Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Night Moves

This all started a couple of weekends ago. There I was, sitting in the brilliant sunshine admiring the stunning view with a pint of the black stuff to sup on. Pretty near perfection I think you will agree. But being a fisherman I was fretting about the sunshine and the adverse effect it has on all types of fish. The more I thought about it the more I realised the time of year had come to start angling in the darkness.

My earliest experiences of night fishing were neatly split between fly fishing for sea trout (mainly on the Aberdeenshire Don) and autumn / winter shore fishing for Cod from the rocky coastline south of Aberdeen. The cod fishing was a pretty macho game all right. Pumping that old Tilley lamp to keep the pressure up and the light shining, the roar and crash of breakers 40 feet below, those insane ‘jump back’ bites when a codling swallowed my bunch of lugworms somewhere out there in the black void. Inching toward the edge while winding in, mindful that one slip will be fatal. Delight when a nice cod is swung ashore and the bitter pain of loss when a big fish, beaten and wallowing in the surf below, sheds the hook. The cold – I remember the frozen fingers, so stiff it was near impossible to carry out the simplest task. Long gaps between bites dulled the mind as I tried to shut out the pain of my poor hands. Those slithering king ragworm which made such great bait but the buggers would nip me when I was baiting up. Looking back on it now, ‘enjoying’ being bitten by huge worms in the dark on the top of a wind blasted cliff in December probably says all you need to know about my mental health!

Fishing on a summer’s night off the Mayo coast is much less demanding. Sheltered bays and calm weather are the norm. I am targeting different species here too. Sadly, Cod are extremely scare around here but dogfish are plentiful and Thornback Rays can liven up a night session sometimes. The vast majority of the dogs will Lesser Spotted Dogfish, universally abbreviated to ‘LSD’ by the sea angling fraternity. Mixed in amongst them can be their bigger bretheren, the Bull Huss. Neither of these fish can be described as great fighters, even good sized Huss comes in tamely once hooked. They do make good eating though when properly cooked so some find their way to my dinner plate.

6 pound thornie

a 6 pound Thornback ray I caught one night a few years ago

K.I.S.S. really does apply when it comes to night fishing. Anything fiddly or requiring excellent visibility becomes a nightmare under a moonless sky so preparation is hugely important. Being organised is not really my strong point but I do make the effort when it comes to late night forays on the coast. I cut down the amount of gear I take to an absolute minimum. There is no point in lugging everything with you when I will use the same end rig all night. My float gear gets left at home and the same for most of my spinning tackle. I do spin in the dark but with only one or two lures, so the boxes of various lures also remain at home.

Illumination is vital, so I bring at least three lights with me. One will be a headlamp which, while short on sartorial elegance, does give me great freedom and the use of both hands. Then I have a pair of small, battery powered LED lamps. All three use the same size of battery so I carry a few spares with me – just in case.

Last night after I finished work I headed off to the sailing club mark. The twisty road leads out to near the end of a peninsular and a convenient carpark. From there it is a 10 minute march to the mark which can be difficult to locate in the dark. The bottom here is a mixture of gravel and tackle hungry rocks, the size and shape of footballs. Plenty of weed adds to the difficulties so my faithful pulley rig was the best choice and it gave me at least a fighting chance of getting my gear back in one piece!

here is the mark in daylight

here is the mark in daylight

That sense of excitement has never left me even after all these years. The quickening pulse as I set off, crunching across the gravel above the high water line and heading for a shore mark in the dark. Why does fishing at night appeal so much? What long dormant emotions are prodded into life just because the sun has left the sky for a brief period? Is it just because the whole experience is so totally different to our everyday modern lives of safety and convenience? A lot of the things we all take for granted during the day become very different at night. You need to switch from sight to other senses if you are going to fully enjoy the darkness. Sounds become important and it never ceases to amaze me how much noise there is, even on a still night. Your sense of direction seems to sharpen (well mine does at least).

This is a low water mark, one which fishes best the hour before low tide to the first hour of the rising water but beggars can’t be too choosy and I fish through the rising tide last night. Both beachcasters were in action. The big fixed spool on my 4 ounce and the 6500C on my heavier 6 ounce. Long casts are neither necessary nor sensible at night, as the fish will come closer in the darkness. Gentle, controlled lobs are preferred.

