Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Hopes of a salmon

Today there is an air of excitement around the town as the Mayo GAA team are in semi-final action against Tipperary this afternoon. Cars bedecked with green and red flags are heading across the country to watch the game in Dublin, full of hope and anticipation. I on the other hand, am off to try my luck on the Cashel River. Recent rain has pushed water levels up in the Moy system and I hope to intercept some late running grilse.

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On the Cashel

Later…………….

OK, so that didn’t quite go to plan. The weather was perfect and the fiver was dropping after a small flood. All in all the conditions could not have been better for salmon fishing. Pulse suitably quickened, the boat was emptied of water in double quick time and the gear safely stowed before motoring upstream to troll over the likely lies. I clipped on an orange and gold Rapala to start with and trailed it 30 yards behind the boat. Soon enough the rod gave a rattle but it was only a small Perch. More of these followed throughout the session.

Ben got off the mark with a tiny Pike followed by  couple of reasonably big perch which I claimed for supper. Not many people eat perch but they are very good and I would encourage you to try them. I don’t know what stocks are like elsewhere but in these parts there are large shoals of these lovely fish, so one or two for the pot won’t cause too much of a problem.

The fishing was a bit slow so i decided to give a small copper Toby a swim. We have a great fondness for the old original Tobies, the ones which were made in SWEDEN by ABU. The newer ones just don’t seem to be as effective and I would have a tarnished old original before a bright new copy any day of the week. Unfortunately the fish shunned this theory and the copper Toby was substituted later on for another Rapala.

An original Toby

The rain started around noon and with the wind grew stronger. By then we had turned right at the meetings of the waters and were trying our luck on the Clydagh River. Again, our hopes of meeting salar were dashed and in the gathering gloom we about-turned and headed back down river. There seem to be very few salmon around this season, a very worrying trend indeed. I’m going trout fishing the next time I am out.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Hold your horses

The trend these days is for more and more synthetics in fly tying. While I use a wide range of these wonders of the chemical industry I still fall back on more natural materials for most of my tying. Let’s take a look at a very old material which has fallen out of favour, hair from a horse’s tail.

More years ago than I care to remember I discovered that hair from the tail of a horse made a good body material for trout flies. I recall there used to be an early type of buzzer pattern called the Footballer which had an abdomen made from a single strand of black horse hair wound alongside a single strand of white horse hair. If memory serves me correctly, the thorax was of dubbed mole’s fur and the head was a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl. I have no recollection of ever catching a fish a Footballer but I was keen to try horse hair on other flies. I liked the segmented effect hair gives when wound and the ‘glow’ of  the under body if you use clear hair on top. Since those far off days I have used horse hair in a number of trout flies, so here are some ideas for you.

  1. My Horse Hair Partridge. A general copy of an olive, this one used to be almost ever present on my springtime casts, but for some reason I haven’t used it for years now. Tying silk/underbody is Pearsall’s olive (no. 16) or Yellow (no. 4) and the hackle is a Brown Partridge feather taken from the back of the bird, tied sparse. The over body is of a single strand of clear horsehair and you can add a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl for a thorax. Varnish the horse hair to give it a bit of strength. I nick Helen’s clear ‘Hard as Nails’ for the job. I must give this one a swim again this season. A variant uses a strand of clear wound with a strand of black horse hair and a golden plover hackle. 

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    Maybe a bit too much hackle on this one…………….

2. A dry variation of an Adam’s which consists of replacing the grey fur body with strands of clear and black horse hair wound together and then varnished. This fly works well in a hatch of small olives when tied on a size 16 hook.

