Fishing in Ireland


It had to happen sometime and yesterday it finally did – it rained! The heavens opened and it fairly lashed down for the whole afternoon, soaking unwary tourists and flushing the drains and culverts clear of weeks of debris. It remained warm and muggy and the rain kept falling – to the dismay of almost the entire local population apart from us anglers.

I’m caught in a trap………………

The thing is, I am working on shifts right now. Worse, I am working on the evening shift meaning any salmon fishing is going to be confined to early morning jaunts with one eye always on the clock so I can head off in good time for work. It feels like I’m trapped, that my freedom to pick and choose when to fish has been taken away from me. I dislike that feeling intensely, for me the art of picking exactly the right time to be on the water is crucial to trout and salmon fishing. I am ham-strung by my working hours!

I can’t walk out…………

The rain duly produced the required rise in river levels and overnight the Bunowen at Louisburg went from a scant trickle between the stones to a raging flood the colour of oxtail soup. By 6am I was there on the bank, tackled up and ready for action. A few short casts in case a fish was lying close to the bank and then in to the water I waded. the river rushed and gurgled. full of life and vitality after so long being being little more than a rivulet amid the bushes. But the was a problem – I could not walk out any further.

Because I love you too much baby……………

I have loved my faithful neoprene waders since I got them a few seasons ago. They seemed to shrug off wear and the usual attendant holes. That was until today; today the water snuck in where a welded seam had split, soaking parts of my anatomy which are best never exposed to such rapid and unwelcome liquid immersion. I can tell you that backed out of the river a lot quicker than I had entered it.

Oh why can’t you see…………….

Safely back on terra firma, I re-evaluated my situation. The run I had elected to fish required deep wading as the banks were an impossible tangle of man-high vegetation interspersed with hidden drains and gullies. I could put up with fishing off this bank if only I could see the drains but past experience had taught me not to attempt it. But you can’t see what lies under your feet and it is very hard going at the best of times. Now, with the water lapping the edge of the bank it would be easy to step into a drain and do some serios damage.

What you’re doing to me…………………

Soaked and discommoded, I decided to give up on that pool and head over to the other side of the river. normally a wade of a few minutes, I now had to return to the car and drive to the other side via the town. Down the familiar twisty boreens to that grassy spot where my car has safely nestled so many times. The click of the central locking and a final tug on the door handle to convince myself it was secure then off down the narrow lane towards my next intended fishing spot. It was about then that the chaffing started. Encased in waterlogged neoprene the forces of friction against Scottish wedding tackle became decidedly uncomfortable. Adopting a gait not dissimilar to the great John Wayne, I gingerly negotiated the stiles and electric fences which barred my way.

 When you don’t believe a word I say?

That jarring squawk was my phone ringing just as I reached the bank. ‘Yes, I am on the river’. ‘No, I have not seen a fish yet’. ‘Yep, the river is in flood, great conditions here’. ‘I know I should have got one by now but you see……’ He hung up, disgusted by my lack of success which, judging by his tone was entirely due to my lack of effort. I thought fishing was supposed to be a pleasant pastime, a balm to ease the troubled soul. Yet here I was enduring some sort of open air medieval torture.

There is a fine high water lie which has given me a number of fish over the years. It is one of the very few which requires a long cast on this small river but thick gorse bushes mean a downstream cast is all you can do. I punched out about 25 yards of slow sinker and waited for the familiar tug. Nothing happened. Many, many more casts flew out over the shimmering water, each accompanied by hope and belief. All my efforts were thwarted though. It seemed mr. salmon was not at home today.

The lie is just off that small bush on the point

We can’t go on together…………..

I went as far down as the wee pool by the crossing and fished it assiduously but fruitlessly.The fly swung temptingly in the current but the salmon paid it no heed. I on the other hand was firmly clenching my teeth as cold H2O again found a way  into my rapidly disintegrating boots. I couldn’t go on like this any more.

With suspicious minds………

Franks! I suspected that Franks tackle shop in Castlebar would hold the solution to my leaky problem. In fact, he probably has a pair hanging up outside on display. I admitted defeat and trudged off back to the lane, hopping a couple of gates on the way.

