Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

A purple shrimp pattern

I have never really been happy with Purple Shrimp patterns. They also looked kinda ‘odd’ to me, especially those ones with badger hackles at the head. The mix of badger and purple hackles somehow did not look ‘right’. I can’t describe this really, it is more of a feeling than any scientific analysis. Purple has never given me more than an occasional salmon, all of them at the back-end and all of them (as far as I can remember anyway) were coloured. Other anglers swear by purple shrimps so they do work, just not when I tied them on to the end of my line. So I have tied this new pattern.


My new Purple Shrimp

I used Opal Mirage for the rear body and purple floss for the front. An oval silver tag and rib were added too. The tail is made of a slim bunch of purple bucktail instead of the more normal wound GP body feather.A centre hackle of a doubled cock hackle dyed purple is wound at the joint of the body sections and a long fibred hen hackle dyed black is wound at the head. I used red tying silk and left that showing at the head. the example in the photos is tied on a size 10 single hook.

One for the back end

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Clare River system

I am working in Tuam these days so it is highly likely I will try my luck on the Clare River and its tributaries this season. The Clare system has been seriously abused by successive governments since the middle of the 19th century, with devastating consequences for the local ecology. Here is an old article from Ecofactireland which gives some excellent information of the sorry tale of drainage on the Clare.

River Clare: A highly modified Natura 2000 river

It would be nice to say that in these more enlightened times the river is now safe from further dredging but that is simply not the case. The OPW has one cure for flooding – bring in the machines and get dredging! Of course we all know this only exacerbates the problems and increases flooding but the OPW don’t seem to care.

Despite the predations by humans there are still trout and salmon in the system. The Clare and its tributaries hold some excellent brown trout and many areas are very lightly fished. There used to be healthy runs of salmon but my information is that the last two seasons have been very poor for the silver lads. I will post any successes (and failures) through the season.

Fishing in Ireland

Holiday weekend (3), starting the old engine

My old Evinrude 4HP outboard has been in the shed for a couple of years without being used so I decided it was high time that I showed it a little TLC. After a general clean up and emptying out the fuel tank I filled her with fresh petrol and oil mixture (1:100 on these old engines). Lots and lots of pulling on the cord /sweating / cursing failed to start her, so I stripped down the carb and gave it a good clean out. It didn’t look too bad but there was some dirt in the bowl so it is highly likely that the jets were blocked. Once they were blown through I put it all back together again. Here is link to the video of the next attempt to start her up:

These old Evinrudes are great little engines. OK so they are heavy on fuel and a bit noisy but they are strong little workhorses with a lot of power for their small size. The greatest benefit they have is their lightness. In these days of enormously heavy 4 strokes this little beauty is a real delight.

Not bad for an engine that was manufactured in 1980!

The rain has finally stopped today so hopefully the rivers will drop back a little by next weekend and I can get out for a day’s fishing.

Update! It’s Sunday 26th and no fishing for me this weekend due to family commitments.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Holiday weekend (2) Two more patterns for Carrowmore Lake

I am frequently asked for salmon fly patterns for use on Carrowmore. I generally give the same answer – whatever you have in the box that you have confidence in on a size 8 hook. That may sound like a cop out but the truth is that I have seen salmon caught on so many different patterns it is hard to say which are the best ones. I remember being in the boat with Rocky Moran one day when the lake was not fishing at its best. In a small ripple he rose and hooked a salmon and as he was playing it out I asked him what he was using. He smiled and said ‘you will see’. Sure enough, the grilse was duly landed and there in his scissors was a variation of a Green Highlander of all things! I would never have tied that on the end of my line in a thousand years but it just goes to show that you can’t be too dogmatic on Carrowmore.

Good conditions for Carrowmore

On a bright day something with some yellow can do the trick, especially if it is cold as well. I don’t carry too many flies with yellow in their make up as I almost invariably turn to a Lemon Shrimp if I want a yeller’ pattern. It is a handy one to have in the box for spring fishing and I dare say it works for the grilse during the summer too. I vividly recall fish a wee spate river during a falling spate one May many years ago. Salmon were running through and I had already landed a couple that day. I was fishing a tiny pool, only a few yards long and I turned a fish to the cascade I had on. He didn’t touch the fly, just rising like a trout to it instead then rolling away showing his side to me as he turned. I chucked the fly back at him a few more times but without response so I went back upstream a few steps and changed to a Lemon Shrimp. For once everything came together perfectly and the fish took the Lemon Shrimp with an ostentatious head and tail, a lovely fresh salmon of six pounds.

6 pound bar of silver on the Lemon Shrimp

6 pound bar of silver on the Lemon Shrimp

The Lemon Shrimp works on Carrowmore too so here is how to tie this fly;

Tag: Oval silver tinsel

Rear hackle: GP red breast feather, wound. Some anglers prefer the tail to be made of bucktail dyed red.

