Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

The end of the strand

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Sunday presented a small window of opportunity to fish, but the timing was not going to be exactly as I would have liked. With few salmon around and the trout loughs in the doldrums decided that a couple of hours sea fishing was going to be the best option but the tides were a bit tricky. The low water marks around here generally fish for Huss and Thornies, but both of those species feed much more avidly in the dark. I was free between 6 and 9, meaning the fishing should just be getting going as I was packing up. So instead I opted for a short session feathering for mackerel off the point of Bertra.

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My faithful old Daiwa reel

Truth be told, I had little expectations of sport. Reports suggested the Mackerel were holding in deeper water beyond casting range from the shore. My plan was to ambush some of them as they passed through the narrow gap at the end of Bertra beach. This has worked for me before but the fishing could never be described as hectic, just the odd stray fish now and again. I roped Ben on this scheme and we headed west into the setting sun soon after 6pm.

A new car park has been built at Bertra, a welcome addition as this is a very popular spot for tourists. The crowds were thinning out as we landed and trudged off up the strand in glorious weather.With hardly a breath of wind Clew Bay stretched out before us, shimmering in the heat.

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The inner bay with Westport in the distance

The water rushes through the gap between the point of the strand and an island. Extremely strong currents mean entering the water is an absolute no no. I much prefer to fish here either side of high water, but there are usually a few fish hanging around at any state of the tide. We fished for a while with out success but the views more than made up for the lack of action.

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Croagh Patrick

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Sunset over Clare island

We had rigged up with feathers and were casting across the channel. The flow of water swept the terminal gear around rapidly, meaning there was a lot of casting going on. I lost two sets of gear on the bottom and floating weed was a constant pain. Eventually though Ben gave a shout and he reeled in a small Mackerel. Some 20 minutes later he repeated the exercise, this time with a larger fish. We fished on but no more bites were forthcoming. I took a few photos before we packed up a headed off.

Bertra is an interesting place to fish but I believe it is over rated in the angling guides. I have read about Skate and Monkfish being accessible from the shore at the back of the beach but nobody I know can verify these fish have ever been landed here.The beach itself is open, gently shelving and looks to be pretty sterile to me. I regard Bertra as a reliable mark for a few mackerel during the summer but there are many better marks around here. Having said that, the views are stunning and if you are a visitor to the area it is well worth  visit if you have family.

It was starting to get dark by the time we regained the tarred road heading for the car park. we had both worked up a considerable thirst so a short stop in McBride’s pub in Westport was called for. Hard to beat a pint of Guinness after a walk along the beach.

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Well that has sorted out dinner tomorrow at any rate!

Ben kindly donated both Mackerel to a good cause (me) and I quickly filleted them and popped them into the ‘fridge when I got home. OK, so we didn’t catch a huge bag of fish, but it was 3 hour well spent in good company and in gorgeous surroundings. I’ll leave you with some more photos from the evening…………….

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Hopes of a salmon

Today there is an air of excitement around the town as the Mayo GAA team are in semi-final action against Tipperary this afternoon. Cars bedecked with green and red flags are heading across the country to watch the game in Dublin, full of hope and anticipation. I on the other hand, am off to try my luck on the Cashel River. Recent rain has pushed water levels up in the Moy system and I hope to intercept some late running grilse.

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On the Cashel

Later…………….

OK, so that didn’t quite go to plan. The weather was perfect and the fiver was dropping after a small flood. All in all the conditions could not have been better for salmon fishing. Pulse suitably quickened, the boat was emptied of water in double quick time and the gear safely stowed before motoring upstream to troll over the likely lies. I clipped on an orange and gold Rapala to start with and trailed it 30 yards behind the boat. Soon enough the rod gave a rattle but it was only a small Perch. More of these followed throughout the session.

Ben got off the mark with a tiny Pike followed by  couple of reasonably big perch which I claimed for supper. Not many people eat perch but they are very good and I would encourage you to try them. I don’t know what stocks are like elsewhere but in these parts there are large shoals of these lovely fish, so one or two for the pot won’t cause too much of a problem.

