dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Old school on the Keel

Sunday morning:

No wind. Not even a faint zephyr. Glassy surfaces on the loughs meaning every cast causes fish scaring ripples. The thought of a day spent chasing corduroy ripples across the vastness of Lough Conn did not appeal so I demurred on my planned visit to the Massbrook shoreline. I needed a plan ‘B’ so I made some coffee and mulled the options. Recent rains have enlivened the rivers and there seem to be a few salmon in the River Moy. The problem is that a weekend day on the Moy after a rise in water levels attracts anglers in their hundreds. Health and Safety professionals would have a heart attack seeing quantities of sharpened treble hooks being flung around with so little regard for human flesh. Pushing through crowds of rod wielding fishers is both unproductive and testing. I can find little in the way of relaxation when confronted with lines of anglers casting into the pools. Sure fish will be caught but when the river is so busy I’d rather toddle off to somewhere less infested.

Wickhams

The river Robe saw some much-needed water and this will have livened up the local trout population no doubt. Half way through June means the BWO hatches will be in full swing and there is every chance of some hectic sport as the westering sun dips below the Partry hills. A possibility…….

The Keel Canal. This enigmatic stretch of unlikely looking water is also on my radar at this time of year. The main road from Ballinrobe to Castlebar (N84) crosses the Keel and the visitor could easily miss it. The channel is narrow and straight. Reeds crowd the banks where the water exits Lough Carra and these give way to high banks for the rest of the passage to Lough Mask. Its crystal clear water is populated with wild trout equipped with telescopic eyesight. If you enjoy a challenge then the Keel canal is ready to provide it both in terms of technical difficulty and the potential size of the quarry. I have landed trout to nearly 5 pounds here and lost fish that have simply disappeared at the end of scintillating runs, leaving me shaking and awestruck at their power. Yes, I think I will hit the Keel this evening. Fist though, I need to get the right gear together.

The most important piece of equipment every angler needs for an evening’s trout fishing in Ireland is insect repellent. Don’t even think of venturing out on the river bank without some. Trillions of biting midges are out there waiting for your succulent blood. Failure to prepare accordingly will ruin your fishing, so invest in some good insect repellent and apply liberally.

Leaders need to be made up too. I generally don’t make up leaders ahead of time as I have had experience of catastrophic failures when using old casts with all the strength of cotton thread. But an evening on the Keel requires quick changes in the darkness, so I want to keep knots to a minimum. 5x casts for earlier on and some 6 pound mono ones for the sedge fishing in the dark.

my Ginger Sedge

Normally I get by with very few patterns, especially dry flies. An Adams, a small red sedge, a red spinner – I’d be pretty confident if I only had these three in my box for ‘normal’ dry fly fishing on Irish rivers. The Keel is different though and the fish seem to switch quickly between different food forms, meaning you have to keep watching and adjusting your approach constantly. One pattern I have used to good effect is a small dry Black Sedge. I have tried this pattern elsewhere with a conspicuous lack of success, but on the Keel it works and occasionally works extremely well. I tied this fly up after seeing a trout feeding on the naturals one evening a few years ago. We have all seen those small dark/black sedges in large numbers dancing over the surface but the trout steadfastly ignore them. I have read about this and my own observations concurred that the fish simply did not like these insects, until I clearly saw that fish on the Keel chomping them.

My plan is simple, arrive on the water around 8pm and await developments, possibly amusing myself by targeting roach on tiny nymphs until the trout come on the feed. Fish into the darkness with dries until I can’t see them and switch to skating sedges. It is like a game of two halves; the first is sight fishing, casting to specific trout on a short line. The second half is completely different, inky blackness enveloping you, listening intently for the noise of a rising fish and directing your casts accordingly. The big lads come out to play once the sun has completely set so the excitement is cranked up a few notches knowing any take is liable to be from a monster.