Rear body: yellow floss ribbed with oval silver tinsel

Middle hackle: Yellow cock, doubled

Front Body: black floss ribbed with oval silver tinsel

Eyes: Jungle Cock (Optional in my opinion, I have caught salmon on flies with and without JC eyes)

Head hackle: a well marked badger cock hackle, doubled

Head: red varnish

Lemon Shrimp

Lemon Shrimp

The exact shade of yellow is up to you. I have seen some which are almost golden olive the yellow is so dark but I much prefer a bright lemon shade for the floss and the middle hackle. I have also seen this fly tied with the front body formed of bright red floss but I haven’t tried that variation so can’t say if it works or not.

Lemon Shrimp on a Loop double

Lemon Shrimp on a Loop double

I mentioned the colour green earlier. There is a fabulous version of the Green Peter which catches a lot of fish on Carrowmore each season. The pattern itself is simply a standard Green Peter, the big difference is the hook it is tied on and the number of hackles used. Here is the tying I favour:

Hook: A size 8 long shank. Something like the Kamasan B830.

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Body: Pea green seal’s fur. You can add a butt of red seal’s fur if desired.

Body hackle: Red game, palmered. Give it plenty of turns.

Wings: A bunch of brown squirrel hair as an under wing to give strength and then hen pheasant tail tied over the hair.

Head hackles: red game cock. Tie in and wind as many hackles as required to cover 1/3 of the hook in front of the wings.

B830 hooks

Brown squirrel underwing tied in

This is an easy fly to tie but pay attention to the proportions. This fly works because of the disturbance it causes in the water so the multiple turns of cock hackle at the head are vital.

I fish this fly on a different Leader too. I prefer to fish only two flies when using the long shank Peter, with this fly on the dropper. I then add a tail fly relatively close, say about 16 inches behind the Peter. The tail fly is always a small size too, maybe a size 10. Fished on an intermediate or slow sink line and retrieved vary fast, this can produce explosive takes so I use a minimum of 12 pound b/s for the leader.

Long shank Peter

Long shank Peter

This fly also catches sea trout just to add to its general usefulness. I can thoroughly recommend you tie up a couple of each of these flies and keep them handy when on Carrowmore.

Carrowmore on a bright day

Carrowmore on a bright day


PS: latest reports from Carrowmore are they are still waiting for the first fish of the season. With strong winds yesterday and today I expect the water to be churned for the next few days. On the plus side there should be fish coming in with each tide now.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Holiday weekend (1) a Dabbler pattern


Outside, there is only what can be described as a storm blowing. Trees are bending in the wind and sheets of cold rain are filling the gutters to overflowing. While the east coast of Ireland is just breezy and cool we here in the west are being well and truly battered and soaked. It is so bad that all of the local St. Patrick day parades have been postponed (Castlebar, Westport and Louisburg). Not a day for fishing then, so I am making some flies instead.


The Silver Dabbler, a great pattern in it’s own right

Two of my favourite early season trout patterns for the lough are the Silver Dabbler and the Fiery Brown. Like many other anglers I place great faith in both of these fished deep to entice browns who are grazing on the bottom on hog louse and shrimps. At the vice today I hit on the idea of combining them both into one fly and here is the result of that particular Eureka! moment. This is a nice, easy dabbler style fly to make, demanding no special skills or new-fangled techniques or flashy bits of plastic which seem to adorn so many new patterns.

The dressing is as follows:

Hook: a size 10 wet fly hook

Tying silk: I use brown 8/0 but please yourself, black, red or even fl. orange should be just as good.

Tag: Globrite no.4 tied under the tail

Tail: a few bronze mallard fibres, roughly the same length as the hook shank.

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel (I use Veniards no. 14)

Body: flat silver tinsel

Body hackle: good quality chocolate brown cock hackle, palmered. (Note that this is a lot darker and ‘richer’ in colour than the red game hackle used on a Silver dabbler)

Cloak: bronze mallard, tied around the hook

Front hackle: long-fibred cock hackle dyed Fiery Brown

Lovely rich dark brown cape

This colour is called Coachman Brown in the states


The finished fly, just nededing a lick of varnish on the head

Since this fly has only just been dreamt up I can’t say if it will be a success but it looks good and inspires confidence in me. It may need a bit more ‘tinkering’ to get it exactly right and I am already thinking along the lines of a red head formed of more Globrite floss as an additional trigger point. I will let you know if this one does work later on when the weather has settled down again.

North West view

Lough Mask, the new dabbler should work well here

Plans are afoot to launch a couple of boats this weekend and I’ll post some pics if we make it out tomorrow or Sunday.


Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Beltra boat maintenance

One of the tasks to be undertaken each winter is to sand and varnish the woodwork on the fleet of angling boats for the Glenisland Coop. The way we manage this work is to identify the scruffiest boats and leaving those ones inside the boathouse to dry out over the winter. The rest of boats are overturned and left outside, propped up to prevent them getting too wet. The boathouse can accommodate 4 boats so that is the size of the task for the committee members to attack. Four boats doesn’t sound like much but that equates to a fair old bit of rubbing down and painting!


Over the past two weeks we have been hard at it in the evenings tidying up the boats in readiness for the coming season. Even just getting into the car park proved a challenge as the rains had lifted the level in the lake to the point where the water was in the car park itself.


