Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Good Friday

How did you spend Good Friday? I had a busy day on and around the water here in Mayo and this is a short summary of a typical day for me when I am not working.

Ben called in this morning and asked for help launching his boat on Lough Beltra. We agreed that the day was going to be too stormy for fishing the lough but it would be good to have the boat ready for action next week. He had already loaded the boat on to a trailer and so we ate a leisurely breakfast in Cafe Rua before hauling the boat out the Newport  Road and into Glenisland.

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Pulled up at the car park

When we arrived at the car park there were a couple of cars there, indicating at least one boat was fishing. The wind was from the South West and beginning to gust strongly with the promise of a much harder blow as the day wore on.

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The harbour

We launched the boat but made a bit of a mess of it in the wind and she slewed badly as we pushed her in.We had to scramble to free the boat, Ben getting into the water to wrestle the boat off the trailer. We managed OK and Ben led the boat into the harbour on the long line. it was only now that he noticed the prow had worked loose and would require repair.

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Leading the boat in to the harbour

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Almost there

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The damaged prow

While we were messing about in the harbour a boat which had been out fishing came in to the shore. It turned out to be Eamonn Kennedy  with two Dublin fishers. They had been on the receiving end of a battering by the wind and had decided to switch to the other end of the lake in a an effort to get some respite.

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Eamonn Kennedy on the engine in a big wave

Once ashore we had a chat with Eamonn about the fishing. We all agreed that a little bit more water would be good but that the unsettled weather forecast for the coming week should give us a chance of some sport.

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Ben and Eamonn chewing the fat

With Ben’s boat now safely moored we had to decide what to do for the rest of the day. The weather was deteriorating by the minute and so so we plumped for a couple of hours trolling on the Cashel river. Back in town we rounded up some gear, made up a flask and headed out the Pontoon road. The boat was in need of a small amount of baling but we were soon motoring up the river in search of silver salmon.

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An hour passed, then two and still no action to either rod. Ben’s rod finally bent into a fish but despite it’s obvious weight we could quickly see it was going to be a pike and not the hoped for salmon.

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In to a fish at last………………………….

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Only a Pike though

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Nearly there

A fish of about 7 pounds, and I quickly followed with a smaller lad of about 4 pounds. By now we were fishing in what felt like a typhoon and one of my casts was caught by the wind and my lovely copper spoon was deposited high in the branches of a willow tree! Some comic capers ensued as I recovered my tackle from the clutches of the bankside vegetation and fishing was resumed. Ben boated the last Pike of the day and we turned for home.

My rod registered a bite and I found myself playing a small fish. I thought it was a Perch at first but no, I had hooked a lovely Brownie of just under a pound. Not to be outdone, Ben repeated the feat with another trout slightly smaller in size. Both trout were in excellent condition.

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Ben’s trout just before I slipped it back

By now it was after 5pm so we called it a day and motored home. Maybe we didn’t catch much and failed to even set eyes on a salmon, but it was great to be out on the water this Good Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland

The small loughs

Most people associate lough fishing in this area with the big waters like Conn and Mask. While most of the angling effort is expended on these impressive fisheries there are ample opportunities for the angler who enjoys less dramatic sport on a range of smaller loughs around Castlebar. Let me me tell you about three of them today.

 

Just a short walk along the Pontoon road from me lies Tucker’s lough, a small and well stocked lake with a fine head of small wild brown trout. Most of it is pretty much inaccessible due to soft margins and large reed beds, but you can get enough elbow room to cast at a couple of places. I find this lough is good in April and May before the weeds choke the water and the fishing becomes an exercise in clearing green stuff from your flies. I have yet to hear of any monster from Tucker’s and the trout are smaller than I would like, but in those occasions when I only have an hour to spare and heading out in a boat on Conn is not feasible I can still fish from the shore on Tucker’s and winkle out a fish or two.

 

Next we have Lough na Gcearch which I have only fished once and come off the water without even a pull at the flies. Not that that poor performance is anything out of the ordinary as this small water has a local reputation for being dour. The trout are supposed to be bottom feeders and attain a good size with rumours of massive brownies over 3 pounds inhabiting the lough. It is entirely possible as the limestone on the bottom would tend to indicate excellent feeding potential. I am intending to give this water a few casts this coming season to try to winkle out one one the spotted leviathans from the watery depths.

Finally we have Lough Ben, one of my favourite small loughs to fish. For a water which is situated close to a popular road it is surprisingly lightly fished. The average trout in this lough is probably around the half pound but I have taken ones closer to a pound from it in the past. Again, I regard this water as an early season venue with March / April my preferred time to cast a line here (the season opens on 20th March). The fish are free-rising and there are good hatches of buzzers. Claret Duns also hatch out early in the season and I have used a Grouse and Claret to good effect here.

