Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Dog days of August

Hallelujah, it finally rained here yesterday. Real rain with proper, fat raindrops that splattered on the tarmac. Precipitation of a quantity we have scarcely witnessed for many weeks. Farmers and horticulturists rejoiced but the anglers in this neck of the woods were the most happy. Now there was the chance of a salmon!

Every opportunity was grabbed through the course of the morning to keek out of the window to check on the downpour. It fairly hammered down until noon when it eased off somewhat, but the drizzle kept up for the rest of the day. Humid, murky weather, just what we wanted! Back at home after work I grabbed the gear and chucked it in the back of the car. Dinner was consumed in a rush and I was on the road heading West by 7pm. The small Bunowen river at Louisburg was my target for the last couple of hours of the day.

The first thing I noticed as I reversed into a parking space on the river bank was a young collie. She looked to be less than a year old and was very nervous, holding some distance from me while still curious about this newcomer on her patch. I suspected she belonged to the farm a little up the track. I tackled up with the dog for company, darting forward to sniff at the net or rod or my waders as they appeared from the back of the car. I shooed her away as I strode off down the lane which leads to the long pool but she stayed close to me until I got to the style which led into a field. Ducking under the style she shot off for a lap of the field. Memories of how Nessie loved to run in that same free-flowing way rushed back to me.

The river was dropping but was still very high so I fished my favourite lies diligently but with half an eye on the dog as she chased around behind me. She was fascinated by my casting and clearly thought I was throwing something for her to chase. Every time I moved to another pool she would follow me like a black and white shadow. I didn’t really mind, in truth it was nice to have some doggy company again. The fishing was slow though and I was approaching the little pool where I was sure there would be a taker so I drove the dog off. It slunk away, obviously unhappy our little game was over for the night. Changing flies I surveyed the pool and decided that backing it up was my best option. Entering the cool, brown water I felt the power of the flow and the excitement grew as I lengthened the line. A slow strip in, the hang at the end of the cast, the long draw to shorten the line in readiness for the next throw. All practiced thousands of times on rivers across Scotland and Ireland. Watching the creases in the flow for any signs of life or underwater obstructions which could provide refuge for a salmon. The next step upstream against the flow, gravel shifting under my feet. Line slippery in my hand, rod lifting to reduce the drag, aiming casts to within inches of the far bank. Utter concentration.


From somewhere on the high bank behind me the dog had launched itself into the pool, landing a couple of yards downstream of where I was wading. In that tree fringed, near silent, ethereal world the effect of a Collie dog hitting the water from that height was akin to George Wubblu Bush’s ‘shock and awe’. It took me a few minutes to compose myself and gather my thoughts as the pooch swam back to the bank and shook herself vigorously. She seemed to be highly delighted with her belly-flop. I, on the other hand was not impressed as the tranquillity of the pool had been shattered and any salmon that may have been in there were by now in the next parish. I fished the pool back down to the tail, swinging the fly temptingly across the current and hand-lining it back through the smooth, flat water at the lip of the pool. Nothing stirred. Except for the dog rushing and yapping in the field behind me. I packed up and made my way back to the car, my new ‘friend’ (and I use that term very loosely) darting around me in the fading light.

Duffy’s fine establishment was calling so I dropped in for a very quick drink to round off the day. Traditional music filled the warm, moist air in the main street as musicians played their hearts out in the busier pubs. It was altogether more serene in Duffy’s where the talk was of the weather and the fishing and the farming. I heard of only one tiny grilse being taken that evening with a couple more having been caught the previous day. Next time………………………………….

trolling, trout fishing

Killer on Loch Cluanie

With no fishing right now due to the ongoing drought I have been amusing myself by sorting through some old gear which was jumbled into an old biscuit tin. There were lots of Mepps and other small spoons which I am unlikely to ever use again but an ABU Killer was tangled up in amongst the French spoons. I think these plugs are deadly, an appreciation which can be traced all the way back to my childhood.

Summer holidays back then in the late ‘60’s involved the family plus some suitcases wedged into a Triumph Toledo and we all headed off to the North or West of Scotland. These were simpler times, no notion of passports, theme parks or cheap sun holidays laced with red wine. No, instead we three kids spent a couple of mid-summer weeks in the outdoors being bitten by midges, splashing about in rivers or bouncing about on the back of poor old trekking ponies. My two sisters loved the trekking bit while I just wanted to have a fishing rod in my hand. Looking back on it now I wonder at the patience of my long suffering parents as they did everything possible to keep us all happy and safe.