3. Connemara Gold Spider – Tied in sizes 14 to 18, Pearsil’s Yellow silk is used to tie in a flat gold tinsel under body which is then over wound with clear horse hair before varnishing the lot. A sparse hackle of either a starling body feather of a hen hackle dyed black is wound at the neck. Connemara Gold spider4. You can make a good dry copy of the Yellow Dun by winding clear horse hair over an under body of yellow tying silk and varnishing it. The hackle is sparse cock hackle dyed yellow and the tails are some fibres from the same feather. By using hen hackles and adding wings made from the secondary wing feathers from a thrush you have a reasonable wet version of the Yellow Sally

5. Mike Harding gives a spider pattern called the Grouse and Gold in his excellent book ‘A Guide to North Country Flies’. This wee pattern has a dark grouse hackle and a body made of Pearsall’s no. 6A (Gold) over wound with clear horse hair (varnish as usual). A lovely looking fly but as yet untried by me. Maybe later this season…………..

5. In the same book, Mike also gives the dressing for an olive spider. Pearsall’s olive gossamer (no. 16) forms the underbody with clear horse hair over wound and varnished. Hackle and tails are grey partridge hackle dyed olive. The illustration in the book shows the colour of olive to be light, but I suppose it is a case of matching the colour to the naturals which are hatching.

Using Horse Hair as a rib has a very long history. An early copy of the the Downlooker featured a strand of black horse hair as a rib over a yellow silk body. I personally have never seen a trout take a Downlooker (natural or artificial) and I am unconvinced it is a fly you need to carry around with you, but it fun to tie.

It can be hard to find good quality horse hair, especially the lovely translucent kind. Buying on line can be a bit hit and miss and I advise you to get yours from a retailer who will allow you to examine the product closely before you buy it. Brittle, poor quality hair is a nightmare to use, constantly breaking under the slightest pressure. I know many of you are thinking ‘I can use stronger/more translucent/easier to work with synthetic materials now’. Yes, you can, but I like the old ‘traditional’ approach sometimes and horse hair is a nice material to work with. Try it yourself sometime, it is cheap, readily available and nice to use. Oh, and the trout seem to like it.

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland

The trouble with work

This has been a terrible year so far for me when it comes to fishing. As you can tell by the dearth of posts I simply have not had the opportunity to get out and spend time on the loughs and rivers. Work has been busy and even when I have sneaked away from the shackles of employment there have been commitments at home to attend too. My previous job as a self-employed consultant allowed me to manipulate my calendar, creating pockets of time off to go and fish. My current job is not so flexible and I am struggling to make the necessary time for my angling. I am guessing that many of you who are reading this post are in a similar position and feeling the same frustration that I currently am.

So how do we anglers create the time required to partake in our sport? This vexed question has been occupying my mind of late. The answer is going to be planning. Now let me make it very clear from the outset that I have never been particularly good at planning my fishing. I habitually change my plans based on the rainfall, wind direction, cloud cover, tides, reports from other anglers and a dozen other variables. So my best laid plans usually fly out of the window at the drop of a hat. I love the flexibility and challenge of selecting just the right venue for a few hours with rod and line. I frequently set off for one stretch of a river and end up on a completely different one altogether based on little more than a hunch. The satisfaction of catching some fish under those circumstances is very fulfilling to me, much more so than turning up at a pre-appointed spot and flogging it to death (you can see now why I don’t fish competitions). Back to the planning thing though…………….

Windows of opportunity are now very rare for me so I need to take advantage of even very small gaps in my diary. That means reducing travel to a minimum. Time behind the wheel is time lost on the river bank. I am also postulating that using the boat is just too time consuming. Gathering up engine, tank, pins etc then launching the boat and motoring to the hot spots takes time – time I don’t have. So instead I will either fish the rivers or from the shore over the month of August. Just by removing all thought of boat fishing the planning process has become simplified. The impossible looks achievable for a change.

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The boat

With the decision to forsake the boat taken the choice of venue had been simplified and narrowed down to a couple of options. The most obvious is the Moy which is not far from me and at this time of the year has a run of grilse. This has another advantage for me as the tackle required is minimal, a fly rod and reel, a box of small shrimp patterns and chest waders. That lot can be stashed in the car ready for use at a moments notice.

