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

Happily married

Fashions change. Clothes which were de-rigour only a few short months ago now languish in a bin liner awaiting the next trip to the charity shop. This is not always a bad thing, those ridiculous flared trousers of my own youth are not mourned (and no, there is no photographic evidence of me so attired).

It’s the same with flies, yesterday’s killer patterns fade away into obscurity, their past successes quickly forgotten and their place in the fly box now occupied with the latest poly/glitzy/foamy killer. A Luddite at heart, I find this sad and I like to fish with the old patterns  from time to time. As you all know, I love simple spider patterns made of little more than a hackle, real silk thread and maybe a pinch of fur. The recent resurgence in interest in the old spiders has been both heart-warming and instructive. As more anglers tied and use the spiders the more their versatility become apparent and the range of applications where the can be effectively used broadened significantly.

Now let me float an idea past you. I think some of the old, mixed wing patterns deserve an occasional swim. Yes I know they are time-consuming to tie. I get the disappointment when, after only a couple of fish the wings are reduced to a mangled shambles. I certainly empathise with you all when that damn thread snaps just as you are tightening it down to secure the oh-so-carefully built wings in position. Surely those built wings are only for show at fly tying competitions these days? Well I beg to differ. I love using mixed winged flies and at times they can be pretty good at tempting the fish. Would a modern fly catch more fish? Probably, but that’s not the whole story. Keeping traditions alive in our sport is a good thing in my book.

I don’t have boxes full of patterns by Kelson nor do I possess a range of exotic feathers garnered from nearly extinct species. Just a few pairs of dyed swan of goose, available from Veniard at very little cost, that’s all you require. That and some imagination goes a long way to creating some variations of standard flies. So here are a couple of patterns to test your tying skills and add some tradition to a corner of your fly box.

Let’s start with a pattern for brown trout. The Welshman’s Button has been copied so many times over the years that you could tie on a different fly every day of the season and still not use them all. I use this one on days when there is a high wind and a good wave on the loughs. I would wager that is no use at all in a flat calm but, a rolling wave hides many indiscretions and this lad does the business in a force 5 or above.

Hook: I like a size 10

Tail: a golden pheasant topping dyed red or orange

Tying silk: Olive

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Body: make this from golden olive seals fur

Body hackles: a golden olive and a red cock hackle palmered together

Throat hackle: Natural blue jay

Underwing: paired slips of Woodcock secondary

Overwing: matching slips of green, yellow and orange swan or goose (in that order from the bottom).

Keep the slips of swan or Goose narrow and don’t hide the Woodcock. Does this fly look like some sort of winged Golden Olive – yes, I think it does, but no harm in that.

Now we will take a look at a pattern for sea trout. The faithful old Teal, Blue and Silver is an excellent fly for fresh trout. After a day or two in the river though they begin to lose their rashness and with each successive day they grow more and more wary. This variation is something I tied up many years ago to chuck at sea trout when the TB&S begins to lose its charm and it still catches sea trout to this day.

Hook: from a size 6 all the way down to as small as you think you can tie!

Tail: GP tippets

Rib: fine silver wire

Body: flat silver tinsel

Hackle: bright green cock hackle, slightly long in fibre

Wings: Yellow, green and blue swan or goose. Teal over the swan, not too much though, you don’t want to hide your handiwork! I tie the wing slightly on the long side too.

Cheeks: Jungle Cock (optional)

hackle, tail, rib and tinsel have all been tied in and the silk returned to a little behind the eye

the green hackle has now been wound


3 colours of goose


the slips of goose cut and laid out ready to be married


The goose positioned on top of the hook and tied in with a soft loop


Narrow slips of teal on each side then a whip finish…………

Swapping the green hackle for the Cambridge blue one and adding the married swan creates a lovely fly, one which the sea trout seem to appreciate. Here in the west of Ireland the sea trout tend to be small and you must accept that your lovely creation will be well and truly ‘flittered’ by small lads in no time at all. But this pattern, nestled in the scissors of a 3 pounder is a thing of untold beauty, so persevere with it.