So why do I have a pair of rods with me? I like to use the lighter, 4 ounce rod to pop the baits out maybe 60 or 80 yards. With the heavier, 6 ounce rod I tend to aim drop a much larger bait closer in, let’s day 40 or 50 yards from the shore. This seems to work OK for me so I stick to this formula unless I have a brainwave and try something different for a change. On a slow night I will set up the spinning rod and flick a Krill or something similar out and wind it back in fairly smartly, hoping for a sea trout.

making up rigs

When it comes to bait I have a liking for squid when hunting Bull Huss. I also like to mix baits for them, so a chunk of squid with a piece of Mackerel is a good option in my book. This makes for a large bait and to keep it in line I use a pennel hook set up. Sandeel works too, especially half of a large Launce.

Big baits are difficult to cast so I use a bait clip when targeting Huss. This keeps the bait tucked in behind the weight, increasing distance and reducing tangles. Afraid the fish did not appreciate all my efforts last though and the night passed without so much as a quiver from the rod tips. I am not too upset because last night was more about getting back out into the dark and making sure I was fully prepared. The mark I was fishing really needs low water to allow you to hit the right spot so it was always going to be a tough session in terms of offers. Everything went more or less OK and the only item I forgot to bring was the tripod for the camera. The tackle box needs a bit of reorganisation but other than that I am looking forward to the next night session.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Vanishing Launce

With a high tide just before sunset I decided to take a drive out to Achill to see if the sandeels have arrived yet. These wee fish are always on the go, travelling to somewhere else. They can be present in their thousands one tide and be completely absent by the next one. Tonight I wanted to catch a few of the larger species, the Launce. These make a good bait for bottom fishing so a dozen or so would be handy with the fishing I have planned for later this week. Would there be any swimming around Achill tonight?

Cloughmore

Cloughmore

The road to Achill was surprisingly quiet and I made good time getting to the pier at Cloughmore. This is a reliable spot for sandeels and they gather in the shallow water over a sandy bottom in great numbers. I tackled up with a spinning rod, some tiny feathers and a silver spinner. This has worked well for me in the past so I just needed to find the Launce. Dropping the rig over the edge of the pier, I let it sink to the bottom, then immediately wound it up again, resplendent with a sandeel on the small spinner! In pretty quick succession I added three more slivers of silver to the waiting bucket. Then the shoal disappeared.

The St. Catherine, a very successful local fishing boat

The St. Catherine, a very successful local fishing boat

I tried fishing other parts of the pier but the shoal had well and truly vanished. Lots of flickers of silver under the surface were caused by vast numbers of fry, possibly herring. Large numbers of tiny pollack , only a couple of inches long, were also swimming about the base of the pier but of the Launce there was not a trace.

the sum total of my catch

the sum total of my catch

A seal turned up and bobbed around for a while, never coming too close to me. A solitary Tern gave an impressive display of how to catch fish with some spectacular dives from height. In the distance a Black Guillemot was also busy reducing the small fish population. I have seen otters here before but there were none of them on the go this evening.

It was obvious the sandeels had given me the slip for the night so I decided not to hang around after 10pm. If I am honest the trip was more about getting some fresh air and settling back into being home after a week in London and Holland on business. Aeroplanes, underground trains, queues, pollution, noise and the pointlessness of western culture had left me drained and listless. The fresh air and the sun slowly setting in the west were all I needed to get me back on track again.

Looking out to the bay

Mist clung to the hill tops as I drove home, giving the countryside an ethereal look. Ireland really is beautiful when it is not raining! The weather remains fine and settled on this side of the country while the east coast has seen thunder showers for days now. We might go for a walk tomorrow if the weather holds. ‘Tis good to be back home again!

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing, SWFF

A change is as good as a rest

It has been a terrible season so far on the rivers and loughs for me. I have yet to catch a decent tout and only a single salmon has fallen for my flies. Time to change things around and do some salt water angling.

Clew Bay at low water

I have agreed to fish as part of a team in a local sea angling competition on 9th June. We will be dropping lines in Clew Bay and at this time of the year we would expect to contact dogfish, Pollack and possibly some early Mackerel. I’m looking forward to getting out on the briny again after a couple of years break from it. Whether we catch very much is another thing altogether. Clew Bay has been very poor for a long time now, a victim of gross over fishing by both commercial and sport fishermen. I’ll give it a lash anyway for the craik.