 

Normal lough patterns will work just dandy on all of these loughs and I particularly like the Butcher, March Brown, Grouse and Claret, Watson’s Bumble and Golden Olive in sizes 12 and 14. I tend to use a floating line even when nothing is showing as the water in these small loughs is never very deep.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, sea trout fishing, trout fishing

Apres fishing

Angling in Ireland has many facets, some challenging but most pleasant and convivial. I want to talk about one of these additional joyous addendums to our sport today, the Irish pub.

I expect most (if not all) of you have visited a so called Irish pub close to you. They have, after all, polluted the whole world. Huge money making temples to poor quality beer and fakery of the highest order in my opinion. I dare say there are some excellent establishments in places like London and Boston, but the vast majority are but shadows of the real thing. So when anglers come to fish here in the West of Ireland they can partake of their favourite tipple in REAL Irish public houses and the ones whom I meet seem to thoroughly enjoy the special atmosphere. Here are some of my own favourite watering holes.

The Key West, Derrycoosh

As you know, I fish Lough Beltra a lot and a day on Beltra just isn’t complete without a pint in The Key West. Situated in Derrycoosh, just off the road between Castlebar and the lough this lively wee pub serves a grand pint of porter and there are always a few of the local worthies on hand to keep you entertained with stories and craik. After one of those typically hard spring days on Beltra when the lake holds on tightly to its silver fish a pint in the Key West is both a balm to weary bodies and a lift to deflated spirits. Creaking joints and frozen extremities are soon forgotten once you get your belly to the bar in the Key West. I used to live out the Newport Road close to the Key West and can vouch for the wonderful atmosphere in the pub of a weekend night.

Matt Molloys, Westport

Heading further west we come to Westport, one of the prettiest and liveliest towns in the whole country. There is always a great buzz in Westport and it is worth visiting even if you are not fishing. If we do happen to be fishing near the town then a swift glass in Matt Molloy’s is just the job (note: there is no such thing as a ‘half-pint’ in Ireland, you order a glass instead and it just happens to hold half a pint). I’ve never stepped over the threshold of Matt’s and found it anything less than busy. It is of course famous for the traditional music played in the back of the bar and this alone attracts numerous visitors. We tend to loiter near the front door, nursing bruised egos sustained during another blank session or else regaling each other with every twist, turn and leap of fish hooked and (hopefully) landed. If it is too busy in Matt’s there are numerous other watering holes in the town of Westport so you won’t go thirsty.

Stauntons, Lecanvey

Still further out the western road you will come to Staunton’s bar in the small village of Lecanvy. The small front bar is a lovely spot to nestle in front of the open fire with a pint in your hand. There is not much fishing in Lecanvey itself. The pier is strangely devoid of fish, despite rumours of conger eels holed up there. So don’t waste your time unpacking the fishing gear, just stop off at Stauntons for a relaxed glass or pint when you are passing.

an Bhun Abhainn, Louisburg

Louisburg is not short of pubs. There are plenty to go round and so making the choice of which one to frequent can be a challenge all of its own. If you are fishing out west then I can recommend dropping into Mrs. Duffy’s place for a quite one. Then there is an Bhun Abhainn which always seems to have a trad session filling the place any time I step over the threshold. Look, you can spend a lot of time (and Euros) visiting all the pubs in Louisburg and each one is as friendly as the last. A great wee town to visit, even for non-anglers.

West End bar, Bangor Erris

Carrowmore Lake in Erris demands you visit a pub before you even set foot on the shore of the lake! Permits are dispensed from the West End Bar in Bangor Erris. We make a point of returning to the pub after the fishing, partly to give Seamus the high up and low down of our day on the water and also to have a pint and hear all the news from the other fishers. There are usually a few locals in the bar too, so if you need to know about how the turf cutting is progressing or the price of lambs or just the local gossip and scandal you can avail of that type of information as well. There are flies for sales as well as permits and licenses so The West End Bar really is a one stop shop for fishers.

Paddy’s, Tourmakeady

If Lough Mask is you venue the whole lake is ringed with pubs. Ballinrobe obviously has a scatter of hostelries, many of them well used to catering for thirsty fisherfolk. On the other side of the lake sits Paddys, a great place with a fine thatched roof on it. It is nice to pull the boat into Churchfield at the end of the day and pop into Paddys for a black one.

Johnnies, Castlebar

I could go on and on but instead I will leave you with one last pub to consider – Johnnie McHales. Maybe not a true ‘fishing pub’ if one is going to be pedantic about such things, but sufficient anglers frequent its hallowed inner sanctum to include it here. John is now at the helm in this well known establishment and recent additions to the pub have only enhanced it further. A deadly spot!

