Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Day 4, my Olive Partridge

A nice simple fly for you all today but one which has caught me an inordinate amount of wild brownies over the last 50 years or so. Based on the ever popular Partridge and Orange this wee spider is a good fly on the river in springtime when large dark olives are hatching. I originally tied it for use on the Aberdeenshire Don but it has travelled well and works a treat here on the river Robe in co. Mayo.

I like to use a Kamasan B405 in size 14 for the hook. Tying silk is olive Pearsall Gossamer. I don’t use anything else for the tying silk, I have tried other silks but they don’t work so stick to the lovely greeny-olive Pearsall,s.

There are only three materials needed, the tying silk, some fine gold wire and a brown mottled feather from the back of an English Partridge.

Pick a hackle the right size, for a number 14 hook you need a feather from high up on the back of the bird where they are smaller.

Start the tying silk at the eye of the hook and catch in a prepared hackle which has all the grey fluff stripped away. You can tie it in by the tip or the butt, it does not seem to make a lot of difference to this fly.

Run the silk down to opposite the point of the hook in tight touching turns (don’t make the body too long) and tie in a length of finest gold wire. Take the tying silk back up in touching turns again to form the slim body. Now make 4 or 5 turns of the wire to make the rib of the fly. Tie the wire and trim off the waste.

Ready to rib the fly

Now wind the hackle making only one-and-half turns before tying it down and trimming the waste. The only mistake you can make when tying this fly is making too many turns of the hackle resulting in a bushy looking fly. It must be slim and dainty. Form a neat, small head and whip finish before varnishing.

the finished fly

Fished down-and-across as part of a team of wets this fly is a good provider in the early months of the season. You can vary the pattern by using partridge hackles dyed olive but the original still seems to be the most effective. Enjoy and stay safe.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Day 3, Bibio daddy

This one is simply a mish-mash of a couple of good flies so it really is no surprise that it works.I use it for trout tied on a size 10 hook but there is no reason why it wouldn’t work for salmon tied slightly bigger.

Start by mounting a size 10 wet fly hook in the vice and starting some fine black tying silk, 8/0 will be good.Run the silk towards the bend of the hook and tie in a length of Glo-brite no. 4 floss. Wind a small tag with the Glo-brite and tie it in. Now you need a length of fine oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib. Once it is secured bub the body which consists of seals fur in the usual Bibio order of black/red/black. Rib the body with the oval silver, tie in and remove the waste.

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The fiddly part of this fly is knotting the pheasant tail fibres. I do them singly and tie two overhand knots in each one. Six legs will be in enough and they should be tied in three on each side of the fly and be about twice the length of the hook. Remove the waste ends and then tie in a pair of black cock hackle tips on top of the hook for wings.

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Finish off with about 6 turns of a black cock hackle, form a neat had, whip finish and then varnish the head of the fly.

Bibio Daddy

This is a variation of a normal Black Daddy which also does good work when tied on size 10 hook. The difference is the Black Daddy has a body made of dyed black pheasant herl ribbed with silver.

The Black Daddy

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Day 2 – The Captain

It was bright an cold outside when we went for our one daily walk this Sunday morning. The crisp air was refreshing on our faces as we trotted along the deserted roads on the edge of town. Already the press are reporting the lockdown could last into the summer so we had better all get used to this strange new life.

After a lunch of beetroot soup I settled down at the vice to tie some flies. Today I made one of my own patterns, a pretty little trout fly I call the Captain. I designed this fly many years ago and it caught me a few trout back in Scotland. Fished on a cast of wet flies it works best on hill lochs on summer evenings with maybe a Wickhams or a Green Peter as a companion.

You will need red and black hen hackles for this fly

I use a size 12 hook and some fine black tying silk. Start the silk at the eye of the hook, catching in a dyed red hen hackle before running the silk down the shank. Tie in a Golden Pheasant crest for a tail. I sometimes add a tiny touch of red to the tail too such as a snippet of red wool or a small Indian Crow feather if you still have one or two in your kit.

About 4 turns of red silk are right on a size 12 hook

The body is the hard part of this fly, it is made by winding two different coloured flosses. Tie in a length of dark red floss and one of golden yellow then take the tying silk back up to the eye. Now carefully wind the yellow floss up the hook shank in touching turns making a smooth body then rib this with the red floss in open turns creating a nice segmented look (hopefully).

