Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing

Still quiet on Conn

Conn (again) today. Like some sort of a piscatorial junkie I had to go back there again to get another ‘fix’. Previous disappointments were pushed to the dark recesses of my memory and I packed tons of gear and even more optimism before setting off.

Hazy day on Lough Conn

Let me get this off my chest straight away – I failed to catch anything of any consequence today. Conditions were good and the weather was kind for a change so I don’t really have any excuses. I tried hard and used all my knowledge of the lough but still came up short. My hopes were initially pinned on the first of the years salmon showing up but there was no sign of them today. After trolling and fly fishing over a couple of normally productive lies I pulled into the shore to swap over to a cast of trout flies.

a very full boat!

I met a pair of experienced fishers from the midlands who were on the last day of a three day trip to the Conn. They had not caught a fish during their stay! A few mayfly were hatching out so I decided to drift the edges of Castlehill Bay. A number of other boats had the same idea, making for a busy day on the oars to keep clear of everyone else.

boats on Lough Conn

With a steady breeze behind me I drifted right across the bay, then repeated the exercise for good measure. Two small trout nipped at the flies and I saw only three natural rises in the distance during those lengthy drifts. Maybe some of the other boats saw some action but I didn’t see anyone bending a rod into a fish. The few mays which were hatching seemed to thin out and the hatch stopped altogether. Time to move on!

On the move

I set up the trolling rods again and turned into the wind, the engine pushing me slowly southwards. A Toby on one line and a nice copper ABU Salar on the other, it was time to hunker down as the mist rolled in.

mist coming down over Nephin

mist coming down over Nephin

The long haul down the Massbrook shore was fishless and the return journey equally unproductive. No trout rose and no salmon jumped clear of the water. In these conditions it was hard to believe this was Lough Conn. the only action came in the shape of a tiny 8 inch trout which grabbed a 12 gram Toby. Luckily. the wee fella was lightly hooked and soon returned.

mayfly

an out of focus mayfly!

Mayfly shuck

Mayfly shuck

With the mayfly hatch finally underway there must be hopes the lough will start to fish soon. I will probably back next weekend to mainline on the Conn!

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

Wickhams variant

For almost as long as I have been fly fishing the Wickham’s Fancy has been a favourite of mine. Rainbows used to love it and brownies accepted it willingly either as a small dry or the wet version, especially in the evenings. Sea trout fell for its undoubted charms too and it could frequently be found on my cast on those far off halcyon days of my youth as I fished the ADAA Pots and Fords water on the lower Dee.

Pots and Fords, river dee

I used to love fishing here on the Pots and Fords

The only issue I have ever had with the Wickham’s is the wings. The blae wings, made from paired slips of Jay or Starling, always looked lovely on newly tied flies but by the time they had caught one or two fish the wings had become a shapeless mass of broken fibres, even though the rest of the fly was in perfectly serviceable condition. I thought it was high time I made efforts to address this issue.

The wings look grand when newly tied

As well as giving the fly a new wing I decided to use Fire Orange tying silk (a common addition these days). Leaving a few turns exposed at the end of the body as a sort of tag and clear coating the turns of silk at the head gives not one but two aiming points for the fish.

dimming light on a summer's evening

dimming light on a summer’s evening, time to try this fly

The rest of the dressing remains the same until we get to the wing. Here I was looking for a strong material which could take a good deal of punishment without being too stiff. Squirrel tail hair, unbleached but dyed olive, fitted the bill nicely. I aimed to keep the wing quite slim so there is some movement in it. I will give this one a swim when I am next in a boat fishing for trout.

Wickhams variant

The finished fly

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Clogher

A short spin up a narrow road from Westport there is brown sign which points down an even narrower road to a magical little lough called Clogher. Despite having previously lived in close proximity to Clogher I had never wet a line on it, not until this evening.

A single boat resides in the tiny harbour, a boat which you can hire for a small sum. My partner and I loaded up and set off through a maze of reeds to reach the open water, a feat which will become all but impossible in a few short weeks as the reeds grow up.

Light rods and lines are the order of the day on lakes like this where the trout are not large. Anything over half-a-pound is a good fish here so there is no requirement for powerful rods. I was using an 11 footer which cast a number 6 line but I would have been just as happy with a four weight set up.

