Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Yellow Green Peter

I have written about this pattern before but since it has been working well on Lough Mask this year I thought I would give it another mention.

Looking towards Mamtrasna

looking out over the deep water on Lough Mask

An easy fly to tie, most experienced Irish tyers will have the materials in their collection of fur and feathers. No special techniques are required either, the only thing to watch out for is leaving sufficient space at the head for the wings, legs and had hackle. Now, let’s press on with the details.

Hook sizes I would recommend are 10’s and 12’s but if you take a notion to make some on bigger or smaller sizes they might do the job too. For tying silk I have often use brown in size 8/0 but this is a pattern which may benefit from using that lovely Fire Orange silk instead. I will leave this detail up to you.

Starting the silk at the eye and run it down to the point where the body will start, say about a third of the way down the hook shank. Here you catch in a prepared red game cock hackle, dull side facing upwards.

The body hackle has been tied in, now keep running the silk towards the bend and catch in the rib

Keep winding the silk down the hook shank, catching in a length of fine oval gold tinsel on the way. Stop the silk opposite the barb of the hook (if it has one!) and dub on some light claret fur, sufficient to form a tag of perhaps 3 turns. Once that is wound on dub the tying silk with the fur which will make up the body of the fly. This is pea green seal’s fur with a small pinch flash dubbing mixed through.

light claret for the tag

Don’t over do the flash

tie down the body hackle with the rib

I make the wings from paired slips of hen pheasant secondary wing feathers which I have dyed yellow. Keep these low down over the back of the fly. I have used slips from the tail feather of the same bird (also dyed yellow) when I could not lay my hands on the secondaries.

A bag of Hen Pheasant dyed yellow

Next I add some legs on each side of the fly. These are made out of knotted cock pheasant tail fibres and they extend to about half the length of the fly past the bend.

The tricky part – getting the wings just right!

legs next

Finally, tie in a wind the head hackle. Use a grizzle cock hackle dyed yellow. I have a favourite cape for this, an old Indian cock cape of poor quality. It is soft and the dark bars are indistinct, making it pretty much useless for dry flies. I dyed it a dull yellow by adding the merest touch of golden olive to the yellow dye to the bath. I don’t want a vibrant, buttercup yellow for this pattern, the shade is muted and the markings faint. This is very much a case where those of you who dye their own feathers will be at an advantage. Those who don’t will need to rummage about in those bins of ‘seconds’ at fly tying fairs!

soft golden yellow grizzle hackles

A neat head followed by a whip finish is all that is now required before you snip off the waste end of the tying silk.

This is a fly which works well over the deeps on Lough Mask. I confess that I am not a big fan of this way of trout fishing but it is effective and anglers who persevere bring in good bags of fish some days. It seems the brown trout shoal in deep water, feasting on daphnia. Sinking lines are used to get to the right depth (the clouds of daphnia rise or fall depending on light levels) and the anglers who work on finding the right depth as well as the right patterns will be more successful.

The Yellow Green Peter works on any position on the leader and is a reliable performer from June onwards until the end of the season in September. I have used it to fool trout on Lough Conn too and I suspect it could deliver the goods on Scottish lochs.

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trolling, trout fishing

Killer on Loch Cluanie

With no fishing right now due to the ongoing drought I have been amusing myself by sorting through some old gear which was jumbled into an old biscuit tin. There were lots of Mepps and other small spoons which I am unlikely to ever use again but an ABU Killer was tangled up in amongst the French spoons. I think these plugs are deadly, an appreciation which can be traced all the way back to my childhood.

Summer holidays back then in the late ‘60’s involved the family plus some suitcases wedged into a Triumph Toledo and we all headed off to the North or West of Scotland. These were simpler times, no notion of passports, theme parks or cheap sun holidays laced with red wine. No, instead we three kids spent a couple of mid-summer weeks in the outdoors being bitten by midges, splashing about in rivers or bouncing about on the back of poor old trekking ponies. My two sisters loved the trekking bit while I just wanted to have a fishing rod in my hand. Looking back on it now I wonder at the patience of my long suffering parents as they did everything possible to keep us all happy and safe.

