Fishing in Ireland

Signing off, for now

I guess that is a bit ironic I suppose that I am taking a break from this blog just as the lockdown is slowly being lifted here in Ireland. From 8th June we will be allowed to travel a maximum of 20km from home meaning I could reach Loughs Conn and Cullin. The local fishers who live closer to the lakes than I do have been out trying their luck and the trout seem to have been responding in reasonable numbers on days when the weather was kind. Those days have been few and far between though as the fine, dry and bright days have dominated in the west for week now. Regardless, I will be out fishing from the 8th and, please God, some trout will be good enough to show some interest in my flies.

Messin’ about at the vice today

The mayfly will be all but over by then and the fishing will become progressively more challenging. If the weather breaks and we see some heavy rain there might be the odd salmon running the Moy and some of these fish may enter the Conn/Cullin system. It is really in the lap of the Gods so there is no use fretting unduly about the chances of a silver lad.

3 pound grilse

3 pound grilse from a few summers ago

I have come to terms with my decision to curtail the blog for  while. I admit the initial idea came like a bolt out the blue but I have grown accustomed to the new found freedom now and am looking forward to taking a break. I will almost certainly jot down some observations from my fishing trips once I am back in the saddle so look out for new posts at some point in the future. When exactly that will be is not clear to me. I’ll know when the time is right! I have retained the domain name for the site to prevent someone else using it. The blog will still be accessible online but a lot of the features will disappear until I sign up again. I’m not 100% sure of exactly what is going to vanish but I expect a lot of the photographs in the posts will go. I have a FB page called claretbumbler which I drop the occasion post on so you can always get in touch with me there.

My boat in Muphy's field

All my tackle has been overhauled and is ready for action now. The boat got a lick of varnish too! While it has been bitterly disappointing to miss the best part of the season this year I am very mindful of those who have lost their lives during the pandemic and count my blessings that we are in good health so far. Here in Mayo we saw an unusually high number of cases, many more than in the far more populous neighbouring county of Galway. At least we are seeing a sustained drop in infection rates now. Social distancing has become the norm and the changes in how we interact with each other is still hard to comprehend. There are very real fears for the tourist and hospitality sectors here and many, many jobs are at risk. Difficult times lie ahead of us.

Unless something odd or particularly newsworthy happens over the coming few days this will be my last post for some time. I want to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of you who took the time and trouble to visit my blog and especially to those of you who got in touch with me to make a comment or add your views. It has been an immense pleasure to be in direct communication with you all. Please mind yourselves in these difficult times and hopefully we can all get back out fishing sooner rather than later.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

minnow mounts

Spent some time this morning making up a few mounts for devon minnows. I used the monnow extensively when I lived in Scotland and it produced a lot of spring and autumn salmon for me back in the day. I still have boxes of devons lying around. Most of them are damaged or just worn due to use and abuse. Minnows had a hard life, sunk to the bottom of the river and allowed to bump their way around until they were right below you then that mad high speed retrieve to get it out of the water ready for the next cast.

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I used to love fishing with devons, there is something very relaxing about swinging them down-and-across a wide river. These days flying ‘C’ and plugs seem to be much more in favour than the lowly devon which is a shame. When it comes to colours I happily try any and every combination! Blue and silver has never really been that effective for me personally (apart from a spanking 21 pounder from the Aberdeenshire Don many moons ago). Black and gold is as good as any in my book but I have chucked just about every colour of minnow out and let it trundle round in the current.

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The Millionairs pool on the Lower Don

In Scotland we used big devons at the start of the year, 3 inchers were our standard size and the lads on the Tay went a full inch bigger than that I believe. Here in Ireland sizes vary from about an inch-and-a-half up to maybe two-and-a-half inches.

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I have now run out of treble hooks so it will be a while before I resume this job. Same goes for making up some Flying ‘C’ lures. I have loads of trebles, just not in the right sizes. Isn’t that always the case! There is no panic anyway, these minnows won’t see the water this season. It will be next spring before I am looking in boxes for a hand full of devons to bring with me to the river Moy. The Moy is far from classic salmon fly water but there are some excellent pools for spinning, nicely paced and deep enough without being too deep.

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The Gub on the EMAA beats. That is the the river Gweestion coming in at the right of this picture

Keep safe out there and have faith we will be back fishing in a few weeks, God willing.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Painting

Deep in the furthest recesses of the fishing den there lay a small plastic box. It has been there for years and every now and then I opened it up either to add another item or wistfully shake my head at the waste of the contents. I kept promising myself that I would find the time and inclination to get around to sorting this mess out and this week I finally made the effort. I fished out the box and sorted though the contents – old spoons.

