Fishing in Ireland

Safety and security

Always think of safety when you are going fishing on the big loughs. Every year people lose their life on these dangerous waters, often due to not taking the proper precautions.

  • Check the weather forecast before heading out and make your plans accordingly.
  • Wear a lifejacket at all times when on or near the water. Bring a small torch, it is handy for signalling if you get in trouble.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the lake I strongly recommend hiring a local ghillie to take you out. Lough Mask and parts of Lough Corrib are particularly dangerous places with ragged limestone reefs rising to within inches of the surface in many places. It is easy to hit an unseen reef and either hole or tip over the boat with dire consequences. If you are unfamiliar with the lough don’t venture out in bad weather. Some bays offer good shelter so these can be tried on very windy days.
  • Tell people where you are going before you set off and let them know when you plan to return.
  • Take extra care getting in and out of the boat, Docks can be slippery. In many places boats are simply hauled up on to a shelving bank so watch out for holes or rocks to trip over.
  • Keep your engine well maintained, a breakdown in a big wave can have serious consequences. Make sure you have enough fuel in the tank before setting off. Tightly secure the engine to the boat and always have a pair of oars with you. A small tool kit with screwdriver, spanners, spark plug spanner and a spare spark plug and a shear pin is handy to bring with you. Some boats have tholl pins built in but others do not, so carry a spare pair of pins with you.
  • Always have a bucket with you to bail the boat. You will probably need this to empty the boat at the start of the day but it will be a lifesaver if you hit a sharp rock and puncture the hull. If you do hole the boat make for the nearest land right away even if that is just an island. Get ashore and jam something in the hole to reduce the volume of water coming in. If the damage is severe then get help and don’t risk a long drive over open water with water pouring in.
  • Make sure you mobile phone is charged before you set off in case you need it but be aware that coverage out on the water is very poor and you may not get a signal.
  • If you do need help the recognised signal is to raise one oar vertically and hold it there. Anyone seeing this will come to your assistance if they can. I carry a length of rope with me when out in the boat so that in emergency I can be towed or tow another boat in trouble.
  • If you break down and some kind soul offers to tow your boat back to shore sit in the front of your boat when under tow (otherwise the boat will be next to impossible to tow).
  • If you do run aground do not get out of the boat. There is every chance it could float off leaving you stranded in the middle of thousands of acres of deep water! Stay onboard, move all weight to the other end of the boat and rock/push the boat off. If you are stuck fast then raise an oar and attract some help to pull you off.

I am not trying to put anyone off of visiting the great western loughs but please plan your trips carefully, keep an eye on conditions at all times and be prepared to deal with any emergencies.

needing a lick of varnish

Chained up, oars secured and old tyres underneath to support her, this boat is safe and sound

When I started fishing in Ireland all these years ago it was normal for everyone to haul their boat ashore after a day on the lough and just leave it there with the outboard engine still on the stern. Boats were secured to a block of concrete or some similar device to stop it floating away if the lake rose but nobody would think of any more security than that. We live in changed days now though and security is a real concern all across Ireland.

Not very hi-tech but this is the kind of concrete block that most boats are chained up to to stop them drifting off if the water rises

Boats are sometime stolen but it is usually the engines that the thieves are after. I understand there is a ready market for them in Europe and gangs now target angler’s boats for easy pickings. For a while there were various devices on the market for bolting your engine to the boat so it could not be removed but the thieve got around that by simply taking a saw to the back of the boat and cutting the arse of the boat off. So, regardless of how tired you are at the end of the days fishing always remove the outboard engine and take it with you. Remember to take the fuel tank too. Pull the boat up on to solid ground and chain it to something solid. I run the chain though the oars too so they do not go missing. A couple of tyres placed under the boat will stop her rocking in the waves and working herself loose. Please be considerate of other boat when picking somewhere to park up. If someone else has gone to the trouble of heaving a big concrete block into position for their own use and parked their boat there for the season do not nick their spot! I have seen this happen so often and it is infuriating to say the least when it happens to you. I have seen boats squeezed into impossibly tight spaces between two other boats, causing damage to then all. A bit of consideration goes a long way!


Cushlough on Lough Mask. Boats safely tied up and excellent security here. Trust me, it is not always so perfect at other spots around the lough!

