Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Grilse still in short supply

July is often a wet month in Mayo. A little rain fell on Tuesday night and some more as the Wednesday morning wore on, so I decided it was worth a look at a small river I sometimes fish in North Mayo. Expecting a small rise in the water I was instead confronted with a bank high flood upon arrival. Bits of trees and other rubbish were being washed down river and I tackled up thinking I may have hit the water at exactly the right time (for a change). I marked the edge of the water where I entered it with a stick so I could see if the water was rising or falling.

stick

My stick to mark water level

A size 8 Tailfire and a Silver Garry were first up on the cast and I edged into the stream, feeling the pull of the flow and the gravel moving beneath my feet. Due to the high water I used a sinking line to try to get down a little. The rain was lightler now so I was hopeful the river would start to drop soon. Debris in the water was a real pain in the posterior and the flies had to be cleaned every few casts. No fish were showing but that is to be expected in high water and I fished down the initial short stretch without a stir. Other anglers were now appearing as word that the river had risen passed through the neighbourhood, mainly armed with worms and Flying ‘C’s. The rain kept falling…………..

Very high water

Very high water

I persevered for a while but the water level was still rising, albeit quite slowly. Salmon fishers will agree that a rising river is the hardest to catch fish on and today proved to be no difference. Rain further up the catchment area was still filling the river when I thought it would be dropping and any salmon who were there are running hard.

The gusty wind would die then spring up again and I mistimed a cast just as a gust blew up, landing my cast in a thicket of bushes behind me. I snapped the leader trying to pull them out so I marked the spot to retrieve the flies later. My arthritic ankles are in agony (deep wading seems to upset them no end) so I decide to exit the water and get back on to dry land.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s time to rethink tactics so I headed off to a local pub for a pint and a chat with Ben (who was also fishing). Guinness is great for relaxing the mind and after a pint of porter and a final check of the river (still rising) it was unanimously agreed that operations would cease immediately and resume early the next morning.

next morning………………….

The alarm goes off and I hop out of bed to check the weather. No water in the little bucket I keep outside the back door meaning there was no further rain overnight. There is a a thick blanket of clouds and a steady westerly breeze. It is pleasantly warm already and my mind is made up-  time to get back over to the river! Country roads are quiet at this time of the day and I make good progress through the early mist. The river has dropped almost back to normal summer level and has thankfully cleared of the floating sticks and leaves which were such a pain yesterday.

I turn off the engine and start to tackle up. My jacket is still wet through from yesterday evening and it is unpleasant pulling it on. The sinking line set up is too heavy for the lower water level today so I change to a floating line and size 10 flies. Over the gate and down the lane, disturbing some cattle in the field who look less than pleased at my intrusion. More anglers appear downstream of me; it looks like I was not the only one with the alarm set this morning!

 A local spinning

A local spinning

I fish down a couple of pools without a touch then wade across the river and try my luck in a normally productive deep hole. A worm fisher is fishing there with a great bunch of lobworms suspended under a pike float. Gruff greetings are exchanged and it is clear he is fishless too. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve – the cycle continues as I fish steadily down to the tail of the pool. Still no signs of life and this is looking increasingly worrying. The flood of yesterday was sure to bring up some fresh grilse but nobody is catching them. I speak to another local who has been here since first light and we compare excuses (mine are definitely better than his in my opinion).

I decide to head way up river in case the fish have made a dash upstream in the high water. A short drive along some narrow, twisty roads brings me to a parking spot and I tackle up again. Swallows are darting around and a lark is high in the sky. The heavy black shape of a cormorant takes off from the big holding pool and turns towards the sea.

I walk up to the top of the fishable water and start casting. I fish through the best parts of the pool and again see no signs of life at all. I reach a narrow deeper section and hook a small Sea Trout on the dropper. At last, something to reel in! I noticed a second sub-surface flash when the sea trout took me and presume this is another trout which has grabbed at the tail fly (I have a size 10 Black Pennel on the dropper and a size 14 Black and Gold shrimp on the tail). The Sea Trout puts up a spirited scrap but it is soon obvious there is another fish on the tail fly after all. After a minute the Sea Trout has tired and I pull him towards me only for him to shoot off in the opposite direction – what ever is on the tail is much stronger. I pull back and a fresh grilse takes to the air. This should be interesting!