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Shrimps and Cascades

The Moy is but a shadow of the great fishery it used to be and the massive runs of salmon the river used to support are a thing of the past nowadays. A rise in the water during the summer still encourages some grilse to run so my new plan is to fish the Moy when the opportunity arises in the evenings after work. I will keep you posted………..

One of the reasons I have not been fishing recently was that we fitted in a short family holiday to Tenerife. A lovely island and one I would recommend to those who have not been there. While there I took a stroll down to the local harbour to watch local anglers fishing. I must have spent the best part of an hour observing these guys and only saw them land one small fish. Tackle was the same for each of them, a longish rod of maybe 12 feet and a medium sized fixed spool reel. The business end consisted of either a large bubble float or a truly enormous sea float. Below the float was either a weight or what looked like big split shot and a single hook baited with slivers of fish or squid. I don’t understand why their floats had to be so big. It was presumably for weigh to aid casting but they could have achieved that with smaller floats and better weights. They all seemed to be suspending the bait around 3 or 4 feet below the float in a water depth of maybe 10 – 20 feet. The one fish I saw landed was a tiny Wrasse, which left me thinking that a longer trace fished near the bottom would have a better chance of success. I can only think they were fishing for mullet in mid water instead. Nobody was using heavy gear to fish into the surf which surprised me too. The rough ground looked like it should produce good fishing but the locals just concentrated on the harbours instead.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, wetfly

All quiet on the western lakes

Sunday was a fishing day. Thick clouds scurried across the sky, driven by a strong south-westerly. The air was warm and moist. There had been rain last week and the ground was still damp. Yes, Sunday was most definitely a fishing day. The only trouble is that nobody had explained this to the fish.

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Clouds on Nephin

 

We rendezvoused at 9.30am and I tossed the gear into the back of the van, glad to be out in the fresh air again after a long period separated from the fishing by work and other commitments. I used to always manage to make time for fishing but this year that ability has deserted me, leaving me wistfully imagining days on the river or lake but never actually making to the bank or boat. The mayfly season has come and gone without me being able to cast a fly and the spring salmon were spared my dodgy casting and poor fly choices this year. So the drive out to Lough Cullin was an enjoyable catch up of all the local fishing news, who caught what and where.  The plan was simple, move my boat from Cullin, drive it under the bridge at Pontoon and relocate her in Brown’s Bay on the Conn. From there we would head up the lake to cover the usual salmon lies with the fly and the trolling rods were taken along in case we lost the wind.

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The move was accomplished easily enough and Ben saw three salmon showing on Cullin as he motored up. The area these fish were occupying was covered in weed, making any thoughts of casting to them redundant. They were to be the only salmon we saw all day! A new berth was found in the bay and we loaded the gear before setting off in confident mood. The wind had slackened but there was just enough of a wave to give us hope. And so we started, rhythmically casting an retrieving, deft strokes on the oar keeping us on or close the contours of the bottom. Weed beds had spread in some parts of the drift and a new reed bed is growing rapidly some distance out into the lake now where once it was open water.

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Notice how calm the lake had become

A small brownie leaped two feet into the air close to the stern as we drifted but of the silver lads there was not a trace. After a few drifts the wind dropped to a mere zephyr so we opted for dragging the ironmongery around. Tobies were the obvious choice so 10 and 18 gram models were given a swim. On dark days like this I like to use a copper spoon, but on Sunday it failed to elicit any response. A silver Toby was given its chance to shine but was similarly ignored. This was hard going!

18gr Copper Toby, most effective on dark days in my opinion

Agreement was reached that it was time for a bite to eat. We pulled into the shore and brewed up, dissecting the intricacies of our demise. Very few other boats  were on the water, a sure indication that fish were in short supply. Salmon were coming into the Moy system of which Lough Conn is a part, but in small numbers for the time of year. It looked like very few of these fish were running in Conn. Sandwiches were munched and tea slurped but there was no urgency to return to the water. Ben changed his cast while I took some photos, all at a snail’s pace. Funny how enthusiasm wanes in the face of blank sessions. As experienced fishers we know that any cast can bring a fish but today we expected to at least see some salmon showing and the emptiness of the lake was hard to face. Lunch over we returned to the fray but our hearts just were not in it.

