to wrestle the boat off the trailer. We managed OK and Ben led the boat into the harbour on the long line. it was only now that he noticed the prow had worked loose and would require repair.

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Leading the boat in to the harbour

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Almost there

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The damaged prow

While we were messing about in the harbour a boat which had been out fishing came in to the shore. It turned out to be Eamonn Kennedy  with two Dublin fishers. They had been on the receiving end of a battering by the wind and had decided to switch to the other end of the lake in a an effort to get some respite.

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Eamonn Kennedy on the engine in a big wave

Once ashore we had a chat with Eamonn about the fishing. We all agreed that a little bit more water would be good but that the unsettled weather forecast for the coming week should give us a chance of some sport.

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Ben and Eamonn chewing the fat

With Ben’s boat now safely moored we had to decide what to do for the rest of the day. The weather was deteriorating by the minute and so so we plumped for a couple of hours trolling on the Cashel river. Back in town we rounded up some gear, made up a flask and headed out the Pontoon road. The boat was in need of a small amount of baling but we were soon motoring up the river in search of silver salmon.

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An hour passed, then two and still no action to either rod. Ben’s rod finally bent into a fish but despite it’s obvious weight we could quickly see it was going to be a pike and not the hoped for salmon.

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In to a fish at last………………………….

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Only a Pike though

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Nearly there

A fish of about 7 pounds, and I quickly followed with a smaller lad of about 4 pounds. By now we were fishing in what felt like a typhoon and one of my casts was caught by the wind and my lovely copper spoon was deposited high in the branches of a willow tree! Some comic capers ensued as I recovered my tackle from the clutches of the bankside vegetation and fishing was resumed. Ben boated the last Pike of the day and we turned for home.

My rod registered a bite and I found myself playing a small fish. I thought it was a Perch at first but no, I had hooked a lovely Brownie of just under a pound. Not to be outdone, Ben repeated the feat with another trout slightly smaller in size. Both trout were in excellent condition.

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Ben’s trout just before I slipped it back

By now it was after 5pm so we called it a day and motored home. Maybe we didn’t catch much and failed to even set eyes on a salmon, but it was great to be out on the water this Good Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Endrick Spider does the trick

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It was too cold yesterday for trout fishing, the east wind had a raw edge to it and so I kept my powder dry for today instead. At 8am the cloud cover was good and the temperature was beginning to rise a little, so I fed and walked the dogs before heading south to the river Robe for a few hours fluff chucking. I was torn between the stretch at Castlemeggaret or the pools above Hollymount and as I travelled the N84 I settled on the Hollymount water for today’s outing. I stopped off in Ballinrobe to get something to eat before bouncing along towards Claremorris and turning off to the small bridge above the village of Hollymount.

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Looking downstream from the bridge

I was greeted with a low river; surprisingly low after the winter floods. The past week has been dry and the water levels have receded rapidly. Clouds were thinning as I tackled up and by lunchtime clear blue skies were overhead, making things a little tricky. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I planned to work my way downstream, searching the lies with a team of wets to start with and then change to nymphs if necessary. That wonderful feeling of getting back into the river again after the close season is such a joy! Birds were singing and the fields beginning to green up, so the whole experience of being out on the river in spring seemed to envelop me.

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Tail of a pool

It was obvious that fly life was sparse and all day I only saw a handful of olives and a couple of large Stoneflies. With nothing to attract then to the surface the trout were staying deep but my beaded spider was failing miserably to pull anything. I swapped patterns a couple of times but all I had to show for my efforts after an hour were a couple of half-hearted plucks from small fish. I kept working my way down river and stopped just above the village for a re-think. Checking the water again I found only a few olives, not enough to induce a rise from the fish.

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Stonefly

I sat on the bank for a while, taking in the vista and pondering the situation. I knew I should change to nymphs but instead I decided to stick with the wets for now.

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Down river, near Hollymount village

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throat of a pool

 

I carefully fished through the best pool in this section of the river, then the pool immediately below that, meeting 3 more tout, both of which managed to throw the hooks before I could land them. Time for another change and I put a beaded Endrick Spider on the tail.

