Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Gone for good

lovely small grilse÷

It is never a good sound. Sometimes it is a loud, alarming crack, sometimes it’s a grating, snapping sound and then again it can be a deadly, barely audible ‘phut’. However it manifests itself the noise of your rod breaking is disturbing and emotional. We anglers grow so attached to those lengths of carbon fibre in a way which must seem very weird to normal, non-fishing folks.

My 10’6 Hardy has gone west. It broke at the top joint when casting the other day. It was a strange one as I wasn’t casting a long line or dragging a fast sinker from the murky depths at the time. Just flicking 15 yards casts with a floating line should not have stressed the old rod in any way, shape or form. But it did and with a soft sigh the venerable old girl became two useless, raggedy ended pieces of high tech tubing. She will be sorely missed.

this one was around 7 pounds

I bought that rod when I was living in London and fishing trips were rare events. It had it’s first outing on the Aberdeenshire Don one fine May day. Quarter-of-an-hour after I first set it up I was playing a ten pound salmon and by the end of the day a 12 pounder had been added to the tally. You quickly fall in love with a rod that delivers the goods so dramatically! A red letter day at Bewl followed with fiesty rainbows bending that Hardy into a hoop in a strong cross wind on the southern shore.

Soon after that day it was time to pack up my goods a chattels and head back to Eire and that’s when the rod really came into action. I had bought with the intention of using it as a grilse and heavy lough trout rod and here in the west of Ireland it has excelled in both roles.

2 pounder from Mask

A two pounder from Lough Mask, one of many that fell to the old Hardy 10’6

Many’s the day I wielded that rod on Loughs Mask, Conn and Beltra, not to mention Carrowmore Lake and most of the salmon rivers in Mayo. Paired with AFTM 7 lines it could handle most anything I threw at it and it was my ‘go to’ rod for an awful lot of my fishing. Like an old friend it was there when I needed it and demanded nothing in return other than an annual clean and overhaul. A whipping had to be re-tied here and there and a small hole in the handle had to be filled before it grew into a crater, but otherwise it was a great tool. I landed 5 fresh grilse one hectic September day on it. Then there was the epic battle with a dark seven pounder hooked on the very lip of a pool that dragged me around for a full ten minutes before I could gain control. The rod doubled, the wind sang though the line and the reel screeched that day I can tell you! Memories…………………

Number 2 of 5

one of the 5

I examined the damage, thinking there may be a repair of some sort which would get the old girl back into use, but no, the crack is too long and far too much would need to be cut off for any repair. I guess I could badger Hardy for a replacement section but my heart isn’t in it. No, I will save some pennies and buy a new rod. I’m contemplating something radically different but I’ll take my time before deciding to part with any cash. For now, the old rod has gone, gone for good.

Here is the wonderful Samantha Fish with a great blues number called (appropriately enough) Gone for good.

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Difficult day

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

The good news is that there are fresh salmon running into Lough Conn. The bad news is they resisted all efforts to winkle them out today! My excuse for the day is the wind, or should I say the almost total lack of it. Overhead conditions were excellent with good cloud cover, some light showers and occasional bursts of sunshine. The water was well up in the lake and fresh water was still pouring in from every stream and river. It should have been a red-letter day but the wind stubbornly refused to blow.

Rain heading our way, Lough Conn August 2017

Rain heading our way

Justin and his son Laurie were out with me today. They are no strangers to Mayo but this was their first time on Lough Conn so I was extra keen to find them some fish. The flat calm which greeted us meant we were forced to kick off trolling hardware over the usual well-known salmon lies along the western shoreline. Spoons fluttered enticingly through the shallows but the salmon remained absent until we approached Massbrook Point were some silver lads started to splash and jump. I only got a good look at one of these fish and it was bright and silvery, a fresh grilse straight in from the sea. I covered the area diligently but we just could not get a response from the fish. By now the day was warming up and I decided to turn around and head for the pole outside Pike Bay. If there were salmon at Massbrook there was every chance some were holed up only a mile or two further along.

Fly life had been non-existent until we started to motor back along the shore. Sedges, mainly Cinnamon but with a few Green Peters and Welshman’s Buttons began to hatch. I expected to see some surface action from the trout but only a couple of brownies broke the glassy surface in the distance. We hunkered down for the long troll back, following the edge of the deep water and trying to avoid the rampant weed beds which are now a feature of the lough.