From the outset there were a few fish rising, just the odd one here and there but enough to keep the interest going. Soon we were rising fish and missing the majority of them. I got one on a Green Peter but he was only a wee lad.

the first one of the evening

This was going to be the pattern for the evening, numerous rises, tweaks, pulls and every variation in between! Enough of them stuck to keep us both happy though. Early on I had an unusual catch – a very small sea trout>

A silvery sea trout

Most of the action was to be had close to or even in amongst the reeds which fringe parts of the lake. Trout and vegetation were hooked in equal measure.

in the reeds

In the three hours we were on the water I had two trebles and two doubles, none of them big trout but they gave a good auld pull when two or three of them were on at once.

p5170028.jpg

two at once

There seems to be good fly life on this lough with a near constant stream of buzzers hatching all evening and some small sedges skittering along the surface. It is also a lovely place to fish, the lush, rolling farmland around the shores is very easy on the eye.

Clogher Lake

The action came in spurts with spells when nothing looked near our flies and then suddenly both rods were in action at the same time. I kept a couple of the better fish for the table but the rest were safely returned. The trout did not seem to be too fussy when it came to fly selection but I found anything with a silver body was boldly taken.

p5170007.jpg

So, if you find yourself in the Westport area and fancy some not-too-taxing fishing I can humbly suggest that Clogher is well worth an hour or two of your time. A lovely spot with a scatter of free- rising trout in it. What more could you ask for!

Plenty of fish around this area

Got a few on this sedge

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

The Gull

The rugged coast of Erris Head

The day we walked the Erris Loop provided me with a couple of new fly tying feathers. As we neared the end of our walk I spotted two snowy white breast feathers from a gull just lying there on the sheep nibbled grass. Picking them up I pondered the possibilities and the seeds of an idea for a mayfly pattern were sown in my imagination. The feathers were slipped into a jacket pocket for safe keeping.

the pair pf white gull feathers

The pair of white gull feathers

Adding a white hackle to the front of lough flies is not a new idea. The White Hackled Invicta has been around for years, a proven killer to some anglers and a waste of bloody time to others! The White Hackled Green Peter is way more reliable in my opinion, a great fly for both trout and salmon here in Ireland. I turn to the WHGP on dark, scoury days when I like to imagine the head hackle stands out in the inky black water. Both of these patterns feature white cock hackles but I thought that using the highly mobile gull feathers might be just as good (if not better).

A rather tired looking size 12 White Hackled Invicta from my fly box

The White Hackled Green Peter; a cracking fly. This particular specimen is sporting a pair of   pheasant tail legs.

What I had in mind for this new pattern was a fly to use on the top dropper in a big wave when the mayfly are hatching. I know that the last thing the angling world needs is yet another wet mayfly pattern but I get huge enjoyment out of just tying flies so even if this one is not an instant hit with the fish I’ll have some fun at the vice.

There is a bit of tying goes into making this one but the secret is to leave plenty of space at the head for winding all those hackles.

Hook: 8 or 10 wet fly

Silk: brown, 8/0

Tag: mirage opal

Tails: some cock pheasant tail fibres or moose main hair, either natural or you could dye them black

Ribs (2): a length of oval silver tinsel. This is closely followed by a piece of Glo-brite red floss (no. 4)

Body: In two halves. The tail half is dubbed golden olive seals fur. The front half is crimson seals fur.

Shoulder hackle (1): French partridge, dyed yellow

Shoulder hackle (2): A mallard duck flank feather dyed golden olive, one turn is enough

Shoulder hackle (3): A golden pheasant yellow body feather

Head hackle: white breast feather from a gull or tern

French Partridge feathers, dyed yellow

French Partridge feathers, dyed yellow

Prepared French Partridge feather

This is how the partridge feather should look before tying it in.

Tag tied in and the hackles all ready for winding once the body has been dubbed on

The Gull

the finished fly

With nature running so late this season due to the cold spring I’m expecting the mayfly to start hatching in about two weeks time. I normally see the first ones on Cullin during the last week in April but the water temperature is still too low for the nymphs to make the hazardous journey to the surface.

mayfly-dun.jpg

natural mayfly

This fly is very much intended for classic Irish wetfly fishing, ‘stroking the water’ with a team of three flies. I will fish it on the bob, trailing it through the waves to leave a wake which will attract the fish. That gentle rhyme of the waves, the warm, soft Irish air and the swish of the fly rods as you drift over shallow water is a balm to any fisher’s soul. I’ll curse at the fish who miss the fly and smile when the rod bends into a wild fish. Any day now…………………….

