Fishing in Ireland, Uncategorized

Musings

Leaving for work every Monday morning at the same time means I can see the days lengthening. Only a couple of weeks ago backed out of the driveway in pitch blackness which persisted until I was fully half way across Ireland. This Monday there was a paleness in the eastern sky as I crossed into Roscommon and by the time Athlone was behind me and I was speeding along the west bound lanes of the M6 the sky was light. Spring is coming; it is far in the distance yet but you can feel it edging closer.

The weather has been wet lately but no worse than we normally experience in the West of Ireland in January. All the rivers are full and some are slopping over their banks, oozing into the adjacent fields. Migratory swans are enjoying the wetlands, a welcome sight against an otherwise dreary background of dun-coloured earth and shimmering water. Crows seem to fill the sky at times, wheeling and cawing as if they enjoy this cold weather. And all the while, deep in turbid, boisterous flows, the fish wait for warmer conditions. Cold eyes, slowly rotating fins. Lethargic. Just waiting………….

Food supplies on the rivers must be tight but those fish who live in the loughs have an all-together easier passage through the wintertime. The great limestone lakes of the west are alkaline, and they support huge numbers of freshwater shrimps and hog louse. These highly nutritious snacks are hoovered up in immense quantities by the fish, allowing them to maintain condition through the short days of winter. Come the start of the season we fly fishers will reach for fiery browns and golden olives, both of which are good imitations of the louse and the shrimp. Our angling cousins in England and Scotland use excellent close copies of the crustaceans, but the style of fishing over there is very different to our lough style, plonking heavily weighted but perfect imitations in front of discerning rainbows is a different sport to short lining from a boat over wild brownies in a force six.

 

Sad news

It is sad to see Duffy’s of Headford have closed down after 60 years in business. I relied on them to keep my old Johnson motors running and the shop was always a hub of gossip for fishers, local and visitor alike. I popped in as I was passing last weekend but the shelves had been cleared and only a couple of local guys were picking over the bones of the stock before the front door slams shut for good. In this age of the internet I can only imagine how hard it must be to keep a small hardware shop open in a county town. It will be sorely missed.

 

 

Advertisements
Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Uncategorized

Sunday in Mayo

No fishing (again). The weather has been settled for weeks now with no rain to speak of. The rivers have been reduced to shrunken rivulets and the salmon are still out at sea waiting for the weather to change. So today we went for a walk on the beach to make the best of the fine weather.

The Carrownisky is a small spate river which enters the sea at a strand of the same name. A ‘strand’ in Ireland is a beach, this one is a particularly fine example of a sandy beach. It is popular with surfers as it faces almost exactly due west and so gets some surf even in calm conditions.

We parked up on the high shingle bank near the surfers and walked along the firm sand under brilliant sunshine. These Atlantic beaches are inhospitable places and the only life we saw were a few sandpipers and an energetic Ringed Plover who ran along in front of us. The views across to Clare island and the far off Innish Turk were jaw-droppingly spectacular. Afraid my photo’s don’t do it justice.

We walked as far as the point where the Carrownisky River flows into the sea. The tide was dropping and the paltry flow from the river all but vanished into the gravel. It was easy to see why no salmon were able to run the river now.

The Carrownisky emptying into the Atlantic. It is ankle deep here

Helen beside the shrunken Carrownisky

The lake is in the distance.

The Reek in the background

It’s hard to believe looking at these photographs that the Carrownisky can be a fine little river on it’s day. A summer spate can see salmon run the river and the flats above the lake seem to hold them for a while and gives the angler a chance of a fish or two. The sea pool is also worth a few casts but it fishes better from the other side and access is an issue in high water.

The Sea Pool.

As for flies for this river you just need something small and dark. The best of the fishing is always on dark, windy days and a size 10 or 12 with plenty of black in it’s make up will do the business.

But today was all about the sun and the fresh air. We walked back to the car, chatting and taking in the views. The neoprene clad surfers dotted the waves near the car park, it was a day for their sport, not mine. Louisburg was quiet, despite the lovely day so we drove on to Murrisk where we stopped to take in the views from the foot of Croagh Patrick. Neither of us felt energetic enough to tackle the Reek today so we settled for a quick drink in Campbells fine establishment instead.

At the foot of the Reek

The well worn path up the reek

Let’s hope there is some rain this week, I am itching to get the rod out again!

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Uncategorized

alive and kicking

So today I finally made time to take a look at the sick Evinrude outboard which let me down so badly last weekend. When it failed to start on the lake I rowed ashore and whipped out the spark plugs, thinking the mixture may have been too rich and she had oiled the plugs. Both plugs were in perfect condition so I put them back into the head and called it day. By the time I had reached home there was a strong smell of petrol emanating from the boot meaning I had a fuel leak somewhere.