Sunday evening:

The day, which had started dull and overcast but very warm, had blossomed into a glorious summer’s afternoon. We went to Westport, had a bite to eat and enjoyed the grand weather. I had some things to do around the house and it was nearly 9pm before I hit the road. As I was setting up at the roadside an old work colleague stopped for a chat and so it was gone 10pm before I cast my first line.

very low water on the Keel

The air was alive with flies, buzzers, some empherid spinners and a host of small sedges. I fished dry with spinner patterns and took some small trout off the top. Although the fish were small this was very challenging fishing as the flow moved around constantly, making drag a huge problem. I missed dozens, pricked a good few and half-a-dozen or so came to hand.

small but still hard to catch!

Eventually I decided to change to sedges as they seemed to be by far the most numerous species on the wing. My Ginger Sedge occupied the dropper position while a size 14 Wickham’s Fancy was attached to the end of the leader. I dropped down to the lower pool and on the very first cast hooked a nice trout.

a good fish on the Wickham

The Wickhams was buried in his scissors. Fishing out the pool proved to be unproductive so I went back upstream to find the surface pock-marked with rising trout. Great sport ensued as fish hurled themselves at the flies I dragged over them. None were massive but each was welcome in this season of poor fortunes. By now it was getting pretty dark so once again I sauntered down stream and combed the lower pool with the cast of two.

The take, when it came, was the stuff of fishing dreams. Out of nowhere the line tightened as the surface broke. All the slack I was holding vanished in the blink of an eye and the reel gave a screech. The rod bent as out there in the darkness a hefty trout dashed for cover. It didn’t jump but I reckon it tried very other trick in the trouts repertoire. I stumbled across some large limestone boulders to gain a landing spot on a narrow gravel bar, unhitching my net as I went. The landing went according to plan and a fine fish slid over the rim and into the mesh.

I was in a hurry to get this lad back into the water so I am afraid the photos do not do him justice. This was a fine fish of perhaps a couple of pounds, beautifully marked and the shape of a rugby ball. And the successful fly? That old school Wickham’s again!

I fished on for a bit more but without any further success. The midges were beginning to bite despite my insect repellent (why do they always bite my ears?) and I had work in the morning so I called it a day and negotiated  the meadow between the river and the car accompanied by numerous bats enjoying a midnight feast. I mulled the events of the evening as I drove home. I had done OK but I should have done better. My ratio of fish risen to landed was very poor. As it used to say on my school reports ‘Colin can do better’

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

A quiet day on Conn

Saturday, 21.30 hrs: The modern version of jungle drums were beating a few minutes ago when I received a text to let me know that 7 or 8 salmon had been seen jumping on Lough Conn earlier today. That makes sense as I know there have been fresh fish running the river Moy for the past 2 weeks now. The gear is already stacked in the hall ready for the morning. I’ll need to buy some petrol for the outboard in the morning but apart from that small chore I will be good to go tomorrow.

Sunday, 6am: I am awake as usual and get up to do some odds and ends around before going fishing. Shirts for next week are ironed, dishes from yesterday evening are washed and dried, the pets, all that sort of thing. the weather looks good today with a stiff breeze out of the south-west and good cloud cover. The occasional showers which passed over Ireland yesterday have gone, leaving damp and cool conditions.

Oasis on the CD player as I drove out the quiet road to Pontoon. I was never really a fan but they had a couple of good tracks so I cranked up the volume and enjoyed the guitars as the green, green countryside slipped past. The boat required a little teeming (is that an Irish word or does everyone use it? Must check dictionary………….) after the recent showers but she was good to go apart from that.

looking south towards Pontoon Bridge from the Massbrook shore

All loaded up, I pushed off and motored around the pin and started drifting across the mouth of Castlehill in a nice 6 inch ripple. Once again, the most obvious problem was the all too evident lack of fly life. No olives, buzzers, peters or mayflies were on the water. with no response to the wets I set up a trolling for and turned her into the stiff wind and chugged down the Massbrook shore, over the salmon lies which I had hoped would be tenanted today.