Standard
dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing

What’s wrong on the Robe?

Mid-May, the height of the trout season in Mayo. The weather forecast was good and I was really really looking forward to a few hours on the River Robe. The fishing can be challenging in low, clear water but fly life should be plentiful. I double checked my dry fly boxes to make sure I had all the bases covered.

The bridge over the Robe at Crossboyne

I had deliberately picked the stretch of the river around Crossboyne for two reasons. Firstly, the river there holds some very big trout. Secondly, the fly life is usually very reliable. I figured this was a winning combination, the rest was going to be up to my (dubious) skills with rod and line.

For the first time this year I ditched the neoprene waders and plumped for the lightweight chesties instead. I have had these boots for a while  but never worn them so I was was anticipating a more comfortable day. Pulling them on as I perched on the car, I felt far from comfortable. The feet were too tight but I thought they would slacken off once they had been broken in a bit by some walking and wading. Turns out I was wrong about that!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

wind ruffled surface

The bridge pool at Crossboyne looks inviting but I have never had a big fish out of it until late in the evenings. This morning all was quiet on the glass-like surface of this pretty pool. The trees downstream shielded the pool from a gusty south westerly, the only quiet spot on the river today! I waded across the tail of the pool and scrambled up the slippery bank. Once out of the trees the full force of the wind caught me unawares. Ducking back into the vegetation, I commenced operations with a small dry olive. Flicking it up and under the branches was tricky and the small olive sadly stuck on a leafy branch where it remained when the tippet snapped under pressure from me. This small tragedy was repeated often as fly after fly fell victim to my casting deficiencies. The trout were willing to grab the small flies if I could keep them on the surface on short drifts in tumbling water. The only problem was these were all small fish, only a few inches long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trees everywhere! The last resting place for some more of my dries

Leaving the trees behind me I meandered down the edges of the fields, fishing the likely spots near structures and weedbeds. I could make out no signs of a hatch which was very odd. This is a fertile part of the river and upwinged flies usually litter the surface at this time of the year. With no hatch to tempt them up,  the trout were reluctant to show near the top. I had made up my mind that I would stick with dries today, so pushing thoughts of heavily weighted nymphs to the back of my mind I fished on amid a strengthening and variable wind.

5 fish came to hand today but they were all of this stamp

Open fields, dotted with grazing sheep and cattle, bordered the river now. The big drain was in sight (the natural end to this stretch) but a nasty new electric fence barred any further progress. With no flies and a difficult wind I decided to turn back and head for the fast pool above the bridge.

The calf followed me around for a while until mum came to fetch him!

Another trout took the dry spider I had floated over him and it turned out he would be the last one of the day. I picked up the remains of a beautiful spotted blue egg which caught my eye. It may have been left over from a successful hatching but it’s more likely that the egg was robbed by the crows.

Re-crossing the river I ducked under the bridge, getting a soaking from the mains water pipe which is leaking badly from a joint. The lively pool immediately above the bridge is home to some fine trout but once again there was no sign of life. By now I had taken enough disappointment so I called it a day and returned to the car. The lack of insect life is a huge problem, one that does not bode well for the future. I have been blaming the cold weather this spring for the poor (non-existent) hatches but maybe there are more sinister reasons. The use of pesticides in Ireland is endemic. Farmers and other land owners habitually spray pesticides and herbicides in huge quantities. Perhaps this is part of the problem?

Lovely water, pity there were no insects hatching

I will give the Robe a rest now until next month when (hopefully) the evening falls of spinners will liven up the fishing.

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Around Conn and Cullin

Just some bits and pieces from the Conn/Cullin area to give you a feel for this part of Ireland. Let’s kick off with some figures shall we?

  • The Conn/Cullin catchment drains roughly 800 square miles of north County Mayo
  • Conn is a big lough, it covers roughly 48 km2 and has a maximum depth of 40 metres
  • Cullin, which sits to the south of Conn, covers just over 10 km2

The loughs are joined by a cut which replaced the old river and this is spanned by a bridge on the R310 road. The village of Pontoon is situated on the narrow isthmus which separates the two bodies of water. Two hotels in the village are currently both closed. There were hopes that at least Healy’s would open again next year but the existing building may have to be demolished and a new one built.

