dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trout fishing

Wish list

It’s all over for 2017 and I am stuck in another hotel room a long way from home, thinking about next season already. It is a nice hotel, comfortable and warm with an excellent menu in the restaurant downstairs. However, it is not home and so it pales when measured against my abode in the west. I’m lucky in that I don’t suffer from loneliness or sink into morbid thoughts when separated from loved ones, instead I use my time to reflect and think about the future. I don’t usually overthink my fishing trips but, maybe on the back of a poor season, I have been contemplating my options for 2018 in an unusual level of detail. Everything will depend on how the gods of work treat me, too little and I will have lots of time but no money while too much work will keep me away from home and with no time to go fishing. I need to jot down where i want to go. I need to write a list!

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I guess my train of thought is neatly divided along geographical lines. Irish angling will obviously be uppermost in any plans but I’m going to wet a line in Scotland too. So let’s take a look at the possibilities which I currently have under review.

Angling for salmon starts early over here with a handful of rivers opening on 1st January. The Drowes is close by, only a bit over an hour’s drive from home. The opening week sees large numbers of fishers descending on this river in an attempt to catch the first salmon of the season. Crowded banks are not my idea of fun but I may just venture up there for a change of scene. Much of the fishing is worming or spinning but there are some nice stretches for the fly and I like the idea of clearing away the cobwebs and casting an early line there.

the Drowes has some good fly water

The River Robe failed to produce the goods last Spring but horrendously low water levels ruined any chances of success. Undeterred, I will return to the banks around Claremorris in March and April when the stoneflies and olives should be hatching. Daffodils and bird song, the greening grass in the fields, the nip still in the air that turns your breath to silver in the early morning all combine to form the unmistakable feeling that winter is over and spring has arrived. The excitement of those initial casts, those first tugs of a small trout as the team of spiders swing in the current, sloshing though the shallows to cross at a ford, munching a sandwich with the sun on your face – all the immensely enjoyable minutia of a day on an Irish river. Happiness!

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite springtime stretch

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite stretch in the springtime

If time allows I want to go back to Scotland in April. The fourth month of the year was always a lucky one for me for both trout and salmon. I cannot recall the last time I cast a line in Scotland during the month of April, 1996 seems to be most likely but I can’t honestly say it was with any sense of certainty. It was a heck of a long time ago anyway! If there has been some rain there should be a few salmon in the middle beats of the Aberdeenshire Don and even if it has been dry the trout will be feeding hard in anything but an east wind. The beats around Alford offer some wonderful fly water and if time allows I’d love to squeeze in a long weekend tramping the banks of the river where I learned to fish.

The middle Don and a fishy looking pool

 

I’ve not fished the mayfly properly for a couple of seasons now. I used to adore Lough Carra when the greendrakes were hatching but those days are firmly in the past now. Carra has not fished well for many seasons, despite some very good anglers giving a nostalgic try every year. The quantity of fly life has diminished alarmingly. Trout need to compete with the gulls for even hatching olives, let alone mayflies. Any trout still living in the lake keep their heads well down and those lovely, long rolling waves that you get on a windy day above on Carra still don’t attract the fish to the surface. I seriously doubt if I will bother with Carra next season unless the local ‘jungle drums’ tell me it has turned the corner.

Moorehall bay on Carra

Boats in Moorhall, Lough Carra

Most anglers would plump for the mighty Corrib for mayfly fishing but for me that hallowed water is principally a dapper’s paradise. I used to keep a boat in Salthouse bay at the northern end of the Corrib and learned to find my way around that part of the lake. I caught some nice trout on wets and dries but the real leviathans succumbed to other anglers using dapped naturals. I can’t explain why I don’t dap. I know how to do it, where and when to do it and yet I don’t bother. The dapping rod, reel and thick, unruly floss line, the wooden live bait box and even the little scoop for netting live flies from the surface for bait all nestle in a corner of the room, unloved and unused. Barring some sort of ‘road to Damascus’ moment I doubt if I’ll dap this coming season.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay, lough Mask

