Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Salmon at the double

Carrowmore. Just the name sets the pulse racing of salmon fishers. Today we would try our luck on this shallow lake set in the bogs of Bangor Erris.

This is very different fishing to the ‘classic’ beats of the Scottish east coast rivers. Modern Skaggit heads and tube flies have no place here. Instead we fish from boats and use heavy trout gear. Flies are tied on size 8 or 10 trout hooks usually. On its day Carrowmore can be spectacular – was today going to be one of those days for us?

With all angling the weather plays a big part, but on Carrowmore the wind in particular can decide if you even take a boat out or not! On almost every other Irish salmon lough the higher the wind the better the fishing is. 5 foot high waves – not a bother! The bigger the better. Not so on Carrowmore lake though. The bottom of the lake is a thick soup of fine particles and any serious wave action stirs this up, turning the lake brown and pretty much unfishable. Here abouts we know this phenomenon as ‘churning’ and a churned lake is not worth the effort to fish. The last few days have seen settled weather with light wind winds meaning the water clarity was going to be good today. In addition, we had heard on the grapevine that fresh salmon were in the lake. The omens seemed to be good.

A trip to Carrowmore involves rituals for us. Firstly there is the small matter of breakfast, to be eaten at the ‘greasy spoon’ in Bangor. Huge plates of grub, washed down with copious mugs of coffee consumed amid chatter about the day ahead. Then across the road to the West End Bar where Seamus Hendry furnishes us with permits, keys for a boat and all the local news. Occasionally this is a quick visit but more usually there is the fine detail of all the latest catches to digest and that can take a while. Eventually we gather ourselves and head off to the lake to begin the days fishing. And so it was today.

No salmon had been caught the previous day but there had been no wind at all, leaving the boats static and struggling to tempt the fish. No such worries today though as a light but steady Nor-easter ruffled the surface of the lake as it hove into view from the road. This is a good wind direction for our favourite drifts. Confidence soared.

Tackled up and settled in the boat, we set off for the mouth of the river. With the light wind slowly pushing us along it took a while to cover the first drift, Ben correcting any tendency to drift too close to the shore with some deft stokes of an oar. No stir on the first drift though. We doubled back to cover the same water a second time.

Nearing a point on the shore marked with a post, Ben rose a salmon. It splashed at the fly but failed to make contact and we drifted on, discussing what might have gone wrong. Only a few minutes later it was my turn. Dibbling the bob fly through the waves I saw a dark shape loom up below the fly. Then there was flash of silver and a splash as the salmon turned away, without touching my fly! We conferred and decided to cover the same drift yet again. Then again. Not a fishy fin stirred on those last two drifts so we broke off for a short time to grab a snack on the bank.

Back out on the water again we drifted further along the shore, chatting about this and that when suddenly Ben’s rod bent and a fish splashed 10 yards from the boat. Fish on! The well versed movements of experienced boat partners sprang into action and as Ben wrestled with the fish I cleared the decks and got the net ready. Stamping on the bottom of the boat kept the fish from diving underneath and scraping the line against the rusty keel. Ben worked the fish around the back of the boat and tired it out so I had an easy task to slip the net under it. A beautiful clean springer of around 6 pounds in weight.

Carrowmore allows you to take one salmon each so this fish was dispatched quickly and we got back on to the drift pretty quickly. The details of the take, the fight, the fish itself – we were still in the throws of discussing all of these details when my line tightened. My turn had arrived. Another exciting battle with a strong fish which ended with it successfully netted after about ten minutes. This one turned the scales at a shade under eight pounds and, like Ben’s, it was as fresh as paint.


We fished on for a while but the action was over for the day. It had been a day of long periods of casting/retrieving with no signs of fish, interspersed with short bursts of activity. Typical of salmon fishing!

Any day when you have salmon in the boat is a great day. A double is twice as nice!

IMG_2392 (2)

Ben’s fish on the left and my one on the right

Oh, and the successful fly for me – the Claret bumble of course!!!!

the same fly once it had dried out

Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

North Mayo shore report

The West of Ireland has been blessed with settled weather for the last week or so. With a forecast of continued good weather for this weekend we decided to head back up to the North Mayo coast again to try our luck in the briny. Blind Harbour was selected as the starting point for the day and we tackled up soon after  9am on Saturday. Chilly but dry, we rock-hopped out to a point and began spinning and feathering in the clear Atlantic water. Outside the bay the swell created some surf on the rocky headlands bu we were sheltered and treated to perfect conditions. Vivid russet ferns on the far shore lent an autumnal feel to the scene, complimenting the nippy air perfectly. One of those mornings it was just damn good to be out in the fresh air.


Slow fishing meant our attention wandered a bit and Ben headed of across a field to scout along the coast a bit for a new mark. He had been gone for only five minutes when the rod in my hand was pulled visiously down and a powerful fish took off for the inner bay at a rate of knots. He only got about 20 yards away when that all too familiar dead feeling was transmitted up the line – snagged on a bottom. Ben came back intime to wintness the unequal battle between me and the unseen rock. All the ususl tricks were tried but nothing was going to dislodge the fish and in the end the trace snapped just above the Connemara Krill bait.

We fished on for a while until high water then suspended operations to discuss tactics. We had failed to  catch fish on the rising ide so it was unlikely the dropping tide wold be much better. We opted on cutting our losses and trying another mark. I suggested Portacloy, further along the coast and somewhere that Ben had never fished before. Time to saddle up………..