Healy’s hotel, Pontoon

The Pontoon Bridge hotel changed hands last year but it too is still shut. The local economy badly needs both of these hotels to open up.

pontoon-bridge-hotel-20018

The water level on Lough Conn was lowered by 1.83 m (6 feet) in the autumn of 1966 as part of the Moy Arterial Drainage Scheme. There is a general opinion in the area that this scheme had a negative effect on fish stocks in both loughs.

4-c24da8742a

the Lough Conn drainage area

In Irish folklore these loughs were created when the Celtic hero, Fionn MacCumhaill was out hunting boar with his two hounds named Conn and Cullin. The dogs were chasing a boar when water began gushing from the boar’s feet. The chase went on for days but eventually the steady flow of water from the boar drowned the poor dogs while simultaneously forming two lakes: Conn and Cullin.

The huge bulk of Nephin towers over Conn

pontoon

Back in the 1960’s there was a dance hall in Pontoon. Hugely popular in its day, people flocked to it to dance the night away. Legend has it that one night, towards the end of the evening, a girl was asked for a dance by a handsome young man. She stepped out with him and he turned out to be a superb dancer. She was having the time of her life until by chance she happened to look down. Instead feet the bold young fella walked on hooves – the devil himself was abroad in Pontoon!

pontoon

 

images

Lough Conn stretches all the way from Crossmolina in the North to Pontoon in the south with fishing all over the whole body of water. As with most Irish loughs, the best fishing is in the shallows around the shoreline, island and offshore reefs. Unlike Mask and Corrib there is virtually no angling in the deeps.

Mayfly time and Brown’s Bay on Lough Conn is busy with anglers preparing to go out for the day

Fish stocks are but a shadow of what the were, Indeed, the population of Char seems to have died out completely. Surveys carried out many years ago suggested that a big majority of the trout from Lough Cullin spawned in the Castlebar river. Nowadays there are very few trout in Cullin and they have been replaced with coarse fish.

Ballyvary river

the Castlebar river

An angler trolling for salmon in the shallow waters of Lough Conn, off the mouth of the river Deel, Crosmolina

 

 

 

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing

A Sunday afternoon

Sullen, that’s the only way I can describe the weather this morning. No wind to speak of and heavy clouds above. The good news is that it was still reasonably warm, raising hopes there would be a hatch of ephemerids. Off to the Robe!

Water levels had dropped since my last visit but the water was still carrying some colour. Even as I tackled up on the bank a couple of olives fluttered past. Unfortunately almost as soon as I started casting the heavens opened and a cold wind blew straight upstream into my face. Shelter, in the shape of a convenient gorse bush, kept me dry until the squall petered out and fishing could resume.

p4220003.jpg

The wind dissipated completely and I quickly began to catch smallish brownies. One oddity this afternoon was the number of fish which simply ‘fell off’ after a few seconds contact. I didn’t keep a tally but I suppose there must have been a dozen or so which threw the hook with remarkable ease.

I took a snap of one fish but to be honest they were all minute wee fellas. Eventually I hooked a slightly better fish and brought him safely to hand. A photograph beckoned so I tried to fish the camera out of my chest pocket. It didn’t want to come out so I carefully laid the trout on the bank, some 10 or 12 feet from the edge of the river while I got the camera out of the pocket and then free from the bag it is in. Before I could complete this manoeuvre the trout gave a kick, squirmed down the bank and rolled back into the river with a resounding ‘PLOP’. It started to rain again………………..

Some horses decided to cheer me up by running up at me then turning away at the last minute. I guess they found it amusing but it didn’t do much for my humour!

Up until now I had been fishing with nymphs, keeping them as close to the river bed as possible. While this was certainly working the size of the fish was a disappointment. I switched to the dry fly but despite fishing some likely looking pools I came up empty handed with the floater. I was working my way upstream when the heavens opened again and I figured it was time to call it a day.

While tramping along the edge of the river I spotted the remains of a crayfish in the grass. Something had enjoyed a good dinner at the expense of this particular crustacean. A heron or mink were the most likely culprits..

By three o’clock I was back at the car and my Sunday on the river was over. A total of 13 small brownies had come to hand so I can’t complain really. It would just have been nice to land one good one.

 

Standard