Mainly Toby’s, these were the lost souls of my tackle collection. The waifs and strays, the ugly ducklings if you will. I used to buy up old spoons whenever I saw them and along with the pristine gems there were the less fortunate ones. These had been left in the bottom of fishermens tackle boxes to go rusty, some looked like they had even been retrieved from the depths of a lake or river. Others had been used in salt water and never rinsed after use. In short, all of them were in extremely poor condition.

I removed all the rotten hooks, rings and swivels first. There were a couple of stick-on eyes to be scraped off too. Out came the fine sandpaper and they all were given a good rub down to remove any corrosion. Next, I cleaned them with warm soapy water and dried them off. Donning a pair of gloves I then cleaned them with nail polish remover to remove any traces of grease. To give me a good surface for the paint to adhere too I next gave them all a spray with some etch. Any that actually had a ‘good’ shiny side were only etched on the ‘bad’ side.

Spraying the etch

As a wee lad of 8 or 10 years old I used to love building model planes, you know, those ‘Airfix’ kits. Spitfires, Heinkels etc were carefully glued together and painted using those tiny tins of enamel paint sold under the trade name ‘Humbrol’. Hard as this is to believe, I still have a few of those old tins from my now very distant childhood and the paint inside is as good as ever! Once the etch had dried (it does not take very long at all) I got out the brushes and the wee tins and started painting. I didn’t have any red enamel (well, you didn’t see many red Spitfire’s did you?) so I had to use a water based acrylic instead. These ones will need to be epoxy coated. I’ll do another post on that process.

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My idea was just to give these old spoons a basic new colour scheme, nothing fancy you understand, just solid colours on one or both sides. I am firmly of the opinion that salmon react to the movement of the spoon rather than the colour, so a lick of red/black/green/yellow paint is not going to make a huge difference as far as I can see. Some of them I painted all black on both sides just to see if they will work. I have read that in coloured water an all black lure or fly is the easiest for the fish to see. Beyond catching the occasional grilse on a Black Pennel fly in a filthy brown spate I have no proof of this particular theory.

I am a bit short of hooks right now so the final assembly will need to wait but that will only be the work of  few minutes to dress each of the spoons with new split rings, barrel swivels and strong trebles (Owners for preference).

In amongst the Tobys there was a HUGE handmade spoon which was chromed on one side. I decided to give the concave side a lick of fl. yellow paint and it came out lovely. I’ll definitely give this one a try for the green fellas when the winter comes around again. You can see from the photos below this is a gigantic spoon.

A couple of days ago I unearthed a wee bag with three completely bald Kynoch’s in it. Needless to say they got the same treatment and they are now painted silver.

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The damned virus continues to take the lives of many good people and disrupt our daily routine for those of us who are spared. Messing about with some old lures and paints helps to occupy my mind during these dark days. I hope this post finds each and every one of you safe and well.

update, i found a few hooks so here is how some of Toby spoons turned out:

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scaled convex side

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Same spoons but this is the concave sides

I especially like the look of the all black ones, I have high hopes for them but it will be next year before they get a swim by the looks of thongs.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

A dozen for the Robe

I will add a couple of final posts to this blog before it shuts down.

I had a request today for some help regarding what flies to use when fishing the river Robe in Mayo so here is a rough guide to twelve of the patterns I use on a regular basis. Other anglers will have faith in many other flies but these have all served me well over the years.

Beaded Pheasant tail.

I guess this is my ‘go to’ nymph pattern for the Robe in the early part of the season. It is a multi-functional fly that can be fished in the usual nymphing techniques or added to the tail of a wet fly leader and swung down-and-across. Some days a gold bead is better, on other days the duller, copper beaded version catches more.

Partridge and Orange.

I have used this fly since I was a boy back in Aberdeen and have probably caught more trout on it than any other pattern. During an early season hatch of olives it can be deadly. A great all-rounder it works best in streamy water early in the season. Don’t be without it if you are going to fish the Robe in springtime.

I like to add a peacock herl thorax to my Partridge spiders

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Olive Partridge Spider

This is one of my own patterns that does well from the start of the season through to the month of June. It has caught me many trout over the years and I still recall losing a huge wild trout at Hollymount a few years ago. I only got  brief look at it after it had emptied the reel twice; I got it close to me then it thrashed on the surface and threw the hook. How big? I reckon it was about eight pounds!

Olive Partridge spider

 

Adams

The Adams is by a long way my favourite dry fly for the Robe. I use different variations as circumstances dictate but the original with the grey fur body is hard to beat.

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standard dressing of the Adams

 

BWO spinner

The Robe gets good hatches of Blue wing olives, usually starting in early June and going on for the rest of the summer. When the spinners return to lay their eggs the trout feed hard on them and this simple dry fly has worked a treat during those hectic late evening rises.

Grey tippets, orange fur body and a small grizzled cock hackle, simple but effective BWO spinner

 

Rusty Spinner

When the Lark Dark Olives return to lay their eggs the Rusty Spinner comes into its own. Using the same design but changing the colour of the body you can produce a range of spinner patterns to cover most occasions. Claret, red and pale olive have all caught me trout.

