Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, wetfly

Conn today

Out for a few hours on Lough Conn today. Flat calm to start with but a wind came out of the North West later to to give us a small ripple. We were fishing for salmon but only saw 3 coloured fish show outside the mouth of the Deel river. Lots of other boats out – all clean. We need a lot of rain to lift river levels and get some fresh salmon into the systems. Here are some photos of today…………….

Nephin glowering down on us

boat berthed in Pike Bay

We fly fished drifting down the pumphouse shore then trolled spoons and rapalas back up wind again. This is an efficient way to offer the fish a wide rage of lures but they were not impressed with our joint efforts today. Ah, the joys of salmon fishing.

Floating line

Fellow anglers fishing Bog Bay

I heard my first cuckoo of the year while we were pulled into the shore at Gortnore and the woods at Pike Bay were alive with Bullfinches chasing each other through the trees.

Trolling outside the Deel

The dreaded Zebra mussels

Slipway at Gortnore

Over the course of the few hours on the water I saw a total of three mayfly hatch. Early harbingers of more to come.

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Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing, wetfly

Sea trout flies for Beltra

Work has bottled me up for much of the year so far and there is no sign of that changing in the near future. To be honest the recent warm, dry spell all but shut down salmon angling around here with the rivers reduced to mere trickles between the stones. Some thundery rain has fallen over the course of this week, lifting levels just enough to encourage a few grilse in. With them have come the first of those wonderful nomads, the sea trout.

keeping the rod up

Lough Beltra used to be famed for the quality of its sea trout fishing but the near annihilation of the species during the 1980’s due to fish farms/sea lice infestations wiped out the fishery. For many years only the very occasional sea trout turned up and these were invariable skinny specimens, ravaged by the lice and clearly distressed. The battle against the foul and dangerous business of fish farming off the coast is far from won as successive Irish governments smell votes in rural communities by supporting the international fish farming companies. Every year brings new applications for ever bigger salmon farms to further wreck the marine environment; each one fought by those who value the seas and it’s creatures. Although sea trout numbers have shown signs of a modest increase they are still under threat.

A bushy Green Peter- as likely to rise a salmon as a trout

A bushy Green Peter- as likely to rise a salmon as a trout

Sea trout are an enigmatic fish at the best of times but here in the west of Ireland we have the odd case of he disappearing mature sea trout to add to the conundrum. Most of the sea trout caught are very small. In my native Scotland the immature sea trout (called finnock over there) averaged between 12 ounces and a pound in weight and I have caught many that pushed the scales to a pound-and-a-half. Mature fish started around a couple of pounds in weight and ran up to 5 or 6 pounds. West of Ireland finnock rarely reach half a pound. On top of that the mature fish are very rare in fresh water, yet large sea trout are frequently caught in the sea. I suspect the large fish run once the season closes but it is strange that so few are in the rivers and lakes during the summer and autumn.

The Delphi

The Delphi

Like I said earlier, sea trout are now running and Lough Beltra has received a few of these welcome visitors. So what to use on your cast for them? First and foremost you need those stalwarts such as the Claret Bumble,  Green Peter, and Watson’s Bumble. I like a Bibio with some added flash,  either tied in as a tail or at the head as a sort of hackle. The Jungle Bibio is also reliable. And a big Peter Ross too, a walloping great size 8 on the tail of the cast can sort out the better trout on some days.

Watson's Bumble

Watson’s Bumble

I like the Delphi or even a Blue Delphi when there are very fresh fish in the lake. Either the wingless version or one with well marked Teal for a wing. A muddler headed Katie is a good choice for the bob position on a sea trout cast.

Kate McLaren, muddler head and a bright yellow tail

Kate McLaren, muddler head and a bright yellow tail

Then we have daddies. These will certainly get a reaction from the trout but lots of rises will come short with the fish just splashing at the fly. While this can be exciting for  while the net result is often a disappointment with few trout being securely hooked. Still, on a day when sport is slow a daddy on the bob can illicit some reaction and maybe even tempt the fish to take another fly on the cast.

Jungle Bibio

Jungle Bibio

A word on hook sizes. 8’s and 10’s are the standard ones to go for but I like to have some 12’s and even 14’s handy for those times when the trout are hard to catch. Always fish with barbless hooks for sea trout and handle them carefully before popping them back into the lake.

Peter Ross, this lad is tied on a double

Peter Ross, this lad is tied on a double

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Successful flies for Carrowmore lake

Here are some patterns which have worked for me and my boat partner over the years on Carrowmore lake, Co. Mayo.

Claret Bumble, blue head

Claret Bumble, blue head

Claret head

Claret head

Claret bumble is the first choice on a dark day with low cloud. The standard dressings works just fine but I like mine to have a Muddler head in either claret or blue.

Clan Chief

Clan Chief

The Clan Chief would probably be the fly most likely to be on my cast on any given day on Carrowmore. It seems to be able to produce fish under any conditions and you really must have some in your box if you are fishing the lake.

Goats Toe

Goats Toe

I personally love a Goat’s Toe with a black muddler head on it.

Golden Olive Shrimp

Golden Olive Shrimp

The Golden Olive shrimp has taken many salmon over the past few seasons and the orange tail looks great in the water.

Connamara Black

Connemara Black

The Connemara Black is a good dark fly for the tail position

Magenta Bumble

Magenta Bumble

I confess that I have never caught a salmon on a Magenta Bumble but I have been in the boat when it has succeeded. One for a bright day in my mind.

Claret Dabbler

Claret Dabbler

Always worth a try, the Claret Dabbler is an ever present on the cast of many who fish Carrowmore.