So, if an old friend I know………………….

I pulled up in Louisburg to get some necessities of modern life from the convenience store on the main street. The Staunton lady behind the counter asked how the fishing was and we chatted about the weather as you do.  I was across the road and heading back to the car when I spotted a fellow fisher, John McDonagh, on the other side of the street. Doubling back I waved and caught his eye. Shaking hands we joked about how long it had been since he had set eyes on me. ‘I knew well you would turn up now the river has risen!’ he said. Stories of lost fish sprinkled with laughs kept us nattering for a while before I said my goodbyes and trotted back to the motor. Castlebar and some new footware beckoned!

Here is the king singing a song. What is it called again?

Fishing in Ireland

Just getting there

Warning: there is not a lot about angling in this post so many of you may want to skip this ramble through my physical woes and tribulations. I will write a cheerier post very soon!

Upper Lough Mask

Just getting to the fishing used to be one of the delights of a day out for me but my ever decreasing mobility is draining the good out of tramping across the lush Irish countryside. After a sustained period of steady improvement my arthritis has been getting worse since the turn of the year, significantly increasing pain levels and making even short walks a major challenge. Lugging bags / boxes / fishing rods / lunch / etc with me simply adds to the problem, so I need a change of strategy if I am going to keep fishing.

In my youth I could never have contemplated being so restricted in movement. Long walks across difficult terrain were enjoyable. Wading the rivers of Scotland and Ireland was part of the sport, not something to dread.

The Fae Me Well pool on the Upper Parkhill beat of the Don

The Fae Me Well pool on the Upper Parkhill beat of the Don

I’ve been battling arthritis since my mid-thirties and during that time the pain in my ankles and feet has grown worse to the point where any walking at all was next to impossible. By changing my diet I managed to push back its worst effects but now the disease seems to have adapted to that and it is seriously affecting my life once more. So, those hard scrambles down to the limpet clad ledges on rocky coastlines are now a thing of the past, consigned to my memory. For instance, I will never again climb down that cliff face below the ruined school house where they filmed some of the scenes for the film ‘Ryan’s daughter’ in Kerry. Even in my heyday that was a hairy descent, but worth the fear and scrapes when the float trembled, bobbed and then shot straight down into the green Atlantic, a hefty Ballan wrasse having inhaled my bait. I spent the whole day there, catching huge Wrasse, the males resplendent in electric blue and orange and females garbed in dowdy shades of olive green, until finally the light started to leave the sky and I had to retrace my steps back up the sheer rocks. Going up was much easier than coming down. I recall standing on the edge when I regained the top, panting and breathless . The vista across the sea as the sun set was immensely beautiful and I promised myself I would return again one day. I never did and now it is too late.

Deep wading is also off the list of things I can enjoy. Again, I took for granted the freedom and skills that you need to safely wade in deep, fast water. I learned on the big Scottish rivers to take short, shuffling steps and how to use a trusted wading stick. I had my duckings of course, there can be few salmon fly fishers who have not come a cropper when they misjudged the depth/speed/stability of the bottom. But entering the fish’s domain only happened to me a few times and never did I feel in any great danger. Now, deep wading causes me severe pain and my ankle joints almost seize up in anything deeper than my knees. So just getting to the right spot in the river to fish properly can be a real challenge for me now, one which is frustrating when I know where I want to be but simply can’t get there.

The Aberdeenshire Dee, deep wading is a must on a lot of this river

The Aberdeenshire Dee, deep wading is a must on many beats of this river

These days I generally confine my pursuit of salmon to outings on boats on loughs such as Beltra or Carrowmore and apart from heaving the heavy outboard engine onto the boat this branch of the sport is fairly easy on my poor auld joints. The Owenmore river and some smaller spate rivers in the immediate area are now my favourite haunts for grilse fishing in flowing water. Even walking the banks of such small, intimate rivers pushes me to my limit now and after a day fishing on a spate river I pay dearly in pain when I get home.

The Owenduff and some typical rough backs to negotiate

The Owenduff and some typical rough banks to negotiate

OK, enough moaning about it – what can I do to alleviate all this self-inflicted misery? Let me split the answers into two groups, the mental and the physical. I’ll start with the human mind.