Ahead of then I will try to pop out to Achill Island to see if there are any sandeels around. These are great bait for just about anything that swims in the sea around here so catching some on tiny feathers is always a good idea. While they are definitely better used fresh they still work well after freezing.

sandeels

greater sandeels or Launce

I have a theory (here we go again……..) that shore fishing is much better during the hours of darkness. I’m plotting a couple of ‘after hours’ sessions over the next couple of weeks. Successful fishing at night is all about proper preparation so I’ll make new traces this weekend and check all the gear is in good order. Nothing worse than trying to find the item you want in the dark. If you are new to night fishing then I suggest fishing from piers or jetties is a good place to learn as there are usually lights there to give you some comfort.  A rocky headland or exposed storm beach can be intimidating in the pitch black.

Roonagh pier at night

Roonagh pier at night

I tend to keep my rigs very simple.

  • Three-hook flappers for flats and small stuff, usually armed with 1/0 Aberdeens
  • Pulley rigs in different weights and with a range of different hooks to meet a wide variety of situations. The Pulley rig is my ‘go-to’ for most situations.
  • Sliding float with an anti-tangle section for wrasse and mackerel

I always take a spinning rod with me so I can try for Mackerel even when bottom fishing for other species. This adds a bit of extra interest to each session, even the ones when the fish are absent. The spinner can sometimes attract an occasional sea trout or pollack. I love those old ABU Krill lures but it is heartbreaking leaving them stuck on a rock or in thick kelp. I use cheaper alternatives over rough ground!

One of the great joys of sea angling is the chance of picking unexpected species. Pollack, mackerel and dogs are our staples here in Mayo but bass, turbot and other less common fish do turn up from time to time. Some local anglers seem to be forever catching oddities but these are the same lads who put in the long hours on the shore and try out new spots. I’m hoping to find the time to do just that this summer!

So there you have it, some sea fishing in my diary from both boat and shore this month unless it rains heavily. If it rains I will grab a fly rod and go chasing grilse in the rivers but until then it will be the tang of the salt air and the roll of the Atlantic swell beneath my feet.

wake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea trout spoons

Sea trout spoons

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Toby Slim, 20gm

the sailing club, a well known mark

the sailing club, a well known mark

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

Perka

I bought a couple of these old ABU lures last year but have not had the chance to try them out yet. I came across them while looking for other lures and was intrigued by their unusual design. It was really watching out for was one or two old ‘Lucas’ and ‘Sextet’ pirks when I found these lads. Intrigued, I had to buy some to try them out.

The Perka.

All the weight is provided by that bulging eye, a very clever design. It was the odd shape that attracted me initially but when I did a bit of research it turns out these were effective sea lures. The lads in Sweden only made these things for four years (1977 – 1980) so there won’t be too many of them still around.

I have to admit that I need to think out exactly how and where these lures fit into my typical sea angling forays. Although ABU made the Perka in 3 different weights (40gm, 60gm and 100gm) I have only located a couple of 60gm examples. That is on the heavy side for my spinning rod to cast and at the same time too light for my 4 ounce beachcaster. I’ll figure something out!

Here is what I was actually looking for, from the top: Sextet (40gm), Egon (28gm) and a Lukas (40gm)

While the big treble hooks look impressive I suspect they would get a very good grip of the sea bed given the chance. Replacing the trebles with a single hook on a short length of lighter line should improve their longevity.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling

Multiplication

1970’s ABU ambassadeurs (from a tightlines catalogue)

Why on earth do I own 5 different ABU multipliers you may well ask? Surely just one of these venerable old multiplying reels is enough for any fisher? Two of them may seem overkill and any more is simply rampant hedonism. The answer is that I don’t need them all but I use them for slightly different roles. So today I thought you might like to see what I use these old wonders of Scandinavian mechanical engineering for. Let’s start with the big lads, the 7000’s

ABU Ambassadeur 7000 and 7000C

a pair of very grubby looking 7000’s.