My love affair with the ABU Killer was complex. Pocket money certainly did not stretch to the purchase of these very expensive ABU plugs. The silver example I was so proud of had been recovered from the bottom of the river Don at Inverurie sometime before when my worming gear had stuck on an underwater object which turned out to be the branch of a tree. The blackened, knarled limb must have been washed down in a flood from the expensive beats up river because nobody I knew who fished that cheap, local authority stretch could afford a Killer. However it got there it was now the centrepiece of my collection of spinners. I had never actually used it, being far too afraid it would get stuck on the bottom again. So it languished in the old tobacco tin, biding its time.

I must have been about 11 or maybe 12 years old when the Killer showed its true metal. The family holiday that year was a week in a rented cottage in Wester Ross. The oft travelled A96 up to Inverness, down the shore of Loch Ness through Drumnadrochit to Glenmoriston where the road turns off to the west and the amazing drive through Kintail with the Five Sisters towering over the road. The cottage was an old house with some basic appliances but it was all we needed and I have many fond memories of that vacation.

I had extracted a promise from my father that he would take me fishing on one of the big lochs. I think it might have been the second last day of the holiday before that promise was honoured, so anticipation had been building to fever pitch. The mighty River Moriston had at one time been one of the great salmon rivers of Scotland. It drained the wild lands of Kintail, pouring itself into Loch Ness after a tumultuous journey through the giant cleft in the land. Then, in the late 1950’s the surveyors and engineers arrived, bringing with them the plan for cheap electricity and the death warrant for the river. Great dams throttled the Moriston and the salmon were exterminated from the upper river. Huge reservoirs were created to feed the ever hungry turbines and the splash of leaping salmon was replaced by the low hum of the generators. The salmon are long gone but the little brown trout from the river found better pickings in the newly created still waters and they grew to a better size. It was these brownies I wanted to catch.

A Tay-rigged ABU Killer

I recall the Cluanie Inn was where you could hire a boat for a day (maybe it still is for all I know).  Few shillings changed hands and we set off in the car to the end of the loch where the boat was moored. I suspect it was only when my dad saw the cockleshell 12 footer that the enormity of the day ahead really struck him. We were going to fish a 10 mile long loch from a wee rowing boat with the emphasis very firmly on the ‘rowing’ part. I had been doing my homework and I knew what to do, father had to row the boat while a trolled a bait behind us. I was so full of excitement! Dad looked utterly dejected.

We set off and I got myself sorted, a wooden devon (silver in colour with a deep blue back to it) was lowered into the water and the line paid out until a good 30 yards separated the rod from the bait. I hunkered down to concentrate of the rod tip, snake-like concentration being required on my part. Dad pulled gamely on the oars, steady strokes which I had to tell him to increase in speed as we were not dragging the devon through the water quickly enough in my estimation. He muttered something inaudible through gritted teeth and picked up the pace slightly. My cobra’s stare deepened.

My faded copy of the 1965 ‘Game fishing in mainland Ross and Cromarty’


The entry for Loch Cluanie

We kept this up for maybe an hour before the rod gave an almighty lurch and the reel screamed. A half-pounder was soon in the boat and one wee boy was thrilled to say the least. Even dad managed a smile before I announced that the other shore might be a better spot to try next. He suggested that we eat our sandwiches first before covering the width of the loch (again). I was enjoying every minute of this most magical of days, dad on the other hand seemed to be wilting ever so slightly.

The following couple of hours were painfully blank and the solitary trout looked like a poor return for all our (sorry, his) efforts. I had changed the bait a couple of times but nothing interested the fish. Dad began to talk about heading back and how we better not be late. I needed some inspiration and as I poked around in my ‘Golden Virginia’ tin of baits I figured it was time to do the unthinkable – actually use the ABU Killer. With trembling hands I tied it on to the end of the line and tested the knot. I swear I was more afraid of losing the bait than any thought of catching a fish on it. I had read that some pike lived in this loch and in my mind’s eye I could envision a huge pike severing the line as he engulfed my lovely silver plug.

Dad rowed stoically on, nothing was said but I could see he had surreptitiously turned the boat in the direction of the far off mooring spot. Within minutes of immersion in the peaty waters my ABU Killer produced the goods! An alarming whack on the rod was almost instantly followed by the sight of a trout leaping clear of the small waves. A good trout, twice the size of the first lad. He fought well but not well enough and dad scooped him out of the loch and into the boat. My suggestion that we ‘take another run over that spot again’ was not well received and instead we picked up speed as we made a bee-line for the mooring.