  • Lower my expectations. Like everyone else I seem to find it impossible to come to terms with the fact that I am getting older. I can’t do the same things I could when I was 20, 30 or even 40 years old. By not expecting to be able to fish hard all day or tramp a dozen miles to that favourite lough out in the bog I can reduce the frustration when I fail to meet my targets. For someone like me this is very difficult to actually do, to accept I am less than I used to be.
  • Meditate. Yep, I am a firm believer in meditation and in the past it formed a central plank in my fight against arthritis. I’ve slipped lately and I need to get back to my old meditation routines. In particular, I have used autogenics and found it to be stunningly effective.

On the physical side there is a lot I can do to help myself overcome the pain. Diet is hugely important and there is a lengthy list of foods I need to avoid:

  • Sugar is the worst culprit. In all its forms sugar makes my joints swell within an hour of consumption. Just not adding sugar to my coffee and avoiding fizzy drinks is not enough, it turns up in pretty much every processed food.
  • Alcohol. Hmmm, this is a thorny question! I do enjoy a glass of wine with a meal or a pint of porter on occasion but the dreaded sugar is present in all alcoholic drinks. I will try my best to reduce intake.
  • Bread. The humble loaf certainly adds to my woes, probably because it contains sugar. I am not going to rule out the staff of life completely from my diet but I will reduce the amount of it I eat.
  • Fruit. This might sound odd as surely fruit is good for you? It is in general but in my case I need to be careful not to eat too much. Fructose is another form of sugar so too many berries can cause inflammation.

There are some good foods though to balance the ones I need to give up. Luckily, they are things I really enjoy eating so there is no real hardship involved for me if I eat more of them.

  • Fish! Yes, the oils in fresh fish are good for my joints so I can eat it frequently. First though I need to catch some!
  • Rice. Brown rice is also very good for me as are pulses like lentils and chickpeas.
  • Turmeric. Proven to reduce inflammation, I need to get back to taking some every day. About one teaspoon daily is good.
  • Vegetables in all forms are good too. As a pescatarian, increasing my intake of greens is not going to be a problem either

There are also benefits from gentle stretching exercises which I can do at home. I am going to experiement with heat treatment too. I find that one of the best ways to treat the pain when it gets REALLY bad is to apply heat to the swollen joints, so I am thinking that applying heat more regularly may be benficial. Oh, I nearly forgot – if I know that I am going to be doing some walking I take a stick with me. This helps me enormously!

As I said earlier, I hope you did not find this diatribe too depressing. The simple joys of making your way to the riverbank, wading in the river or digging for bait on the shoreline should never be taken for granted. If, like me, you are finding arthitis is becoming ever more painful please try some of the ideas in this post.

not for me!

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing


Met Eireann forecast

Met Eireann forecast

Rain is a-coming! The weather gurus are sure the heavens are going to open over the next day or two, meaning I will be out and about chasing the silver tourists with the fly rod. There are lots of posts on this branch of our sport already on this blog but here is a quick refresher on the do’s and don’ts of river fishing for grilse.

Big spate on the Bunowen river

Big spate on the Bunowen river

Rain is everything to the summer salmon angler. While it is not impossible to winkle out the occasional fish in dead low conditions a shot of water makes a huge difference to all the rivers. Here in the west of Ireland many locals turn to their spinning rods or worming gear when the spate eventually arrives but I firmly believe that the fly will do the business on most days. So my first piece of advise is to stick to the fly.

Timing is all important and is probably the one thing that the visiting angler finds the hardest to achieve. Spate rivers by their very nature rise and fall quickly, much quicker than many visitors realise. Peering over the bridge in the morning and seeing a raging, mud coloured flood the angler suspects there will be no fishing until the next day. Wrong! Depending on the catchment area a small west coast river will probably be in fine fettle by that evening and may well be back to its bare bones within 24 hours. On all the rivers I fish I have these ‘markers’, some are stones, others are trees or fenceposts. Whatever they are I look to see where the water has reached in relation to them. I am also looking for one more vital clue – is the river still rising or (joy of joys) starting to fall. It is the falling water we want because that is when we can expect some action with the grilse.

perfect for backing up

Backing up a pool can be productive for summer salmon, especially on those long, deep, normally stagnant stretches so common on west coast rivers. A strong wind to ruffle the surface improves your prospects no end. Even if the wind is blowing up the river that a normal cast across/down and across is not possible (or safe) simply angle your casts upstream and allow the line to settle as you take a couple of steps up the bank. You may be surprised how effective this is.