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A rather damp Connemara Black

By mid-afternoon we decided to call it a day. Conditions had been good but with few fish in the lake we were always going to be up against it. At least the boat had been moved and we had caught up on the fishing gossip. Maybe next time…………….

 

 

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

An easy mayfly pattern

May came and went with unreasonable haste. I hardly wet a line during the merry month, a combination of work commitments and Mediterranean weather kept me occupied and the fish unmolested. Reports suggest the mayfly was late but is still hatching in good numbers as I write in the first week of June and as usual some trophy-sized trout are being landed on the big loughs.

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3 pounder from lough Conn

So in keeping with the time of year here is a pattern for a dry/hatching mayfly imitation which I dreamt up a few seasons ago. It works well when the fish are mopping mays off the top and Lough Conn trout in particular seen to like this one. Tied on a size 10 hook, different colours can be used such as yellow, olive and green to meet the requirements on any given day. I will show you the yellow version here today.

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Mayfly Emerger

Tying silk can be either olive or fl. yellow. If you use the yellow it creates a very bright fly so it pays to have some of both in the box.

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Floss for the rib and fl. yellow tying silk

Run the silk down the hook to the bend where you tie in 3 or 4 fibres from a moose mane. I much prefer this material for making tails to the more traditional pheasant tail fibres because they last so much longer. Even up the ends of the moose hair before tying them in and aim to flair them out (a small ball of the body fur under the tail can help here). Now fix in a piece of rib which is globrite no. 4 floss. Dub a body of seals fur in the colour you desire. Leave plenty of space at the neck of the hook for tying in the wings and hackle. Wrap the floss forward in even spirals and tie it in at the head.

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CDC.

Now for the wings which are made of 4 CDC feathers. These are tied in over the back of the hook, almost in wet fly style. Tie in a matched pair of grey CDC with yellow or green CDC flanking them. I especially like the ‘dirty yellow’ CDC from Veniards. Take time to get these wings sitting just right, nice and straight.

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The hackle should be good quality

The hackle is made from a good quality grizzle cock hackle dyed green or yellow. Tie it in and make at least 5 turns before tying it off and snipping off the waste. Form a head and whip finish. I make the hackle quite thick because this is a pattern which will be fished in a wave so it needs to be fairly robust.

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Finished fly

The fly can be fished either well greased and riding high on the waves or ‘damp’ with just the CDC keeping the fly in the surface imitating a hatching insect. I use it on the loughs but there is no reason why it wouldn’t work on the rivers during a hatch. I like to fish this one on a cast with a spent gnat imitation in the evening. Sometimes the trout will prefer one fly over the other but often both will take fish in equal proportions.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Féile na Tuaithe, Day 1

The rain woke me from a deep sleep. It thundered against the glass reminding me more of a February storm than a morning in May. Today was the first of two days demonstrating fly casting and fly tying and the last thing I needed was heavy rain. I grumpily fed the pets and made my porridge; the thought of getting soaked was not appealing to me at all. The rain had eased off by 9 so I packed the car in relative comfort, did some chores and then drove out to Turlough.

I found my own tent but it was devoid of the promised table, so a quick dash up to the organisers was called for and the missing table was soon replaced. It’s always hard to know what to demonstrate at this kind of event. Do you concentrate on casting or tying? I had been asked to cover both but I figured most people who don’t know about fishing would find casting more interesting and so I set up a couple of single handed rods.

Just as I was thinking I would get away without getting wet while setting up the heavens opened again. It poured out of steel grey clouds for the next 30 minutes while I set up the table and the rest of my gear.

I had time to take in my surroundings while waiting for the gates to open and admit the visitors. The river ran close by and had lots of mature trees surrounded me. Not a bad wee spot to spend the next two afternoons.