Today I wanted to be 100% sure the spark was strong so I tested both plugs again and they were sparking away good-oh. I turned my attention to the fuel system and checked the fuel line from the tank to the carburetor. Although it looks a bit dirty it was intact and the clips at both ends were tight. All linkages on the carb were in perfect working order and I was about to remove the whole unit when I noticed one of the two mounting bolts was slightly loose. Checking the 4 screws which hold the float bowl to the body of the carb I found one of these was also loose. These faults could lead to air leaks and thus make the engine hard to start or run unevenly. I tightened up the offending bolt and screw and gave the engine a test. She burst into life on the third pull and idled reasonably well. Here is a clip of her running (sorry about the wrong title)-

To be perfectly honest the slack bolt and screw may (or may not) be the cause of the problems with starting. Certainly they both should have been tight, so I have not done anything wrong by applying the spanner and driver to them. The fuel leak was not obvious to me so I can only presume the bolt and screw had slackened off in use and the petrol was trickling out at those places. Only another trial on the water will confirm if I have solved the problem. I had better head out fishing tomorrow I guess (sigh).

Now to other matters: I was in Ballina today and the river Moy was very busy with anglers on all beats. There were salmon and grilse showing in good numbers in the Ridge Pool.

20170527_144705[1]

The ridge pool being diligently covered by anglers today

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Uncategorized

Feile na Tuaithe, Day 2

Now that’s better. Brilliant sunshine greeted me when I twitched back the bedroom curtains this morning. Forecasters unanimously agree there will be localised showers again today but for now it’s wall to wall sun. Hopefully that will encourage more visitors to Féile na Tuaithe.

Looking back on yesterday there were some common faults at the fly casting. Total beginners were easy – they picked it up quickly and in a few minutes could cast a reasonablably straight line. Some of the kids were just too small to handle the ten-footer properly though and they needed a bit of help from me to hold the rod. The tricky ones were those anglers who had tried fly fishing and given it up previously. The usual bad habits were there to be seen but getting these ironed out was a challenge.

The first one was that old chestnut of dropping the rod too low on the back cast. The line hits the ground or what ever herbage is around and the necessary tension in the rod blank is lost, leading to a poor forward stroke. Some guys knew this what they were doing wrong but couldn’t figure out how to stop it. Here’s my tip – go right back to the very start of the cast and focus on pointing the rod as low as you can. If you do this it goes a long way to curing the problem as you can stop the back stroke near to vertical much better.

Next most common fault had to be little or no pause between back and forward strokes. You must give the line sufficient time to straighten out behind you so the rod can be bent and store the necessary energy for the forward stroke. But how to figure out how long this pause has to be? The answer is neatly located on your face, either side of your nose. Yep, just turn your head and watch the line sail out behind you until it has almost straightened then commence the forward stroke. Trust me, just watching the line will really help you when you are learning to cast.

 

So the morning disappeared in a blur of activity and I was running way too late long before I even headed off to Turlough. I had to do some serious persuasion of the security staff on the gate to let me in but I made it, just and no more. Some friends were on hand to assist me (you know who you are – thanks a million guys) and I was ready for action as the first visitors streamed in at noon. Like Saturday, there was a lot of interest in casting by the younger attendees which was great to see. Our sport badly needs fresh blood and the more we can do to encourage youngsters to take up the sport the better.

Lots of old angling acquaintances dropped by to say hello and I met scores of lovely people out enjoying the day and interested to see what I was up to beside the lake. A fellow blogger (The Irish Angler) came down to meet me and we had a great old chat about fishing and blogging. Take a look at Richard’s blog, it’s a great insight to fishing on Conn and Cullen –  https://theirishfisherman.wordpress.com

The afternoon flew by and it felt like I was only just settling into the day when I looked at the time to find it had gone 5.15pm. Packing up consisted of hurling all my gear and tackle into the back of the car (to be sorted out at a later date) and then it was off home for a bite to eat and get ready for work in the morning. I really enjoyed the whole experience of being part of Feile na Tuaithe and hope I may have sparked some interest in people to try their hand at our sport. I’m planning on fishing for trout the next time I pick up a fly rod though!

 

Standard
bait fishing, trout fishing, Uncategorized

Early memories

Funny how some memories come back to you without any invitation. What makes the human mind decide to delve back into the past for no obvious reason? I can think of no ‘trigger’ for suddenly and unexpectedly thinking about Ord Dam the other day. I was not reminiscing about my angling past, nor my Scottish upbringing at the time. Just out of the blue I mentally leaped back to my formative years and a small pool of water by a back road just beyond the outskirts of Aberdeen. I can place the time of these recollections quite accurately as they coincided with one of life’s seminal decisions – I wanted (and received) a fly rod for my birthday. Ord Dam was to be one of the first places I used this weapon which was going to serve me so well as I took my first faltering steps learning the gentle art of fly fishing.