Water colour is an issue that some anglers seem to get hung up on but I have seen salmon caught in absolutely filthy conditions and I am less concerned about colour and more worried about the fact the river is dropping. I happily fish in very high and dirty water, safe in the knowledge that the salmon will take in those conditions.

Small grilse on the floating line

Due to the small size of my local rivers I use either a full floater or a slow sinking fly line for all my summer salmon fishing. If I want to fish deeper or counteract a strong current I switch to a small brass tube fly to give me that bit more depth rather than reaching for a fast sinking line. I carry a sinking poly leader too just in case I really feel the urge to go deep.

The Bunowen river in Co. Mayo at a nice height

The Bunowen river in Co. Mayo at a nice height

What about fly patterns? If you restricted me to some form of a cascade, a black and gold shrimp and an Eany tailfire it would not bother me too much. A Hairy Mary is always reliable and a Wilkinson is good on sunny days. Every year there are new, brighter and more complex patterns to pick from but don’t get into the bad habit of constantly swapping flies.

Black and Gold Shrimp

Black and Gold Shrimp, a favourite of mine for the grilse

Eany Tailfire

Eany Tailfire

Fly fishing for grilse can be a mixture of long periods of inactivity interspersed with short bursts of high octane action as a small pod of them pass by. As with all salmon fishing the angler who spends the most time with their flies in the river will catch the most fish.

T (time on the river) x E (experience) = S (success) when it comes to summer grilse fishing with a fly rod!

3 pounder


Fishing in Ireland, sea angling

Doggie bashing

My first trip out on the salt this weekend was somewhat unusual for me in that it was a competition. Drafted in to fill the always difficult fourth man slot in a team, I was due to fish for my current employer (Westrock) in the annual Allergan competition. We would depart from the quay in Westport at 10.30 on Saturday morning for a short session in Clew Bay followed by a longer ‘session’ in the Towers afterwards! This was going to to be very much a social event rather than a serious fishing outing.

Clew Bay

The rules limited the number of hooks used to a maximum of two, meaning all my feather rigs were not allowed so I made up some new ones the night before. All fish caught were to be safely returned so there was no need for the usual knives and cutting boards.

The limited time meant long runs out to the far side of Clare Island were not feasible and instead we would stick closer inshore, looking to find some doggies on the bottom in the shallows near the inshore islands.

the reek in the distance

On the day I was allotted a position on the ‘Barracuda’ with skipper Pat. We headed off into the bay along with the other boats looking for all the world like we were going to pick up  some troops from Dunkirk rather than doing some fishing! All the boats stopped and dropped anchor close to each other and at the stroke of 11.30am we all dropped our lines over the side and the competition began in earnest.

leaving Westport quay

The Atlantic Queen came over from Inisturk for the day

The Atlantic Queen came over from Inisturk for the day

Declan, Tommie and Michael Joe McGreal putting the world to rights

Declan, Tommie and Michael Joe McGreal putting the world to rights

At this juncture I have to confess I am rubbish at competition fishing. I like to try different places and techniques, so just lowering a chunk of mackerel on to the bottom for doggies to nibble on is a pastime I find a bit tedious. As a result I am not good at the necessary skills for this form of fishing and I was the last one in the boat to land a fish. By then some of my shipmates had caught half-a-dozen or more LSD’s.