Wind the red hackle, tied it in and trim of the waste. A couple of turns is sufficient.

The wings are made of black crow secondary but I guess you could use magpie tail if you want a glossier wing on the fly. Trim the waste and tie in a black hen hackle, giving it 3 turns in front of the wings. Tie off, remove the waste and make a neat head then whip finish and varnish.

the finished fly

When I first made this fly it was intended as an attractor rather than a copy of any natural fly but it takes fish when those little black sedges are hatching during the summer evenings so maybe the trout think that is what it is.

Lough Ben

Hill lochs like this are where the Captain is best used

Hope you have some fun tying this fly. I’ll post anther pattern tomorrow. Stay safe!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Locked down, day 1

I was due to be fishing Carrowmore today but that got cancelled as this is the first day of lockdown here in Ireland. We all have to stay at home and only venture out for the bare necessities of life. The new rules are in force at least for the next two weeks and it seems highly likely they will stretch beyond that. One of the new rules is you are not allowed to be more than 2km from your home when exercising so that rules out all fishing for me.

Wakening this morning I decided to sort through my baits which have been scattered across a number of different boxes and bags for ages now. It took me a while but I finally sorted them out into some kind of order and I now have a box for trolling, one for the river Moy and a couple of boxes of spares. I thought I might have some ‘gaps’ that needed filled but to be honest I don’t need to buy another spoon or plug for the rest of my natural life.

For the next two weeks I’ll post a different fly pattern each day here on the blog. It will give me something constructive to do and hopefully the patterns will be of interest to you guys and gals. Let’s start off today with a twist on an old favourite, the Thunder and Lightening.

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Here is one tied on a slightly larger size 12

This is a salmon fly which hails from the hayday of scottish fly fishing. It still catches its fair share of salmon each season but I like to use it for trout on small lochs. Now here is the twist – I tie it on very small hooks, usually size 14s. Over the years I have caught a lot of small loch trout on this fly, usually fishing it on the tail of a three fly cast.

I use a heavy wet fly hook for this one, something like a Kamasan B175. Tying silk is black 8/0. Start the silk at the eye of the hook and catch in a cock hackle dyed hot orange. No need to go mad here with highest quality genetic hackles, Indian or Chinese hackles will do just fine. Run the silk to the bend of the hook catching in a golden pheasant topping for the tail, some fine oval gold tinsel which will be used for the rib and a length of black floss silk.

silk started and the hackle tied in

Take the tying silk back up to where the hackle is tied in then form a neat body with touching turns of black floss. Tie down the floss and remove the waste end. Form the body hackle by winding the orange feather in open turns down to the tail where it is tied in with the oval gold tinsel. Make 5 open turns in the opposite direction to the hackle, binding the hackle down as you go.

Body hackle tied in, now its time for the beard hackle

There is a small beard hackle composed of a few fibres of blue jay or guinea fowl dyed blue. I reverse the hook in the vice for this, offering up the blue fibres under the eye of the hook and whipping them in place with the tying silk. Remove the waste ends of the bread hackle and return the hook to the normal position.

Wings are made from matching left and right slips of bronze mallard. I know some tyers find these feathers torture to work with but I am afraid it is all a matter of practice. Tie in the wings and remove the waste ends. Now for the really tricky bit, the cheeks. These are made from the tiniest jungle cock feathers, the ones and the very end of the cape. Strip the fluff from the ends of each feather and tie them close to the wing, making sure they are the same size and length. Once you have calmed down doing the cheeks make a neat head, whip finish and varnish as normal.

This is a super wee fly and well worth the effort it takes to get the wings and cheeks just right. The small ones are great for loch trouting and bigger sizes suit the salmon.

Look after yourselves out there, I’ll post another fly pattern tomorrow.

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland

lockdown

So it has finally arrived here in Ireland, a total lockdown with no unnecessary travel more than 2km from home. That means no angling for us here which is a pity as a few salmon are running the rivers in this area now. Carrowmore has recorded its first fish of the season with a 9 pounder. I will have to leave them and the spotted trout well alone for at least the next two weeks and probably for much longer than that. More than 20 people have sadly lost their lives to date due to the virus and the numbers of infections continues to rise so the decision to lock the country down is a sensible one.

