Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, sea trout fishing

Making sea trout flies

Every winter it is the same, I promise myself I will do a bit of sea trout fishing next year and by the end of the season I find I have not been out nearly enough to angle for these fabulous wee fish. A large part of that is because here in the west most anglers have lost interest in the sea trout as a sporting species. They are now so rare that people just want to leave the ever dwindling stocks alone. None of my boat partners fish for sea trout now. I can fully accept this point of view but on one or two systems there are still a small run of sea trout, enough to make it worthwhile throwing a fly at them. Lough Beltra gets a small run of trout, nothing remotely like what it used to get before the fish farms came along of course. A few swim up the Owenmore river while others turn off into Carrowmore Lake.

As an aside, it has always been a mystery to me where the sea trout in the Moy estuary go. Reasonable numbers of them can be found in the spring and summer hunting sandeels in the shallow bays at the mouth of the river but I personally have only ever once caught a sea trout in the Moy system, a small one on Lough Conn one May day twenty odd years ago. Do these trout run the main stem of the Moy or are they bound for other rivers in the area. The Palmerstown River used to have a great reputation for sea trout but these days they are extremely scarce there. Lord only knows where these sea trout go to, it would be nice to find out.

The loss of the sea trout to the pollution and lice of the fish farmers is one of the great Irish eco crimes in my book. Fish farming is a horrible business which only benefits the rich business owners while it wrecks delicate marine environments. I can recall my earliest visits to the west of Ireland back in the late ’70s when every stream which flowed into salt water held big populations of small sea going trout. Irish sea trout were small compared to the ones I fished for on the Scottish east coast but there were so many of them it made for great fishing. Alas they have all but been wiped out for sake of lining Norwegian millionaires pockets.

A glance in my fly box showed it was already stuffed with flies but maybe I could squeeze a few more in. I sat down at the vice and got tying. All of the patterns below are usually tied on size 10 hooks but you can go a size bigger or smaller.

  1. The Silver Doctor. I have captured only a small number of fish on this pattern but it is great fun to tie. A bright blue cock or hen hackle is tied in by the butt at the neck of the hook with red tying silk. A tip of fine oval silver tinsel is followed by a tag made from a few turns of yellow floss. Now add a tail consisting of a topping, with or without some Indian Crow or red feather substitute. I like to add a butt made of red ostrich herl or rough red wool. Now tie in the body materials of flat and oval silver tinsel and take the tying silk up to the eye. Wind the flat tinsel in touching turns to make a smooth body before ribbing it with the fine oval. Wind the blue hackle and tie it in then make a wing from GP tippets with some bronze mallard over them. Sometimes I like to fit a GP topping over the wing but most anglers don’t bother with this refinement. A nice neat red head finishes off the fly.
  1. The Silver Badger used to be a widely used fly here in Mayo but I never see it fished these days. It still catches fish so here is how to tie this one. Black silk is used and a blue hackle is tied in by the butt at the neck before running the silk to the bend where some fine oval silver tinsel is used to form a tag. A GP topping is used for the tail and the body materials of flat silver tinsel with a fine oval silver rib is tied in and wound. Wind the blue hackle. Make a wing from a slim bunch of badger hair taken from the neck of the creature in the springtime. We are talking road kill here ladies and gentlemen, so if you come across a dead badger at the side of the road in springtime stop and cut off some hair from the neck. It is finer and softer than the body hairs. No smelly dead badger bodies to raid? Use some grey squirrel tail hair instead. Make a head, whip finish and varnish.
  1. Claret Wickhams. One of my own patterns (I always sneak a few in!). Dress a normal Wickhams but make the wings from mottled secondary feathers dyed red. Any mottled feather will do, hen pheasant is fine for example. Then wind a claret hackle in front of the wings. A really good fly this one. The one below is sporting GP tippets for a tail but I seriously doubt this makes a whole pile of a difference to the fish.
  1. Teal and Black. Normally when I want a black coloured fly for the sea trout I reach for a Black Pennel but this fly is a good one on the tail of the cast. The tying I prefer is the old standard one but with a little bottle green seal’s fur mixed in with the black, a rib of fine flat silver tinsel and a pair of jungle cock eyes added as cheeks. This pattern works well for early season brownies too.
  1. A Golden Olive Butcher has been a constantly good fly for me for sea trout ever since I started using it more years ago than I care to remember. Tie a normal butcher but replace the black hackle with a golden olive one.

Christmas is fast approaching and the shortest day of the year is almost upon us. I guess most of us want to forget 2020 but there are many more tough days ahead until the pandemic recedes. Until then we here in Ireland face more lock down restrictions and I anticipate missing the early part of the season next season. Hopefully though, late spring will see an improvement and these flies I am tying at the vice today may get a swim next summer.  