The fight takes longer than it should as every time the grilse tired the Sea Trout would waken up and splash around in front of him. Finally I drew both fish over the rim of the net. The Sea Trout was hooked under the chin and was quickly released back into the river. Mercifully there were only a few lice on him.

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The salmon had swallowed the shrimp and I could only just make out the eye of the hook away down the fish’s throat. A nice fresh grilse of around 4 pounds.

I fished on for a while but decided it was getting a bit crowded (word had spread rapidly of my success) so I went down to a pool I like, well away from the hustle and bustle. This is a tiny wee pool which most angler walk past without realising there is a good salmon lie there. Getting into the river here requires a leap of faith as the vegetation is dense and I have to slide down a bank into the water through 6 foot high reeds.

about to drop into the river through the reeds

About to drop into the river through the reeds

I fish down the pool without success but I am nearly back at the spot where I lost the flies last night. I wade across and fish down the run while at the same time looking into the dense undergrowth for my missing flies. Sure enough, I spot the Cascade first and manage to collect both it and the Pennel. Just as importantly I gather up the leader to prevent any wee creatures becoming entangled.

With some pressing jobs to take care of at home I call it a day and walk back to the car. Once again the fly scored when spinner and worm failed to produce. I am convinced that the ability to control the speed and depth of the fly gives it a huge advantage over other methods.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If we get some more rain I will be out with rod and line over the weekend.

Advertisements
Standard
Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Spate river tactics, part 2

OK, so in the first part of this post I discussed my views on the basics of rod, reel and line for fishing small spate rivers here  in Ireland. Today I want to talk about what we tie on the business end of our lines – the flies to use and how to fish them effectively.

IMG_1801

Choice of fly is purely personal and what works for one angler may be useless for another, so all I can do is give you some patterns which have worked for me over the years. Some you will be familiar with, others may be new to you. Let’s start with an old reliable – the Cascade.

Standard Cascade

Standard Cascade. This one is dressed on a size 12 treble

There are more variations of this fly than you can shake a stick at, but the standard half black/half silver bodied original with yellow and orange hackles and a slim, long tail of yellow and orange bucktail is as good as any and better than most. A couple of strands of pearl flash in the tail add something I think but any more than that just looks wrong to me. If you really have no idea what to tie on you can do a lot worse than plump for this guy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black and Gold Shrimp

I suspect this is actually a recognised pattern but I have not seen it written down anywhere so I just call it my Black and Gold Shrimp. A wound GP body feather tail, half black and half gold body with an orange cock hackle wound at the joint and both halves ribbed with oval gold. A head hackle of soft black cock and optional JC cheeks. Finish off with a red head. I love this fly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eany Tailfire (Light)

I save this one for high/dirty water and tie it with a very long tail. It has been a great executioner for me tied on size 8 and 10 hooks and fished off a slow sinker.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hairy Mary

They don’t come much more traditional than the Hairy Mary. I like to wind my hackle after applying the wing so there is plenty of movement in the fly. Small sizes are definitely the best.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gold Bodied Willie Gunn (GBWG)

One from my homeland now. The GBWG has landed me many, many salmon over the years tied on tubes, waddington shanks and normal doubles and trebles. I now tie it cascade style for small rivers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Silver Garry

Another exiled Scot now – the Silver Garry. I like this one on bright days when the silver body looks good in the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shadow Shrimp

This fly is an ‘all or nothing’ pattern for me. I tie it on not really expecting any results and that is normally the case. BUT, some days the fish go mad for it so it earns it’s place in my box for those red letter occasions.

Black Pennel variant

Black Pennel variant

I have mentioned this fly elsewhere in my blog but it bears repeating just how good this simple fly is. A Black Pennel on a size 10 Kamasan B175 with a slim tail made of a few fibres of red bucktail will catch you grilse until the cows come home. I almost always fish it on a dropper where the small fly doesn’t seem to tangle the leader as much as larger flies.

