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, 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, 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, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Recommended flies for Mask

After a spell in England during the mid-noughties I returned to Ireland and came to live in Ballinrobe. During that time I kept a boat at Cushlough, learning a little bit about the trout fishing around that part of Lough Mask. Previously (we are talking the late ‘90’s) I kept a boat on the other side of the lough at Churchfield, a handy spot with good access to the whole of the western shoreline. It has been a few years since I seriously fished Mask but here are some of the flies I found useful in the early part of the season for that hallowed water.

I want to stress the importance of finding where the fish as the prerequisite for a successful day out on lough Mask. With 20,000 acres of water available to hide in the fish can take some finding. It won’t matter a jot what flies you tie on to your leader if you are fishing over barren drifts. On the vast expanse of a water like lough Mask it can be no easy matter finding the trout and this can be very disheartening for visiting anglers, especially if they are used to stocked fisheries where fish can usually be seen rising. If drifts are unsuccessful then move and try somewhere else. Always keep your eyes open for clues such as birds feeding or other boats congregating in a certain area. Be aware of changing conditions, especially the wind direction and strength.

When the season opens the fish will be on the bottom hoovering up shrimps. There will be very localised hatches of duckfly in some bays but the exact locations of these duckfly ‘holes’ are closely guarded secrets, known to the locals only. Around many parts of the lake you can often see large numbers of duckfly in the air in March and April but see very little surface activity. Given calm conditions normal buzzer tactics will take some fish. Otherwise, drifting over shallow reefs for the shrimp feeders will usually be your best bet.

Normal buzzer patterns on size 10 or 12 hooks will catch fish in calm conditions

‘Bits’ in black, claret, ginger and olive are handy for the times the fish are mopping hatching duckfly. Fish these in the surface film with a lick of floatant on the back of the fly

The Sooty olive. This is one of the staple flies for early season work. There must be dozens of different ties of the fly and all of them will work on their day. For me, size is important and I prefer a size 12 to the larger 10’s which seem to be more popular. Hackle colour is always up for debate with this fly but either a natural black or a red game dyed olive are your main choices.

Sooty Olive, this one is tied with a black hackle

Fiery Brown. Classic Irish wet fly which is a great producer in the early months of the season. It is just as effective when dressed dabbler style. While I have seen some anglers adding jungle cock to their Fiery Brown’s it is a pattern that does not need them in my humble opinion. Save those precious black and white feathers for other, more deserving flies! I do like to tie my Fiery Brown’s with an orange tag.

Fiery Brown

Bibio. It is hard to beat the original dressing but I do like the jungle bunny dressing earlier in the season. When the wind drops a skinnier version can be better than the bushy tying, something like the Bibio Snatcher .

Jungle Bibio

Bibio Snatcher

Some anglers like the Peter Ross but I can’t say I have had much luck with it on Mask. Having said that I have caught trout on a Silver Spider with a red thorax which is pretty similar.

Peter Ross Buzzer

The red/silver spider that I like

There are a seemingly endless array of buzzer patterns to pick from but these are a couple of fairly reliable ones:

Hatching Duckfly

Jennings Nymph

By April there will be olives hatching on lough Mask. What should be a period of excitement is frequently a lesson in frustration as trout rise in front of you but ignore your best flies. I have seen many of the best anglers defeated by a hatch of olives over the years. So what are your best options? In a very heavy hatch when the fish are sipping flies from the surface then dry the dry fly. A CDC dun or hatching pattern will sometimes work.

When there are flies on the wing but little in the way of surface activity the wet fly is your best option and there are a range of flies I would recommend.

Red tailed Invicta

Invicta. Yes I know, this is supposed to be a sedge pattern but nobody told the trout that and an Invicta tied with a red tail can be good medicine in a hatch of olives.

Claret Dabbler. It looks nothing like an olive but it has worked for me on many occasions in a hatch of olives.

Raymond. An old pattern but one which can do the job early in the season. The only change from the original dressing is that I wind claret and a light olive body hackles instead of the normal red one.

A small Green Peter

A small Green Peter fished on the bob has saved the day for me before now. A size 12, dressed lightly and cast to rising fish sometimes works. I like the RA version but one with a solid green body works too.

As the days lengthen and the water warms up the iconic mayfly start to make their annual appearance on lough Mask. Years ago these hatches were heavy and the fish could be seen mopping the duns from the surface across the shallows of the eastern side of the lough. These days the hatches are sparse and surface activity much less than of yester year. There are hundreds of mayfly patterns to pick from and rather than fill page after page here I suggest you read one of the best books on the subject, Irish Mayflys by Patsy Deery.

While mayfly patterns catch the bulk of the trout in May there are a number of other useful flies which also succeed.

Connemara Black

I love a small Connemara Black in the middle when mayflies are hatching. Don’t ask me why it works, all I know is that the ‘CB’ has caught me lots of fish over the years.

Colin’s Ginger Sedge

My own Ginger Sedge is a good fly at this time of the year too. I tied this fly initially after seeing trout selectively taking sedges in the middle of a mayfly hatch one year.

Cock Robin

The Cock Robin variant comes into its own around about now. Don’t be frightened to try it on a size 8 hook.

Fishing in the deeps really picks up in late spring and the use of flashy pulling patterns comes into its own. Gorgeous George, Octopus and other similar highly coloured flies will take fish on those long drifts over the deep water when the shallows are quiet. I will hold my hand up and say that I am no expert on fishing the deeps, I find it a very boring way of fishing and tend to keep to the shallows even when the fishing there is poor. Let’s run through a couple typical scenarios and think about how to deal with them.

Imagine you are fishing lough Mask and turn up to find a big wind blowing from the north. It’s April and the day feels raw with thick clouds scudding across the sky. White horses on the lough suggest a rough day on the water. Where do you start? I would possibly head for some shelter either at the north end of the lough or around the islands. I’d leave the deeps alone as the wind will push you along at a high speed and a drogue is out of the question on Mask (never be tempted to try a drogue here even out in the deeps, there are hidden pinnacles of limestone which will snag the drogue and swamp the boat). A team of wets on a slow sinking line is a good place to start and flies like Fiery Brown, Sooty Olive and Bibio are worth a swim. I would be more concerned about getting the depth and speed of the flies right ahead of any particular pattern.

On a day of little wind at the same time of year you can go searching for a duckfly hole and fish buzzers just like you would on an English reservoir. If that is not your style of fishing then keep looking for signs of wind rippling the surface. There is rarely a day when there is a dead flat calm in this part of the world so be prepared to move to find the ripple and the wet flies can be used again. If there is a bright sky with a bitter east wind then I’d prefer to be sitting in a warm pub rather than fishing in such poor conditions!

Books could be written on the tactics and flies for use on Lough Mask and similar tomes produced for the other great western lakes. It often comes down to local knowledge so take my advice and talk to the anglers you meet. Advice is willingly given and can often be the difference between a successful day and miserable failure.

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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

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