Large (size 4) Green Peter tied for salmon

To pass the time I will tie some more flies and post the patterns here on the blog. Of course my plans to catch a fish in each of the 32 counties is on hold for now but rest assured I will begin that epic journey as soon as the restrictions on travel are lifted.

Wishing each of you good health at this difficult time. Stay safe!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

covid-19, welsh flies, boats and Mulranny

Please excuse my ramblings, this is a bit of a catch up over a few busy days.

All the pubs, clubs and restaurants are shut now and other amenities are closing daily either by instruction from the government or through lack of business or staff. Ireland has not yet been fully locked down but that event can’t be far away with more cases of the covid-19 virus being reported every day.  Going by the experience of other countries such as Italy and Spain we can expect that number to increase sharply over the coming weeks. So what is an angler to do during these difficult times?

Obviously confinement to home means lots and lots of time for fly tying. Now I really do not need any more flies, the boxes are full to bursting as it is. However, I will try making some new patterns which I never seemed to have time to tie before. In particular I want to make some of the welsh patterns from a book called ‘Plu Stiniog’ which I picked up at the fly fair in Galway at the end of last year. Written by a gentleman by the name of Emrys Evans, there are some nice looking sedge patterns in it which could possibly work in Ireland.

Here are a few I have tied up so far.

Rhwyfwr Cochddu Bach (small red/black sedge)

Rhwyfwr Bach Tin Gwyrdd (small green-arsed sedge)

Egarych Felan (yellow corncrake

Rhwyfwr Robat Jos Shop

Rhwyfwr Mis Awst Pen-ffridd

Rhwyfwr Mawr Gwyrdd (large green sedge)

Egarych Gochddu

Apart from making a few flies and keeping away from everyone else the other day I took the opportunity to give the woodwork on my old boat a lick of varnish. The local paint shop were not allowing anyone into the actual shop when I went to get a pot of varnish. Instead, the staff came out to a cordoned off area at the front of the premises, took your order and brought the tins out to you. It was a nice morning so it was no hardship to wait patiently in the sunshine. The boat has suffered some damage over the last season but it will last for another season or two before in needs re-timbering. An hour saw a nice heavy coat of varnish applied, now I need to wait for it to dry.

Looking a bit tired and worn

Starting to varnish one of the seats

That’s better!

With Helen’s hours at work curtailed due to the virus we decided to go for a spin out to Mulranny and have a walk down at the beach there. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and we really enjoyed getting out in the fresh air and away from all the depressing news for a while. Just being dry and seeing the sun lifted our spirits. The views across Clew bay to the Reek on the south side were as impressive as always and we both felt blessed to be living in this part of the world. I for one can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to be living in a big city like London during these days of crisis. At least we have some escape here in rural Ireland.

The reek from Mulranny

Hopefully the rain will hold off for a few more days and let the land dry out a bit so I could get out on my own and do some fishing. All the lakes and rivers are still high but they are dropping slowly as the rain has eased off slightly this past week. High pressure is due to build from this week onward, bringing drier and more settled weather to the region. Trout will be close to the bottom and hard to tempt but just getting out in the fresh air will be a tonic in these difficult times. The moorings at Brown’s bay and Pike bay on lough Conn are both still well under water as of today but my boat should be on the lake by the end of next week if we get dry weather and the water levels drop. Stay safe!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Mayo Bumble

The Mayo Bumble used to be a very popular fly during the mayfly season here in the west of Ireland but its popularity seems to have waned of recent years. I don’t understand why this is as it is a grand fly when the yellow drakes are hatching out in a good wave.

looking towards the canal

The mouth of the canal on Lough Mask, an area where the Mayo Bumble does good work

As Bumble patterns go it is fairly easy to tie but I throw in an extra hackle at the head which means you need to leave plenty of space there for winding all the feathers.

The body is formed form the tying silk dubbed with the brightest yellow fur you can lay your hands on. I personally used fl. yellow silk and think this helps a bit to keep the fly as bright as possible. Rib is fine oval silver tinsel and the tail is a golden pheasant crest feather. Body hackles are a red and a yellow cock hackle palmered together down the body. The ‘extra’ hackle I like to add is a french partridge dyed lemon and in front of that there is a guinea fowl feather dyed bright blue.