I am in negotiations for a short work contract which would tie me up for the first three months of next year, severely restricting my fishing. Thus is the life of an Interim Manager, periods of no work followed by intense efforts over a short time frame to achieve business goals (often away from home). I have been leading this life for many years now and am used to it but it makes planning your life pretty difficult. I’m not complaining, a lot of people are significantly worse off than I am these days.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing

The Ugie Bug

I buy a lot of fishing gear on line just like many of you do. It is convenient and you can find pretty much anything you want out there in internet land. At the same time I make a conscious effort to support my local tackle dealers as without them we anglers are going to be a lot worse off. So for me at any rate there is a mix of online and local fishing tackle suppliers. It was not always so and during my early years all my tackle was bought from the fishing shops in Aberdeen where I grew up.

Sharpes had a fancy shop in Belmont Street but it was way too expensive for the likes of me so I hardly ever crossed the threshold. Rows of ‘Scottie’ spit cane fly rods and trays of beautifully tied salmon flies shared the hallowed spaces with tweed jackets and sturdy leather boots. It was all very refined and posh. I was like a fish out of water in there.

That shop closed down sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s and one of the guys who worked there, Richard Walker, set up his own shop down on King Street. A large, bearded and lugubrious fellow, he presided over an eclectic mix of tackle. If Richard wasn’t there his mum covered for him. My heart sank any time I went in and found Mrs Walker behind the counter, the poor thing had no idea where anything was, leading to a lengthy hunt in all the cupboards and drawers for the right swivels, hooks or whatever. That shop shut down after a few years but I have no idea what became of the big man.

Most of my time (and money) was spent in Thistle Street where the small Somers shop was positioned. The old man only rarely popped his head into the shop by the time I was on the go but his son, Jim, ably assisted by Horace helped me enormously as I grappled with learning the arts of angling. I still own and use some of the gear I bought from them back in the late ‘70s. The shop was later sold and the new owner moved to bigger premises in Bon Accord Street.

Today I want to tell you about unusual flies which tied for use on the rivers of the extreme north east of Scotland, the Ythan and Ugie. The patterns were not that odd but the hooks they were tied on were. I only ever saw these hooks for sale in that stalwart of Aberdeen tackle shops, William Brown and Co. of Belmont Street. ‘Broons’ as all and sundry knew it in the city was one of those old fashioned fishing shops, replete with the trappings of such fine old establishments. Ancient dark wood everywhere, glazed cabinets on one wall, racks of shot guns, a green topped counter like a bar and usually a couple of venerable old anglers sitting on stools talking about the good auld days. Glass cases of stuffed salmon hauled from the Dee or Don by lords and colonels adorned the walls. Behind the counter was the domain of two characters, old Tom and George Denholm. Lord only knows how old Tom actually was. By his bearing I marking him down as an ex-military chap who probably fought for king and country in the Great War. George was middle aged, fond of a dram and could put his hand on anything in the shop at the drop of a hat. He knew where to find those long-shank pennel hooks alright.

The Ythan and the Ugie are narrow rivers which flow through the lush green and gold pasturelands of North East Scotland. They both get runs of salmon but the main quarry was sea trout which used to be extremely prolific. On the slower, deeper sections of the rivers the humble worm ruled supreme but where the current speeds up or there is some broken water anglers used the fly to good effect. It has always surprised me that the angling on these rivers has never been fully covered in print despite a long lineage of sport fishing on these rivers. I don’t know the Ugie but I spent a big chunk of my early life fishing the Ythan. Hence my acquaintance with the pennel hooks from ‘Broons’.

The hooks I want to tell you about are roughly the same length as a size 8 long shank trout hook but they are made with an additional hook pointing upwards in the middle of the shank. I had purchased some of these odd hooks before, maybe 10 or 12 of them to make some Ugie Bugs for myself but there was a sale in Broons one time and I bought a box of them. The box was opened and it was not full but for a small sum I purchased what remained and I still have a few of them left. The box itself is sadly lost so I can’t tell you too much about the maker. I seem to recall they were made by Partridge but I could be wildly wrong about that.

Sadly Broons closed it doors many years ago. Tom and George have long since departed this world. The circle of life keeps turning and all things come to an end at some point. The bedazzling range of fishing tackle available online or from the angling hypermarkets are incomparable to the likes of Broons with their handful of split cane rods and rimfly reels. The competition was just too strong for them. It is a shame as those old tackle shops possessed a charm all of their own. Like many other anglers of my vintage I miss the sights and smells of the now defunct old tackle shops.