It turned out to be the only fish that Killer caught. A few seasons later it did indeed snag on the bottom and the line parted when I tried to yank it free. I was sad to lose it just because of the memory of the day on Loch Cluanie but by then I was working and had money to buy a replacement if desired. Salmon have fallen for Killers fished by me over the years since then and even when I discovered Rapalas the old ABU plug still snuck on to the end of my trace from time to time.

The Abu Killer was in fact made in America (the same applied to Cello and Hi-lo plugs from ABU). These days ABU Garcia have them made in the Far East. I still pick up old ones second hand for not much money. I have less fear of losing them now! Funny how a couple of inches of plastic, moulded in the land of the free, can create such memories.

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

No macks

The pier at Roonagh is a favourite spot to fish and each summer I try to get over there to spin for Mackerel (macks). The great thing about Roonagh  is the views across to the islands, so even if the fishing is slow you can still be captivated by the ever changing vista.

the target………………..

Yesterday evening seemed to be a good one for such a trip. What constitutes optimum conditions for Mackerel? I much prefer calm seas and good water clarity. Mackerel hunt by sight so dirty water makes it harder for them to locate my lures.

Off we set and arrived to find the pier deserted – not a good sign! The word spreads like wildfire when the macks are in and the locals throngh the short pier, heaving strings of feathers into the sea. Trust me, venturing on to the pier when the fishing is at its height is not for the faint-hearted. The empty pier which greeted us was a clear sign the fishing would be tough.

Tackling up I decided to try a bait ledgered on the bottom as well as spinning, so the 4 ounce beachcaster was strung up and a sandeel cast out. Happy that everything was as it should be I turned to the spinning gear and perched myself in my favourite spot at the end of the pier. The old rythym of cast, snap back the bail arm, retrieve was repeated numerous times, each cast being completely ignore and shiny lure made its jerky way back to me totally unhindered by the fish.

Clare Island

Even as I had been tackling up my attention was drawn to a tiny boat out in the bay. It was too far out for me to be sure exactly what kind of craft it was but somehow it didn’t look ‘right’. As I was fishing the blue dot in the middle distance came a little closer and I could see it properly. Two men were fishing off of an inflatable dingy barely 12 feet long and with a freeboard which could be measured in millimetres. The sea calm enough for Clew Bay but even still there was a wave of maybe a couple of feet running. The bright blue dingy could be seen flexing in the middle with every wave which passed under it. I personally would not have got into that thing in a bath, never mind on the Atlantic! The closer the two anglers came the clearer I could see them and it became obvious they were not wearing life jackets. I was both stunned and angered in equal proportions, stunned at the stupidity  of not wearing life jackets but also angry that if they got into trouble the press would have been happily reporting two ‘fishermen’ were in difficulty. None of the fishermen I associate with would ever do something this foolhardy. Even the wash from the small ferry would have been sufficient to overturn that joke of a boat.

The beachcaster gave a languid nod, no more than that. Tightening up the line I could feel a very faint bite so I struck with an upward sweep of the 12 footer. There was a considerable weight on the end but not much of a fight as such. Out of the crystal clear waters emerged a mass of thick, brown weeds. Somewhere below a dogfish was wriggling so I hoisted fish and weeds on to the concrete. A lesser spotted dogfish, very dark in colour, had swallowed the sandeel. Far from the most exciting catch, he was none the less a welcome sight on an otherwise fishless evening. Unhooked, I lowered him back into the water and he swam off, none the worse for his adventure and probably thinking that was the last time he was going to eat a sandeel he found lying on the bottom!

At least I caught something!

We fished on but the macks were simply not there to be caught. Having failed to locate them on the north Mayo coast and now at Roonagh the next venue will be further south. Sunday may be a good day.


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


Just for a change there was some drizzle this morning. You could not dignify the gently falling moisture with the title of rain, it was just descending wetness which barely kept the dust down. Today was going to be a good day, today I was fishing in North Mayo.

High tide at 2pm meant a leisurely start to the day. No need for an alarm, strong black coffee in bed, thick slices of hot, buttered toast. Bliss! Then an hour or so spent sifting through the sea fishing gear to make sure I had everything to take with me. Don’t you hate it when there is a little, niggling voice in your head questioning if you have packed this or that? Today I had time to eliminate all of those negative thoughts and the battered black tackle box was stuffed to overflowing with all manner of goodies to tempt the fish.