Rusty spinner with a pink sighter to help in low light conditions

Iron Blue Dun

The Robe get small hatches of Iron Blue duns and I can’t say I have ever seen them in big numbers. The trout do seem to pick them out though when they do hatch so having a good copy can save the blank. Always tied on a small hook like a 16 or smaller. Sometimes you get a hatch of IBD in September too.

Standard dressing of the Iron Blue Dun

Wickhams Fancy

Summer evenings, the setting sun and fish slashing at sedges on an Irish river, the stuff dreams are made of! The Wickham’s Fancy is a poor copy of anything in the natural world but the trout love it. A brilliant fly you simply MUST have in your box.

 

Elk Hair Caddis

An American fly now, the Elk Hair Caddis. Again, you can fool around with the materials but I find a hare’s ear body is very good. Tied very small it is a great searching pattern on difficult days in the summer.

My Ginger Sedge

This is one for fishing into the dark on summer evenings. Either fished singly on a stout leader or on the tail of a two fly cast with a Wickham on the dropper this fly can often produce the best trout of the day. You can also grease it up and fish it dry.

Ginger sedge

 

Hawthorn

Falls of Hawthorn fly happen each May on the Robe, eliciting exciting rises from the fish. There are lots of patterns to pick from and they will no doubt all catch fish on their day. I like this one though.

Rubber legs on this Hawthorn.

 

Goldhead Hare’s Ear Nymph

Trout feed below the surface for 90% of the time so you need a good nymph pattern in your box. In different sizes this one will catch you trout on the Robe all season long.

Goldhead hares ear

As I say, this is just a dozen of my favourites, there are many other patterns which succeed on the river Robe. Size is important and a size 14 or 16 is usually about right.

Here is a very rough guide to when these 12 flies usually give their best:

pattern type size Mar April May June July August Sept
Beaded PT nymph 14 X X X
Partridge and orange wet 14 X X X X
Olive Partridge spider wet 14 X X X
Adams dry 14-18 X X X X X X
BWO dry 18 X X
Rusty spinner dry 14-18 X X X X
Iron Blue Dun wet 16 X X X
Wickhams Fancy wet 12, 14,16 X X X X X
Elk hair caddis dry 12, 14,16 X X X
Ginger sedge wet 12, 14 X X X X
Hawthorn dry 14 X
Hare’s Ear Goldhead nymph 12, 14,16 X X X X X X X
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Fishing in Ireland

News

Hi Folks,

After 3 years of blogging I have decided to take a break from the keyboard. There seem to be a million other things going on at present demanding my attention, so the time I usually spend on this blog could be allocated to other uses. I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has taken the time to visit the site and read about my angling exploits here in Ireland. Many of you have taken the trouble to get in touch and I have enjoyed communicating with each of you. If any of you want to get in touch with me my personal email address is colinmclean2005@hotmail.com

I have set up a new Facebook page for claretbumbler and will add any news there so you can keep up with my angling exploits. https://www.facebook.com/Claretbumbler-112672527054921

 

Best regards,

Colin

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Day 6 – Peach Palmer

I have been fortunate enough to fish for trout in the Orkney islands a couple of times and can highly recommend them to any stillwater trout angler. The fish can be free rising and the islands are a delight to visit with so much to do and see there. The last time I was there was with my mate Chris and we caught loads of trout. The most successful fly for us was this one, the Peach Palmer.

A typical road sign on Orkney

Swinging a small brown trout into the boat. That’s Eddie smiling in the background and I think this was us on Boardhouse loch.

Leaving Stromness on the ferry back to Scrabster

Local anglers on the islands are very fussy about getting the exact shade of peach; too reddish or too yellow is not going to cut the mustard for these highly skilled anglers. We just happened to be lucky that the peach coloured flies we had with us met with the approval of the fish. Since those far off days I have tried the Peach Palmer and its cousin the Peach Muddler here in Ireland and it works here too! It has caught me trout on Mask and Carra on bright days.

I use a size 10 or 12 wet fly hook and fl. yellow tying silk. Start the silk at the eye of the hook and leaving enough space tie in a cock hackle dyed sunburst. Now tie in another cock hackle, this time a bit shorter in fibre and dyed peach. Run the tying silk to the bend of the hook and catch in a piece of fl. yellow wool to make a tail. Trim the tail off square and tie in a length of fine gold wire.

ready to dub the fur body

Dub the tying silk with seals fur dyed peach (I actually have some dyed fl. peach and it works well). Form a tapered body with the seal’s fur then wind the peach hackle down to the bend in open spirals.

Tie in the hackle with the fine gold wire and wind it up through the hackle. Tie in and cut off the waste end of the hackle and the gold wire. Wind plenty of turns of the sunburst hackle at the head, whip finish and varnish to complete the fly.