My love affair with the ABU Killer was complex. Pocket money certainly did not stretch to the purchase of these very expensive ABU plugs. The silver example I was so proud of had been recovered from the bottom of the river Don at Inverurie sometime before when my worming gear had stuck on an underwater object which turned out to be the branch of a tree. The blackened, knarled limb must have been washed down in a flood from the expensive beats up river because nobody I knew who fished that cheap, local authority stretch could afford a Killer. However it got there it was now the centrepiece of my collection of spinners. I had never actually used it, being far too afraid it would get stuck on the bottom again. So it languished in the old tobacco tin, biding its time.

I must have been about 11 or maybe 12 years old when the Killer showed its true metal. The family holiday that year was a week in a rented cottage in Wester Ross. The oft travelled A96 up to Inverness, down the shore of Loch Ness through Drumnadrochit to Glenmoriston where the road turns off to the west and the amazing drive through Kintail with the Five Sisters towering over the road. The cottage was an old house with some basic appliances but it was all we needed and I have many fond memories of that vacation.

I had extracted a promise from my father that he would take me fishing on one of the big lochs. I think it might have been the second last day of the holiday before that promise was honoured, so anticipation had been building to fever pitch. The mighty River Moriston had at one time been one of the great salmon rivers of Scotland. It drained the wild lands of Kintail, pouring itself into Loch Ness after a tumultuous journey through the giant cleft in the land. Then, in the late 1950’s the surveyors and engineers arrived, bringing with them the plan for cheap electricity and the death warrant for the river. Great dams throttled the Moriston and the salmon were exterminated from the upper river. Huge reservoirs were created to feed the ever hungry turbines and the splash of leaping salmon was replaced by the low hum of the generators. The salmon are long gone but the little brown trout from the river found better pickings in the newly created still waters and they grew to a better size. It was these brownies I wanted to catch.

A Tay-rigged ABU Killer

I recall the Cluanie Inn was where you could hire a boat for a day (maybe it still is for all I know).  Few shillings changed hands and we set off in the car to the end of the loch where the boat was moored. I suspect it was only when my dad saw the cockleshell 12 footer that the enormity of the day ahead really struck him. We were going to fish a 10 mile long loch from a wee rowing boat with the emphasis very firmly on the ‘rowing’ part. I had been doing my homework and I knew what to do, father had to row the boat while a trolled a bait behind us. I was so full of excitement! Dad looked utterly dejected.

We set off and I got myself sorted, a wooden devon (silver in colour with a deep blue back to it) was lowered into the water and the line paid out until a good 30 yards separated the rod from the bait. I hunkered down to concentrate of the rod tip, snake-like concentration being required on my part. Dad pulled gamely on the oars, steady strokes which I had to tell him to increase in speed as we were not dragging the devon through the water quickly enough in my estimation. He muttered something inaudible through gritted teeth and picked up the pace slightly. My cobra’s stare deepened.

My faded copy of the 1965 ‘Game fishing in mainland Ross and Cromarty’

 

The entry for Loch Cluanie

We kept this up for maybe an hour before the rod gave an almighty lurch and the reel screamed. A half-pounder was soon in the boat and one wee boy was thrilled to say the least. Even dad managed a smile before I announced that the other shore might be a better spot to try next. He suggested that we eat our sandwiches first before covering the width of the loch (again). I was enjoying every minute of this most magical of days, dad on the other hand seemed to be wilting ever so slightly.

The following couple of hours were painfully blank and the solitary trout looked like a poor return for all our (sorry, his) efforts. I had changed the bait a couple of times but nothing interested the fish. Dad began to talk about heading back and how we better not be late. I needed some inspiration and as I poked around in my ‘Golden Virginia’ tin of baits I figured it was time to do the unthinkable – actually use the ABU Killer. With trembling hands I tied it on to the end of the line and tested the knot. I swear I was more afraid of losing the bait than any thought of catching a fish on it. I had read that some pike lived in this loch and in my mind’s eye I could envision a huge pike severing the line as he engulfed my lovely silver plug.