The Ugie Bug

Akin to a long skinny Alexandra, this was a very popular fly in the middle years of the last century. It will still tempt the odd fish so I keep one or two in my box. It is very easy to make, only the top hook getting in the way when winding materials is liable to cause you any distress. Use black tying silk and start it at the eye of the hook and wind towards the bend. Catch in a short length of red Ibis substitute such as a slip of dyed swan or duck. I piece of bright red wool works just as well. Now tie in a length of fine oval silver tinsel and some black floss silk before running the tying silk back to within a few millimetres of the eye. Wind the floss to make a tapered body, tie off and remove the waste. Now rib the floss with open turns of the oval silver tinsel. Tie in and remove the waste as usual.

Tail and body completed

Take a bunch of cock or hen hackle fibres dyed black and tie them in under the hook to form a beard hackle then remove the waste ends. Alternatively, you can tie in and wind a black hackle in the conventional manner. The wing is made from peacock sword and I like to take a few fibres each from opposing tail feathers. This is tricky stuff to work with so take your time and aim to get a wing which sits straight on top of the hook and is the same length as the tail. Remove the waste.

Wing tied in

A pair of small jungle cock eyes are tied in, one on each side of the wing. Cut off the waste, wind a neat head with the tying silk and cut off the silk. Varnish the head to complete the fly. Fish this fly either on its own or on the tail of a wet fly cast. I prefer it on a sinking line as the light goes and on into the darkness. Could you simply tie this pattern on a normal long shank hook? Of course you can! I reckon you could pep this fly up a bit with a couple of strands of flash in the wing too.

the finished fly

The wormfly

These hooks are grand for tying another very old pattern, the Wormfly. I think this fly was originally tied on two separate hooks joined together with gut. That then progressed to either the pennel hooks I am discussing here or simple long shanked hooks. This is an old stalwart which works in poor light, in the dark or in a good wave on the hill loughs.

The wormfly

Start the black tying silk at the eye and tie in a red game hackle. I prefer hen hackle but use a cock hackle if you wish. Now run it down to the first bend where you tie in a second, slightly smaller red game hackle. Keep winding the silk to the bend and tie in a red tail. Select whatever material you fancy, feather, floss or wool spring to mind. I like to add in a length of fine copper wire but this is not in the original dressing. I just want to give the weak peacock some protection. Tie in about 6 herls of peacock and take the tying silk up to the hook in the middle of the shank. Now twist the herls into a rope and wind this up to the tying silk and tie it in. Remove the waste and rib the rear body with the copper wire. Wind that hackle which you tied in earlier and remove the waste. Repeat the same process for the front of the fly. Form a head with the tying silk, whip finish and tie off before varnishing.

Variations

The most common variation is simply to swap the natural red game hackles and replace them with black hen hackles.

Black wormfly

I also tie the Alexandra on these hooks to give me a good imitation of a minnow.

Just about any hackled loch fly can be adapted for tying on these hooks. Flies like the Ke-He, Zulu or bumbles lend themselves perfectly to this simply by tying two of them on the one hook. I realise that getting your hands on these vintage hooks is going to be virtually impossible for everyone else, I was just lucky to buy some all those years ago. Use a normal long shank hook and you get the same effect.

I seriously doubt if the additional top hook makes a huge difference to the fly. Over the years I have caught a good few trout on flies tied on these hooks and not one of those fish was hooked solely on the middle hook. I just like using them for old time sake. I suspect old Tom would approve.

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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 https://store.fishinginireland.info 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 https://www.gov.uk/fishing-licence-northern-ireland  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.

I have to say that there is little optimism that 2020 is going to see an improvement in the numbers of salmon in Irish rivers. Each season sees fewer and fewer fish making it back to the spawning beds and a similar reduction in anglers catches. But we anglers will keep casting and hoping for the best. Catch-and-return is near mandatory across the island these days but it seems to have little effect and another lean year is anticipated. Let’s hope we are wrong.

 

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

Watson’s Fancy

A few small spaces remain to be filled in the fly boxes and I made a couple of big Waton’s fancy this afternoon and the heavy mist turned the garden a silvery mossy colour outside the window.

The Watson is not a fly I have caught a huge number of fish on but I find it seems to be attractive to larger trout. I used to fish them tied on size 12 or 14 hooks early in the season for brownies but these days I prefer them in much bigger sizes for sea trout and even salmon. I’m thinking here of dark days after a summer spate, high water and grilse running hard. A Watson on the tail and something brighter on the dropper above it have been a winning combination for me over the years. For this job I like to use a size 6 or 8 hook.