4 lb grilse

Enough about patterns, how do you fish these flies? Simple down and across with a very slow retrieve works most of the time. Some days the fish prefer a quicker retrieve, so it pays to vary it a bit until you find what is working. Backing-up a pool can be extremely effective, especially on the long, deep flats we have on some stretches here. A strong upstream wind can make fishing these pools difficult but here is a wee trick which sometimes works – cast up and across for a change. I know this goes against everything you know about salmon fly fishing but trust me, on the flats in a big wind the upstream cast followed by a brisk retrieve works a treat.

low water, looking upstream on the straight run

Mending line is also something which I don’t see too many anglers doing and this is a pity as it can make the difference between success and failure. The mend is usually upstream (to allow the fly to travel slower through the pool), but when the grilse are in the mood to chase the fly a downstream mend can work a treat.

all you need (plus some decent water)

So, to sum up – Timing is everything, dropping water is best. Wear chest waders so you can access the river when required. Keep it simple, no need to swap line densities or flies every five minutes. Use small flies. Drop into the local pub for a pint or buy something from the shop in the village (they depend on passing trade). Talk to the local anglers, they have that vital knowledge and are usually willing to share it. That is about all I know!

Standard
Uncategorized

Tying small trebles

It’s been raining for a few days now and the rivers are in spate. Some salmon are running and a few have been caught, but not by me! My last outing resulted in one pike, all be it a good one of just over twenty pounds. As we are now into the month of May my thoughts have turned to the upcoming grilse run and the gaps in my fly box.

I tied up a few tiny trebles today as I was completely out of these useful flies. I don’t use them much these days but when the river is dead low and the grilse hard to catch I reach for these little beauties. I first used these in Scotland many years ago after seeing an excellent fisher tie them for sea trout. I was using tiny tubes for grilse and figured the small trebles should be just as good. They certainly are and I can recommend them to you. Yes, they are fiddly to tie but you only need a few for the really difficult days. Here is how I make them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1. Take a size 16 treble and start the tying silk behind the eye. The secret of tying these flies is to keep the number of turns of silk to the minimum. 8/0 thread is a good size to use. Here I will make a Stoats Tail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2. Select a golden pheasant topping. I prefer to use a large one as it is easier to handle at this stage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3. Tie the topping in on top of the hook with tight wraps of the silk and then continue to the start of the bends.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

4. Now catch in a length of fine oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib. Run the silk back up towards the eye in tight, touching turns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

5. You can make the body from black floss silk but I prefer to use black holographic tinsel instead. Tie in a piece leaving a gap behind the eye of the hook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6. Wind the tinsel down to where the rib and tail are tied in then back up again to the eye. Tie the tinsel off with the silk and cut off the waste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

7. Now wind the silver tinsel rib in open turns up the body and tie that off too. Remove the waste.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

8. I form the wing/hackle from dyed black squirrel tail hair. Firstly cut a small bunch of hair from the tail and offer it up to the top of the hook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

9. Use the ‘pinch and loop’ method of tying the hair on. This is a bit tricky on such a small treble but take your time and adjust the length of the hair before tightening the silk. Don’t take too many turns!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

10. I now reverse the vice and and repeat the winging process below the hook. Use a slightly shorter and slimmer bunch of hair for this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

11. Return the vice to the normal position and trim off the excess hair. Form a neat head with the tying silk and whip finish with the tying silk. Remove the waste end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12. The fly finished and ready for a couple of coats of varnish on the head.

You can tie just about any fly you like on these small trebles but I prefer simple hairwings and shrimps like these:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cascade

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAllys Shrimp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack and Gold Shrimp

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARed and Silver Shrimp

A word of warning; do not use these tiny trebles if there are smolts or other small fish in the river. They are intended for use in late summer when the small lads have migrated. The trebles are efficient hookers of grilse but can cause terrible damage to small fish so please be mindful of this before you try them out.

Small flies won’t fish properly on heavy leaders so use something around 5 or 6 pound breaking strain. Vary the retrieve till you find what the fish are looking for, some days a very quick retrieve is effective. Hope you enjoy tying and using these patterns!

Standard