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

Portacloy

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.

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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…………….

 

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

A wee wiggly thing from Sligo

We were in Sligo at the weekend and I purchased a couple of lures. One of them is a straight forward gold and silver spoon with a hammered finish on the gold side. It should work for salmon I guess. Called a ‘Mozzi’ and made up in Omagh.

Gold on the outside and silver on the reverse.

The other one is unlike anything I have seen before. It is long and thin, made from copper and has a silver finish on the reverse side. The interesting thing is the ‘wiggle’ on it. Don’t ask me what it is intended to catch, I have no idea. Maybe spinning in the sea for sea trout?

Dear enough for a scrap of copper and a treble hook, but hey, who could resist one of these?

The Garavogue tumbles through the town centre, looking decidedly ‘fishy’. Salmon run the river to get into Lough Gill but I don’t know if it is any good for fishing. A few lake boats were moored up on the river but none of them looked as if they had been used for months.

looking upstream

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Looking down-river from the footbridge

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Happily married

Fashions change. Clothes which were de-rigour only a few short months ago now languish in a bin liner awaiting the next trip to the charity shop. This is not always a bad thing, those ridiculous flared trousers of my own youth are not mourned (and no, there is no photographic evidence of me so attired).

It’s the same with flies, yesterday’s killer patterns fade away into obscurity, their past successes quickly forgotten and their place in the fly box now occupied with the latest poly/glitzy/foamy killer. A Luddite at heart, I find this sad and I like to fish with the old patterns  from time to time. As you all know, I love simple spider patterns made of little more than a hackle, real silk thread and maybe a pinch of fur. The recent resurgence in interest in the old spiders has been both heart-warming and instructive. As more anglers tied and use the spiders the more their versatility become apparent and the range of applications where the can be effectively used broadened significantly.

Now let me float an idea past you. I think some of the old, mixed wing patterns deserve an occasional swim. Yes I know they are time-consuming to tie. I get the disappointment when, after only a couple of fish the wings are reduced to a mangled shambles. I certainly empathise with you all when that damn thread snaps just as you are tightening it down to secure the oh-so-carefully built wings in position. Surely those built wings are only for show at fly tying competitions these days? Well I beg to differ. I love using mixed winged flies and at times they can be pretty good at tempting the fish. Would a modern fly catch more fish? Probably, but that’s not the whole story. Keeping traditions alive in our sport is a good thing in my book.

I don’t have boxes full of patterns by Kelson nor do I possess a range of exotic feathers garnered from nearly extinct species. Just a few pairs of dyed swan of goose, available from Veniard at very little cost, that’s all you require. That and some imagination goes a long way to creating some variations of standard flies. So here are a couple of patterns to test your tying skills and add some tradition to a corner of your fly box.

Let’s start with a pattern for brown trout. The Welshman’s Button has been copied so many times over the years that you could tie on a different fly every day of the season and still not use them all. I use this one on days when there is a high wind and a good wave on the loughs. I would wager that is no use at all in a flat calm but, a rolling wave hides many indiscretions and this lad does the business in a force 5 or above.

Hook: I like a size 10

Tail: a golden pheasant topping dyed red or orange

Tying silk: Olive

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Body: make this from golden olive seals fur

Body hackles: a golden olive and a red cock hackle palmered together

Throat hackle: Natural blue jay

Underwing: paired slips of Woodcock secondary

Overwing: matching slips of green, yellow and orange swan or goose (in that order from the bottom).

Keep the slips of swan or Goose narrow and don’t hide the Woodcock. Does this fly look like some sort of winged Golden Olive – yes, I think it does, but no harm in that.

Now we will take a look at a pattern for sea trout. The faithful old Teal, Blue and Silver is an excellent fly for fresh trout. After a day or two in the river though they begin to lose their rashness and with each successive day they grow more and more wary. This variation is something I tied up many years ago to chuck at sea trout when the TB&S begins to lose its charm and it still catches sea trout to this day.

Hook: from a size 6 all the way down to as small as you think you can tie!