They built them tough in Sweden! This pair are my heavy beachcasting reels. Both date from the early ‘80’s and continue to serve me well despite horrific abuse over the intervening decades. Purchased new (from Somer’s in Aberdeen when they were still in the tiny shop in Thistle Street if my memory serves me correctly), these monsters were at the time regarded as the very best reels for surf casting. The competition has improved over the years and at the same time I feel the modern AB Garcia’s are not as strong as the old reels.

my red 7000, showing a few battle scars

These pairs are certainly no match for modern multipliers but these days my fishing does not require gargantuan casts to the far horizon. Although they look beat up I’m hopeful they will see me out as, despite outward appearances, I have maintained and lubricated them regularly. The red 7000 in particular carries many battle scars, the result of long forgotten finger-tip scrambles down steep rocks to get to remote marks. I used to take just my 6 ounce beachcaster and the 7000 with me when attacking the more extreme marks, meaning scrapes and scratches for both rod and reel as I slithered down granite and basalt outcrops. This reel is built like a tank and soaked up the punishment, no matter how extreme the mark was.

Rock marks like this one in Donegal were tough on my gear

Black 7000C

So what is the difference between a 7000 and a 7000C? Ball bearings is the answer. The old original 7000 came with brass bushings on the spool while the 7000C sports stainless steel roller bearings. These super-duper bearings should give much better performance but in practice I found that there was not much to pick between the two reels. The numbers stamped on the reel foot tells me the red 7000 dates from 1980 and the black ‘C’ from just two years later, so they are both knocking on for 40 years old!

The level wind on a 7000. Removing this improves casting performance markedly

Size and line capacity of the 7000’s is identical and they are both beasts of reels, strong and reliable in even the most extreme conditions. I have two 7000’s because I often fish with a pair of beachcasters. This allows me to push one bait out a long way and drop the other bait closer to the shore. I can also try different baits and rigs by using both rods/reels. On a slow day this keeps me ticking along, just reeling to check the baits, making small changes or trying out different rigs. On a day when the fish are biting it can lead to high excitement as both rods go off at the same time!

ABU Ambassadeur 6500C3

Next in line I possess an elderly 6500C3. I have seen beautiful examples of this type of reel; the chrome rockets in particular are pure fishing porn! My one is a somewhat shabby model dating from 1999 which I picked up second-hand. It is more Nora Batty than Marilyn Munro I am afraid. 6500’s are among the most popular beach reels and the various versions can been seen in action across the globe wherever distance casting is required. If you are in the market for a 6500 you need to decide if you are going to plump for one with or without the level wind. The sports mags and ultracast’s were superb reels with no level wind to slow them down. My old C3 has a level wind but is still a fine casting machine. I’ve tweaked my one a little by replacing the spool bearings with semi-ceramics.

The all important ‘made in sweden’ logo

Smaller and neater than their big cousins, the 6500 range are lovely reels in use. They somehow just feel ‘right’. This is important to me. When I’m fishing I like my gear to be an extension of myself, both physically and emotionally. The sense of ‘oneness’ adds hugely to my enjoyment of a day on the water. Over the years I have owned some rods and reels which I never really felt were right, despite hefty price tags and well-known brand names.

In case you are wondering, the difference between a 6500 and a 6000 reel is the 6500 has higher gearing and therefore a faster retrive speed.

I use the 6500C3 for lighter beach and rock work in saltwater. Spool capacity is one hundred and fifty yards of 20 pound mono, not nearly as good as the 7000 but then again it is not so agricultural as the big old 7000’s. Paired with my 4 ounce beachcaster it can chuck a lead a fair old distance.

This one needs a good clean!

The topic of handles always inspires a lively debate among Ambassadeur owners. To some it is sacrilege to change any part of the hallowed reels. To others , and I fall into this category, upgrading your reel can be a good thing if it is done well. 6500’s came with a small double paddle handle which were fiddly on the beach in the cold and wet. Power handles for retro-fitting became widely available and these are a useful upgrade in my opinion. I am thinking of changing the double paddle handle on this reel for a power handle.

ABU Ambassadeur 5500C

Boys oh boys, this is a dream of a reel! I use it for casting and trolling for salmon (I know, what a waste using a 5500C for dragging metal behind a boat!!!). Everything about the 5500C oozes class; smooth and light yet strong and aesthetically gorgeous. Of all my ABU multipliers this is my favourite. ABU made a range of different 5500’s over a long production run and you can see why these little beauties were so popular. Essentially a narrower 6500, the 5500 series are favoured by salmon and pike anglers. I think those who pursue catfish in the States use them too.