Ben was going to be my companion on this jaunt and we rendezvoused at 11 am as planned. The road was quiet as we drove up that well trodden road to North Mayo. The heat was building already so we motored with the windows down, the bird song brightening the journey for us as we sped through the gorgeous countryside. It takes the guts of an hour to get to Portacloy, past the foot of Nephin, across the bog to Bangor then down the ever narrowing roads until the lovely bay comes into sight.

The plan was for Ben to spin and fly fish from the beach while I tried bait fishing from the inner pier. Ben was targeting sea trout and Bass while I was hoping for flat fish on the sandy bottom. Tackled up, we went our separate ways. Ben worked the waters close to the sand, methodically casting and retrieving all the way along the strand to the rocks at the far end. He repeated the exercise by returning to his starting point but the fish were not responsive. Meantime, I set up a pair of beachcasters and hurled sandeel baits as far as I could, then waited………………… And waited some more…………………. Nothing!

One beachcaster out, I am re-baiting the other one

Now this was more than a little perplexing as Portacloy is quite possibly the most productive mark in the whole county. I have never landed a big fish here but there are usually plenty of smaller fish to keep you busy. Today there seemed to be no fish hanging around at all. Even a cormorant which was fishing right next to us came up with an empty bill each time he dived. He swam off in the end and I couldn’t blame him. By now Ben had come back to the pier and explained he had managed to wade too deep for his boots and was soaked. He removed the offending socks and promptly went to sleep. I fished on, grimly determined to show Ben and that bloody cormorant that there were fish there. I was wrong.

time for a wee nap…………….

The tide reached high water and I roused Ben from his slumber. We needed a plan B. He suggested a mark he had seen but not fished, Carrowteigh. It was only a short drive away so I agreed. Let’s give that a lash so.


Head of a Launce

It was only the work of a few minutes to load up the Jeep and drive over to the new mark. Rods re-assembled, we were quickly back fishing again in crystal clear waters. The scenery was breathtaking, golden beaches and azure waters, Surely we would have more luck here?

First fish of the day!!!!!

Well, yes we did. We actually caught lots and lots of fish. The only issue was that they were Launce (Greater Sandeel). They are superb for bait but catching them on medium spinning rods cannot really be classed as sport. We fished the tide down the afternoon punctuated by the silvery eels grabbing our tiny feathers. I reckon we landed about 20 of them, enough for a number of baits as some of the Launce were huge.

The photo does not do this gigantic sandeel justice, it was well over a foot long

I tried a small, rocky mark located across a field but only succeeded in losing lots of gear on the tackle hungry rocks. So I returned to the pier again my pockets lighter now as a few traces and lures were lost to the underwater rocks. All afternoon I was plagued with crabs stealing the bait. In the blink of an eye they could strip all the hooks of bait and even avoided being caught themselves. Until the very last cast!

A sandeel after only a few minutes attention by the crabs

the culprit

into another eel

We called it a day at 6pm, having not registered a single bite to the bait rods all day. Only the Sandeels saved the blank but we both enjoyed the fabulous weather and the fresh air. Shore fishing is often like this, a process of eliminating the places where the fish are not until you find where they are. I will be back on the edge of the sea again very soon, only this time I will head for the other end of the county. Until then…………….


Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing


The weather continues to thwart the efforts of all the freshwater fishers that I know. I’m told there are some grilse in the fast water below the Galway weir but the thought of fishing there while being watched from the bridge by all those pairs of eyes leaves me cold. The sea fishing in Clew Bay has turned up some better catches of late apparently but work has prevented me from venturing out on the briny. This past week I had to leave the costa-del-Mayo and travel to England to attend a training course. The journey at least gave me time to re-think my plans for what is let of the season.

Knock airport, for all its drawbacks is a remarkably pleasant experience in these days of frantic queues and the cattle-herding mentality of the larger airports. Knock is tiny, handling only a few short-haul flights each day. Constructed on the top of a hill by a priest (this is not the plot line from a Father Ted script) it services the west of Ireland and providing visitors with an easy gateway to the surrounding area.  Monday saw me boarding one of Flybe’s turboprops for the short hop to Birmingham. The sun shone with a force and energy which we are rapidly becoming used to as I stood with my fellow travellers on the tarmac in an untidy line. The smart blue plane shimmered in the heat haze and stepping inside was akin to entering a furnace. We sweltered and sweated our way across the Irish Sea at 28,000 feet.