The faintest of breezes, coming out of the North, got up around 3pm and so we pulled in to set up the fly rods. After the briefest of casting lessons (break the wrist and remember to pause between the back and forward casts) we set off  again, leaders adorned with small salmon flies. Some grilse showed close to the shore and I was sure our time was coming but the very next drift saw the meagre wind dissipate completely. Virtually becalmed now, we flogged on, the only tugs on the line coming from the underwater vegetation. In the end we gave up and trolled back to the berth, fishless.

Today was an example of how conditions beat us fishers. A steady wind could have transformed the day but instead we were always chasing the ripple. I felt bad for Justin and Laurie, they fished hard and really deserved a fish or two. Could we have tried something different? I had considered switching to the dry fly at one point in the afternoon. I’ve had success on difficult days in the past by switching to small dries fish delicately in the shallows but this is pretty technical fishing requiring good stalking skills and pinpoint casting accuracy. I just felt that today we had a better chance on smallish spoons and Rapalas, covering a lot of ground rather than hammering one spot.

Even a leggy Claret Bumble didn't work

Even a leggy Claret Bumble didn’t work

In the end we had to admit defeat and retired for the day after 5pm. At least we had seen some salmon moving and that always engenders hope. The reasonable hatch of sedges was also an encouraging sign, especially since hatches have been so poor so far this season. I hope the lads come back again next year and we get better conditions. As for me, I want to head down to the salt water next trip……………………..

Fishing in Ireland

Baling out the boat

After a very dry spring and early summer the long-awaited rains arrived a few weeks ago and there have been periods of showers and heavier rain since then. Rivers have flowed again and water levels in the loughs have risen accordingly. This is good news for salmon and salmon fishers and catches have improved as the grilse run finally got underway. I am bringing some visitors out on lough Conn to try their luck tomorrow so today I nipped up to see how the boat was after recent rain.

Unless you own a boat it is unlikely you spend much time thinking about the basics of looking after a craft. If you hire a boat for a day’s fishing you simply rock up and drive off across the lake. It is different if you have your own boat though and here in Ireland we have to be constantly aware of water levels, wind strength/direction and of course the rainfall. Most fishers leave their boat on the side of the lough rather than haul it out and take it home after each outing. Back in Scotland it was common to see covers stretched over boats to prevent them filling with water but that is  a very rare sight here in Ireland. Instead we accept that rain will fall and fill our boats and that we then go to empty out the water. That menial task was my lot for this morning.

It’s August now and the foliage around the berth for the boat is lush again. Car parked, I donned waders and grabbed an old bucket from the back of the car. As suspected, the lough had risen and the boat was afloat but she contained many gallons of rain water. The air was alive with buzzing insects and the trees were laced with hundreds of spiders webs. The sense of ‘life’ was all around and it felt good just to be out in the fresh air again.

half full of water

half full of water


Baling or ‘teeming’ a boat is a simple case of filling the bucket and tossing the contents over the side. I know you can buy small pumps to do the job but hey, what is a little exercise? I waded along the side of the boat and started the rhythmical dip, fill, toss.


Helen had come along for the spin so she snapped some photos of me in action. I checked the mooring and because the water level had come up I had to re-position the boat nearer to the bank. Dragging her back, I shortened the chain to keep her from drifting out again. Then the light line I use to tie her to the post had to be re-positioned too. You need to leave some slack as the water could rise or fall, leading to the boat tipping over if tied too tightly.

safely chained up again

safely chained up again

I guess all of this took about 15 minutes, not much out a weekend but a very necessary task to ensure the boat was afloat and undamaged for the next time I wanted to use it. Caring for the boat, looking after the old outboard engines and the 101 other minor tasks of maintenance and repair are all part of the bigger picture of angling for me. I would not get the same enjoyment from the sport if I just walked up to to a river bank and started to fish. The ‘nuts and bolts’ of the sport are just as important to me as the physical catching of the fish. Getting my hands dirty fixing boats/engines or other items of gear add meaning to the whole sport for me. The few minutes standing at the edge of a lough heaving buckets of water may look like a basic, menial chore but it was part of the fabric of angling in the West of Ireland.


We drove into Ballina for a bite of late breakfast and while there I wandered down to the bridge to check on the Ridge pool on the Moy. Sure enough, the river was up but in good order, perfect for salmon to run. High water is bad news for the Ridge pool as the salmon can run through the fast water at ‘the boxes’ unhindered. The Ridge fishes best during periods of sustained low water when it simply fills with salmon and grilse as they wait for the rains. But the river is up today and I fully expect there will be fresh grilse in Lough Conn tomorrow.

looking up the Ridge pool

looking up the Ridge pool

a lone angler worming on the ridge

Let’s hope the fish are in responsive mood tomorrow!