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The Endrick Spider

Some more fruitless casting ensued before I decided to head off to the water immediately below the next bridge. There is always a few trout hanging around in this area and sure enough, I rose one on my second or third cast.  I covered him again and was rewarded with a firm take to the spider. I played him gingerly, not wanting to lose this one too! he was only a half-pounder but I had broken my duck and landed my first of the 2016 season. A bonnie wee trout, the fly lodged in the point of his nose. I flicked the fly out and took a couple of snaps before easing him back into the water.

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The harsh sunlight was not helping the fishing so I decided to call it a day. From now on the fishing should pick up as the water heats and fly life increases.

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Old weir with a fish pass

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Lovely water on the Robe

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Half Stoned

One of the great benefits of living and fishing in these parts is the lack of pressure to catch something. There is a strong and highly organised competitive angling scene in Ireland but I am not competitive in life and certainly not when it comes to angling. For me the simple joys of a few hours fishing for wild trout and salmon with no great expectations of success are all I want. This in turn creates a freedom to experiment, be that with tactics or patterns. One of these experiments is my variant of the the Half Stone.

A fly with its origins in the South West of England, this is a pattern I have meant to try for years now and simply never got around to it. One winter evening I was contemplating emerger patterns and though about this fly. I am unsure if it was originally meant as a copy of a hatching fly but the palmered thorax looked good to me so I set about tying a few.

Half Stone ‘normal’ dressing:

Silk: primrose yellow

Tails: a few fibres of blue dun cock hackle

Body: in two halves, primrose yellow silk at the rear, moles fur dubbed on to the tying silk at the front

Hackle: a blue dun hackle palmered over the moles fur

While I liked the overall shape of the fly I felt the colours were too bright for the rivers here so I set about making a few alterations. I wanted to retain the half palmered look but felt adding a second hackle would give the fly more ‘life’ so I added a ginger cock hackle and wound it with the blue dun. Then I added a rib to lock the hackles in place. I also figured the primrose silk was a bit too bright for what I wanted – an imitation of a hatching ephemerid. So I swapped the primrose for gossamer no. 6, a much more muted shade of yellow.

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Both hackles tied in together

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Tail fibres tied in

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A pinch of mole’s fur

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Gold wire tied in and the thorax dubbed

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finished fly, my Half Stone variant

I am planning on using this fly during Large Dark Olive hatches and by fishing it wet on the top dropper position I can keep it fairly close to the surface where I hope it will fool the brownies mopping up emergers. There is a very particular situation which I have in mind for the pattern. Much of the rivers where I fish are heavily wooded and some pools are only accessible from above, meaning normal dry emerger fishing (casting upstream) is out of the question. The half-palmered wet idea is my way of combatting this problem. We will see if it works soon!

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

And we’re off!

A text from Ben asking for help to launch the first boat actually took me by surprise. I have been so busy at work lately that the thought of going fishing had not slipped into my awareness. That text changed all of that and I bundled some gear into the car and headed off to hitch up the boat trailer. A few minutes work and then we were off down the Pontoon Road with a 17 footer bobbing along merrily behind. The mild weather of yesterday continued today and the job of launching the boat was performed amid a backdrop of lovely spring vistas across the flat lands edging Lough Cullin. In no time at all the boat was afloat and our tackle loaded for a couple of exploratory hours.

We soon settled into the normal rhythm of this type of day and we caught up on all the gossip and fishing related stories and news. Ben’s rod was first to  bend into a fish but some head-shaking quickly loosened the Toby and the fish escaped. the scenery slipped by and the changes to the river after the winter floods were apparent with a lot of small trees either washed away or flattened on the bank.

It was my turn next when a solid thump converted into a dour struggle, obviously just a Pike. In this case a fish of around 6 pounds which had taken a fancy to a 24gm copper spoon. On up the river we pushed, past willows now covered with catkins and the first buds of the year.

My next take was initially encouraging as the fish hit hard and took line immediately, but it soon thrashed on the surface and was clearly just another Pike. This was a slightly better fish of around 10 pounds or so.

After that one we turned and began to head back down stream. We had not gone too far when Ben’s reel let out a screech and he was fast to something a bit better. The Pike ran into a drowned tree and it took some strong arm tactics to drag it back out into open water where it was subdued and landed, a fish of 14 pounds and as fat as a butchers dog. That was enough for one day and we motored back, well pleased with our opening session of 2016.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Wind and waves

It’s getting close now. The cold weather can’t disguise lengthening days. Daffodils are blooming, an incongruent splash of sulphur yellow against the washed out land. New buds are showing on the trees and bushes in the garden promising green foliage in the coming weeks. Yes, it is definitely getting close – the opening of the season on Lough Beltra.