In use, cast to rising fish when possible but keep the fly moving briskly. Some days the trout will hammer this fly and yet on other days it will be completely ignored. Loughs Mask and Carra are the natural home for this pattern, I have never caught a fish on lough Conn on it!

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

Club waters

It’s that time of year again, angling AGM’s are in full swing here in Ireland. There is always a rush to hold the annual general meetings just before the serious fishing starts. I recall that back in Scotland these meetings generally took place at the end of the previous year so that all the agreed changes could be brought into force well ahead of the fishing starting again. Things are much more relaxed in Ireland and AGM’s pepper the months of February and March despite the season being open for weeks before that.

I have been thinking long and hard about which clubs to join this year. The Glenisland Coop is a certainty for me as I love fishing Lough Beltra and find the club to be well run and focused on improving the fishery. It is so handy for me, being only 15 minutes drive from home and while salmon numbers are low there are still a few fish to chuck flies at on Beltra.

setting off for a day on Beltra

After that though I need to think about where else I want to spend fishing time this season. Despite the disastrous fishing I have endured on Lough Conn over the past few years I will no doubt keep heading back to that lake again this season. Again, it is close to home and easy to access. One positive of the poor fishing is that anglers have voted with their feet and even the best drifts are only lightly fished these days. I will no doubt moan and groan about the lack of fish but I will be back drifting and trolling the shallows on Conn again this season, God willing.

pulled in on the shore of Lough Conn

What about the Moy? Here is where it gets a bit tricky for me. I have been lucky enough to fish some of the finest beats of the Dee and Tweed in my time and at the other end of the scale joined the queue to fish down pools on hard pressed association waters both in Scotland and Ireland. Not being a wealthy man I need to accept that club waters will be a big part of my angling experience these days. The East Mayo Anglers waters are a fairly typical angling association with access to a lot of the river Moy. I have been a member in the past and I need to make up my mind if I will join again this season. Although the river opened for salmon fishing last month it has been unfishable due to the continued high water levels this spring. Will there be some springers around when the water recede? Probably yes.Will there be a lot of them? Almost certainly no! And so here is the conundrum, lots of angling pressure from a large and very active membership chasing a small number of fish. Space is going to be at a premium when conditions are favourable. Last season I abandoned trying to fish on a couple of occasions not because it was so busy on the bank but because I couldn’t even find a parking spot! That was at the start of the grilse run, the time when you really have the best chance of contacting a salmon. Instead, I spent ages driving the length of the beats and still couldn’t even nose the car into a space. God knows what the best fishing spots were like on those days.

The river Moy, sept'08

A very quiet day on the Gub, EMAA

For me, fishing should be relaxing, almost meditative. I dislike any elements of competition in my angling and don’t really like crowds on the riverbank. Club waters are always going to be a challenge for me and I can accept that I need to be more flexible when on busy river banks. It is a question of just how crowded the beat is I suppose. Is a couple of hundred Euro money well spent on a very busy club membership? Last season I only landed one fish from the EMAA but that was entirely my own fault as I hardly fished the river. I managed some enjoyable high water spinning in March and April but largely missed the rest of the year when the fly is usually better. I see that a photo of that one fish is on the EMAA website: https://www.eastmayoanglers.com/gallery/2019-season

And there is the nub of the problem, staring me squarely in the face; I need to get out fishing more often! I body-swerved the Moy last year telling myself it was too crowded when I should have gone looking for quieter spots. While there were relatively few fish around there were still some there to be caught if I had applied myself more to the task in hand. Part of the problem is that I don’t know the upper part of the river at all and this could be the solution for me, at least when the grilse are running. Springers are rarely encountered in the streamier upper section of the EMAA beats and the fly only section sees very little pressure until May or June. So instead of joining the throngs at the bridge or the high bank I will target the fly only stretch further up the river in 2020. There, decision made!