It became clear I was in the company of some very experienced doggie anglers who all used the same two hook ledger. Without exception they incorporated large numbers of brightly coloured attractors above the hooks. Beads, flashing blades and even muppets were all used and they certainly seemed to make the difference as my unadorned hooks were studiously ignored by the fish. Eventually I made up a similar trace and used this the rest of the day with slightly more success.

the doomed Penn is on the right of this shot

The other boats close by were all catching too so there must be a good head of dogs in the bay. Irene, fishing at the end of our boat landed a small Thornback Ray and a short while later pulled in a Bull Huss. In terms of the competition these were valuable fish as they were worth additional points.

into another dog


Towards the end of the a couple of large spider crabs were boated. These make good eating but nobody wanted them so they went back over the side this time.

Fishing stopped at 4.30 and we upped the anchor and returned to Westport which was bustling with tourists on this pleasant summer’s day. With things to do at home I gave the nights ‘refreshments’ a body swerve. I know only too well from years of experience that sea anglers develop voracious thirsts when out for a day. Pints of porter tend to be consumed in a glorious if ill-controlled session once they get their bellies to the bar. There would be no prizes for our 4-man team this time. Three of us came ashore with around 10 dogs each meaning we were well down the rankings.

Clare Island in the hazy distance

Clare Island in the hazy distance

A major downside of the day for me was my old Penn reel. As I was winding up one fish the reel made a funny scraping noise which I tracked down to a crack in the cage. This venerable 49M is all of 35 years old and has seen many, many days at sea. I could repair it by investing in a replacement cage but at this age and general state of wear (the reel, not me!) I think it time for me to buy a new reel. Here in lies a dilemma for me; I have very little faith in modern reels as they seem to be built to a price rather than too a high material specification. I may have to hunt around the secondhand market for a good example of an old reel that has been little used instead.

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Night Moves

This all started a couple of weekends ago. There I was, sitting in the brilliant sunshine admiring the stunning view with a pint of the black stuff to sup on. Pretty near perfection I think you will agree. But being a fisherman I was fretting about the sunshine and the adverse effect it has on all types of fish. The more I thought about it the more I realised the time of year had come to start angling in the darkness.

My earliest experiences of night fishing were neatly split between fly fishing for sea trout (mainly on the Aberdeenshire Don) and autumn / winter shore fishing for Cod from the rocky coastline south of Aberdeen. The cod fishing was a pretty macho game all right. Pumping that old Tilley lamp to keep the pressure up and the light shining, the roar and crash of breakers 40 feet below, those insane ‘jump back’ bites when a codling swallowed my bunch of lugworms somewhere out there in the black void. Inching toward the edge while winding in, mindful that one slip will be fatal. Delight when a nice cod is swung ashore and the bitter pain of loss when a big fish, beaten and wallowing in the surf below, sheds the hook. The cold – I remember the frozen fingers, so stiff it was near impossible to carry out the simplest task. Long gaps between bites dulled the mind as I tried to shut out the pain of my poor hands. Those slithering king ragworm which made such great bait but the buggers would nip me when I was baiting up. Looking back on it now, ‘enjoying’ being bitten by huge worms in the dark on the top of a wind blasted cliff in December probably says all you need to know about my mental health!

Fishing on a summer’s night off the Mayo coast is much less demanding. Sheltered bays and calm weather are the norm. I am targeting different species here too. Sadly, Cod are extremely scare around here but dogfish are plentiful and Thornback Rays can liven up a night session sometimes. The vast majority of the dogs will Lesser Spotted Dogfish, universally abbreviated to ‘LSD’ by the sea angling fraternity. Mixed in amongst them can be their bigger bretheren, the Bull Huss. Neither of these fish can be described as great fighters, even good sized Huss comes in tamely once hooked. They do make good eating though when properly cooked so some find their way to my dinner plate.

6 pound thornie

a 6 pound Thornback ray I caught one night a few years ago

K.I.S.S. really does apply when it comes to night fishing. Anything fiddly or requiring excellent visibility becomes a nightmare under a moonless sky so preparation is hugely important. Being organised is not really my strong point but I do make the effort when it comes to late night forays on the coast. I cut down the amount of gear I take to an absolute minimum. There is no point in lugging everything with you when I will use the same end rig all night. My float gear gets left at home and the same for most of my spinning tackle. I do spin in the dark but with only one or two lures, so the boxes of various lures also remain at home.

