Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Fly tying season

At this time of the year we fly tyers are as busy as beavers, crouched over the vice winding and snipping to our hearts content. After a couple of very quiet seasons I had little need to top up my fly boxes until the plan to fish all 32 counties was hatched. Now I had to make sure I was going to be fully equipped for all eventualities.

The sub plot to doing the 32 counties is that I would keep some basic fishing gear in the car with me at all times so that I could take advantage of any free time while I am travelling with work. My trusty Orvis rod and a floating line will be in the back of the car this coming season but the question is what flies do I bring with me?

It is simply not possible to cover all eventualities so I figured I would take two boxes with me, a small one with dry patterns and a larger wooden box containing anything else, be that wets, nymphs or lures. This may not be as limiting as you might imagine as I tend to stick to relatively few patterns for 90% of my fishing.

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wets are at the bottom of this shot

Looking at the wet flies I can see myself stopping for a few casts at roadside loughs around the country where my quarry will be small, wild brown trout. These fish tend not to be overly fussy so some smallish bibio, bumble, invicta and dabbler flies will form the backbone of my collection for these types of waters. I will make up some other traditional style patterns too so I have something to try for a change if my regulars are not producing.

For rivers I love using spider patterns and I have loads of these already made up so I selected some and added them to the box. Mainly tied on size 14 and 16 hooks, I am fully confident they will catch me trout all across Ireland throughout the season and I would urge you all to have some of these simple but deadly flies in you armoury. There are some Wickhams, Greenwells and other similar flies in here too (all proven killers).

There may be opportunities for an hour or two on lakes stocked with rainbows and this had me reaching for the vice to knock up some lures and buzzers. I am woefully out of touch with the rainbow fishing scene, so bungs, snakes and the rest of the new-fangled patterns are not going to be considered. Instead, I will generally stick with oldies such as Cat’s Whiskers, Gold-head Daddies and Muddlers. One exception is those damned squirmy worms that everyone seems to be raving about. I have made a couple of them but my God they are annoying little yokes to whip up! The worm material itself is the devils own work to lash on to a hook. I may (or may not) persevere and make up some more.

For some reason I find tying buzzers difficult and I am never 100% happy with how my attempts to tie them turn out. I have made a start but I really need to up my game to make some decent copies. I can’t recall catching trout on buzzers of any colour other than black or claret, so my buzzer fishing needs a tune up as well as my fly tying!

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spot the lures

I am not planning on carting salmon gear around in the boot of the car but I have slipped a few small grilse flies into the box too. I would hate to be in a position to fish a falling spate river for an hour and not have any flies with me. The old Orvis rod could handle grilse OK but it lacks the backbone to deal with a full grown salmon. Given that Irish grilse run from a couple of pounds up to about 5 pounds I think the trout rod can do the business if required. Anyway, some Hairy Marys and shrimps are in there too.

There are still some gaps to be filled in the double-sided box so I am going to troll through my angling books and look out for any specific regional flies which may come in useful. I am sure the wily fishers of Kerry or Wexford have their own patterns!

As a young man I used to revel in making difficult patterns. The more complex or challenging the fly the more I enjoyed tying it. I had to try out any new material that came on the market or make up the latest pattern from the monthly fishing magazines (we are talking pre-internet days). I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed making all those weird and wonderful flies at the time. These days I find tying simple traditional flies much more satisfying and knocking out some Invictas or sooty olives gives me more pleasure than anything else. January is proving to be a happy month so far, filling the boxes and anticipating the coming season like a child before Christmas.

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32, Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

32 – Part 1. Where to start

Having decided that I will tackle trying to catch a fish in each of Ireland’s 32 counties I now need to sit down a begin planning the whole thing. This is going to be a large part of the fun, just researching various places to fish a figuring out what I need to use, how to get there etc. The good old internet is a wonderful tool for searching out potential fishing spots There may not be a huge amount of detail on most websites but there is often enough to whet the appetite and encourage some deeper inspection via phone calls or emails. Perhaps in pre-internet days it was more fun just turning up somewhere and hoping the fishing was going to be vaguely like what you expected. Nowadays we can be much better prepared and forearmed by a few quick taps on the keyboard.