In previous posts I have talked about fly patterns for Beltra but today I want to share some of the lies where you can expect salmon and the importance of the wind for sport on the lough. So let’s start with some basics of lough salmon fishing first.

 

Any angler here in the West of Ireland will tell you that the biggest factor for success is the wind when fishing still water. The premise of ‘no wind = no fish’ is not 100% accurate as the very occasional salmon can be tempted in flat calm conditions, but this is such a rarity that it can almost be categorised as a statistical anomaly. What you need is a good, strong wind whipping the surface up into waves. Some fishers will tell you that there is no such thing as a wind that is too strong but I disagree with that point of view. Fishing, or rather trying to fish in a gale is not my idea of fun as casting becomes difficult, tangles more frequent and the ability to move the fly how I want to is compromised. For me a steady force 5 or so is just fine; a gusting 7 or 8 is not my cup of tea.

 

Captain Ben!

Next in importance is the direction of the wind and nowhere is that more so than on the Glenisland Coop water on Lough Beltra. Wind direction is a topic which could fill a good sized book, but to keep it simple the wind needs to come from a direction which does not hinder the drifts over the salmon lies. Note that I did not say it must assist you. Sometimes all you can manage is a breeze which is sort of nearly in the right direction but vigarous work with the oars is required to keep drifting over the fish. The Glenisland Coop side of Beltra fishes best when the wind is in either a South West or North East direction, ie. blowing directly up or down the lough. A North westerly is very difficult as you will be blown directly on to the shore and as the fish lie within 30 yards or so of the rocks this means you only get one or two casts before pulling back out into the lake, obviously a huge amount of work for very little return. A South Easterly is even worse as the high ground on the Glenisland road side blocks the wind from that quarter leaving the fishable water in flat calm.

So where exactly do the salmon lie in Lough Beltra?

 

I am going to keep this very, very simple for those of you who are visitors to Beltra and are fishing the Glenisland Coop fishery (Beltra East). Look at the map above and note where the L136 road passes close the the shore. You want to be drifting along that shore between 10 and 30 yards out from the edge. That’s it. Locals all know exact spots along that shore to concentrate on but if you don’t know the water just drift the full length of the shore and you won’t go far wrong. You will hear of specific salmon lies such as Morrisons and the Red Barn (now confusingly painted grey) but in a good wind the boat will drift the full length of the shore in around 30 minutes, so time over unproductive water is not too great. Walshes Bay can also be good as can the buoy out from Flannery’s Pier which marks the dividing line between the east and West fisheries.

 

Now let’s turn to Carrowmore Lake in North Mayo for a very different set of circumstances and the effects wind will have on your day’s fishing. Carrowmore is set amid extensive bog land, largely flat with little to break the wind from any direction. You can see the Atlantic Ocean just a few hundred yards away so this is obviously a windy spot. That should be good, right? Plenty of wind for that all important wave? Well, ‘Yes’ but……………

 

The surrounding bog does not stop at the lake shores but continues under the water. Run off from the countryside deposits huge volumes of fine peat silt into the lake which settles on the bottom where it lies in clam weather. Problems start when the wind gets up and causes waves which stir up this fine silt, turning the lake the colour of Oxtail soup. This happens frequently as the lake is shallow and any wind above a fours 4 or so is going to turn the water cloudy. I don’t know if there is any proof the fish go off the take when the water colours but I have never seen a salmon caught in those conditions and the received wisdom is the fish become uncatchable in the brown water.

Glencullen

beginning to churn on Carrowmore

 

One possible ray of hope when confronted with the silt colour on Carrowmore is to look for other parts of the lake which are not affected. Sometimes the wind from a certain quarter churns one area but leaves another part of the lake clear. Local knowledge really comes to the fore here and visitors will find it hard to figure out where the clear water is without consulting the local guru’s.