Illumination is vital, so I bring at least three lights with me. One will be a headlamp which, while short on sartorial elegance, does give me great freedom and the use of both hands. Then I have a pair of small, battery powered LED lamps. All three use the same size of battery so I carry a few spares with me – just in case.

Last night after I finished work I headed off to the sailing club mark. The twisty road leads out to near the end of a peninsular and a convenient carpark. From there it is a 10 minute march to the mark which can be difficult to locate in the dark. The bottom here is a mixture of gravel and tackle hungry rocks, the size and shape of footballs. Plenty of weed adds to the difficulties so my faithful pulley rig was the best choice and it gave me at least a fighting chance of getting my gear back in one piece!

here is the mark in daylight

here is the mark in daylight

That sense of excitement has never left me even after all these years. The quickening pulse as I set off, crunching across the gravel above the high water line and heading for a shore mark in the dark. Why does fishing at night appeal so much? What long dormant emotions are prodded into life just because the sun has left the sky for a brief period? Is it just because the whole experience is so totally different to our everyday modern lives of safety and convenience? A lot of the things we all take for granted during the day become very different at night. You need to switch from sight to other senses if you are going to fully enjoy the darkness. Sounds become important and it never ceases to amaze me how much noise there is, even on a still night. Your sense of direction seems to sharpen (well mine does at least).

This is a low water mark, one which fishes best the hour before low tide to the first hour of the rising water but beggars can’t be too choosy and I fish through the rising tide last night. Both beachcasters were in action. The big fixed spool on my 4 ounce and the 6500C on my heavier 6 ounce. Long casts are neither necessary nor sensible at night, as the fish will come closer in the darkness. Gentle, controlled lobs are preferred.

So why do I have a pair of rods with me? I like to use the lighter, 4 ounce rod to pop the baits out maybe 60 or 80 yards. With the heavier, 6 ounce rod I tend to aim drop a much larger bait closer in, let’s day 40 or 50 yards from the shore. This seems to work OK for me so I stick to this formula unless I have a brainwave and try something different for a change. On a slow night I will set up the spinning rod and flick a Krill or something similar out and wind it back in fairly smartly, hoping for a sea trout.

making up rigs

When it comes to bait I have a liking for squid when hunting Bull Huss. I also like to mix baits for them, so a chunk of squid with a piece of Mackerel is a good option in my book. This makes for a large bait and to keep it in line I use a pennel hook set up. Sandeel works too, especially half of a large Launce.

Big baits are difficult to cast so I use a bait clip when targeting Huss. This keeps the bait tucked in behind the weight, increasing distance and reducing tangles. Afraid the fish did not appreciate all my efforts last though and the night passed without so much as a quiver from the rod tips. I am not too upset because last night was more about getting back out into the dark and making sure I was fully prepared. The mark I was fishing really needs low water to allow you to hit the right spot so it was always going to be a tough session in terms of offers. Everything went more or less OK and the only item I forgot to bring was the tripod for the camera. The tackle box needs a bit of reorganisation but other than that I am looking forward to the next night session.

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Vanishing Launce

With a high tide just before sunset I decided to take a drive out to Achill to see if the sandeels have arrived yet. These wee fish are always on the go, travelling to somewhere else. They can be present in their thousands one tide and be completely absent by the next one. Tonight I wanted to catch a few of the larger species, the Launce. These make a good bait for bottom fishing so a dozen or so would be handy with the fishing I have planned for later this week. Would there be any swimming around Achill tonight?



The road to Achill was surprisingly quiet and I made good time getting to the pier at Cloughmore. This is a reliable spot for sandeels and they gather in the shallow water over a sandy bottom in great numbers. I tackled up with a spinning rod, some tiny feathers and a silver spinner. This has worked well for me in the past so I just needed to find the Launce. Dropping the rig over the edge of the pier, I let it sink to the bottom, then immediately wound it up again, resplendent with a sandeel on the small spinner! In pretty quick succession I added three more slivers of silver to the waiting bucket. Then the shoal disappeared.