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To make the Peach Muddler simply swap the sunburst hackle for a a muddler head made of natural deer hair.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Palamino midge

This is a pattern I used very successfully on Lough Corrib for many years when I kept a boat at Salthouse Bay. Early in the season there were great hatches of Duckfly in the bay and the trout would feed avidly on them. This fly caught me some great brown trout so here is how you make it.

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Use a curved hook, something like the Kamasan B100. A size 12 is about right. For tying silk I use 8/0 black. Start the silk at the eye of the hook and run it down the shank a short way. Don’t go around the bend (see photo above for the right length). Tie is a length of fine black chenille. I tend to use Veniard materials I have some ‘Vernille’ from them which is just ideal for this job. Singe the end with a lighter to seal the end and also to give it a nice tapered look. Now tie the Vernille in as an extended body of about 6mm long. Secure the Vernille with tight turns of silk and remove the waste.

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The thorax is made from fine orange/red fur which is dubbed on and wound to make a ball shape. The wings are made from a pair of badger cock hackle tips, tied in on top of the hook in a ‘V’ shape.

Tie in a cock hackle which is normally black but you can use badger of a grizzle hackle as well. 2 or 3 turns is sufficient then form a head, whip finish and varnish.

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You can tie this pattern in different colours such as brown, red or olive. I’ll post another fly tomorrow.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Day 5 – the Olive Wulff

Wulff patterns are widely used here in Ireland during the mayfly hatch. Normally tied on size 10 hooks, a huge range of patterns sporting the signature split hair wings catch trout during the greendrake hatch and the falls of spinners every season. There can’t be many Irish lough anglers who don’t have a few Wulff flies in their box. Outside of mayfly season though they are virtually never used. I kinda buck that trend though!

Lough Carra, home to big hatches of olives in April

Lake olives are large upwinged flies which hatch out from April right through the season. The biggest hatches are in the spring with smaller and less well defined hatches occurring throughout the summer and early autumn. The naturals vary in shade so one day on a certain lough you can find quite yellowish coloured duns and the next day they can be quite dark. I believe this is part of the problem that anglers have when dealing with hatches of olives here on the big loughs. Many anglers really struggle despite good numbers of fly on the wing and fish taking them confidently. I vary the colour of my flies until I find the one which will work on any given day. For that reason I tie this Olive Wulff in a wide range of body and hackle colours.

Lake olives are quite large flies and I tie the Olive Wulff on a size 12 hook to imitate the duns as the drift on the surface drying their wings. I like the Kamasan B170 hook for this pattern but feel free to use the hook of your choice. Olive or brown tying silk works best for this fly. I don’t mention wax very often but you need to thoroughly wax the tying silk when making this pattern. Squirrel hair, which is used for the wings and tail, is very slippery stuff so waxed silk is needed to keep everything in place and stop it sliding about.

Start the tying silk at the bend of hook and run it up the shank to the eye then come back about a third of the hook length. You need to leave yourself plenty of space to work on the wings and hackle. Take a bunch of squirrel tail hair from a tail which has been dyed olive and use a hair stacker to even up the tips. Don’t use too much hair, I find that slim wings are better than heavy ones.

With the tips of the hair facing forward over the eye of the hook use the pinch and loop method of tying in the hair and then make a number of turns with the silk to firmly secure the hair on the top of the hook. Divide the bunch of hair in two with figure of eight turns and build up the silk in front of the wings to make them sit upright. Keeping a good tension on the silk at all times during this process is vital. It all seems very difficult the first time you tie a Wulff but with practice it becomes much easier. Remember to think about proportions – the wings should be the same length as the hook shank and so should the tail.

With the wings completed you then remove the waste ends of hair but do this in steps so you get a tapered body. Start to run the tying silk down towards the bend and tie in another slim bunch of olive squirrel hair which has been even up just as you did with the wings in the stacker. Remove the waste hair and catch in a length of fine gold wire then run the silk to a point opposite the barb of the hook.

Dub the silk with some olive seal’s fur and wind this back up the hook to form the body. Wind the gold wire up the body in open turns, tie in and remove the waste end.

For the hackle you can use either a plain olive cock or a grizzle cock dyed olive. Prepare the hackle in the normal way and tie it in just behind the wings. Make three or four turns of the hackle behind the wings and the same again in front before tying down and trimming the waste off. The head and whip finish are as normal and add some varnish to seal the head after the tying silk has been cut off.

Tie this basic pattern in a range of shades of olive , everything from pale to sooty. It will catch fish during the mayfly hatch too. I can’t decide if the trout take it then as a mayfly or are they picking out olives which often hatch at the same time. Have fun making these Wulff’s, there is great pleasure to be had making something as complex as these flies.

Look after yourselves out there!

 

 

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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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