Tail: GP tippets

Rib: fine silver wire

Body: flat silver tinsel

Hackle: bright green cock hackle, slightly long in fibre

Wings: Yellow, green and blue swan or goose. Teal over the swan, not too much though, you don’t want to hide your handiwork! I tie the wing slightly on the long side too.

Cheeks: Jungle Cock (optional)

hackle, tail, rib and tinsel have all been tied in and the silk returned to a little behind the eye

the green hackle has now been wound

 

3 colours of goose

 

the slips of goose cut and laid out ready to be married

 

The goose positioned on top of the hook and tied in with a soft loop

 

Narrow slips of teal on each side then a whip finish…………

Swapping the green hackle for the Cambridge blue one and adding the married swan creates a lovely fly, one which the sea trout seem to appreciate. Here in the west of Ireland the sea trout tend to be small and you must accept that your lovely creation will be well and truly ‘flittered’ by small lads in no time at all. But this pattern, nestled in the scissors of a 3 pounder is a thing of untold beauty, so persevere with it.

Not convinced yet? Imagine this – it’s winter, outside the wind batters the windows and the driving rain/hail/snow makes any thoughts of venturing outside seem like insanity. The fire is on in your fishing den, it’s warm in here and the bright light illuminates the bare hook in your vice. There may be a whisky in a tumbler within reach or possible just a strong coffee freshly brewed in your favourite mug. The door is shut, barring the rest of the world and you have a precious hour to yourself. 60 minutes to indulge in your guilty pleasure of fly tying. Now wouldn’t you rather spent some time lovingly crafting a beautiful married wing pattern or just whipping a piece of plastic/foam/glitz to the shank of that hook? I know which I would rather make!

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Holiday weekend (2) Two more patterns for Carrowmore Lake

I am frequently asked for salmon fly patterns for use on Carrowmore. I generally give the same answer – whatever you have in the box that you have confidence in on a size 8 hook. That may sound like a cop out but the truth is that I have seen salmon caught on so many different patterns it is hard to say which are the best ones. I remember being in the boat with Rocky Moran one day when the lake was not fishing at its best. In a small ripple he rose and hooked a salmon and as he was playing it out I asked him what he was using. He smiled and said ‘you will see’. Sure enough, the grilse was duly landed and there in his scissors was a variation of a Green Highlander of all things! I would never have tied that on the end of my line in a thousand years but it just goes to show that you can’t be too dogmatic on Carrowmore.

Good conditions for Carrowmore

On a bright day something with some yellow can do the trick, especially if it is cold as well. I don’t carry too many flies with yellow in their make up as I almost invariably turn to a Lemon Shrimp if I want a yeller’ pattern. It is a handy one to have in the box for spring fishing and I dare say it works for the grilse during the summer too. I vividly recall fish a wee spate river during a falling spate one May many years ago. Salmon were running through and I had already landed a couple that day. I was fishing a tiny pool, only a few yards long and I turned a fish to the cascade I had on. He didn’t touch the fly, just rising like a trout to it instead then rolling away showing his side to me as he turned. I chucked the fly back at him a few more times but without response so I went back upstream a few steps and changed to a Lemon Shrimp. For once everything came together perfectly and the fish took the Lemon Shrimp with an ostentatious head and tail, a lovely fresh salmon of six pounds.

6 pound bar of silver on the Lemon Shrimp

6 pound bar of silver on the Lemon Shrimp

The Lemon Shrimp works on Carrowmore too so here is how to tie this fly;

Tag: Oval silver tinsel

Rear hackle: GP red breast feather, wound. Some anglers prefer the tail to be made of bucktail dyed red.

Rear body: yellow floss ribbed with oval silver tinsel

Middle hackle: Yellow cock, doubled

Front Body: black floss ribbed with oval silver tinsel

Eyes: Jungle Cock (Optional in my opinion, I have caught salmon on flies with and without JC eyes)

Head hackle: a well marked badger cock hackle, doubled

Head: red varnish

Lemon Shrimp

Lemon Shrimp

The exact shade of yellow is up to you. I have seen some which are almost golden olive the yellow is so dark but I much prefer a bright lemon shade for the floss and the middle hackle. I have also seen this fly tied with the front body formed of bright red floss but I haven’t tried that variation so can’t say if it works or not.