The pilot assured us the weather was just as Mediterranean in the English midlands just as the over priced snacks were being served. As we banked to swing around on our final approach I looked down on countryside beginning to look parched. Dun-coloured fields are replacing green ones as the lack of rain starts to bite. We approached Birmingham International over Coventry where my great auntie Mary used to live. As a small child I recall the visit to her, my dad’s old Austin chugging all the way down from Aberdeen in what, in those pre-motorway days, was a journey of epic proportions. To this day I remember those dimly lit streets that all looked identical with gaps in the terraces where Luftwaffe bombs had wrought their destruction. Coventry looked much more appealing on this sunny Monday afternoon.

Aftermath of the Coventry blitz

I had elected to catch a train down to Bristol rather than hire a car. I detest driving and the opportunity to let the train take the strain was gladly accepted. A window seat allowed me to view the world as it rushed past. Middle England looked well and the route took the train through fields and villages which Turner could have painted. A pair of Red Kites wheeled and soared close to the track at one point, fabulous birds that were apparently once an everyday sight. Their kin, the Black Kite, is common in Indian cities where they find plenty to scavenge but they look sinister to me whereas the red ones are much more graceful to my eye. But I digress……………

As we clickety-clacked along the rails my thoughts turned to the fishing. The lack of rain looks set to continue for perhaps another two weeks so any thoughts of serious salmon fishing need to be put on hold. Instead, I would put my efforts into shore fishing. The Mackerel can’t be far away and Pollack should be more active now. What I need is to get off the damned 2 – 10.30pm shift at work so I have some time to get out with the rods!

I’d rather be here than on a training course!

The train disgorged many of its passengers at Cheltenham, took on some new faces and then sprinted off down the tracks towards my destination.  I was keen to see Bristol as the only time I have been there before was to visit a factory many years ago. That time I drove along the M4, held meetings with managers, viewing a highly technical process in a low-rise 1950’s shed then drove back on the motorway to London. I saw nothing of the city that day (and I didn’t buy the machine either as it turned out). Now, I would get my first real view of this old city. Not being a city dweller, I generally dislike the noise, overcrowding and lack of green spaces in most cities but Bristol turned out to be a very nice place. On my last evening there I walked out to the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Looking over the edge is a dizzying experience!

The Great Britain

I suppose I had better make a confession. When I found out I was going to Bristol I did what every fisherman does – Google to see if there are any tackle shops where I was going. Sure enough, Veals have a shop near the middle of the town. They have been in the angling retail business for generations and their shop on the second floor of an old building was full of everything any angler could want, be they game, sea or coarse enthusiasts. If, like me, you find yourself in Bristol it is definitely worth a visit to the shop. I invested in some odds and ends for sea fishing as by now I was making firm plans for the next few weeks.

The week passed quickly enough with days filled to the brim of health and safety training and the evenings spent getting to know my fellow trainees and wandering around the city centre. Friday came around and the reverse journey back home. I love travelling and seeing other places but there is always that comforting feeling when you take the first steps of the trip homewards. The lock on the hotel room door clicked as it shut behind me and off down the corridor I marched, laptop slung over one shoulder and the wheels on my case making a god awful racket as I dragged it behind me on the wooden floor. Checked out and into the already bright sunshine, chap in a three lions shirt was singing ‘football’s coming home’ as he passed me in the street. It is 6am for God’s sake! The whole country seems to have lost the run of itself after the penalty shoot-out in Russia. I get a text telling me that I need to work the early shift next week, marvellous news which means some time off in the evenings for a change.

The train journey to Birmingham New Street was bliss, a near empty carriage and a coffee to sip as the plan for the weekend and some angling takes shape. The North Mayo coast would be my first target, looking for Pollock and Mackerel over rocky ground. If that fails to produce I will try have a go around Killery. One of the marks I like down there has a sandy bottom which produces rays and dogs but I fancy there may be some flats there too, maybe Dabs or even the odd Plaice. I will make up some Plaice traces just to be prepared.  While I am at it I need to make some new pulley rigs too, using the nice new swivel/beads I bought in Veal’s.

I have been thinking about replacing the braid on my 6500C for a while now. I never really fell in love with braid as a line for shore fishing. So I bought a big spool of 18 pound mono and filled up the old silver multiplier when I got home.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I certainly felt glad to be back home on Friday. Bristol was nice but I am excited to be fishing this coming week. It’s been ages since I was fishing and even longer since I caught something!

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 autogenic 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!