Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing

Cool start to the season

It is hard to believe the trout season opens on the River Robe tomorrow. We have snow already on the east coast of Ireland and it will spread across the whole country on Thursday. I am still working in Kildare but finish this contract on Friday and plan to battle my way across the country to Mayo that night. I could be on the river as soon as Sunday morning! If it thaws……………………………………..

On the road to work this morning


What I am dreaming of


Fishing in Ireland


The trout season has started on some waters (15th February on the Corrib for example) but there was no fishing for me today. Instead, we had a walk around the woods in Cong. It was a chance for us both to unwind and for me to begin the long road back to full fitness after letting my dodgy ankles go from bad to worse over the course of the winter. Living way from home in hotels all week sounds like it should be great craik but in practice it is hard to eat and exercise properly. My joints have swollen badly and are now painful when I am on my feet for any length of time. This week coming is the last week of my contract, so I am looking forward to improving my well-being this spring. Today Helen and I set off round the pathways close to Ashford castle. Here are a few photos we took.

We set off from the village of Cong and headed across the river then though the woods. The cold but dry weather actually improved over the course of the afternoon and the sun came out to add to the joys of being out in the fresh air again.

The river is high after recent rain

Blue skies over a patch of cleared forest

We had brought a flask with us, intending on finding a quiet spot to rest for a while and enjoy the scenery. We were not disappointed and we stumbled on a wee hut on the shores of Lough Corrib.

The Corrib stretched out to the horizon

A great spot for a brew

After we had refreshed ourselves we sauntered off in the direction of the hotel. A group of four young people were standing on the path in front of us looking up into a tree. It took me a while to figure out what they were up to – they were falconers and a pair of Harris Hawks were up in the branches.

The falconers in the distance

I tried to get a shot of these beautiful birds but without a good lens my best effort was still pretty poor.

the best I could do!

Lots of people shared our idea of enjoying the nice day and the gardens around the hotel were very busy. If you are around the South Mayo / North Galway area you can do a lot worse than spend a few hours walking around Cong.


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

A stretch in the days

The days are growing longer again as winter begins to lose her grip on Ireland. I took a drive around North Mayo today for a look around. The weather was cool but bright and (most importantly) dry. Water levels are up due to the heavy rain the west has endured lately. That is good, the high water will allow the kelts to move quickly down river and exit the systems. It should also attract in a sprinkling of fresh salmon too. The Moy was high and coloured as it powered through the Cathedral Beat in Ballina.

Springers have been in short supply across the country so far with only a couple of fish off the Drowes and ones and twos of the other early rivers. It is early days though and there is plenty of time the runs to strengthen.

The afternoon has brought increased cloud cover and the threat of more rain. Time to tie some flies and drink endless mugs of strong, aromatic coffee. I need to top up a few patterns before we get the rods out for the 2018 season. Firstly, I want to tie up some Fl. cascades with hackles from the capes I bought last year.

Standard Cascades, I want to make some fl. versions

My endless love for muddler headed salmon flies shows no signs of abating, so I intend tying up some more this weekend.

Deadly! A muddler Clan Chief

Early season nymphing is always one of the highlights of my season and I am planning on trying out some hot head versions this March/April

Murroughs – I am short of Murroughs too!

Fiery Brown Murrough

And Balloon Caddis dry flys. They are so useful in the summer months and I only have a couple left in the box right now.

This Balloon Caddis is a bit worn

OK, time to get going. I will post again soon.

Fishing in Ireland

Pandora’s box

If you have been following this blog you may recall that I am planning on doing some trolling this coming season and trying out some new baits. Over the winter I have amassed loads of old ABU spoons, devon minnows, a few plugs and assorted Kynoch’s, some of which were in poor condition. My plan was to freshen the dodgy ones up with a lick of paint. This would give me the chance to try  out some new colour schemes. It turns out that my initial thoughts that a couple of pots of paint and few brushes was all that would be required fell far short of what I actually ended up using.

Some devons in the process of painting. Here they have been sanded, given some base coats of matt white and are now receiving ruby red top coats

As planned, I bought up some small tins of different colours of acrylic paints and cheap brushes. After fiddling about with these and ending up less than impressed with the results, I decided that an small air brush would be a better tool. That was when the situation became a good deal more serious. In my innocence I imagined air brushing was easy and required the minimum of kit – how wrong I was! Compressors, regulators, needles, washing stations, brush holders – the list of ‘basics’ required became overwhelming so I abandoned the air brush idea for a while.

This is what I used to paint my Devons with in the past – small tins of enamel paint

In the past I painted devons with enamel paints used by model makers. I still have some of the tiny pots and they still give a reasonable and durable finish, but times have moved on and a new method of painting lures has replaced the old enamels. The acrylic paints I am now using are not waterproof so the lures need a couple of coats of epoxy resin on top to seal and protect the vibrant new colours. Ignorance of the implications of using epoxy led me to think this was just a case of mix up the two part epoxy and slap it on. Nope, there was MUCH more to it than that. 5 minute epoxy does not dry in 5 minutes you see. The 5 minute means it is workable for 5 minutes, it can take days to actually dry and during that time you have to keep the bait moving. A bit more research revealed another world of people who build huge contraptions which slowly rotate so that their prized custom painted baits can dry evenly. I was beginning to feel like I had opened Pandora’s box.