I started by listing all 32 counties so I could get a feel for where my travels are going to take me. I was a bit taken aback my my near complete lack of knowledge of so many of them! I honestly thought I knew more about Ireland than it appears I do. Here is how I summed each county up in one line:

County Province short description
Antrim Northern Ireland (Ulster) Far north, rocky coastline. Looks out on Scotland
Armagh Northern Ireland (Ulster) virtually landlocked
Carlow Leinster Small, landlocked
Cavan Ulster Hundreds of lakes, pike fishing paradise
Clare Munster Long coastline, Cliffs of Moher
Cork Munster Huge, famous for the sea angling
Derry Northern Ireland (Ulster) Unknown to me
Donegal Ulster Rugged
Down Northern Ireland (Ulster) Belfast, Mountains of Mourne
Dublin Leinster City, industrial, canals
Fermanagh Northern Ireland (Ulster) Rural, lots of lakes
Galway Connaught The Corrib, shallow coastal waters
Kerry Munster Sea angling
Kildare Leinster Landlocked, commuter towns
Kilkenny Leinster Known for its hurling not its fishing
Laois Leinster No coast, not much fishing as far as I know
Leitrim Connaught Coarse fishing around Carrick upon Shannon
Limerick Munster The Shannon
Longford Leinster Heart of the midlands, lots of coarse fishing
Louth Leinster Border county, river Fane
Mayo Connaught Western lakes, river Moy
Meath Leinster The grand canal
Monghan Ulster Rural, also lots of lakes
Offaly Leinster Central location, no salmon
Roscommon Connaught Mainly coarse fishing
Sligo Connaught Lough Arrow
Tipperary Munster Lough Derg
Tyrone Northern Ireland (Ulster) Lough Neagh
Waterford Munster Munster Blackwater
Westmeath Leinster Sheelin
Wexford Leinster Bass
Wicklow Leinster Mountains

Suddenly, the enormity of my task is laid out before me. Gaps in my understanding the size of the grand canyon have opened up before my eyes and completion of the 32 seems unattainable. Where do I even begin. My embarrassingly skimpy knowledge of some (most) parts of the island needed to be addressed if I was going to achieve my goal. I couldn’t set off for the far flung corners of the Ireland without some better understanding of the different places I hoped to visit. I have now given myself a target to read up about each county before I visit it.

West Cork landscape, i save this for later in the year

Getting the first one under my belt is going to be tough. March is usually the beginning of my angling year but it would be nice to have bagged one or two counties before then to set the ball rolling. Some possibilities include trying for whiting and coalfish from Glassilleun beach in Co. Galway or maybe a pike from one of the lakes in Leitrim or Monaghan. There used to be great bass fishing in Kerry in January but I think that fishery has all but collapsed these days, so the huge journey there and back would be a very risky objective.

I’ve never fished Glassilleun beach despite its close proximity to the mark on Little Killery which I fish regularly. That’s because the beach itself is a very popular spot for tourists, walkers and others during the summer. The small car park is normally thronged and romantic couples, boisterous dogs while Japanese tourists roam the golden crescent of sand in all weathers. I don’t blame them, it is a lovely spot with grand views out to sea. Night time during the winter is the time to fish here, in biting winds with a sea running. Then the whiting come close to the shore looking for food which has been loosened from the sand. Importantly, it also the best time to avoid the holidaymakers and dog walkers.

Glassilleun beach, Co. Galway

So unless a better idea pops into my head I am planning on targeting Glassilleun beach in January next year to kick off the 32 project. In between now and then I’ll keep my ear to the ground in case I hear of anywhere else that happens to be fishing well.

 

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