Dad rowed stoically on, nothing was said but I could see he had surreptitiously turned the boat in the direction of the far off mooring spot. Within minutes of immersion in the peaty waters my ABU Killer produced the goods! An alarming whack on the rod was almost instantly followed by the sight of a trout leaping clear of the small waves. A good trout, twice the size of the first lad. He fought well but not well enough and dad scooped him out of the loch and into the boat. My suggestion that we ‘take another run over that spot again’ was not well received and instead we picked up speed as we made a bee-line for the mooring.

It turned out to be the only fish that Killer caught. A few seasons later it did indeed snag on the bottom and the line parted when I tried to yank it free. I was sad to lose it just because of the memory of the day on Loch Cluanie but by then I was working and had money to buy a replacement if desired. Salmon have fallen for Killers fished by me over the years since then and even when I discovered Rapalas the old ABU plug still snuck on to the end of my trace from time to time.

The Abu Killer was in fact made in America (the same applied to Cello and Hi-lo plugs from ABU). These days ABU Garcia have them made in the Far East. I still pick up old ones second hand for not much money. I have less fear of losing them now! Funny how a couple of inches of plastic, moulded in the land of the free, can create such memories.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, salmon fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Leaders

Let’s talk about leaders. When I started fishing the fly for trout this was pretty damn straight forward – you tied an overhand knot on the end of the fly line and looped a 9 foot length of 4 pound breaking strain nylon on to it. Life in general has evolved in a variety of complex ways since those days but leaders have exploded into a mind-bending number of different forms. In contrast, my fishing tends to be very simple so my leaders are similarly easy to construct. I thought you might like to see how I tie up leaders for the various different conditions over here in the far west of Ireland. Bear in mind we only have wild brown trout, a very small population of sea trout and a few Atlantic salmon to target. I will split this information into 4 sections to cover the vast majority of my fly fishing needs.

Maxima, good, honest line at a reasonable price

Trout (lough)

I will start with my my basic leader for wet fly on the lough. Lots of lough anglers, and certainly most of the completion lads, have long ago switched from nylon to fluorocarbon for leader material. The main benefit is the increase in breaking strain for the same diameter and for this reason alone I like to use fluorocarbon for my trout leaders when chasing brownies.

My typical lough style leader will consist of a heavy nylon butt, some 12 inches long, made from 15 pound nylon and attached to a small loop in the end of the fly line with a loop. Blood knotted on to the butt will be another foot of ten pound breaking strain nylon. That couple of feet of heavy nylon stays there and I change the leader itself by blood knotting on new lengths of fluorocarbon, usually 9.5 pound breaking strain Riverge. I make my droppers by cutting the fluorocarbon and then re-joining it using a double blood knot, leaving a long tag end which forms the dropper. I like to have my droppers around 6 inches long. When a leader gets damaged or the droppers become too short I snip off the whole fluorocarbon part and replace it with a new leader.

I am too lazy to make up specific leaders for the dry fly when I am on the boat, I just use a wet fly leader and tie on a pair of dries.

Flay calm – testing times for any type of leader!

Trout (river)

On the river I use a wide range of different set ups. As for the lough set up, my basic principle is to have a heavy butt attached to the end of the fly line with a ‘sacrificial’ length of lower diameter which I cut into each time I change the leader. This saves me messing around with the heavy butt section too often. I have been experimenting with tapered butts for a long time now and while I find them useful for sinking lines for salmon I am less impressed with them on floaters for trout fishing. I have also tried some of the specialist nymphing tapered leaders but I find them too soft for my own preference.

The same butt set up as I use for the loughs (see above) works fine for me, maybe just a few inches shorter is better when I am fishing on small streams or at close quarters. That butt section stays attached to the fly line all the time.