Jungle cock eyes, these are indispensable for the Watson’s fancy

This is an easy fly to tie once you have mastered wet fly wings. In smaller sizes the Jungle Cock cheeks can be a bit fiddly but apart from that this is a good pattern for beginners to cut their teeth on.

Proportions are important to make the fly look ‘right’

Only a few small gaps to fill now and I’ll be ready for the new season.

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

Why do we go fishing?

Many anglers and writers have addressed this question over the years but I thought I would chip in with my own thoughts on the matter. People who have never fished frequently fail to see what all the fuss is about and it can be hard for us anglers to articulate exactly what we see in our sport. The image of the dedicated angler, alone on the bank in all weathers, usually catching nothing or at best the occasional slimy, smelly fish are firmly stuck in the national consciousness. Anglers are seen as either working class coarse anglers, all maggots and flat caps or toffs with split cane rods and garbed in Barbour jackets. I personally don’t know anybody who fits either of those outdated stereotypes!

For me, fishing is about communing with the natural world. Being part of the natural order. Immersing oneself totally in a world older than our own. As a kid I used to think it was all about catching fish, bent rods and screaming reels. A blank day was a disaster and I fished very hard to avoid the ignominy of returning home fishless. The basic hunter gatherer was near the surface with me and I really loved the actual ‘catching’ part of the sport. That excitement when a good fish took the fly or bait was like a drug to me and the long, seemingly empty hours between those hallowed moments were the price I had to pay. Yet just under the surface there was an altogether deeper set of emotions which kept me returning to the river or sea. A longing to be immersed in nature. I strongly suspect this is a key driver in many fishers so let us examine this in greater detail.

the Claddy river before the dam

There are lots of pursuits which take us humans back into the natural world. Some of us live in the countryside either through choice or birth. Other work in the great outdoors, making their living on the seas or from the very land itself. For these people the countryside is the backdrop to their every day, they cannot help but be immersed in the ever-changing dramas of the natural world. For the rest of us, time in the countryside is usually at a premium. Let’s just take a moment to let that sink in – modern life has moved the vast majority of us humans into towns and cities and away from the natural world. We possibly experience nature more through the medium of television rather than first hand. Watching David Attenborough may be highly entertaining and informative but it cannot replace actually feeling the full force of nature. Angling brings us back to nature.

The recent upsurge in ‘urban’ fishing is to be applauded as it provides an introduction to angling for countless thousands of predominately younger, city dwelling anglers. I have never been drop-shotting on an industrial canal but it does look like fun. A world removed from my playgrounds like Lough Conn or the small spate rivers of western Ireland maybe but if it encourages young people to pick up a rod and try to catch a fish then it is no bad thing in my book. Does this negate my argument that it is the interface with nature that attract us to the water’s edge? I don’t think so as there is a common thread here – the water itself. Be it a rushing mountain stream or a concrete channel through an industrial estate, if there are fish swimming in it the water will always keep us anglers coming back. That natural element and all its mysteries is a world we only barely understand. The lives of our quarry and all the small creatures therein fascinate us. Nature, it’s all about nature.

There needs to be an acknowledgement that actually catching something is a huge driver when it comes to getting out of a warm bed in the early hours to brave inclement weather. A bent rod is always in the thoughts of any angler, that glorious moment when battle is joined with a good fish. The scenery suddenly fades when you set the hook, the glories of the natural world take a back seat until the fish is safely in the net. Yes, the catch is part of the picture. I am guessing that most anglers were mad to catch fish as youngsters and as the years roll by the need to catch a fish at any cost diminishes somewhat. Possibly the competition anglers buck this trend as they live for catching more than the other guys, but the majority of us lose that edge, that necessity of bringing the corpse of a fish home with us.

this one was around 7 pounds

A coloured fish about to go back

The advent of C&R shows us that the catch is not the main driver for us anglers. We still spend huge sums of hard-earned cash on the latest tackle, travel inordinate distances, brave inclement weather and then return any fish we do happen to catch back to the water unharmed. That all sounds like a definition of madness! Yet the basics of being a part of nature remain the same. The assault on our senses which accompany every fishing trip combine to provide experiences which resonate with something deep inside us. The push of a swollen river in spate, the high, blue skies of August, mysterious tangled vegetation, the stars shimmering over an October beach or the Atlantic swell under the keel. Evocative sights, sounds and smells which connect us with a common past, long-lost but still remembered.

Doo Lough

Of course there is more to it than just the reconnection with nature. The company of good friends, the craik, learning new skills, the joys of boat-handling and all the myriad other facets of our sport are part of the mix. You could sum it up by saying ‘its complicated’.

Boats at Cushlough

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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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