Fishing in Ireland

Will Cullin come good?

Lough Cullin has been fishing very poorly for many years now which is a great pity as it has a character all of its own and used to be a favourite venue for me. Will it’s fortunes change for the better this season?

dark skies over Cullin from a few years ago

The whole area around Pontoon has fallen on hard times with both of the local hotels now shut down and the fishing on Loughs Conn and Cullin hitting an all time low. The may be a flicker of hope for lough Cullin though in the shape of an ugly concrete and steel construction a few miles away.

I quote directly from ‘A Review of Changes in the Fish Stocks of Loughs’ Conn and Cullin over time (1978 – 2001)’

Cultural eutrophication problems have been evident in Lough Cullin in recent years (McCarthy et al, 2001). While the enrichment of Lough Cullin may have contributed to the demise of the trout population there is another very obvious reason for the collapse of this stock. A baseline fishery survey of the Moy Catchment (O’Grady, 1994) illustrated that three particular sub-catchments were likely to be of significance as spawning and nursery areas for the Lough Cullin trout population – the Castlebar, Manulla and Clydagh River systems. Further investigation of fish stock in these sub-catchments indicated that, of the three systems involved, the Castlebar River was, by far, potentially, the most important spawning and nursery area for the L. Cullin trout population. Recognising this fact the Nw.R.F.B. expended significant monies in enhancing the capacity of the Castlebar River to optimise trout production. This programme failed because of declining water quality problems in the river to-date (2001) (Appendix II). Currently (2001) the river supports a very poor trout stock – several substantial fish kills have also been noted in this river in recent years (Nw.R.F.B., pers comm). A failure of trout to recruit, in significant numbers, from the Castlebar River to Lough Cullin is undoubtedly a major factor in the demise of the lake trout population – a small number of trout were tagged in the Castlebar River in 2000 while carrying out fish population estimates. It is noteworthy of the total catch of 15 trout in the 2001 L. Cullin survey three fish were individuals which had been tagged in the Castlebar River the previous year.

This is interesting because a fine new sewage treatment plant was built for the town of Castlebar a couple of years ago, right on the bank of the Castlebar river. From the above you can gather that this unimposing stream was in fact the main spawning river for the trout in lough Cullin. Water quality in the river has improved markedly and it now holds a fine head of resident brown trout as far up as the outskirts of the town itself. Could it be that the trout in lough Cullin are also benefiting from this long awaited piece of infrastructure?

The Castlebar river is now much improved

The other big problem for Cullin is the immense shoals of Roach which now pollute the lough, competing with the native trout for food. The direct descendants of live bait which Pike anglers released into the system 20 years ago, the roach outnumber the trout by a huge amount. Good news for the Pike who swallow up the Roach but make little or no impression on their numbers. Bad news for the trout though.

Roach

It is hard to tell if the trout will make a comeback or not. I fear there are just too many factors against them but nature usually finds a way of reaching a balance so there is hope yet.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing

The Manulla river

A chilly wind is scattering the last of the leaves in the garden and the daylight rapidly fades to an inky blackness. Winter nights can be so depressing, can’t they? To cheer myself up I’ve been thinking about the coming trout season and places where I will ply the gentle art. One place where I am seriously considering is the rarely fished Manulla River here in Mayo.

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The Manulla is a small stream but one which holds a good head of wild brownies. Access is pretty good with entry points at the usual bridges. Why then is it so rarely fished? The answer can be summed up in one word – trees. Big, tightly spaced hardwoods line both banks of the river making casting an impossibility for much of its course. Alders, willows and whitethorn make up the bulk of the cover but there are oaks and sycamore plus a full range of smaller species to fill in any gaps. Fishing the Manulla is more like jungle warfare than a peaceful pastime. So why am I even contemplating risking my sanity by attempting to fly fish this water? Let me explain…………

looking-downstream-from-the-bridge

A heavily wooded section of the Manulla river

Due to the extreme difficulty in accessing the river the angling pressure on the Manulla has been virtually nil over the years. The meetings pool where it joins the Castlebar river gets a few wormers and I have seen some kids chucking spinners in at the N60 bridge, but apart from that the river is largely ignored by anglers. To me that spells the opportunity for trout to grow unmolested to a reasonable size and worthy of some effort to winkle them out. Of course there are going to be huge challenges but I firmly believe there are good trout to be caught with some perseverance.