Now Portacloy is a funny place. Even by Mayo standards it is very difficult to find. Its near neighbour, Porturlin, is signposted but Portacloy secretively hides along at the end of an unmarked road. To fortify us while tracking down the mark we stopped off in Bangor for a bite of breakfast. It never ceases to amaze me how even a couple of hours in the fresh air sharpens your appetite! Mushrooms, eggs, chips etc were washed down with a rare cup of coffee and the world seemed to be a better place. Back in the van we swung a right just to the west of Bangor and negotiated the ever more pot-holed road roughly north by east until we eventually arrived at: Porturlin. Something had gone amiss in our direction finding! Since we were there we hopped out and took a look around the harbour. There may be some marks around there but after taking some photos we accosted a local for directions then re-traced our steps back to the ‘main road’.





Arriving at Portacloy we parked up above the outer pier.20161022_124803

I need to expain a bit about these marks as they are a bit unusual. For some reason there are two small piers a couple of hundred yards apart. They are both roughly yhte same size and design and point in the same direction. the really odd thing is that they are both covered in water at high tide. Why anyone would build two half submereged piers is beyond me, but that is eactly what we have up there. the marks fish best at high water, meaning the only wat to stay dry and fish is to walk out on the high wall which is about  feet wide and slippery in wet weather. As the tide drops you can drop down on to the flat pier itself but in my limited experience by the time you do that the fish have moved out of the bay again.


Above: the outer pier at half tide. That’s my tackle box plonked at the far end!

So what can you expect to catch of these strange marks? The answer is just about anything. Mackerel, Pollock and Flounder are the main targets but Gurnards, small rays, saithe, and dabs can all turn up too. I prefer to fish a 3 hook flapper rig here with small (size 1) hooks and tiny slivers of bait. Don’t expect any big fish here, just a mixture of smaller stuff.

Plans to lure a couple of mackerel for use as bait had of course flopped and we had to share the solitary frozen mackerel between us as bait. Plenty of shirring elastic was used to secure the small bits of flesh to the hooks and my fist gentle lob placed the three hooks in some rough ground 60 yards out. A large shoal of mullet sauntered slowly past me just below the surface. I rarely both fishing for mullet but maybe I should give them more attention, they are fine looking fish. looking up form the water My rod tip was bouncing like a mad thing. grabbing it I waited for the next pull – nothing. I held on the the rod for a few minutes and sure enough another bite registered. I struck but missed. Winding in I checked the baits (all good) and recast to the same spot. More bites and more missed fish so I changed the hooks up in size and re-baited. This time there was no immediate response so I left the beachcaster down picked up the spinning rod to try for Mackerel.Diligently covering the water in front of me proved to be remarkably unsuccessful until, just as one cast fished out I caught sight of a large Garfish right on the tail of my lure. It turned away at the last second, a lightning flash of silver the best part of three feet long. So close!


A shout from the other pier and a heafty Pollock was lifted from the water on Bens rod. Nice fish. Soon it was my turn and a good Pollock put up the usual resistanve before coming to hand.


By now the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow me to hp down to the main part and fish more safely. I started to search the water further out with each successive cast, putting a bit more effort into the 4 ounce beachcaster with every throw. Another Pollock, this time a little smaller than the first fell to the frozen mackerel but by now we were both pretty much out of bait. I fished for a while with jelies but without a touch. Time to call it a day.


I have a sneaking suspicion that Portacloy could fish into the winter with whiting being the target species. There could be sea trout to be caught off the sand too. For now, we headed back to Castlebar via the West End Bar in Bangor and a fine pint of porter while chatting to Seamus there. All in all, a grand day was had.




Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

No water on the Owenduff

The Owenduff. Just the name is enough to set the pulse of any salmon fisher racing. This lovely stream flows through some stunning scenery in North Mayo and I am  lucky enough to be fishing it for a few days this week. I’m staying at Lagduff lodge in the company of 3 other like minded souls and casting small flies for salmon and sea trout.

I drove up in the morning and met the rest of the guys as they were tackling up outside the fine old lodge. The news was not good however as the river was at extreme low summer level with no forecast of any rain to come. This was not unexpected but disappointing all the same as the river has fished well this season when there has been a spate. High pressure has settled over the country and any chance of rain looks to be remote. The river is down to its bare bones.

Undaunted by the challenges I set off to the top of the beat. The river is well managed and provided with bridges to cross the river.

I fished down from the top of the beat to the famous Rock Pool, covering some lovely water with the flies but there was no signs of fishy activity beyond a couple of yellowfin (junior sea trout). The low water levels meant the flow was weak and the flies had to be hand-lined back to impart some degree of life to them.

Julian (that’s him in the photo at the top of this post) saw a small fish move in the Rock Pool when he approached it first thing in the morning and covered the rise without any reaction. He had a lovely 3 pound Sea Trout last Saturday but the river was showing 6 inched on the gauge that day, now it was below the gauge completely.

I  fished on through the middle pools and then headed back tot he lodge for a bite to eat. Julian had beaten me back to the lodge and was catching up on some work beside the fire.

After a spot of lunch it was time to try some pools further downstream. My arthritic ankles precluded much in the way of exploring and I had to be satisfied with a short walk down the river casting into the likely looking spots where a salmon or sea trout could be sheltering. I was using my faithful old hardy rod – the one which I repaired the handle on earlier this year.

For flies the choice was tiny single hood offerings like the Black Pennel.

At the end of the day we all gathered back at the lodge, each with the same tales of no water and no fish. A hearty dinner and a few glasses of wine restored some degree of hope for the next day and we retired for a good night sleep. Tomorrow would be another day……………….