The free spool control is sensitive on this reel

My example dates from 1973 but there is hardly a mark on it and it fishes perfectly. The only downside of this reel is that it does not have a clicker. I’d like that refinement for those all too rare occasions when a salmon grabs the bait and that wonderful sound of the clicker screaming fills the air!

not mine, but examples like this pristine 5000 cost thousands to buy

 

ABU Ambassadeur 4500CB

Finally, we come to a bit of an oddball – a 1980’s 4500CB. These reels would not be very common here in Ireland as they were designed for the USA market where small baitcasting reels were developed for use by bass fishermen. Flipping jerk baits for large mouths required a reel with specific characteristics and the small ABU’s were hugely popular across the pond. From what I can gather, they have been largely replaced by those fancy new baitcasting reels that look like something out of a Batman movie!

I picked my one up on ebay for a smallish sum. It is in good condition but cannot be described as pretty. It’s functional but not eye-catching. I have seen some lovely examples out there, gorgeous wee reels in lustrous dark green, silver or Florida orange hues. Again, the pretty ones command high prices in the marketplace.

The ‘CB’ denotes that this reel has an unusual sophistication – a self-centring level-wind no less! I must confess that exactly how this is an advantage in every day fishing escapes me, but it is a sweet little reel which I bought specifically for trolling. These reels were designed to hold 10 pound breaking strain nylon but I reckoned that was close enough in diameter to modern 30 pound b/s braid. Trolling for salmon here-abouts does not require massive line capacity of a reel, one hundred yards is more than sufficient as you can turn the boat and follow even the mightiest fish out to deeper water. As the reel for my ‘poker’ – the short middle rod when trolling – it only has about  15 yards of line out when fishing. The 4500CB accepts 120 yards of heavy braid, meeting all my requirements in a neat little package. This reel also has a level-wind which does seem to be overkill considering the narrow spool, but hey, why not flaunt it if you got it!

The decision to buy an old 4500C was deliberately taken to give me a reel purely for matching up with the poker rod and 30 pound braid. Then I mixed things up a bit! A fella in New Jersey was selling off some spools for my reel at a very, very low price so I simply had to buy all three of them. Now I am in the happy position of being able to switch the wee reel between different uses as required.

spare spools for the 4500 CB

If under extreme duress, you were to restrict me to only one of the above reels I would have to plump for the 6500C. It can easily do everything the others can do. I bought the 7000’s at a time when I was rock fishing (frequently in the dark) for winter cod on Scotland’s North East coast. Heavy leads, slung into the teeth of a gale amid mountainous seas needed tough reels and the big 7000’s could handle the stresses and strains with aplomb. They have easier lives now, gently lobbing baits into summer seas for doggies and rays. The 6500C is build for this type of shore fishing and would work just fine when casting or trolling for salmon too.

The 5500C is probably slightly under-gunned for rock fishing. It is perfect for salmon fishing though. It is a pure joy to fish with when casting heavy baits (20 – 40 grams). It is hard to put into words but this reel somehow just feels ‘right’.

The baby of the pack, the 4500CB is very much a specialist piece of equipment for Irish fishing, too small by far for most ‘normal’ angling situations here. But it does exactly what I require of it so it has earned its place in my tackle bag. Now that I have spare spools for it I can also use it for other situations where light lines are required.

So that is the reason I have acquired all these different reels over the years; I don’t really need them all but each one is a delight to use and they add to my enjoyment each time I use them. The small differences between then give them individual characters. The doughty, world worn heftiness of the old 7000’s is a million miles removed from the genteel, silken feel of the 5000C or the dinky wee 4500CB. I get huge enjoyment out of using these old reels, the workmanship and design are timeless and fit well with my values when it comes to fishing gear.

If you hanker after an old, Swedish manufactured Ambassadeur yourself they are easy to find secondhand. Expect to pay big money for rare models in mint (or even unused) condition. There are many collectors who track down the finest examples for their display cabinets. Reels with minor surface wear can be had for a lot less. Of course there are some extremely dodgy reels floating around the secondhand market and it is very much a case of ‘buyer beware’.  Look out for reel which exhibit heavy corrosion (especially on the cage), cracked side plates or grinding gears and avoid these like the plague. Spare parts are easily available but if you have a lot of work to do to a reel it soon becomes quite expensive. Oh, and a word of caution – owning old Ambassadeurs can quickly become an addiction (see above!). Don’t go buying gear you can’t afford.