None of the boats required any structural maintenance, just a thorough sanding and a couple of coats of varnish. The point of keeping them inside the boathouse is to let the woodwork dry out completely over the winter. Damp wood is useless and any varnish you apply to wet timber will peel off in no time at all.


Nice and dry


This seat could use a lick!


Another one of John Paddy’s boats


Sanding completed, it is time to start work with the brushes


Varnished boats

The next time you hire a club boat for a day on the lake remember the hours of sanding and painting that went into keeping these boats in good condition. As with all angling clubs, there is a lot of work which goes on behind the scenes by a small group of dedicated individuals. I think I have said before in this blog that I am not really a ‘club fishermen’. I prefer to just get up and go fishing at the drop of a hat, selecting the times which I feel are going to be the most rewarding. Organised days, set fishing times and competition rules are not really my thing. But the Glenisland Coop is an excellent club run by genuinely good people with only the best interests of Lough Beltra at heart. A few hours here and there of my free time to help out on jobs like this are no loss. And of course there is always plenty of craik and banter going on too.


That’s better!


This high water should have helped the kelts to drop back downstream


Not long now until 20th March and start of the 2017 season


Later…………Some more pics here from the Beltra FB page:


Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

After the rain

The rain finally stopped last week and the rivers have been slowly dropping back to more reasonable levels. I had a look at the Robe last weekend but she was over the banks and in the fields in most places so there was no chance of fishing. Today was a beautiful spring day though and so I fired up the old VW, put some CCR on the CD player and headed off in search of my first trout of 2017.


High, coloured water

My initial look at the river was last Sunday when the rain was still falling. At Hollymount the Robe was charging under the bridge, a full five feet above normal level. Familiar runs and pools were invisible under the brown torrent.


Last weekend, near flood conditions on the Robe

I elected to fish a few miles above Hollymount today, an area I know well having fished for many years now. I had my eye on one particular pool which usually fishes in high water conditions. Parking up near a bridge I took a look at the water before starting to fish. The levels were certainly down, by the look of the banks some 3 feet lower than a week ago, but the river was still highly coloured. With an air temperature of 15 degrees and bright sunshine it felt like there should be some fly life on the water. I tackled up deep it thought about what to try.

This particular stretch features some nice runs and pools but most of them fish best a little later in the season and in lower water so I marched of down the bank to get to the slower water about a mile down river. The local farmers had been busy erecting new electric fences. It’s a feature of this part of the world that fences are placed as close to the edge of the river as possible, making it hard for us fishers to access the bank without the unpleasantness of occasional electric shocks. I have lost count of the number of those horrible numbing shocks I have had over the years as I tried to negotiate fences.


Electric fences; oh how I hate these things!

I initially set up with a weighted Hare’s Ear on the tail and a Plover and Hare’s ear on a dropper and fished them down and across. This is a good combination for searching the water normally but today it only seemed to interest small trout. My first of the season took at the very lip of a pool where the water gathered pace and shallowed. At only 6 or 7 inches it was little more than a baby but at least I had broken my duck.


The first of the season.

A couple of other similar sized lads fell for the charms of the weighted Hare’s Ear too but the sport could hardly be described as hectic. I found a grassy bank to sit on and thought about what was going on around me.


The beaded hare’s ear

With high water and a strong flow it felt like my flies were not getting down deep enough for the fish to see them. No flies were hatching despite the lovely weather so any action should have been happening on or very close to the bottom. A change to deeply fished nymphs seemed to be a logical option.


I can’t for the life of me remember where I got those fancy green beads from but they sure work

A pair of tungsten bead weighted nymphs fished below an indicator was soon rigged up. With my failing eyesight the use of an indicator has sadly become a necessity for me these days. Anyway, on the fourth or fifth cast the indicator stabbed forwards and another smallish trout was duly landed. By now it was becoming very warm indeed and the sun beat down from near cloudless skies.


I worked my way back upstream, fishing hard and with my eyes glued to that indicator. I covered the water carefully and methodically, fanning my casts out across the pool and only when I had covered every inch would I take another step upstream and repeat the process. Being so limited to the amount of fishable water I had to ensure I didn’t miss a single piece of it. Halfway up the pool my indicator gave what I can only describe as a small stutter in its progress back towards me and I struck with a sweep of the rod and a sharp pull on the line with my left hand. The hook found lodgement and a better fish charged off and leaped clear of the brown water.


Maybe a couple of ounces over the pound

Safely netted and returned, I took stock of the situation and elected to call it a day. The afternoon had flown by, fish had been landed and there was no signs of any flies. The river was far from at its best and I felt that I could fish on for another hour without much improvement in conditions. Enough for one day!


Spring at last

Spring days like these are treasures. Just to be out on the river bank as the warmth and life returns to the land is something not to be missed. There will be better days in the near future but for now I drank in the views across the Mayo countryside and happily walked back to the bridge and the waiting car. With the gear safely tucked in the back I turned the key and pressed ‘play’. The Fogerty lads were singing ‘Up around the bend’ which was more than appropriate for the day that was in it.