There are an increasing number security cameras being installed at docks and marinas across the country to help reduce boat and engine theft/damage but ‘wild’ berths where boats are simple hauled up on a convenient piece of the shoreline are unguarded. I am afraid that every year we hear of angler’s cars being broken into and valuables taken. Don’t leave anything in sight in your car when you go fishing and take any valuables with you. Always report any suspicious behaviour such as strangers checking out boats or cars cruising the lanes and boreens. The locals have a good idea who is an innocent fisherman and who is up to no good.

Again, I hope this post doesn’t scare off some anglers who are thinking of visiting the West of Ireland. It is generally a safe and friendly part of the world and the fishers here will go out of their way to help any visiting angler. Please follow these simple points and stay safe.

Pier, high water

Cahir pier, lough Mask

Boats at Moorehall

Moorehall, Lough Carra. I used to keep a boat here but there have been too many boats damaged or let loose there recently by party-goers.

Bens boat on Mask

Boats pulled up on the west shore of Lough Mask



Fishing in Ireland

Between Ciara and Dennis

This craik of ‘naming’ windy days is a nonsense to me. I live in the west of Ireland and guess what? It gets wet and windy during the winter. The near constant weather warnings and maps with shaded areas where it is going to rain are over the top in my opinion. Anyway, Ciara soaked us all and blew a hooley last weekend and we are facing storm Dennis this coming weekend with yet more rain to be dumped on us from the heavens. Today though it was a quiet and dry morning so I decided to check on the boats in the harbour on Lough Beltra. We put 4 boats out a couple of weeks ago and they need to be checked periodically to make sure they do not come to any harm.

The car park was under a foot or so of water when I got there but the floating pontoon dock was doing its job perfectly and all 4 boats were safe but half full of water. Time to get the bucket out!

half full but safely secured to the dock

Gerry Hoban (fisheries officer) saw my car parked and came over for a chat. Seems a few early springers are nosing into Carrowmore which is a good sign and Delphi has turned up a couple of fish so far. I explained to Gerry that I will be doing some coarse fishing this year and he told me of a lake nearby with Tench in it. I’ll be giving that a try during the summer alright!

It didn’t take too long to empty all four boats and check the securing ropes were all OK. With another 4 boats to be launched soon I will be back on the shores of this wonderful lake very soon. Fishing opens on 20th March.

the carpark!!!


Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling


Spent an hour this afternoon sorting out the bait boxes. Some unsuccessful ones have been relegated while others were given new split rings or hooks. All set for the new season now!

Always plenty of old Swedish Toby spoons in my box!

18 gram tigers

Salmo Toby. These don’t get much use here in Ireland but I like having them in the box just in case


These are deadly for Pike

Another Pike spoon. I’m not a lover of Pike fishing but some days they are the only action available

Old ABU Glimmy spoons, lovely action in the water

ABU Plankton

ABU Salar. Very slow, rolling action in the water. As you can see I like the copper ones.

Small Rapalas and ABU Killer. When absolutely nothing is moving and the weather is against you these can sometimes produce a perch or trout

Rapalas. Always worth a try

one of the boxes before it was cleaned out. All the smaller baits have a new billet now.

Now all neatly stowed away in the bag.

We have had days of high winds and heavy rain here in the west. All the rivers are huge and there is some localised flooding. No fishing for a while to come as there is more bad weather forecast for the coming week.



Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Irish salmon licence

I bought my 2020 salmon licence today from Pat Quinn’s shop in Castlebar. €100 for the licence to fish for salmon and sea trout across the whole of the Republic. Wonder what this season will bring? Three tags looks very optimistic to me!

For visitors the whole question of angling licences and permits can be very confusing. If you are going to be fishing in the Republic check out where you can buy a salmon licence on line. Licences can be bought for specific areas and for shorter duration so it is worthwhile looking at your options before buying the licence.

For Northern Ireland things are  little bit more complicated. I suggest the starting point for you will be  You will need separate licences for the loughs agency areas and again, these are available to purchase online.

Depending on where you are fishing you may also need a permit. These can be bought locally and prices/conditions vary greatly.


Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Cardinal 66

Pulled out my old cardinal 66 spinning reel to give it a good clean and lub.

The old girl still runs smoothly and I get great pleasure form using it. It is heavy and the retrieve rate is slow compared to modern reels but I like the solid feel I get when using it. Looks like I need to invest in some new braid as the spool is looking decidedly low.


Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Pearly Claret Bumble

My unbridled enthusiasm for the Claret Bumble is well known to you all, it has been one of the most consistent flies for me over the years in all sorts of places and for all kinds of game fish. I was rummaging in a fly box the other day and came across a variant of the bumble which I thought you might like to see. I think it is called the Pearly Claret Bumble in some quarters and here is the dressing.

I like to use red tying silk when constructing this pattern and I make it on hook sizes from size 6 right down to 16. The bigger hooks are for salmon fishing and the smaller sizes work for wild brownies and rainbow trout.

this is Fire orange silk but it will work just as well as red

Start the silk at the eye of the hook and catch in a guinea fowl body feather dyed bright blue. It winds easier and looks better if you tie it in by the tip of the feather. If you like you can use some blue barred Jay but I think the guinea fowl is a better choice. Next, catch in a black and a dark claret cock hackle by the butts and run the silk towards the bend of the hook, tightly binding down the ends of the hackles. Cut off any waste.

Now you don’t really need the next item, I have landed many fish on this fly without the tag but I do like to see a few turns of red at the end of the body. I like to think it goes well with the pearl tinsel of the main body of the fly. Some Glo-brite no. 4 is the colour I tend to use for the tag. The tail is next and it is made with some strands taken from a golden pheasant tippet feather.

tippet collar

Fib is fine silver tinsel and the body is made from flat pearl tinsel. Catch both of these materials in at the point where the tag and tail are tied in and then run the tying silk back up to where the hackles are sitting. Form a nice even body with touching turns of the pearl tinsel, tie down and remove the waste. Now for the slightly tricky bit, grab both cock hackles in your pliers and wind them down the hook shank on open spirals. This is not too difficult on the larger sizes of hooks but it is tricky on the smallest sizes. The hackles are secured with the silver rib which is wound in the opposite direction to the hackles in open spirals. Aim for 4 or 5 turns.

GP tail feather dyed claret

Take 6 knotted strands of pheasant tail which have been stripped from a feather dyed claret and add them on top of the hook. Trim off the waste ends.

Nearly there, now grab the guinea fowl hackle and give it 3 or 4 turns while stroking the fibres backward. Secure the end and trim away the waste. Make a small neat head with the tying silk and whip finish before giving the head a couple of coats of clear varnish. Viola! This is a really useful variation which I can highly recommend to you. It is a very good pattern for Lough Conn early in the season.

the finished Pearly Claret Bumble

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Sunburst Octopus

A few years ago nobody had heard of the colour ‘sunburst’ but now it is widely used in pulling patterns. I tie a version of the Octopus using sunburst colours so I thought I would share it with you.

I like to tie this pattern on a size 10 heavyweight hook. That is because I want the fly to settle in the water quickly and fish well below the surface. Silk is usually red but I have used other colours and I don’t think it is really going to make a huge difference if you fancy a different shade of tying silk. Begin by starting the tying silk at the eye,remove the waste end and then catch in two golden pheasant yellow body feathers. I like to use two hackles as  single one looks a bit mean to me.

chinese cock cape dyed sunburst

Now strip the fluff from the butt of a cock hackle dyed sunburst and tie it in before running the silk in touching turns to the bend of the hook. Here you tie in a length of no.4 fl. silk and wind a small tag. For a tail I use a golden pheasant topping. Now catch in a length of no.14 oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib.

tying in the tag

Dub the tying silk with your preferred sunburst dubbing and wind a nice, tapered body back up to where the hackles are tied in.

Taking the cock hackle in the pliers wind about five open turns of the hackle down to the tail where it is secured with the ribbing tinsel. Wind the rib in the opposite direction through the body hackle and tie it in at the neck before removing the waste end.

Grab both pheasant hackles with the pliers and wind them together. This can be a bit tricky as these feathers are slippery customers. Stroke the fibres back as you wind the feathers then tie the ends down with the tying silk and trim the waste ends off. Form a neat head and whip finish to complete the fly then apply a drop of varnish to finish off.

If you want, you can add some knotted cock pheasant tail fibres before you wind the head hackles. These can either be natural, dyed claret or dyed red. I can’t in all honest say the addition of a few legs will make a huge improvement to the fly but they certainly look nice to our eye.

With legs……………

or without

This is a fly for fishing as part of a team in the deeps, searching for daphnia feeders in the middle to late season on waters like lough Mask.