Please don’t run away with the notion that I am an expert on these old Ambassadeurs – I assure that I am anything but that! Check out youtube for lots of videos on cleaning, strip down and upgrades for these reels. There is a wealth of information out there. Then there are the specialist collectors who have websites you can visit to drool over their immaculate reels. If you really want to get into collecting these reels in a serious way then the bibles written by Simon Shimomura, author of not one, but three books on collectable Ambassadeur reels. I will leave you with multiple photos!

Clockwise from the left: 4500CB, 6500C and 5500C

 

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

Wish list

It’s all over for 2017 and I am stuck in another hotel room a long way from home, thinking about next season already. It is a nice hotel, comfortable and warm with an excellent menu in the restaurant downstairs. However, it is not home and so it pales when measured against my abode in the west. I’m lucky in that I don’t suffer from loneliness or sink into morbid thoughts when separated from loved ones, instead I use my time to reflect and think about the future. I don’t usually overthink my fishing trips but, maybe on the back of a poor season, I have been contemplating my options for 2018 in an unusual level of detail. Everything will depend on how the gods of work treat me, too little and I will have lots of time but no money while too much work will keep me away from home and with no time to go fishing. I need to jot down where i want to go. I need to write a list!

8NX6EPAWCB

I guess my train of thought is neatly divided along geographical lines. Irish angling will obviously be uppermost in any plans but I’m going to wet a line in Scotland too. So let’s take a look at the possibilities which I currently have under review.

Angling for salmon starts early over here with a handful of rivers opening on 1st January. The Drowes is close by, only a bit over an hour’s drive from home. The opening week sees large numbers of fishers descending on this river in an attempt to catch the first salmon of the season. Crowded banks are not my idea of fun but I may just venture up there for a change of scene. Much of the fishing is worming or spinning but there are some nice stretches for the fly and I like the idea of clearing away the cobwebs and casting an early line there.

the Drowes has some good fly water

The River Robe failed to produce the goods last Spring but horrendously low water levels ruined any chances of success. Undeterred, I will return to the banks around Claremorris in March and April when the stoneflies and olives should be hatching. Daffodils and bird song, the greening grass in the fields, the nip still in the air that turns your breath to silver in the early morning all combine to form the unmistakable feeling that winter is over and spring has arrived. The excitement of those initial casts, those first tugs of a small trout as the team of spiders swing in the current, sloshing though the shallows to cross at a ford, munching a sandwich with the sun on your face – all the immensely enjoyable minutia of a day on an Irish river. Happiness!

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite springtime stretch

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite stretch in the springtime

If time allows I want to go back to Scotland in April. The fourth month of the year was always a lucky one for me for both trout and salmon. I cannot recall the last time I cast a line in Scotland during the month of April, 1996 seems to be most likely but I can’t honestly say it was with any sense of certainty. It was a heck of a long time ago anyway! If there has been some rain there should be a few salmon in the middle beats of the Aberdeenshire Don and even if it has been dry the trout will be feeding hard in anything but an east wind. The beats around Alford offer some wonderful fly water and if time allows I’d love to squeeze in a long weekend tramping the banks of the river where I learned to fish.

The middle Don and a fishy looking pool

 

I’ve not fished the mayfly properly for a couple of seasons now. I used to adore Lough Carra when the greendrakes were hatching but those days are firmly in the past now. Carra has not fished well for many seasons, despite some very good anglers giving a nostalgic try every year. The quantity of fly life has diminished alarmingly. Trout need to compete with the gulls for even hatching olives, let alone mayflies. Any trout still living in the lake keep their heads well down and those lovely, long rolling waves that you get on a windy day above on Carra still don’t attract the fish to the surface. I seriously doubt if I will bother with Carra next season unless the local ‘jungle drums’ tell me it has turned the corner.