 

More info on the Glenisland Coop water is available on the club website http://www.loughbeltra.com

The lough opens on 20th March

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

New beginnings

 

I am hopeful that tomorrow I will escape the drudgery of paid employment for a few hours to enjoy a few casts and mark the start of my 2016 season. Before then I need to sort out my tackle and make some final repairs. I am planning a short trip to the River Robe and in particular a stretch which promised much but produced only limited results last spring. High water is needed on this short section of the river and we have plenty of the wet stuff here in Ireland this year. Indeed, most of the country is still saturated after a long winter of near constant rain. Temperatures are still low, ranging from 2 to 5 degrees lately, so the probability is I will be deep nymphing or at best swinging a team of wets in the cold water.

 

I have a couple of new fly patterns to christen including a small Stonefly nymph which looks good in the fly box. As usual, I have been tweaking some patterns in the hope of improving their powers of fooling the fish. Adding a fur or herl thorax behind a soft hackle on spiders really seems to make the fly more effective so I’ve tied up a clatter of them for this year. Partridge and Orange, Snipe and Purple and most of the other classics have all been given this treatment as well as my own patterns.

 

I have already checked all my rods for damaged whippings, broken or chipped rings and worn handles, and all are in fine fettle. My reels need a quick once over to clean and oil them (most of them never saw the water last year). My lines are also fine as I unwound them at the end of last season and they just need to be re-loaded on to the various reels again. Where some work is required is the making of new butts for my leaders. I like to use heavy nylon butts for the link between the fly line and the leader proper and only occasionally do I use those braided jobs which are so popular these days. I admit they are very useful when you want to add a sinking section to a floating line but I think they prefer the stiffness of heavy nylon as an aid to turning over my casts. Depending on the amount and type of fishing I am doing these butts can last a whole season or need to be changed every few weeks.

 

Why not use fluorocarbon instead? Two reasons for me, firstly fluorocarbon sinks, so it is no use for dry fly fishing and secondly I keep snapping the damn stuff! I seem to be in a small minority of anglers who suffer from this but I have a tendency to break fluorocarbon at every opportunity and have lost all faith in it as a leader material.

 

Other pieces of kit which causes me problems are nets. This has only started in the last five years or so, before that I owned 2 nets and I can’t recall them ever causing me a minute’s doubt. Nowadays I have 4 nets to pick from and they all present a range of ailments. Sticking telescopic handles, seized locking mechanisms and torn bags all need addressed before Saturday rolls along. One of my trout nets needs a new bag and the spare has a rip in it which I only discovered the other day.

I have no shortage of flies to pick from and some may suggest I own too many but that is part of the fun for me. I might try to sort the teeming hundreds of wets/drys/nymphs into a system which is easy to use on the riverbank on a blustery spring afternoon, thus saving me a high level of frustration and overuse of bold language. I am thinking about filling one box with favourite patterns and seeing how that works out for me. By applying the 80/20 rule I believe this should reduce the time wasted while fishing by a considerable amount.

 

Prospects for the new season are hard to quantify after the wet winter we had. Did the prolonged periods of high water affect trout stocks? Was the relatively high temperatures we ‘enjoyed’ good or bad for the rivers and their inhabitants? What changes to the banks and river bed will I find after the long periods of damaging flooding? Some stretches of the Robe have high, soft banks of earth which will probably be radically altered this spring. Perhaps the high water will have encouraged some lough trout who run the rivers to spawn to linger in the flowing water. The Keel River will be a favourite candidate for this behaviour as Mask fish regularly turn up there early doors.

 

Then there is the personal question of how will I cope with my arthritis this season? Last season my mobility was very limited and pain levels reached an alarming and debilitating level with wading being transformed from one of the pleasures of our sport to pure torture. Those of who are afflicted by arthritis or other life altering diseases know the frustration wrought when the sport you love is severely compromised due to pain and physical limitations but if you are lucky enough to be in good health I would urge you to get out there and enjoy life to the maximum now. Live and fish each day like it is your last, you never know when your physical or mental functions will deteriorate or desert you. For me personally, the changes to my diet have certainly improved my day to day health but the challenges of the riverbank are now upon me, challenges I eagerly accept but with the trepidation of one who lost many battles last year. Too often during 2015 my fishing days were punctuated by deliberately missing out pools where I couldn’t wade, river crossings which not attempted or abandoned due to the pain or even sessions cut short as I limped back to the car with swollen ankles and deflated heart. I’m hopeful this year I will perform much better.

Right then, enough writing for now. I will start the tasks outlined above and give the Robe an auld lash tomorrow if the weather is fine and report back to you good folks if I am blessed with a measure of success.

 

 

 

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