Bruiser Bumble

Bruiser Bumble

A deep blue hackle is needed for this pattern, much darker than the colour on a teal blue and silver.

Silver Doctor

Silver Doctor

I prefer a hairwing version of the Doctor, it is tougher than the original feather winged fly.

Silver Stoat variant

Silver Stoat variant

The silver stoat with an orange hackle does good work. I like it on a heavy hook and fish it on the tail off a sinking line.

Green winged Green Peter

Green winged Green Peter

And a Green Peter of course………………this one with a green squirrel tail wing.

As you can see, I prefer Black and Claret flies in general. If pressed I would be happy to fish with a Goat’s Toe on the bob, a Green Peter in the middle and a Claret Bumble on the tail.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Fly patterns for Lough Beltra

After my posting some photos of Lough Beltra I thought I’d better give you some patterns to try if you are fishing there. Elsewhere in this blog you can find details of the Beltra Badger, Claret Bumble, Bibio, Goat’s Toe and Black Doctor. Those 5 alone would make a good selection for the lough, but here are some others to think of using.

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This is my own interpretation of the Jaffa. As far as I know this was originally tied by the redoubtable Eamonn Kennedy and the head hackle he uses is a silver badger one. I prefer to dye that yellow. This catches a lot of salmon on both Beltra and Carrowmore every season

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You simply can’t fish an Irish lough without trying a Green Peter. Variations abound of course, so picking the right one can be a bit of a lottery. The Red Arsed variant is pretty good and works a treat on Beltra. On days on mountainous waves a Peter with a muddler head is good for creating a disturbance too.

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Dark skies call for dark flies and the Clan Chief  is supremely good in these conditions.

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Beltra is known as a springer fishery and rightly so. We expect the best of the fishing to be over by July but there is a run of grilse through the summer and so there can be the opportunity to catch the silver lads on daddy imitations. Red Daddy and Silver Daddy will both work as will the more normal pattern with a Pheasant Tail body.

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A word now on hook sizes. The old adage of ‘the bigger the wave the bigger the fly’ holds good and we use some fairly meaty flies in the springtime. Size 4 salmon irons are definitely not too big in a decent wave in March or April. We scale down a bit in calmer conditions and as the water warms up, dropping down to 8’s and 10’s.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Bibio’s

Bibios are so widely used that you may be forgiven for thinking that you know all about them. A great fly early in the season when you need something dark and a handy pattern if there are salmon around. What else is there to know? A hell of a lot is the answer!

Let’s start with the basics. Here is the original pattern:

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Hook: 8 – 10 wet fly hooks

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: red seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

This is still a fantastic fly which catches thousands of fish every season. Sizes have gone from big salmon irons like the size 4’s used on Beltra in the spring right down to tiny size 16’s for copying small midges on hill lochs. Some tyers prefer a claret instead of red centre band.

Somewhere along the line somebody had the bright idea of adding jungle Cock cheeks to the fly and the Jungle Bunny was born. It is normal to position the JC cheeks so that they sit up a bit.

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The Jungle Bunny

Then the body colours began to get some attention and we saw the introduction of the four banded Bibio:

Hook: same as above

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 4 parts, 1: orange seals fur, 2: black seals fur, 3: orange seals fur, 4: black seal’s fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

The lads from Kerry came up with this variant:

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Hook: as above

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: bright green seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A black cock or hen hackle

When pearl tinsel first became available it was quickly incorporated into the Bibio.

Tying silk: Black

Ribs: 2 ribs, first is medium width pearl tinsel wound opposite direction, rib 2 is fine silver wire wound normally and used to secure the body hackle

Body: in 3 parts, 1: black seals fur, 2: red or orange seals fur, 3: black seals fur

Body hackle: Black cock hackle, palmered

Head hackle: a brown partridge hackle

Next the fur body itself was change to include tinsel. Thus was born the Pearly Bibio, a widely used variant of the standard dressing

Pearly Bibio

A Pearly Bibio

Hook: 8 – 14 wet fly hooks (Kamasan 170 is fine)

Tying silk: black

Rib: fine oval silver tinsel

Body: 3 parts, 1: pearl tinsel, 2: red seals fur, 3: pearl tinsel

Body hackle: black cock hackle, palmered

Head Hackle: A brown English partridge hackle

Of course you can add jungle cock to a Pearly Bibio and make a Pearly Jungle Bunny.

From the English competition scene we learned of the snatcher design and the Bibio was quickly given that make over too.

Hook: curved grub hook, size 10 – 12

Tag: Globrite floss, no.4

Rib: silver wire

Body: Black synthetic dubbing

Body hackle: short fibred black cock hackle

Thorax: Red fur

Cheeks: white turkey biots (yellow, sunburst or red biots are also alternatives)

Head hackle: Black cock, longer in fibre than the body hackle

Of course all of the foregoing patterns can be converted to snatchers with a little thought.

Oh, then we have tails. Some people like to have tails on all their flies so the Bibio grew a lime green tail which is particularly attractive to Rainbows (I can’t confirm this myself having never tried it but the fly certainly looks good)

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Lime Tail Bibio

Still with me? OK, now it gets interesting because one obvious addition to any bushy fly destined for the top dropper position on a cast is a muddler head. Tying a deer hair head on to the Bibio turned a good salmon fly into a great one. The choice of colour is usually between natural or dyed black and I much prefer the black option.

I could go on! Every season there is a new twist on the Bibio theme and they all catch a fish or two on their day. The essential essence of the fly has not changed though, black body with a dash of some colour in the middle and black body and head hackles. If I was restricted to just one Bibio it would be the Jungle Bunny for me.

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