This dislike of crowds has certainly increased over the years. I can recall fishing Newburgh and the Macher Pool on the lower Ythan in Aberdeenshire as a lad when you literally had to push your way into a line of anglers to have a cast for the sea trout. I don’t know what it is like now for ADAA anglers but you used to be able to fish the worm from the bridge down to a marker pole on the North Bank of the Macher but when the fishing was good there would be scores of anglers shoulder-to-shoulder there. Nobody used a net, fish were just unceremoniously dragged out as the lucky angler reeled in furiously while walking backwards out of the water and up the shingle. I suspect there are way fewer fish there these days.

Ythan estuary

A little bit of me is hankering to fish Lough Carra this season. To be brutally honest the fishing on that lovely lake has been poor for many years now but it is such a gorgeous place to fish I might be tempted to give it a try again. The huge mayfly hatches are a thing of the past but the summer evening fishing when the sedges are hatching might still be good. The Carra club AGM is to be held tonight in Castlebar so I might brave the risk of infection of Covid-19 and go along to see what is happening. As a club the Carra boys are usually very active and there is always something going on to try and improve the fishing there.

Wet mayflys for Carra

So, in summary, I will definitely join the Glenisland Coop and East Mayo Anglers. I may also join Carra too. I’ll go in search of quieter spots instead of braving the crowds and hopefully I’ll catch a few fish this year.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

One of my Raymond variations

I mentioned the Raymond in a recent blog but my dressing of this old fly are a bit different to the ones you can buy in the shops. It has developed over the years and is a pretty successful fly for wild brownies in the big western lakes. There is a common acceptance that the original pattern was tied to imitate some kind of sedge fly and as such it was used from mid-season onward. My tying is much more impressionistic and is really just a pulling fly with bright colours to attract the trout. This is a fly you can get great satisfaction from tying, it looks great and it is one which always attracts comments from fellow anglers when they see it.

Hook sizes are 8’s or 10’s, heavy wet fly hooks. I use olive tying silk but any colour will do.

Tag is a couple of turns of silver tinsel and the tail is a golden pheasant topping.

Tie the body hackles in by their butts and take the silk down to the bend

The rib is fine oval silver tinsel (I use Veniard no. 14) and the body is made from pale olive fur dubbed on to the tying silk. I sometimes add a couple of turns of orange fur at the tail end of the body.

I like a long tail on my Raymonds

There are two body hackles, a crimson and a golden olive wound together. i sometimes use a claret hackle instead of red to give me  more subdued fly. The throat hackle is a pinch of fibres taken from a golden pheasant topping which is dyed red and tied in as a beard below the hook. In front of that wind a couple of turns of a bright green cock hackle. On smaller sizes it is easier to add the green as a second beard hackle instead of winding it (there is a lot going on at the head of this fly!)

The wings are a bit fiddly but worth the effort. Married strip of swan dyed yellow and red form the under wing and over that I tie in bronze mallard.

The head hackle is a grizzled cock hackle dyed bright blue. I give this many turns for a bushy effect.

claret body hackle mixed with golden olive makes a more subdued fly

 

This is a typical Irish style wet fly with many hackles to add the illusion of life. I can see no reason why it would not work on Scottish lochs too so maybe some of you Jocks might give it a try and let me know how you get on with it. I never seem to catch very many trout on this fly, but the ones which do take it usually seem to be bigger fish. Don’t ask me why that is!

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Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

First outing

It kind of crept up on me, the realisation that I could possibly go fishing this week. I had become so inured to floods and gales that the opening of the trout season had come and gone without really registering in my mind. This week though saw a change in the weather with cold, bright mornings and a merciful lack of precipitation. On Tuesday it occurred to me that there might be the chance of an hour or two on the river bank if this good weather held.

Wednesday had been largely given over to rummaging for lost tackle and repairing my broken wading staff. Rod and reel were easy to locate but fly boxes and tippet materials had snuck off into all sorts of odd corners and it took me a while to corral the various small items and repopulate my waistcoat pockets. That small boy’s excitement of an anticipated fishing trip grew stronger throughout the day, thoughts of bent rods and fish sliding into the net filled any quiet moments. I found myself smiling as thoughts of the pleasures of a few hours on the riverbank sunk in.