I don’t know what Ord Dam was built for, the ‘river’ feeding it was little more than an agricultural drain and in summer the flow over the concrete spillway was a tiny trickle, easily negotiated by young teenagers in wellies. I guess it was intended to impound water so that the fields would be well watered. There was a good path around the whole loch except for a bay on the Northern end near the road which was heavily overgrown with brambles. And, most importantly, it was stuffed full of wild brownies. That inconspicuous puddle held an inordinate stock of fish, way beyond what would have been imagined or dreamt of. On summer evenings as the light faded and the creatures of the night came snuffling out of their dens and holes, the surface of Ord Dam became pock marked with the rises of countless fish. It was that mental image, seared into my memory banks, of the darkening skies and the frantic rise which flashed back to me across the years.

The rod was a glass fibre made by the Clan company in the Trossacks. Nine and a half feet long (all the better in case I hooked a sea trout George in Brown’s tackle shop earnestly informed me), you could nearly tie a knot in it, it was so soft. It was my present on the occasion of the celebration of my arrival on this rocky planet 13 years earlier. I loved that rod. Isn’t it funny how we become so attached to crappy tackle just because it was our first? Perhaps the same could apply to motor bikes, cars or even girlfriends but let’s not go there right now. Over the years that rod suffered an immense degree of physical abuse and by the time I gave it away to a young lad many years later it was a couple of inches shorter thanks to an unpleasant argument with a car boot and sported two very obvious extra joins where the normal two-piece set up was increased to four pieces when I fell off a bicycle while cycling home from the river Don one day. These days we would say it had ‘character’.

Back to Ord Dam…………… I probably blanked more often that I landed fish there until I discovered the nefarious joys of float fishing maggots for trout. Perhaps I should feel deep shame admitting to this foul deed. Maybe there is help for reformed maggot drowners who hold meetings in drafty halls to support each other as they struggle to come to terms with the enormity of what they did. The thing is, trout are suckers for maggots and young lads who go fishing simply want to catch as many fish as they can, regardless of methodology employed. So floats and maggots became part of my armoury for fishing Ord Dam until the nine foot six fly rod entered my life. The timeless joy of watching the brightly coloured top of the float was replaced virtually overnight by the physical challenge of learning to cast a fly. Simple decisions such as one maggot or two were rendered obsolete when I was now confronted by the bewildering choice of artificial creations. In short, Ord Dam became a fly fishing classroom for me and while my fellow maggot drowners (yes you, Mickey Gibson, Alan Robertson, Bobby and Callum) stuck grimly to the float fishing slaughter I would wander the banks casting, getting caught on weeds, bushes, trees and very occasionally small trout. While my first fly-caught trout was taken on the Kintore beat of the Don most of the next few dozen were landed in Ord Dam. These fish were small, one or two of them might have made 12 ounces but most weighed half a pound or less and I longed to catch something bigger but in those days access to good water was beyond my reach so the tiddlers in the dam suffered my inept attentions instead.

I wish I could go back to those day of innocence and wonder when every trip to the dam was exciting and joyous. I can fish any number of first class lakes and rivers these days but that sense of unbridled fun I experienced as a thirteen year old learning to cast on the dam has long gone. Exactly when and how it slipped out of my life I can’t pinpoint, maybe it was gradually eroded like a pebble in a stream.

Many years later I returned to Aberdeen to visit family and as I was driving out the back road to Banchory I took a notion to look at the dam again. Something like 25 years had elapsed since I had fished there so I wasn’t expecting too much and unfortunately I was right to prepare myself for disappointment. The water level was considerably lower than before and the whole loch was a mass of weed with no clear water to be seen. I didn’t linger and drove off feeling chastised for even stopping there in the first place. Childhood fishing spots are, like old motorbikes and girlfriends, best left in corners of our memory rather than seen again in the harsh light of reality.

Footnote: All may not be so bad at Ord Dam after all. A quick google search has revealed that the dam is now under the control of Aberdeen City Council Countryside ranger service. The photo accompanying this post is the property of the service and it shows the water back to a good level and free of the weed.

Standard
Uncategorized

Salmon jumping the falls on the River Clydagh

Some rain last night give the local rivers a small lift. Trout and salmon ran the local falls on the Clydagh river today. No signs of any big fish but a steady flow of small grilse and wild brownies leapt the falls as we watched for a half-an-hour this afternoon.

I posted a short video clip here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKgB7rJhEKg

Standard
Uncategorized

early August update

Salmon – some fish being taken throughout the whole of the Moy system, mainly grilse as you would expect. Beltra is pretty quiet with just a few Sea Trout coming to the net.

Sea angling- good numbers of rays in Clew Bay with the usual shore marks producing well. Mackerel finally appearing in the are too.

Trout fishing – evening fishing is steady if not spectacular on the major lakes.

Standard