Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Bank holiday blues

low cloud and a good wave = fly fishing!

Bank holiday Sunday came around again so quickly. This year is flying by, each successive month whizzing  past faster than the last one. The decision where to fish yesterday was taken on the back of reports there were salmon sneaking up the river Moy and that the first of the grilse were being caught alongside the springers. Surely some of these fish would swim into the lough!

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Throwing back the bedroom curtains early on Sunday I was not a little surprised to find a dull, breezy day. The forecast had promised wall-to-wall sunshine and our plans had centred on a day trolling, not fly fishing. To cover all the bases some fly rods were tossed into the car and we rolled out of town.

It has been dry lately so the boat did not require much baling but we took an age to load it up with all manner of gear and tackle. Eventually we pushed off and started the engine. Three lines streamed out behind us as we swung south, hugging the shoreline.

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We stuck to our guns and trolled the lies along the western shore. If the fishing was good we would expect to be jostling for position with upwards of twenty other boats but only two others were out. Clearly the salmon were not there in any numbers.

The promised sunshine breaking through

With no signs of life by the time we reached Mary Robinson’s we switched to the fly, working the bob fly over the excellent lies close to the shore there. Ben had a small trout which somewhat ambitiously grabbed a size 6 shrimp fly. Otherwise it graveyard quiet.

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The extensive shallows were then trolled again. Another boat joined us but they were blank too.

These lads definitely remembered to bring the net

By now it had become very bright and we decided to head for the shore and a welcome cuppa. I had a pleasant walk along the shore to stretch my legs.

At this time of the year the trees should be home to a wide variety to flies but everything is so late due to the cold spring that there were no olives or sedges to be seen when I shook the branches of the birch and whitethorns.

The low scrub at the very edges of the water are hardy plants. Covered by water in winter then dried out in summer, they cope with everything nature throws at them.

I spotted an old float and some line tangled up in the scrub and a few minutes work had it freed, along with a small piece of lead and a sharp bait hook.

I just went as far as the small river which flows into the lough mid-way along the bay. It doesn’t look much but salmon spawn in this tiny tributary.

The shore was littered with the bleached shells of Zebra Mussels. This small invasive species are present in their millions on the bottom of the lough. Who knows what the long term effects will be on the eco system.

With poor conditions and no sign of salmon we lazed in the sunshine. I spent some time rooting through my reels, checking/changing leaders. This is a chore I had been putting off so it felt good getting it out of the way, perched on a rock in the brilliant sunshine.

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Time to get back in the boat and we opted to troll our way back up the lake. Toby spoons were replaced with Rapalas and we slowly motored out across the Massbrook shallows, passing one lonely boat with a pair of flyfishers methodically casting into the shore.

All our efforts came to nothing and we came back fishless. What is more worrying is that we did not see a single fish jump all day. Usually, salmon and grilse show frequently when they arrive in Lough Conn, so it looks like they are not in the lough in any numbers yet.

The shrimp didn’t work today……………

and neither did the bumble

or even the normally deadly Rapala

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

An evening on Beltra

I will leave the photos to tell the tale of an evening spent on Lough Beltra in the company of Ben and Pat. The fish did not cooperate but it was great just to be afloat on a pleasant Spring evening.

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deep in concentration

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Pat helping to make some space in my fly box!

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You can just make out the marker buoy below Nephin

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I had a bag of reels with different lines on them but I stuck to my slow sinker all evening

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Drifting in towards the dock (a good lie for salmon)

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A heavy shower passed over us

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Great conditions as the sun dipped but nobody told the fish!

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End of the day and we head back to the shore

We all want to catch fish when we head out to the lough or river but blanks are a part of our sport and we need to accept them as the opportunity to enjoy our surroundings.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

More news from nowhere

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Sunday. The weather is promised to get fine again later in the day so I decided to try my luck on Lough Conn for a few hours. The word on the street is that a small number of salmon and grilse has been running the Moy and a few have been landed all the way from the Ridge Pool up to the East Mayo Anglers water. I am hoping that at least some of these fish have turned into Lough Conn.

I load the car with engine, petrol tank and gear then head up the road. Nick Cave and the Badseeds are blasting out ‘more news from nowhere’ on the CD player. I love the juxtaposition of Nick’s tale of Greek mythology and the seedy video which accompanies it with my innocent journey through the glorious Mayo countryside. I am off down quiet country roads and winding lanes to Pike Bay where my boat is safely moored.

I get the boat ready but the wind is set North-North-East and the far horizon is shimmering blue already. Hopes of a decent day’s are fading before I even pull the cord and the old Johnson outboard splutters into life. Ah well, I am here anyway so I will give it a lash. Motoring up into Castlehill Bay there is no sign of fly life and the swallows are absent. I set up a team of wet flies for a start and drift across the bay a couple of times without stirring anything. No flies, no rising fish and no offers and by 11am the sun is burning in the sky and the wind is dropping. It is going to be a hard day out here!

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A cup of coffee and couple of tomato sandwiches are consumed as I set up a pair of trolling rods and head off down towards Massbrook. Something small grabs a bait soon after I get going but it quickly shakes the hooks (no mean feat considering the trebles on a Rapala). I’m constantly scanning the surface for any signs of fly life but the lough looks and feels absolutely dead. The light is now brassy and these conditions are very difficult for the trout angler on the western lakes. Of course I could break out the fast sinking lines and head out into the deeps to search for small trout feeding on daphnia but I am no lover of that type of fishing.

At the entrance to Pike Bay the rod with a small silver Toby on it jerks into life. I reel in a small fish and am surprised to see a small sea trout has taken the bait. Just as I reach out to land it the hooks fly out and the fish swims off none the worse for its adventure. Sea trout are not common in Lough Conn, despite good numbers being present down at the mouth of the River Moy. This one was only a small lad, less than a pound in weight by the look of it.

I double back and am heading down Cornakillew when the Rapala is taken again. Any hopes of Salar are quickly dashed and a brownie is boated. This one has swallowed the bait and so he gets a tap on the head and into the bag for my dinner tonight. He will be about a pound and a quarter in weight and is a well-shaped fish.

I take the opportunity to change the link swivel (which looks a bit suspect to me) and the bait. Since the Rapala is interesting small fish I think I will stick to them but go for a jointed version with a bit more wiggle to it in an effort to arouse the salmon.

Still no fly life. A solitary mayfly lands in the boat with me but that’s it. The heat is building and the sun burns down on me. Time to head home I think. One last turn around the pin yields a firm knock which turns out to be a Perch.

It seems I can catch anything today except the salmon I am really after! Back in Pike Bay I unload the boat and chuck everything into the back of the car, it’s too hot to take much care now and I just want to get back home in time to cut the grass.

Alder

Alder

Lessons from today? The Rapala is certainly worth more time on the end of the line. Not only did it lure some (admittedly small) fish but it is easy to use in the weedy conditions which are with us now until the end of the season. The floating models are a joy to use on the troll and they pop up to the top if you have to stop to play a fish on the other rod.

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

The lack of fly life during the day is not unusual on Conn at this time of year and the heat today suggests it is time to think about evening fishing. I might try the rivers again this week, Blue Winged Olives should be on the menu in the evenings and sedges in the darkness could elicit the attention of the bigger trout.

Back in the car I swing the wheel and slowly head down the narrow winding track back towards civilisation. So that’s it for now, I have no more news from nowhwere …………

Update: The trout made a fabulous dinner. When I was cleaning it I discovered that I had inadvertently been ‘matching the hatch’ by using the Rapala – the fish was stuffed with perch fry.

Link to the salubriously sleazy ‘more news from nowhere’ video:

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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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