A spey devon being given another coat

I still wanted to be able to repair and upgrade existing baits and also create new colour schemes for trials. Looking at the burgeoning box of assorted paints I felt that I had come this far so I had better see the project through. With a few weeks of my contract working away from home still to be completed, I decided to invest a little more cash in the last few tools and be in a position to paint my baits when I had time off in March. At that time I still needed:

  • A basic air bush kit consisting of a compressor, hose, air bush thinners and cleaning station
  • A rotary dryer
  • a spraying booth
  • More paints
  • Epoxy
  • measuring and mixing gear

Instead of spending a lot of cash on a ‘proper’ compressor I purchased a second-hand one which had been designed for spraying make up! I figured that all I wanted was the ability to spray a reasonably even coat on the lures and fine detail was never part of the requirements. So I parted with €20 and got a neat little compressor and air brush with a hose and power lead. I’ll write about my learning curve with air brushing in a later post.

Cheap n’ cheerful

The silver finish has long gone from this Toby spoon; it is a prime candidate for a lick of paint now!

Although structurally sound, this old Kynoch needs some new clothes!

Here is that same Kynoch with a matt whit base coat applied

After the first 2 coats of acrylic it is beginning to look better. I find 5 or 6 coats are usually needed to give an even finish

For now I am concentrating on preparing the baits. Some need straightening of patching. Missing or broken fins need replaced on some of the devons and everything needs sanded down to remove rust, dirt or flaking paint. Then it is time for base coats to build up a nice, flat, even surface for the new colours to go on too. This is time consuming work but it will be worth it  in the end.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Green Highlander for Lough Beltra

I always have some Green Highlanders in my box but it is a fly I rarely use. The feather winged ones are fun to tie and look good but the hair winged versions have more movement in the water and are more likely to attract salar. Deeply conservative (like most salmon anglers), I tend to reach for the same old patterns or at least close variations of them. Cascades, Willie Gunn’s, black and gold shrimps are my staples. After that I am venturing into new territory! So the poor old Green Highlanders spends each season languish in a corner of the box beside other equally unloved patterns. Colours fade, hooks grow rusty and before you know it the old flies are jettisoned in favour of newer tyings. Some of my flies never see the water, they just hang around for a few season before they depart for the waste bin. It has happened to Green highlanders many times. In an effort to give the venerable old fella a new lease of life I have tied up some with a muddler head.

My thinking is that a muddler headed Green Highlander might just do the trick on Lough Beltra. That extra bit of movement and disturbance in the water, combined with the somewhat unusual colours may get the attention of a springer. I am always looking for a pattern for those ‘intermediate’ days when it is neither light nor dark. My normal mantra of bright day – bright fly, dull day – dull fly has served me well over the years but what do you do when it is somewhere in middle? If in doubt I put one bright fly and one dark one on my cast, but maybe switching to a green coloured fly could pay dividends.

Looking out over lovely Lough Beltra

Here is how I put this variant together:

I started with some green 6/0 tying silk on a size 6 single iron. At the start of the bend I tied in and wound a tag of fine oval silver tinsel. I confess that I simplified the rear end of the fly and omitted the yellow floss, ostrich herl butt and reduced the tail to just a single Golden Pheasant topping.

GP tail tied in and the rib has been attached too

Next. a length of fine oval silver is tied in and then the yellow floss silk which will form the rear quarter of the body.

The body has been formed and the body hackle tied in, ready to be wound

I used green floss silk instead of fur to make the rest of the body. tie in and wind a nice, even body then remove the waste end. Catch in a prepared cock hackle , dyed green highlander shade.

Now wind the hackle in open turns over the green part of the body only. This is secured by open reverse turns of the silver tinsel which has been previously tied in at the tail. Time now to tie in a wind 3 or 4 turns of a long fibred, softish cock hackle dyed yellow

hackles wound

The wing is formed out of three skinny bunches of dyed bucktail. In order from the bottom, I used yellow, orange and green highlander.

Wing tied in, notice that I have kept it very slim. Still plenty of space left for the head!

Now for the fun part – spinning two colours of deer hair to make the head. I used a small bunch of green first and followed that up with some yellow deer hair. Don’t go overboard with the deer hair, I was aiming for a small head, just enough to create a bit of disturbance.

Deer hair wound, ready for trimming

After I had been busy with the scissors!

Take your time trimming the head so it is neat and tidy. Make a whip finish and then varnish the exposed silk a couple of times.

All ready for 20th March

There we go, not too difficult to tie and a nice pattern to have in the box for the new season.