Moorehall bay on Carra

Boats in Moorhall, Lough Carra

Most anglers would plump for the mighty Corrib for mayfly fishing but for me that hallowed water is principally a dapper’s paradise. I used to keep a boat in Salthouse bay at the northern end of the Corrib and learned to find my way around that part of the lake. I caught some nice trout on wets and dries but the real leviathans succumbed to other anglers using dapped naturals. I can’t explain why I don’t dap. I know how to do it, where and when to do it and yet I don’t bother. The dapping rod, reel and thick, unruly floss line, the wooden live bait box and even the little scoop for netting live flies from the surface for bait all nestle in a corner of the room, unloved and unused. Barring some sort of ‘road to Damascus’ moment I doubt if I’ll dap this coming season.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay, lough Mask

So for me it will be lough Mask for the mayfly. It will feel as if I am being unfaithful to my first love, Lough Conn, but Mask is a terrific fishery and I have missed drifting the shallows in a brisk wind. I lived in Ballinrobe when I returned to Ireland and spent many happy hours getting to know where (and where not) you can motor and drift. The boat picked up a few scars after encounters with unseen rocks but the rewards were many. These days much of the fishing on Mask is carried out over the deeps, pulling a team of wets on sinking lines. I’m not a fan of this type of fishing, effective though it undoubtedly is. I find it very hard to justify this disinterest as it looks to the untrained eye very similar to salmon fishing – combing the water with sinking lines and a team of flies. No signs of fish, just the rolling waves and the rhythm of casting. I love days like that on the salmon loughs but quickly succumb to boredom if the speckled lads are my quarry. So I must make time in late May or early June to fish the Mask, drifting the craggy shallows of the Rocky Shore or around the islands.

The mouth of the canal on Lough Mask

At some point during the summer I want to take the road south and motor down to the Kingdom of Kerry. Many, many years ago I fished down that way and it would be nice to try my luck in the salty waters around Dingle again. The only trouble is the holidaymakers are there in droves during the summer months and accommodation is hard to find and damn expensive when you do locate a B&B. Who knows, maybe I’ll camp instead, just like I did all those years ago when I rode a motorbike from Aberdeen to Fenit, pitched the tent near the pier and caught a bass on the second cast! There used to be some good Wrasse fishing from the shore too as I recall. That sport has completely changed nowadays with the advent of LRF.

When I practised wrasse fishing it was with a sliding float and lugworm for bait. I tried all kinds of other baits, especially crab which seemed to be the most logical choice, but lugworm out-fished everything else for me and the sight of the float disappearing into the depths as another big Ballan swallowed the hook was always a huge thrill.  Yes, Kerry would be nice for a change of scene.

my mate Chris with a shore caught Wrasse

I love the autumn. It is by far my favourite season. I am keen on returning to Scotland again to try for a late season salmon on one of the smaller back end rivers. Finding reasonable and affordable water on the Tweed or Tay is difficult but the Deveron used to see good autumn runs and rods were often available without having to win the lottery. So next October I am planning on a short trip to the Turriff area to try for a big back-ender. Many years ago I lost a huge salmon further upstream on the Huntly water. That brute turned and ran down through three pools before the hook pulled out. It was the last of three fish I had on in the space of a few hours and none of them made it to the bank. Sometimes it’s just not your day. I find the Deveron is a nice size, not too poky and yet not overly large and intimidating. Getting back to Scotland twice in one year is very definitely pushing my luck but this is a wish list so October on the Deveron has been pencilled in.

The Devervon near Rothiemay

2017 was an unmitigated angling disaster for me, mainly because work got in the way of time off. It was a poor season for many and maybe I didn’t miss much but I would rather have a poor day on the riverbank than a good day at work. So there is my wish list, I will review it in 12 month’s time see what I did and did not manage to achieve.

 

 

 

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling, trout fishing

A look back in…………….disappointment

Pike on the Rapala

Pike coming to hand. No big ones this season but the usual sprinkling of jacks grabbed various spoons and plugs. This lad took a shine to a Rapala

It’s over. The trout season that is and much of the salmon fishing too. The 2017 season coasted to its finale last weekend and, for me at least, it was a season to forget. Yesterday we fetched the boat in and over the next couple of weekends we will repeat the process with everyone else’s boats. Autumn will bring some sea fishing and maybe a couple of derisory outings to troll for Pike, but the game fishing is over for us in the West of Ireland until next spring. I thought I’d quickly run through the season, disappointing though it most certainly was for me.