The fishing was a bit slow so i decided to give a small copper Toby a swim. We have a great fondness for the old original Tobies, the ones which were made in SWEDEN by ABU. The newer ones just don’t seem to be as effective and I would have a tarnished old original before a bright new copy any day of the week. Unfortunately the fish shunned this theory and the copper Toby was substituted later on for another Rapala.

An original Toby

The rain started around noon and with the wind grew stronger. By then we had turned right at the meetings of the waters and were trying our luck on the Clydagh River. Again, our hopes of meeting salar were dashed and in the gathering gloom we about-turned and headed back down river. There seem to be very few salmon around this season, a very worrying trend indeed. I’m going trout fishing the next time I am out.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Hold your horses

The trend these days is for more and more synthetics in fly tying. While I use a wide range of these wonders of the chemical industry I still fall back on more natural materials for most of my tying. Let’s take a look at a very old material which has fallen out of favour, hair from a horse’s tail.

More years ago than I care to remember I discovered that hair from the tail of a horse made a good body material for trout flies. I recall there used to be an early type of buzzer pattern called the Footballer which had an abdomen made from a single strand of black horse hair wound alongside a single strand of white horse hair. If memory serves me correctly, the thorax was of dubbed mole’s fur and the head was a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl. I have no recollection of ever catching a fish a Footballer but I was keen to try horse hair on other flies. I liked the segmented effect hair gives when wound and the ‘glow’ of  the under body if you use clear hair on top. Since those far off days I have used horse hair in a number of trout flies, so here are some ideas for you.

  1. My Horse Hair Partridge. A general copy of an olive, this one used to be almost ever present on my springtime casts, but for some reason I haven’t used it for years now. Tying silk/underbody is Pearsall’s olive (no. 16) or Yellow (no. 4) and the hackle is a Brown Partridge feather taken from the back of the bird, tied sparse. The over body is of a single strand of clear horsehair and you can add a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl for a thorax. Varnish the horse hair to give it a bit of strength. I nick Helen’s clear ‘Hard as Nails’ for the job. I must give this one a swim again this season. A variant uses a strand of clear wound with a strand of black horse hair and a golden plover hackle. 

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    Maybe a bit too much hackle on this one…………….

2. A dry variation of an Adam’s which consists of replacing the grey fur body with strands of clear and black horse hair wound together and then varnished. This fly works well in a hatch of small olives when tied on a size 16 hook.

3. Connemara Gold Spider – Tied in sizes 14 to 18, Pearsil’s Yellow silk is used to tie in a flat gold tinsel under body which is then over wound with clear horse hair before varnishing the lot. A sparse hackle of either a starling body feather of a hen hackle dyed black is wound at the neck. Connemara Gold spider4. You can make a good dry copy of the Yellow Dun by winding clear horse hair over an under body of yellow tying silk and varnishing it. The hackle is sparse cock hackle dyed yellow and the tails are some fibres from the same feather. By using hen hackles and adding wings made from the secondary wing feathers from a thrush you have a reasonable wet version of the Yellow Sally

5. Mike Harding gives a spider pattern called the Grouse and Gold in his excellent book ‘A Guide to North Country Flies’. This wee pattern has a dark grouse hackle and a body made of Pearsall’s no. 6A (Gold) over wound with clear horse hair (varnish as usual). A lovely looking fly but as yet untried by me. Maybe later this season…………..

5. In the same book, Mike also gives the dressing for an olive spider. Pearsall’s olive gossamer (no. 16) forms the underbody with clear horse hair over wound and varnished. Hackle and tails are grey partridge hackle dyed olive. The illustration in the book shows the colour of olive to be light, but I suppose it is a case of matching the colour to the naturals which are hatching.

Using Horse Hair as a rib has a very long history. An early copy of the the Downlooker featured a strand of black horse hair as a rib over a yellow silk body. I personally have never seen a trout take a Downlooker (natural or artificial) and I am unconvinced it is a fly you need to carry around with you, but it fun to tie.