Lemon Shrimp on a Loop double

Lemon Shrimp on a Loop double

I mentioned the colour green earlier. There is a fabulous version of the Green Peter which catches a lot of fish on Carrowmore each season. The pattern itself is simply a standard Green Peter, the big difference is the hook it is tied on and the number of hackles used. Here is the tying I favour:

Hook: A size 8 long shank. Something like the Kamasan B830.

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Body: Pea green seal’s fur. You can add a butt of red seal’s fur if desired.

Body hackle: Red game, palmered. Give it plenty of turns.

Wings: A bunch of brown squirrel hair as an under wing to give strength and then hen pheasant tail tied over the hair.

Head hackles: red game cock. Tie in and wind as many hackles as required to cover 1/3 of the hook in front of the wings.

B830 hooks

Brown squirrel underwing tied in

This is an easy fly to tie but pay attention to the proportions. This fly works because of the disturbance it causes in the water so the multiple turns of cock hackle at the head are vital.

I fish this fly on a different Leader too. I prefer to fish only two flies when using the long shank Peter, with this fly on the dropper. I then add a tail fly relatively close, say about 16 inches behind the Peter. The tail fly is always a small size too, maybe a size 10. Fished on an intermediate or slow sink line and retrieved vary fast, this can produce explosive takes so I use a minimum of 12 pound b/s for the leader.

Long shank Peter

Long shank Peter

This fly also catches sea trout just to add to its general usefulness. I can thoroughly recommend you tie up a couple of each of these flies and keep them handy when on Carrowmore.

Carrowmore on a bright day

Carrowmore on a bright day

 

PS: latest reports from Carrowmore are they are still waiting for the first fish of the season. With strong winds yesterday and today I expect the water to be churned for the next few days. On the plus side there should be fish coming in with each tide now.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Beltra boat maintenance

One of the tasks to be undertaken each winter is to sand and varnish the woodwork on the fleet of angling boats for the Glenisland Coop. The way we manage this work is to identify the scruffiest boats and leaving those ones inside the boathouse to dry out over the winter. The rest of boats are overturned and left outside, propped up to prevent them getting too wet. The boathouse can accommodate 4 boats so that is the size of the task for the committee members to attack. Four boats doesn’t sound like much but that equates to a fair old bit of rubbing down and painting!

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Over the past two weeks we have been hard at it in the evenings tidying up the boats in readiness for the coming season. Even just getting into the car park proved a challenge as the rains had lifted the level in the lake to the point where the water was in the car park itself.

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None of the boats required any structural maintenance, just a thorough sanding and a couple of coats of varnish. The point of keeping them inside the boathouse is to let the woodwork dry out completely over the winter. Damp wood is useless and any varnish you apply to wet timber will peel off in no time at all.

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Nice and dry

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This seat could use a lick!

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Another one of John Paddy’s boats

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Sanding completed, it is time to start work with the brushes

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Varnished boats

The next time you hire a club boat for a day on the lake remember the hours of sanding and painting that went into keeping these boats in good condition. As with all angling clubs, there is a lot of work which goes on behind the scenes by a small group of dedicated individuals. I think I have said before in this blog that I am not really a ‘club fishermen’. I prefer to just get up and go fishing at the drop of a hat, selecting the times which I feel are going to be the most rewarding. Organised days, set fishing times and competition rules are not really my thing. But the Glenisland Coop is an excellent club run by genuinely good people with only the best interests of Lough Beltra at heart. A few hours here and there of my free time to help out on jobs like this are no loss. And of course there is always plenty of craik and banter going on too.

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That’s better!