Timing is going to be important as I will need low water to be able to fish. Low levels will allow me to get into the river and wade. This alone will be exciting as the river is narrow but deep and I can foresee some mishaps and wet feet as I explore the various pools under the canopy. Some stretches are just too deep to wade and so I may have to resort to poking the rod through the vegetation and ‘dibbling’ the fly over the fish.

Further up river, beyond Belcarra, there are some open stretches of water where the OPW in their thoughtfulness dredged the river back in the 1960’s. Here it looks more like a canal and the numbers of trout are much lower than downstream. As with all of this type of water the fishing is tough. High banks (10 to 20 feet above the surface of the water) and no cover for the fish in the river mean they are well nigh impossible to approach from the bank. Once again, chest waders and an iron nerve are required as you slither into the deep water and work your way upstream, casting ahead with nymph or dry fly.

dredged-channel

A dredged section of the Manulla

The usual array of heavily weighted nymphs are going to be my mainstay when it comes to fly selection during the day, but the evenings will present the best chance of a fish and that’s when I will turn to the dry fly. The Manulla gets impressive hatches of sedges and a well placed G&H dragged over a riser will be my preferred tactic as the sun sets. there are other, similar streams in the immediate area. The Gweestion. Pollagh, Glore and a handful of others can all produce a trout or two to the persistent angler but I am going to persevere on the Manulla in 2017.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Uncategorized

Feile na Tuaithe, Day 2

Now that’s better. Brilliant sunshine greeted me when I twitched back the bedroom curtains this morning. Forecasters unanimously agree there will be localised showers again today but for now it’s wall to wall sun. Hopefully that will encourage more visitors to Féile na Tuaithe.

Looking back on yesterday there were some common faults at the fly casting. Total beginners were easy – they picked it up quickly and in a few minutes could cast a reasonablably straight line. Some of the kids were just too small to handle the ten-footer properly though and they needed a bit of help from me to hold the rod. The tricky ones were those anglers who had tried fly fishing and given it up previously. The usual bad habits were there to be seen but getting these ironed out was a challenge.

The first one was that old chestnut of dropping the rod too low on the back cast. The line hits the ground or what ever herbage is around and the necessary tension in the rod blank is lost, leading to a poor forward stroke. Some guys knew this what they were doing wrong but couldn’t figure out how to stop it. Here’s my tip – go right back to the very start of the cast and focus on pointing the rod as low as you can. If you do this it goes a long way to curing the problem as you can stop the back stroke near to vertical much better.

Next most common fault had to be little or no pause between back and forward strokes. You must give the line sufficient time to straighten out behind you so the rod can be bent and store the necessary energy for the forward stroke. But how to figure out how long this pause has to be? The answer is neatly located on your face, either side of your nose. Yep, just turn your head and watch the line sail out behind you until it has almost straightened then commence the forward stroke. Trust me, just watching the line will really help you when you are learning to cast.

 

So the morning disappeared in a blur of activity and I was running way too late long before I even headed off to Turlough. I had to do some serious persuasion of the security staff on the gate to let me in but I made it, just and no more. Some friends were on hand to assist me (you know who you are – thanks a million guys) and I was ready for action as the first visitors streamed in at noon. Like Saturday, there was a lot of interest in casting by the younger attendees which was great to see. Our sport badly needs fresh blood and the more we can do to encourage youngsters to take up the sport the better.

Lots of old angling acquaintances dropped by to say hello and I met scores of lovely people out enjoying the day and interested to see what I was up to beside the lake. A fellow blogger (The Irish Angler) came down to meet me and we had a great old chat about fishing and blogging. Take a look at Richard’s blog, it’s a great insight to fishing on Conn and Cullen –  https://theirishfisherman.wordpress.com

The afternoon flew by and it felt like I was only just settling into the day when I looked at the time to find it had gone 5.15pm. Packing up consisted of hurling all my gear and tackle into the back of the car (to be sorted out at a later date) and then it was off home for a bite to eat and get ready for work in the morning. I really enjoyed the whole experience of being part of Feile na Tuaithe and hope I may have sparked some interest in people to try their hand at our sport. I’m planning on fishing for trout the next time I pick up a fly rod though!

 

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