The St. Catherine, a very successful local fishing boat

The St. Catherine, a very successful local fishing boat

I tried fishing other parts of the pier but the shoal had well and truly vanished. Lots of flickers of silver under the surface were caused by vast numbers of fry, possibly herring. Large numbers of tiny pollack , only a couple of inches long, were also swimming about the base of the pier but of the Launce there was not a trace.

the sum total of my catch

the sum total of my catch

A seal turned up and bobbed around for a while, never coming too close to me. A solitary Tern gave an impressive display of how to catch fish with some spectacular dives from height. In the distance a Black Guillemot was also busy reducing the small fish population. I have seen otters here before but there were none of them on the go this evening.

It was obvious the sandeels had given me the slip for the night so I decided not to hang around after 10pm. If I am honest the trip was more about getting some fresh air and settling back into being home after a week in London and Holland on business. Aeroplanes, underground trains, queues, pollution, noise and the pointlessness of western culture had left me drained and listless. The fresh air and the sun slowly setting in the west were all I needed to get me back on track again.

Looking out to the bay

Mist clung to the hill tops as I drove home, giving the countryside an ethereal look. Ireland really is beautiful when it is not raining! The weather remains fine and settled on this side of the country while the east coast has seen thunder showers for days now. We might go for a walk tomorrow if the weather holds. ‘Tis good to be back home again!

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing, SWFF

A change is as good as a rest

It has been a terrible season so far on the rivers and loughs for me. I have yet to catch a decent tout and only a single salmon has fallen for my flies. Time to change things around and do some salt water angling.

Clew Bay at low water

I have agreed to fish as part of a team in a local sea angling competition on 9th June. We will be dropping lines in Clew Bay and at this time of the year we would expect to contact dogfish, Pollack and possibly some early Mackerel. I’m looking forward to getting out on the briny again after a couple of years break from it. Whether we catch very much is another thing altogether. Clew Bay has been very poor for a long time now, a victim of gross over fishing by both commercial and sport fishermen. I’ll give it a lash anyway for the craik.

Ahead of then I will try to pop out to Achill Island to see if there are any sandeels around. These are great bait for just about anything that swims in the sea around here so catching some on tiny feathers is always a good idea. While they are definitely better used fresh they still work well after freezing.


greater sandeels or Launce

I have a theory (here we go again……..) that shore fishing is much better during the hours of darkness. I’m plotting a couple of ‘after hours’ sessions over the next couple of weeks. Successful fishing at night is all about proper preparation so I’ll make new traces this weekend and check all the gear is in good order. Nothing worse than trying to find the item you want in the dark. If you are new to night fishing then I suggest fishing from piers or jetties is a good place to learn as there are usually lights there to give you some comfort.  A rocky headland or exposed storm beach can be intimidating in the pitch black.

Roonagh pier at night

Roonagh pier at night

I tend to keep my rigs very simple.

  • Three-hook flappers for flats and small stuff, usually armed with 1/0 Aberdeens
  • Pulley rigs in different weights and with a range of different hooks to meet a wide variety of situations. The Pulley rig is my ‘go-to’ for most situations.
  • Sliding float with an anti-tangle section for wrasse and mackerel

I always take a spinning rod with me so I can try for Mackerel even when bottom fishing for other species. This adds a bit of extra interest to each session, even the ones when the fish are absent. The spinner can sometimes attract an occasional sea trout or pollack. I love those old ABU Krill lures but it is heartbreaking leaving them stuck on a rock or in thick kelp. I use cheaper alternatives over rough ground!

One of the great joys of sea angling is the chance of picking unexpected species. Pollack, mackerel and dogs are our staples here in Mayo but bass, turbot and other less common fish do turn up from time to time. Some local anglers seem to be forever catching oddities but these are the same lads who put in the long hours on the shore and try out new spots. I’m hoping to find the time to do just that this summer!

So there you have it, some sea fishing in my diary from both boat and shore this month unless it rains heavily. If it rains I will grab a fly rod and go chasing grilse in the rivers but until then it will be the tang of the salt air and the roll of the Atlantic swell beneath my feet.




Sea trout spoons

Sea trout spoons


Toby Slim, 20gm

the sailing club, a well known mark

the sailing club, a well known mark