  1. Wet fly leader: six feet of 4 pound nylon with three feet of three pound nylon as a tippet. Droppers made by using the tag ends of double blood knots.
  2. Dry fly: Due to the generally higher air resistance I use six pound nylon for the main body of the leader and blood knot on a tippet of fluorocarbon. Breaking strain will depend on where I am fishing and the likely size of any trout there.
  3. Night time leader: The only leaders I carry which are made up before I go fishing are a couple of heavy (6 pound breaking strain) leaders armed with one dropper. I even have the flies tied on so I don’t have to do this in the dark. These leaders are for summer nights when the fish are chasing sedges. It is just too hard to make up a leader from scratch in the dark so I do this beforehand then simply snip off the old leader and knot the heavy one on.
  4. Nymphing set up: Once again, I like to keep this as simple as possible. I don’t need to use excessively heavy nymphs as I don’t fish very deep and fast water. My main aim is to provide enough thickness and therefore stiffness in the leader to turn over the nymphs on short lines. I resort to straight lengths of fifteen pound fluorocarbon as this gives me the power I require. To step down to the tippet I use about 18 inches of that Riverge 9.5 pound which is always lurking in the dark recesses of my waistcoat pocket. Sounds way too heavy for hooking up with half pound trout? Yes and no would be my answer. You see the bottom of my local rivers are stony and snaggy and hooking the bottom happens far more often than hooking fish, so I have a bit of leeway when I need to pull and tug at the line to retrieve snagged flies.

Salmon (lough)

Things change for me when I make up leaders deliberately for salmon on Beltra. We generally use largish flies on this lough and getting 3 meat hooks to cast properly in a high wind from a drifting boat means a switch back to nylon. I like something in or around 20 pound breaking strain and keep the leader to a maximum total length of 9 feet. I don’t think that salmon are line shy in four foot high waves.

Climax 98 - I use this for making up salmon leaders

Climax 98 – I use this for making up salmon leaders

On waters like Carrowmore lake where we fish much smaller flies and only in light winds I simply use the same leaders that I tie up for trout fishing from 9.5 pound breaking strain Grand Max Revenge.

one that went back

safely in the net, the leader did its job this time

Salmon (river)

On big rivers I stick to only one fly and the big question is do I use a straight through length of nylon about 9 feet long or do I add a sinking butt section. The decision will be based on water speed and depth and I usually carry a couple of sinking butts in a pocket with me when I am on a big river.

sinking tapered poly leaders

sinking tapered poly leaders fished out of my jacket pocket!

On smaller rivers and during grilse time I am perfectly happy with a 9 foot length of 10 pound breaking strain nylon loop-to-looped to the end of the fly line. It doesn’t get more simple than that yet it has worked for me my whole angling life so I ain’t about to change any time soon. I add a dropper when the grilse are around so I can fish a tiny wee fly as well as a ‘normal’ size 8 – 12 on the tail. I space the dropper about three feet up from the tail fly.

spools of drennan

Now let’s turn to the vexed question of which brands to use. Over the years I have had pretty much every line let me down at some point. The early fluorocarbons were prone to snapping under even quite low strains if the load was applied suddenly. Thankfully this seems to have been ironed out but I still find that a good nylon is more forgiving and able to soak up more abrasion than more modern materials. So I carry both types of line with me in various breaking strains and diameters.

One of my favourite fluorocarbons for making up leaders

One of my favourite fluorocarbons for making up leaders

The market is flooded with different lines, each claiming to be better than the rival products as they are thinner/stronger/invisible to the fish. I guess you will have to make up your own minds about which to use. At the cheaper end of the market there may be some dodgy materials so I don’t mind spending money on the lines which I have experience of. Riverge is good in my opinion and I’ve used it for a good many season now. I have also used Frog Hair for years without complaint. Drennan sub-surface green has been a stalwart nylon for me too.

Frog hair

A quick word on attaching the leader to the fly line. I don’t know about you but this task used to create all manner of problems for me. I never took to braided butts which you slid over the line and were supposed to cling in place on their own. Dabbing superglue on these joints just made them stiff as pokers and I have seen them fail on a couple of occasions. I still have some older fly lines which I turned the end back on itself and whipped it into a small loop. That has worked fine for me over the years. Many modern fly lines are supplied with neat welded loops on the end, making the whole process of attaching the leader so much simpler.

 

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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!

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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

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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

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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…………………….

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