So for me it will be lough Mask for the mayfly. It will feel as if I am being unfaithful to my first love, Lough Conn, but Mask is a terrific fishery and I have missed drifting the shallows in a brisk wind. I lived in Ballinrobe when I returned to Ireland and spent many happy hours getting to know where (and where not) you can motor and drift. The boat picked up a few scars after encounters with unseen rocks but the rewards were many. These days much of the fishing on Mask is carried out over the deeps, pulling a team of wets on sinking lines. I’m not a fan of this type of fishing, effective though it undoubtedly is. I find it very hard to justify this disinterest as it looks to the untrained eye very similar to salmon fishing – combing the water with sinking lines and a team of flies. No signs of fish, just the rolling waves and the rhythm of casting. I love days like that on the salmon loughs but quickly succumb to boredom if the speckled lads are my quarry. So I must make time in late May or early June to fish the Mask, drifting the craggy shallows of the Rocky Shore or around the islands.

The mouth of the canal on Lough Mask

At some point during the summer I want to take the road south and motor down to the Kingdom of Kerry. Many, many years ago I fished down that way and it would be nice to try my luck in the salty waters around Dingle again. The only trouble is the holidaymakers are there in droves during the summer months and accommodation is hard to find and damn expensive when you do locate a B&B. Who knows, maybe I’ll camp instead, just like I did all those years ago when I rode a motorbike from Aberdeen to Fenit, pitched the tent near the pier and caught a bass on the second cast! There used to be some good Wrasse fishing from the shore too as I recall. That sport has completely changed nowadays with the advent of LRF.

When I practised wrasse fishing it was with a sliding float and lugworm for bait. I tried all kinds of other baits, especially crab which seemed to be the most logical choice, but lugworm out-fished everything else for me and the sight of the float disappearing into the depths as another big Ballan swallowed the hook was always a huge thrill.  Yes, Kerry would be nice for a change of scene.

my mate Chris with a shore caught Wrasse

I love the autumn. It is by far my favourite season. I am keen on returning to Scotland again to try for a late season salmon on one of the smaller back end rivers. Finding reasonable and affordable water on the Tweed or Tay is difficult but the Deveron used to see good autumn runs and rods were often available without having to win the lottery. So next October I am planning on a short trip to the Turriff area to try for a big back-ender. Many years ago I lost a huge salmon further upstream on the Huntly water. That brute turned and ran down through three pools before the hook pulled out. It was the last of three fish I had on in the space of a few hours and none of them made it to the bank. Sometimes it’s just not your day. I find the Deveron is a nice size, not too poky and yet not overly large and intimidating. Getting back to Scotland twice in one year is very definitely pushing my luck but this is a wish list so October on the Deveron has been pencilled in.

The Devervon near Rothiemay

2017 was an unmitigated angling disaster for me, mainly because work got in the way of time off. It was a poor season for many and maybe I didn’t miss much but I would rather have a poor day on the riverbank than a good day at work. So there is my wish list, I will review it in 12 month’s time see what I did and did not manage to achieve.

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

A Claret Shrimp

Storm Brian is blowing a hooley outside so it felt like a good afternoon to tie up a few flies. I was in Ballina earlier and the Moy is huge and brown, barrelling under the town’s bridges in welter of foam and debris.

The high water got me thinking about the colour of patterns I like when the loughs are dirty. For me that means either black or claret. I possess an embarrassment of black patterns (way more than I need) and I guess there are enough claret ones in the box too. However, there is always room for a new fly and a claret shrimp seemed to be what was potentially lacking among the serried ranks in the salmon fly box.

On Lough Beltra I have a liking for a fly with an orange tail, something with a bit of movement but not so soft that it will tangle around the hook bend when fishing in a high wind. Bucktail fitted the bill nicely and I added just a pair of strands of gold flashabou as well. This is a material which seems to have dropped out of fashion as every more fancy ‘flashy’ plastics have hit the market. Us anglers are like magpies and any new material which is brighter than the old one gets added to our concoctions. I like flat Flashabou, it has proved it’s worth to me over the years so I stick to it, especially the gold one. It is a rich, deep golden colour (or at least the ancient hank I currently own is).

Tag under the tail

Under the tail I wound a number of turns of oval gold tinsel. Why bother? Well, the oval tinsel makes the tail ‘sit up’ slightly and helps to prevent the tail wrapping the hook in use.

This fly was always going to be a shrimp style pattern so the rear body was made of flat gold tinsel with an oval gold rib for protection from the fish’s teeth. I tie in the rib at the tail then run the tying silk up to the place where the middle hackle will be tied. There I catch in the flat tinsel and wind that down to the tail and back again over itself. This gives a neat body with no gaps in it. Three tight, open wraps of the oval gold complete that part of the fly.