The drop off (Yes, I know you can hardly see it!)

There is a major drop off which I like to troll over and I tried to capture it for you but as you can see it is not too distinct. On one side of the boat there is about 3 feet of water and the stones on the bottom are clearly visible; look over the other side and you are peering into an abyss, only inky blackness to be seen. here is a great place for pike as the patrol this edge but salmon and trout also favour this border between two worlds.

Cuppa

A nice cup of cinnamon tea kept my spirits up as I ploughed through the waves a couple of hundred yards off the Massbrook shore. Still no flies to be seen and certainly no silvery salmon leaping clear of the water! Trolling is a dull game but it gives you a chance to look around and plan drifts with the fly rod. the wind direction and strength made the lower part of Massbrook a good location to try the fly so I killed the engine and set to it with the 11 footer and a team of three.

A trout rod (#6) and a heavier one for salmon (#8)

I had only dropped the flies over the side at the start of the first drift when it was taken by a small lad of 8 inches. He fell off as I swung him in, saving me the problem of handling an undersized fish. Next cast and a repeat of the same with a similar sized fish. the drift gave me 4 of these small trout but no trace of large game.

other boats were finding fish in the area

I rowed close in for the next drift, dodging occasional rocks with the oar and still catching immature brownies. A bright green bumble was doing most of the damage on the bob. I finished the second drift well out in the main lake as the shallow water here stretches out a fair distance from the shore. Still no signs of salmon though and since it was salmo salar I was really wanting to catch it seemed prudent to go back to trolling again over the usual spots where they lie. I changed to a gold spoon and dragged it 30 yards behind the boat for the next couple of hours in excellent conditions.

boats on the move

Other boats wee constantly coming and going, a sure sign the fishing is hard. I pulled in to stretch my legs at one point and contemplated possible options.

pulled in

The reports of salmon jumping offered only a slight comfort. Once salmon get in to lough Conn there are no barriers to them and within hours they can be anywhere in this large body of water. Most will head right for the mouth of the river Deel and that certainly seemed to be what had happened this week.

40 shades of green

Time always speeds up when I’m fishing and a glance at the phone showed I had better think about starting for home. Still the other boats were dashing too and fro, 15hp engines straining and white wakes snaking across the surface.

flat out

I took a leisurely spin back to Pike Bay and tried a few casts around the pin with the salmon rod but by then my enthusiasm had waned considerably. I pulled the starter cord one last time and motored back to the reed bed where the boat is berthed.

The highlight of the day came on the road back home. Out of the grass on my side of the road, about 50 yards in front of me a Pine Martin appeared. Without even looking in my direction he hopped across the tarmac and disappeared into the trees on the other side. I saw him very clearly and I am positive it was a Martin. It’s unusual to see them in broad daylight like this. It’s great to see these marvelous creatures making a comeback after years of persecution.

Guess what! Teem is a real word after all!

teem2

[teem]
Spell Syllables
verb (used with or without object)
1.

to empty or pour out; discharge.
OriginExpand
1250-1300; Middle English temen < Old Norse tæma to empty, derivativeof tōmr empty, cognate with Old English tōm free from
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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

update from Mayo

Still suffering a serious lack of water here but some showers over the last few days have brought some salmon in at last.

Beltra has produced a few-

https://www.facebook.com/Lough-Beltra-380982678740593/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

The river Moy is seeing some action too with the Ridge and Cathedral beats fishing well and beats right up as far as the East Mayo Anglers water giving both salmon and grilse.

http://www.eastmayoanglers.com/east-mayo-anglers-catch-report-week-ending-28th-may-2017/

The forecast is for more showery weather over the weekend so there are hopes more fish will run. With low water conditions the fly will do well so think small flies and careful wading. Indeed, stay out of the water completely if possible.

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