20200305_120635[1]Thursday came around at last. I hardly dare peek out of the window this morning when the alarm went off, would the day be fine? Yep, frosty but dry was the answer with some high thin cloud to boot. A fishing day of sorts! Some chores had to be completed quickly before the last odds and ends could be tossed unceremoniously into the back of the car and I was off down the road. The last couple of dry days had tempted me to try my luck on the River Robe.

Pulling up at a parking spot after a short detour because I had taken a wrong turning, I stepped out of the warmth of the car into a cool wind. Layers of clothing were hastily applied but it was much colder than I had anticipated and this was not going to improve my chances of success. Numb fingers took ages to knot on the flies but undaunted and dressed like Nanook of the North, I hopped the five bar gate and strode purposefully across the rough pasture. The drain at the edge of the field was chock-a-block with frog spawn, a sure sign that spring is on its way.

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I had it in my head to try a short section of the river I had never fished before. It lay upstream of where I was parked but access immediately became a major issue. I huge drain, filled to the brim with stagnant water and mud barred any further approach. In something which would not have looked out of place in Passchendaele the far bank of the drain was topped with a high fence of vicious looking barbed wire. I worked my way along the drain for a while but it became obvious there was no easy way across. In the end I gave up and returned to the river. There must be a way across that drain and I will return to try again soon. I suspect any trout lying above that obstacle have not seen an anglers fly for many a long year.

Typical rough agricultural land here in Mayo

I began by flicking weighted nymphs into the roiling current and eventually persuaded one trout to nip, unconvincingly at the Hare’s Ear on the tail. He didn’t stick. I could only fish a short stretch as the river was too high for this section and below me looking like a raging torrent. Out of nowhere, a kingfisher sped downstream a couple of feet above the water, that glorious flash of azure lighting up an otherwise dull vista.  Time for a move.

tungsten beaded nymphs

I drove down river to a favourite piece of the river where there are a selection of pools to try. I changed the rig and switched on to wet flies for swinging in the current. On went a Pheasant tail goldhead on the tail, a Plover and Hare’s Ear in the middle and an ever reliable Partridge and Orange on the top dropper. By now the sun was breaking through the clouds but it was still cold. Gaining the river I started casting as tight to the far bank as I could. An olive floated by on the wind.

big water

The water is still very cold and the strong current pushed hard through each of the pools (do you sense some excuses?). I methodically worked my way downstream, casting into any likely looking spots but try as I might there was no response from the trout. The fields, normally so well-tended around this part of the river were in terrible condition, badly rutted and pock-marked with deep hoof prints and showing signs of agricultural run off. Some pools I completely bypassed as they were far too fast for trout to be feeding in them. Near the tail of one pool, just where the pace slowed slightly a trout rose. I covered it carefully a few times and sure enough up he came and took the fly with a confident swirl. I struck but he dropped off almost immediately. Damn! I knew I was not going to get too many chances today so losing that one was a blow. Next fishable pool down I had another knock but it too did not stick around. Ah well, at least I was getting some fresh air.

I skipped the fast section of water below the weir. It fishes well on summer evenings when the fish lie there to get some oxygen across their gills and feast on the flies which gather there. But in a flood the waters rage through the rapids making them unfishable.

Down towards the bottom of this part of the river there are a couple of good pools. At the first one it was obvious the top of the pool was too fast but near the tail it looked a bit more likely. I worked my way down, one step per cast, planting the flies as close to the far bank as I could then mending two or three times as the cast fished out. Sure enough, a solid pull soon had me in business and a small trout came to hand, my first fish of the new season. A quick snap and then he was released, all 8 inches of him! It turned out to be the last offer I would get. He had taken the P&O.

I fished on but lost the full cast of flies when an over ambitious cast tangled on a bush on the far bank. Setting up again I fished my way back upstream to the car.

not the biggest trout but a very welcome one never-the-less

Early season trouting is always a precarious affair. Conditions can vary so much and fly life is sparse to non-existent. In a few weeks there will be more flies around and the water will be both lower and warmer. By April I would expect much better fishing but for today a single small trout was the meagre return for my efforts. That is fine with me, today was more about just getting out to blow away the cobwebs and to get a feel for the river again. The trout was a bonus.

 

That pipe was not there last season! Looks like there is a site being cleared for a new house on the other bank.

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