The middle hackle is a claret cock hackle, doubled. About three turns is right. Tie in more oval gold tinsel for ribbing the front half of the body then dun the red silk with bright claret seal’s fur. Form the front body by winding he dubbed silk forward, leaving enough room at the eye for the cheeks and head hackle. Rib with the oval tinsel.

My stock of Jungle Cock is tragically low. In fairness it has been years since I invested in a neck and all I have left now is a few scraps of capes with virtually all the useful sizes of ‘eyes’ long since gone. Shuffling through packets contained within the sad little box marked ‘JC’ I found two decidedly moth-eaten feathers of the dimensions required for this size six fly. One was applied to each side of the hook before adding a long-fibred claret hen hackle at the head. A small head and a whip finish were all that was left to finish of  and, Viola!

The finished fly

As with all Irish shrimp patterns this one is almost certainly already in existence and has been named something like the ‘Ballina claret and gold shrimp’. I like the look of it, it seems well balanced and not too dark. I dressed this particular one on a standard size 6 hook but I’ll make more on smaller sizes, right down to size 14’s

There are some large feathers in a jar on the fly tying desk which I feel the need to use up! Macaw, GP tails, peacock and dyed Pheasant tail. Time to get tying again!

Heavy flow through the Ridge pool in Ballina

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, wetfly

Octopus variation for you to tie

Born here in the west of Ireland, the original Octopus has spawned a huge number of variations, some more effective than others. Very much in the camp of ‘pulling’ patterns, these bright concoctions do good work over deep water when the browns gather is loose shoals. That is not to say they don’t catch trout in other conditions and many angers swear by them during the mayfly. Here is a wee variant fresh from the vice.

Hook: a size 10 or 12 heavy wet fly hook, something like the good old Kamasan B175

Silk: fl. yellow 6/0 or 8/0

Tail: Globrite no. 10 or 11 with a couple of strands of pearl flash

Tag: Mirage Opal tinsel

Rib: fine silver, no. 14 oval is good

Body: Naples yellow seal’s fur

Body hackle: Golden olive cock hackle, palmered

Throat hackles: A couple of turns of a mallard flank feather dyed golden olive wound behind a yellow Golden Pheasant body feather.

Head: tying silk and clear varnish.

Tying is  very easy and the only point to watch out for is leaving enough space behind the eye to accommodate all the hackles.

 

 

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

A wee wiggly thing from Sligo

We were in Sligo at the weekend and I purchased a couple of lures. One of them is a straight forward gold and silver spoon with a hammered finish on the gold side. It should work for salmon I guess. Called a ‘Mozzi’ and made up in Omagh.

Gold on the outside and silver on the reverse.

The other one is unlike anything I have seen before. It is long and thin, made from copper and has a silver finish on the reverse side. The interesting thing is the ‘wiggle’ on it. Don’t ask me what it is intended to catch, I have no idea. Maybe spinning in the sea for sea trout?

Dear enough for a scrap of copper and a treble hook, but hey, who could resist one of these?

The Garavogue tumbles through the town centre, looking decidedly ‘fishy’. Salmon run the river to get into Lough Gill but I don’t know if it is any good for fishing. A few lake boats were moored up on the river but none of them looked as if they had been used for months.

looking upstream

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Looking down-river from the footbridge

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling, trout fishing

A look back in…………….disappointment

Pike on the Rapala

Pike coming to hand. No big ones this season but the usual sprinkling of jacks grabbed various spoons and plugs. This lad took a shine to a Rapala

It’s over. The trout season that is and much of the salmon fishing too. The 2017 season coasted to its finale last weekend and, for me at least, it was a season to forget. Yesterday we fetched the boat in and over the next couple of weekends we will repeat the process with everyone else’s boats. Autumn will bring some sea fishing and maybe a couple of derisory outings to troll for Pike, but the game fishing is over for us in the West of Ireland until next spring. I thought I’d quickly run through the season, disappointing though it most certainly was for me.