Not convinced yet? Imagine this – it’s winter, outside the wind batters the windows and the driving rain/hail/snow makes any thoughts of venturing outside seem like insanity. The fire is on in your fishing den, it’s warm in here and the bright light illuminates the bare hook in your vice. There may be a whisky in a tumbler within reach or possible just a strong coffee freshly brewed in your favourite mug. The door is shut, barring the rest of the world and you have a precious hour to yourself. 60 minutes to indulge in your guilty pleasure of fly tying. Now wouldn’t you rather spent some time lovingly crafting a beautiful married wing pattern or just whipping a piece of plastic/foam/glitz to the shank of that hook? I know which I would rather make!




Fishing in Ireland, Uncategorized

Sunday in Mayo

No fishing (again). The weather has been settled for weeks now with no rain to speak of. The rivers have been reduced to shrunken rivulets and the salmon are still out at sea waiting for the weather to change. So today we went for a walk on the beach to make the best of the fine weather.

The Carrownisky is a small spate river which enters the sea at a strand of the same name. A ‘strand’ in Ireland is a beach, this one is a particularly fine example of a sandy beach. It is popular with surfers as it faces almost exactly due west and so gets some surf even in calm conditions.

We parked up on the high shingle bank near the surfers and walked along the firm sand under brilliant sunshine. These Atlantic beaches are inhospitable places and the only life we saw were a few sandpipers and an energetic Ringed Plover who ran along in front of us. The views across to Clare island and the far off Innish Turk were jaw-droppingly spectacular. Afraid my photo’s don’t do it justice.

We walked as far as the point where the Carrownisky River flows into the sea. The tide was dropping and the paltry flow from the river all but vanished into the gravel. It was easy to see why no salmon were able to run the river now.

The Carrownisky emptying into the Atlantic. It is ankle deep here

Helen beside the shrunken Carrownisky

The lake is in the distance.

The Reek in the background

It’s hard to believe looking at these photographs that the Carrownisky can be a fine little river on it’s day. A summer spate can see salmon run the river and the flats above the lake seem to hold them for a while and gives the angler a chance of a fish or two. The sea pool is also worth a few casts but it fishes better from the other side and access is an issue in high water.

The Sea Pool.

As for flies for this river you just need something small and dark. The best of the fishing is always on dark, windy days and a size 10 or 12 with plenty of black in it’s make up will do the business.

But today was all about the sun and the fresh air. We walked back to the car, chatting and taking in the views. The neoprene clad surfers dotted the waves near the car park, it was a day for their sport, not mine. Louisburg was quiet, despite the lovely day so we drove on to Murrisk where we stopped to take in the views from the foot of Croagh Patrick. Neither of us felt energetic enough to tackle the Reek today so we settled for a quick drink in Campbells fine establishment instead.

At the foot of the Reek

The well worn path up the reek

Let’s hope there is some rain this week, I am itching to get the rod out again!

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

That Black Sedge I was on about…..

I mentioned this fly in passing in my last post so I figured you might like the dressing. I know it annoys me when people allude to specific flies then don’t tell you how they are made! I make a couple of different versions, one wet and one floater, to cope with different conditions. Let me be very clear, this is not a fly for ever day use. My experience of this one is a dismal failure on most waters but just occasionally it works and when it does it works very well indeed. So tie up a couple and tuck them away in a corner of a fly box, you never know………….

Let’s start with the wet version. Size is important, the naturals are not big, so a size 14  is about right. Maybe in your part of the world there are larger black or very dark sedges and you could risk going up one or two sizes. I like to use a Kamasan B175 for the extra strength that hook provides. The waters where I find this fly works hold large browns, so that little bit of extra metal gives me some degree of security in the heat of battle.


magpie tail feathers for the wings

Tying silk is purple or crimson. I form the body with rabbit or moles fur which has been dyed black. I have been known to add a small gold tag before winding the body but I seriously doubt if that additional effort is appreciated by the fish. The wing is made from matching slips of crow secondaries or you can use magpie tail just as well. The hackle is a couple of turns of black hen tied in front of the wing.

the body is formed of dyed black fur

The finished wet fly.

The dry pattern is very similar but I add two CDC feathers dyed dark grey as an underwing. This gives both a better shape to the wing and at the same time increases the floatation qualities of the fly. The black hen hackle is replaced with a short fibred cock hackle of the same colour and I give it at least 4 turns to increase ‘buzz’ effect.

here are the paired CDC feathers being tied in over the back of the dry pattern

The dry version