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This high water should have helped the kelts to drop back downstream

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Not long now until 20th March and start of the 2017 season

 

Later…………Some more pics here from the Beltra FB page:

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, SWFF

Cure for a slipping drag

You know what I am like with reels. Of all my fishing gear it is the fly reels that I love the most. I own far too many and most of them see little use but I am still a sucker for a bargain reel. That’s why I bought a second hand System 2 a while back. I especially like the old System 2’s, made by Scientific Anglers, they are solid and dependable with excellent drags. I own a few of them and they have never let me down. Those of you who practice SWFF should think about hunting one down as they are salt water proof.

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89M

There was a problem with this 89M that I bought. Nothing serious, just a moment’s thoughtlessness by the previous owner which led to a useless drag. The System 2 sports a disc and caliper drag just like one you have on your car. Turning the screw on the back of the reel tightens the brake pads against the disc, providing wonderful fish-stopping drag. Except nothing much was happening when I turned the screw on this one. I left the reel out meaning to get to the bottom of the issue and it has been sitting on the sideboard since then. Until this afternoon.

I checked out reel today to see what the problem was. The drag mechanism is not overly complex and it quickly became apparent that everything was there and in good condition. Sometimes on hard used examples the drag pads can be worn out but they were like new on this one. In fact the whole reel looks like it was hardly used. Why was the drag so useless then?

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The disc and caliper

The previous owner had taken care to lubricate his or her reel with oil. Very good, except he/she had also put oil on the disc and pads! No wonder the drag didn’t work (I guess on the upside it wasn’t going to rust!). Now, there are two ways of dealing with this problem. You can dismantle the drag and replace the pads with nice new ones and clean all traces of grease or oil from the disc. That works fine and if the pads are worn it is the best course of action. But in cases like this where the pads are in otherwise good condition there is another way to fix the reel.

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The pads are like new

Let me be clear, this is not an instant fix, it takes a few applications but it does the job in the end. All you need is some lighter fuel (petrol, not gas) which you can pick up at any hardware store for a few cents.

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First, remove the spool. I give the whole drag a rub with a brush to remove any grit in the area (an old toothbush does the job well). Simply squirt the lighter fuel on to the disc and pad and rotate the disc by hand to spread the fuel over the surface. Now rub off the fuel with a soft cloth. Repeat often. Any oil or grease will be embedded in the open structure of the brake pad and it takes time for it to be flushed out by the fuel, so it will take a few attempts to be rid of the lubricant. Be careful when applying the fuel so that it doesn’t get anywhere else other than on the pad and disc.

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You will know when you have cleaned out the last of the oil by putting the spool back on and trying the drag. Even after the first cleaning it will probably be a bit better but keep going until the drag is functioning properly. This cure works for other similar reel drags too.

Just before I close, if you are hunting for a System 2 on the secondhand market remember that they came in two sizes. The ‘M’ models were smaller than the regular ones so make sure you are buying the want you want! Here are examples of two 89’s, the one on the left is the ‘M’ model.

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I hope this has been helpful.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing

Worth a read

I found this online and think you should take a read. Sea trout are still under huge pressure due to the filthy business of salmon farming and these wonderful sporting fish are now extremely rare in most west coast rivers.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/michael-viney-how-trout-disappeared-from-my-favourite-river-1.2962311#.WJ7wfb2C_9g.twitter

A great pool on the Bunowen

I fish the Bunowen sometimes, a classic spate river which should provide good sport after a spell of rain. I didn’t bother fishing it last season though as stocks of both salmon and sea trout were at an all time low. Locals who know every stone on the bottom of the river saw few fish and despite some perfect spates the fish simply did not appear. Until the fish farms are removed our sea trout will continue to suffer from sea lice attack. Eaten alive at sea they die before reaching the river. Those that do make it back to fresh water are lean and scarred, dreadfully weakened and susceptible to disease. The Irish government don’t want to hear about this, big business is never challenged in this country.

Looking dowmstream from below the weir'at carr's pool

I don’t know if I will bother fishing the Bunowen this coming season. I suspect there will be no sea trout again this year and it is depressing swinging flies through the runs and pools when they are devoid of life. only when the accursed cages with their filth and poison and lice are consigned to history will the silvery trout come back. We are a long, long way from that happy day……………….

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