The Carrownisky as it exits the lough

very low water on the Carrownisky river

Water levels were all over the place this season, not enough in the spring and too much later in the year. A dry spring does nobody any good and both salmon and trout fishing suffered greatly due to a lack of water. I have never seen the rivers so low in April and May! Is global warming taking effect here as well as in other, more exotic climates? I suspect it is and the changing weather patterns are having a negative impact on the fish and our fishing. Given the we in Ireland are nowhere near meeting our commitments on greenhouse gas reduction it is hard to climb on to any moral high horses. Sure, we are a small country and relatively speaking make little difference compared to the huge carbon footprint of other, larger and more densely populated nations. That does not exonerate us from our duty as world citizens to reduce our effects on the planet, indeed I would argue it should be easier for us that for the likes of India or China.

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back. Normally this pattern catches me lots of springtime brownies but not this past season!

So, it was dry and cold to start with and the spring salmon were scarce. Work sucked me dry every week. Time spent in Mayo was infrequent and I totally failed to make it to the riverbank for the spring salmon fishing. By all accounts I didn’t miss much. Instead, I was able to squeeze some trouting in during March and early April, usually very productive times for me. This year however I could (and did) walk across some parts of the river Robe without the water reaching above my ankles. Northerly and Easterly winds combined with low water are quite possibly the worst conditions for the springtime fly fisher, but that was exactly what I met during those trying March outings. Fly life was non-existent. No Iron Blues or Large Dark Olives. No stoneflies or Diptera. I tempted a few small fish to wets and nymphs but it was hard work with little reward.

Tiny Brown Trout from the river Robe

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Great plans to fish hard during May came to nothing and others made use of the boat in my absence. By now I was becoming concerned the whole season would pass me by with work hungrily consuming me. Returning home after time away requires ‘catching up’ with family and all the tasks which have been left unattended need to be addressed in the fleeting few hours with loved ones. Fitting a day or even a few hours fishing into this complex mosaic proved be beyond my organisational skills. Then the rain started to fall.

one from the Robe

small but very welcome!

From June through to September we endured frequent periods of sustained precipitation. The heavens unloaded water on Ireland in biblical quantities. Rivers rose then burst their banks. Each time I found a chink in my diary it coincided with filthy brown spates. My fishing buddies who did venture out with rod and line found the grilse late and well scattered. Salmon fishing is always a case of being in the right place at the right time but this year it seems that maxim was even keener than normal. Tiny windows of opportunity presented themselves when the water was right for an hour or less and experienced rods who knew where to be connected with resting runners. I fumed and shook my head with every text or FB post from friends as they celebrated successes. I never even made it out with the salmon rod after June. A film of dust covers my salmon gear in testimony to my inaction.

Barely used all last season, I will strip the reels down lubricate them all before tucking them away for the winter

So what positives were there this past season? I had a nice brownie in the gloaming from the Keel canal which grabbed a small Wickham then charged around the pool like a fish twice its size. Then there was introduction to the tiny river Griese down in Kildare. The sheer joy of trying to fool those wee trout in difficult conditions was wonderful balm to bruised angling ego and I am already planning on fishing this gem of a river next season. For me, size means nothing, angling is all about being immersed in nature and trying to solve the problems in front of me. A hard-earned 8 incher can be more rewarding than a dozen fish which fling themselves at the flies.

The Griese in Co. Kildare. Clear and stuffed with small trout. I’ll be back………….

My current contract ends early in November and there will probably be some free time from then until Christmas. I’ll do some sea fishing and tie lots of flies when I get to that point. I’ll also make my plans for the 2018 season and I’m going to do some work on this blog as well when I get some free time.

Not many gaps in the fly box but I will be busy at the vice over the winter regardless

The boat about to be hauled out of Lough Conn last weekend

part of an old roller conveyor which an angler uses to ease beaching his boat.

Last view of the lough for this year

There is always next season. At least I managed to get out a few times, walking and wading the rivers and taking the boat out for a look around the bays and shallows. It doesn’t matter how bad the fishing is, just being able to get out in the fresh air is a joy.

And finally…..

My beloved collie left this world in September after 15 years at my side. The sense of loss seems overwhelming sometimes and I am still struggling to come to terms with life without her. The pain will subside over the coming weeks and months but for now life is just ‘less’ in ways which are hard to form into words. So if you have a dog, go and give him/her a rub behind the ears and maybe a wee treat to chew on. You miss them something awful when they are gone.

Ness looking for waterhens

Nessie, 2002 – 2017

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