Gradually the rain eased up and then stopped altogether. The sun appeared just in time for the gates opening and the crowds came in in good form. Right from the start I had a steady stream of people, some wanting to watch me make flies while the rest were more interested in learning to cast. There were old and young in equal measure and it was lovely to meet so many foreign visitors.

Some seasoned anglers popped by to say hello and discuss recent catches. The rain which was never far away swept in again and didn’t really clear until after 2pm, making for a damp afternoon. During quiet spells I messed around with the camera, photographing flies in different light conditions.

 

Casting, talking and demonstrating kept me busy right up until the official finishing time and then some. I met lots of interesting people and really enjoyed the whole experience, which is just a well as I will be back there bright and early tomorrow to do it all again! Drop in by if you happen to be in the area, it’s a great way to spend a family afternoon.

Since I have been talking to so many fishermen over the weekend I got updates on the local catches. Seems like the Mayfly is late on all the lakes but is hatching now in good numbers so the fishing should be terrific for the next week or so.Cullen is producing larger than average trout this year which is great to see. Expect trout to a couple of pounds if you find them feeding. Conn has bee gradually picking up with the Kelly can catching well as usual over there at Cloghans. I heard Seamus had four right good ‘uns during the week.

It sounds like Corrib has been slow despite increasing numbers to fly hatching but that should change this week if the weather gods behave and give us reasonable conditions.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

The Soldier Palmer

 

I like old patterns. Something nostalgic is awakened when you tie on one of the classic flies from the last century or the century before. That link with the past offers reassurance and knowledge if a fly has been around for this long it must catch fish. So my fly boxes bulge with old-stagers either in their original, undiluted form or with the addition of newer materials. Sure, I have lots of glittery/flashy/fluorescent newbies in there too but I often resort to using the old lads and will continue to do so, basking in their reflected glory. Here is one that you all know but maybe have not fished for a while. The Soldier Palmer.

Soldier Palmers

It is widely described as a variant of a very old fly called the Red Palmer which is thought to be a copy of a hairy caterpillar. The simple addition of a red tail turned that fly into something much, much more effective. I used to have great success with this fly for rainbows back in Scotland and have no reason to doubt that it still kills ‘bows back in my native land. I even recall catching a rainbow on a Soldier palmer fished dry one evening! The trout were rising all round me but I couldn’t tempt one until I greased up a size 12 soldier and fished it static. Sure enough, a two pounder slurped it down, saving a blank for me. Here in Ireland I use it for a very different species, Salmo Salar. Tied in big sizes for the roughest days a Soldier Palmer can be just the medicine for springers and grilse alike. Go as big as you dare, size 4 is about my normal but there are one or two even bigger in my box, just in case…………..

Most of you know the dressing already so I won’t bore you with the details of tying the fly but here are a few tips which I think are important. Firstly, the colour of the body and tail need to be a bright red, not dull and lifeless. I have seen the body tied with florescent wool but this is a step too far for me. Just bright vermillion red wool is perfect. A fl. tail is good though.Next the colour of the hackles needs to be a deep, rich, dark ginger shade. I don’t mind if the hackles are a wee bit too dark but find lighter ginger does not work for me. Lastly, I use an additional hackle at the head to give the fly a better shape.

The flats on the Bunowen

The Soldier Palmer is a great fly for spate rivers like this one

Do not be tempted by such fripperies as bodies made of Peacock herl, red Lite-brite or (heaven forbid) flat red tinsel. If you really must interfere with this old timer try adding a wing of gold flashabou. I have not tried this variant for Salmon but Scottish rainbows used to push each other out of the way to snaffle this gaudy creation.

The only drawback I can see with the SP is that it proves to be next to irresistible to Perch. These little stripy fellows absolutely love the palmer and can be a real nuisance when you are trying for bigger game.

The grilse are due any day now so think about giving the old Soldier Palmer a swim.

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