The Carrownisky as it exits the lough

very low water on the Carrownisky river

Water levels were all over the place this season, not enough in the spring and too much later in the year. A dry spring does nobody any good and both salmon and trout fishing suffered greatly due to a lack of water. I have never seen the rivers so low in April and May! Is global warming taking effect here as well as in other, more exotic climates? I suspect it is and the changing weather patterns are having a negative impact on the fish and our fishing. Given the we in Ireland are nowhere near meeting our commitments on greenhouse gas reduction it is hard to climb on to any moral high horses. Sure, we are a small country and relatively speaking make little difference compared to the huge carbon footprint of other, larger and more densely populated nations. That does not exonerate us from our duty as world citizens to reduce our effects on the planet, indeed I would argue it should be easier for us that for the likes of India or China.

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back. Normally this pattern catches me lots of springtime brownies but not this past season!

So, it was dry and cold to start with and the spring salmon were scarce. Work sucked me dry every week. Time spent in Mayo was infrequent and I totally failed to make it to the riverbank for the spring salmon fishing. By all accounts I didn’t miss much. Instead, I was able to squeeze some trouting in during March and early April, usually very productive times for me. This year however I could (and did) walk across some parts of the river Robe without the water reaching above my ankles. Northerly and Easterly winds combined with low water are quite possibly the worst conditions for the springtime fly fisher, but that was exactly what I met during those trying March outings. Fly life was non-existent. No Iron Blues or Large Dark Olives. No stoneflies or Diptera. I tempted a few small fish to wets and nymphs but it was hard work with little reward.

Tiny Brown Trout from the river Robe

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Great plans to fish hard during May came to nothing and others made use of the boat in my absence. By now I was becoming concerned the whole season would pass me by with work hungrily consuming me. Returning home after time away requires ‘catching up’ with family and all the tasks which have been left unattended need to be addressed in the fleeting few hours with loved ones. Fitting a day or even a few hours fishing into this complex mosaic proved be beyond my organisational skills. Then the rain started to fall.

one from the Robe

small but very welcome!

From June through to September we endured frequent periods of sustained precipitation. The heavens unloaded water on Ireland in biblical quantities. Rivers rose then burst their banks. Each time I found a chink in my diary it coincided with filthy brown spates. My fishing buddies who did venture out with rod and line found the grilse late and well scattered. Salmon fishing is always a case of being in the right place at the right time but this year it seems that maxim was even keener than normal. Tiny windows of opportunity presented themselves when the water was right for an hour or less and experienced rods who knew where to be connected with resting runners. I fumed and shook my head with every text or FB post from friends as they celebrated successes. I never even made it out with the salmon rod after June. A film of dust covers my salmon gear in testimony to my inaction.

Barely used all last season, I will strip the reels down lubricate them all before tucking them away for the winter

So what positives were there this past season? I had a nice brownie in the gloaming from the Keel canal which grabbed a small Wickham then charged around the pool like a fish twice its size. Then there was introduction to the tiny river Griese down in Kildare. The sheer joy of trying to fool those wee trout in difficult conditions was wonderful balm to bruised angling ego and I am already planning on fishing this gem of a river next season. For me, size means nothing, angling is all about being immersed in nature and trying to solve the problems in front of me. A hard-earned 8 incher can be more rewarding than a dozen fish which fling themselves at the flies.

The Griese in Co. Kildare. Clear and stuffed with small trout. I’ll be back………….

My current contract ends early in November and there will probably be some free time from then until Christmas. I’ll do some sea fishing and tie lots of flies when I get to that point. I’ll also make my plans for the 2018 season and I’m going to do some work on this blog as well when I get some free time.

Not many gaps in the fly box but I will be busy at the vice over the winter regardless

The boat about to be hauled out of Lough Conn last weekend

part of an old roller conveyor which an angler uses to ease beaching his boat.

Last view of the lough for this year

There is always next season. At least I managed to get out a few times, walking and wading the rivers and taking the boat out for a look around the bays and shallows. It doesn’t matter how bad the fishing is, just being able to get out in the fresh air is a joy.

And finally…..

My beloved collie left this world in September after 15 years at my side. The sense of loss seems overwhelming sometimes and I am still struggling to come to terms with life without her. The pain will subside over the coming weeks and months but for now life is just ‘less’ in ways which are hard to form into words. So if you have a dog, go and give him/her a rub behind the ears and maybe a wee treat to chew on. You miss them something awful when they are gone.

Ness looking for waterhens

Nessie, 2002 – 2017

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