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Fishing in Ireland

Moving a boat on Beltra

Mid September and recent heavy rain has pushed water levels up. Small numbers of fish are running but Lough Beltra is pretty much finished for another season so I decided to take advantage of a quiet day to take a boat off the lake. All too often this task is attempted in high winds and driving rain making the whole exercise unpleasant and hard work, so a day like yesterday made a welcome change and I could enjoy just being out in the early Autumn countryside.

I borrowed a van and trailer and headed for the lake around 10am in glorious sunshine. I used to live very near to the lake so I know the people in the houses as I drove along the quiet road past the fields of cattle and sheep. I mulled over that strange sense of belonging yet being apart which every ‘blow in’ feels here in the West. Out the Newport Road and those never-ending roadworks which have kept Mick O’Malley’s lads so busy all summer and along the new stretch at the back of Cornanool before taking the Bangor road off to the right. The first views of Nephin and those deceptive bends at the Glenisland National School. Through the still green trees with the river on the right, now thankfully back down to a normal level. The land was very wet but still retained that vibrancy of well tended farmland. Then along the edge of the lake and the temptation to look at the water instead of the road! I swung the wheel hard left and drove into the harbour carpark.

Boats are an integral part of our fishing here. Back in Scotland everyone hired a boat for a day’s fishing but in the West of Ireland you don’t get off as lightly as that. Maintaining, baling, lifting, storing, varnishing, sanding, checking and moving boats takes a bit of effort and you either accept and enjoy the experience of owning a small fishing boat or the time spent on them will feel wasted. I admit to enjoying the whole boat owning experience and so days like yesterday were a joy for me.

The recent rains had left some boats full of water. The modern fibreglass hulls never really sink due to the buoyancy tanks fitted to them. They fill up to the top but with a bit of baling they can soon be re-floated. The boat I was moving was half full and took about 20 minutes to bale out with the aid of a big bucket. Some fellas fit pumps to their boats but the bucket meets all my water removal requirements and the little bit of exercise does no harm.

Taking the boat around to the small beach where I could load it on the trailer I stopped for a breather to take in the scenery. Glenisland is a beautiful place and on a day like yesterday with the sun on the hills it was picture-postcard Ireland.

 Now came the job of loading the boat on to the trailer. In a big wind this can be tricky but the flat calm meant aligning the boat and winding her up on to the trailer was pretty straight forward. Lights clamped to the back, run the cable to the connection on the tow bar then pull the belly band across to secure her in place – it all went like clockwork. 

I double checked everything and then set off back home bathed in early autumn sunshine. It has been a poor season but hopefully enough spawning stock has evaded the nets, sea lice, seals and all the other perils which salmon and sea trout face to regenerate the rivers which feed Beltra. I will be back here again soon to help out with the Glenisland club boat lift when we take all the club boats out of the lake for the winter and stow them safely inside. Only when that day is over will it feel like the end of the season for another year.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Random photos

My computer is full of photos taken when fishing, most of which will never see the light of day, so here are a few random pics for you to enjoy.

My boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

a boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

This one has obviously been idle for some time!

A Beltra Springer

A Beltra Springer

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

An audience

An audience

Rising tide, Ballyness bay, Donegal

Rising tide, Ballyness Bay, Donegal

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

Bridge over the Robe

Bridge over the Robe

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

The weather is settled and dry so salmon fishing is dead slow here. Trout angling is patchy but there are still some good fish being caught on Lough Mask. Expect things to pick up with the next spell of wet and windy weather. Planning an all-nighter off the shore this week!

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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, salmon fishing

Photos of Beltra

Not a post really, just some photos I took when fishing Lough Beltra yesterday. It was the annual Glenisland Co-op competition and although we did not meet any fish it was a great day out for all.

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the rules and regulations

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The new harbour beside the Boathouse is a great facility. The committee has worked tirelessly to improve the whole fishery

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Pulling out of the mouth of the river at the start of the day

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Ben on the engine as we motor down the lake. Notice how flat the water is, very poor conditions for fishing Beltra.

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Looking back towards the new boathouse which was officially opened by Enda Kenny this weekend

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Claret Bumble

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Drifting on Beltra

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The Golden Olive Shrimp is always worth a try on Lough Beltra

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We pulled in for a break

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The hut is a great job on days when the rain comes down. Matt Higgins and Matt Fahy were there when we pitched up so we had the craik with the lads.

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Boats in the harbour. Visitors are always welcome and the club hires out boats and engines.

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Back out on the lake again we fished hard in improving conditions but without success

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Nephin looking down on our efforts

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Back to the harbour at 3pm for a bite to eat and see how the other boats faired out

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Micky C, club secretary

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Here’s Jackie Deffley, one of the stalwarts of the club

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Jimmy Heneghen was there too.

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I guess this sums up the Glenisland Co-op,  a well run club with it’s root in the local community. Every day on Lough Beltra is an unforgettable experience.

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