It can be hard to find good quality horse hair, especially the lovely translucent kind. Buying on line can be a bit hit and miss and I advise you to get yours from a retailer who will allow you to examine the product closely before you buy it. Brittle, poor quality hair is a nightmare to use, constantly breaking under the slightest pressure. I know many of you are thinking ‘I can use stronger/more translucent/easier to work with synthetic materials now’. Yes, you can, but I like the old ‘traditional’ approach sometimes and horse hair is a nice material to work with. Try it yourself sometime, it is cheap, readily available and nice to use. Oh, and the trout seem to like it.

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland

The trouble with work

This has been a terrible year so far for me when it comes to fishing. As you can tell by the dearth of posts I simply have not had the opportunity to get out and spend time on the loughs and rivers. Work has been busy and even when I have sneaked away from the shackles of employment there have been commitments at home to attend too. My previous job as a self-employed consultant allowed me to manipulate my calendar, creating pockets of time off to go and fish. My current job is not so flexible and I am struggling to make the necessary time for my angling. I am guessing that many of you who are reading this post are in a similar position and feeling the same frustration that I currently am.

So how do we anglers create the time required to partake in our sport? This vexed question has been occupying my mind of late. The answer is going to be planning. Now let me make it very clear from the outset that I have never been particularly good at planning my fishing. I habitually change my plans based on the rainfall, wind direction, cloud cover, tides, reports from other anglers and a dozen other variables. So my best laid plans usually fly out of the window at the drop of a hat. I love the flexibility and challenge of selecting just the right venue for a few hours with rod and line. I frequently set off for one stretch of a river and end up on a completely different one altogether based on little more than a hunch. The satisfaction of catching some fish under those circumstances is very fulfilling to me, much more so than turning up at a pre-appointed spot and flogging it to death (you can see now why I don’t fish competitions). Back to the planning thing though…………….

Windows of opportunity are now very rare for me so I need to take advantage of even very small gaps in my diary. That means reducing travel to a minimum. Time behind the wheel is time lost on the river bank. I am also postulating that using the boat is just too time consuming. Gathering up engine, tank, pins etc then launching the boat and motoring to the hot spots takes time – time I don’t have. So instead I will either fish the rivers or from the shore over the month of August. Just by removing all thought of boat fishing the planning process has become simplified. The impossible looks achievable for a change.

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The boat

With the decision to forsake the boat taken the choice of venue had been simplified and narrowed down to a couple of options. The most obvious is the Moy which is not far from me and at this time of the year has a run of grilse. This has another advantage for me as the tackle required is minimal, a fly rod and reel, a box of small shrimp patterns and chest waders. That lot can be stashed in the car ready for use at a moments notice.

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Shrimps and Cascades

The Moy is but a shadow of the great fishery it used to be and the massive runs of salmon the river used to support are a thing of the past nowadays. A rise in the water during the summer still encourages some grilse to run so my new plan is to fish the Moy when the opportunity arises in the evenings after work. I will keep you posted………..

One of the reasons I have not been fishing recently was that we fitted in a short family holiday to Tenerife. A lovely island and one I would recommend to those who have not been there. While there I took a stroll down to the local harbour to watch local anglers fishing. I must have spent the best part of an hour observing these guys and only saw them land one small fish. Tackle was the same for each of them, a longish rod of maybe 12 feet and a medium sized fixed spool reel. The business end consisted of either a large bubble float or a truly enormous sea float. Below the float was either a weight or what looked like big split shot and a single hook baited with slivers of fish or squid. I don’t understand why their floats had to be so big. It was presumably for weigh to aid casting but they could have achieved that with smaller floats and better weights. They all seemed to be suspending the bait around 3 or 4 feet below the float in a water depth of maybe 10 – 20 feet. The one fish I saw landed was a tiny Wrasse, which left me thinking that a longer trace fished near the bottom would have a better chance of success. I can only think they were fishing for mullet in mid water instead. Nobody was using heavy gear to fish into the surf which surprised me too. The rough ground looked like it should produce good fishing but the locals just concentrated on the harbours instead.

 

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