dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

An easy mayfly pattern

May came and went with unreasonable haste. I hardly wet a line during the merry month, a combination of work commitments and Mediterranean weather kept me occupied and the fish unmolested. Reports suggest the mayfly was late but is still hatching in good numbers as I write in the first week of June and as usual some trophy-sized trout are being landed on the big loughs.

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3 pounder from lough Conn

So in keeping with the time of year here is a pattern for a dry/hatching mayfly imitation which I dreamt up a few seasons ago. It works well when the fish are mopping mays off the top and Lough Conn trout in particular seen to like this one. Tied on a size 10 hook, different colours can be used such as yellow, olive and green to meet the requirements on any given day. I will show you the yellow version here today.

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Mayfly Emerger

Tying silk can be either olive or fl. yellow. If you use the yellow it creates a very bright fly so it pays to have some of both in the box.

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Floss for the rib and fl. yellow tying silk

Run the silk down the hook to the bend where you tie in 3 or 4 fibres from a moose mane. I much prefer this material for making tails to the more traditional pheasant tail fibres because they last so much longer. Even up the ends of the moose hair before tying them in and aim to flair them out (a small ball of the body fur under the tail can help here). Now fix in a piece of rib which is globrite no. 4 floss. Dub a body of seals fur in the colour you desire. Leave plenty of space at the neck of the hook for tying in the wings and hackle. Wrap the floss forward in even spirals and tie it in at the head.

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CDC.

Now for the wings which are made of 4 CDC feathers. These are tied in over the back of the hook, almost in wet fly style. Tie in a matched pair of grey CDC with yellow or green CDC flanking them. I especially like the ‘dirty yellow’ CDC from Veniards. Take time to get these wings sitting just right, nice and straight.

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The hackle should be good quality

The hackle is made from a good quality grizzle cock hackle dyed green or yellow. Tie it in and make at least 5 turns before tying it off and snipping off the waste. Form a head and whip finish. I make the hackle quite thick because this is a pattern which will be fished in a wave so it needs to be fairly robust.

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Finished fly

The fly can be fished either well greased and riding high on the waves or ‘damp’ with just the CDC keeping the fly in the surface imitating a hatching insect. I use it on the loughs but there is no reason why it wouldn’t work on the rivers during a hatch. I like to fish this one on a cast with a spent gnat imitation in the evening. Sometimes the trout will prefer one fly over the other but often both will take fish in equal proportions.

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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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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Féile na Tuaithe, Day 1

The rain woke me from a deep sleep. It thundered against the glass reminding me more of a February storm than a morning in May. Today was the first of two days demonstrating fly casting and fly tying and the last thing I needed was heavy rain. I grumpily fed the pets and made my porridge; the thought of getting soaked was not appealing to me at all. The rain had eased off by 9 so I packed the car in relative comfort, did some chores and then drove out to Turlough.

I found my own tent but it was devoid of the promised table, so a quick dash up to the organisers was called for and the missing table was soon replaced. It’s always hard to know what to demonstrate at this kind of event. Do you concentrate on casting or tying? I had been asked to cover both but I figured most people who don’t know about fishing would find casting more interesting and so I set up a couple of single handed rods.

Just as I was thinking I would get away without getting wet while setting up the heavens opened again. It poured out of steel grey clouds for the next 30 minutes while I set up the table and the rest of my gear.

I had time to take in my surroundings while waiting for the gates to open and admit the visitors. The river ran close by and had lots of mature trees surrounded me. Not a bad wee spot to spend the next two afternoons.

Gradually the rain eased up and then stopped altogether. The sun appeared just in time for the gates opening and the crowds came in in good form. Right from the start I had a steady stream of people, some wanting to watch me make flies while the rest were more interested in learning to cast. There were old and young in equal measure and it was lovely to meet so many foreign visitors.

Some seasoned anglers popped by to say hello and discuss recent catches. The rain which was never far away swept in again and didn’t really clear until after 2pm, making for a damp afternoon. During quiet spells I messed around with the camera, photographing flies in different light conditions.

 

Casting, talking and demonstrating kept me busy right up until the official finishing time and then some. I met lots of interesting people and really enjoyed the whole experience, which is just a well as I will be back there bright and early tomorrow to do it all again! Drop in by if you happen to be in the area, it’s a great way to spend a family afternoon.

Since I have been talking to so many fishermen over the weekend I got updates on the local catches. Seems like the Mayfly is late on all the lakes but is hatching now in good numbers so the fishing should be terrific for the next week or so.Cullen is producing larger than average trout this year which is great to see. Expect trout to a couple of pounds if you find them feeding. Conn has bee gradually picking up with the Kelly can catching well as usual over there at Cloghans. I heard Seamus had four right good ‘uns during the week.

It sounds like Corrib has been slow despite increasing numbers to fly hatching but that should change this week if the weather gods behave and give us reasonable conditions.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

The Soldier Palmer

 

I like old patterns. Something nostalgic is awakened when you tie on one of the classic flies from the last century or the century before. That link with the past offers reassurance and knowledge if a fly has been around for this long it must catch fish. So my fly boxes bulge with old-stagers either in their original, undiluted form or with the addition of newer materials. Sure, I have lots of glittery/flashy/fluorescent newbies in there too but I often resort to using the old lads and will continue to do so, basking in their reflected glory. Here is one that you all know but maybe have not fished for a while. The Soldier Palmer.

Soldier Palmers

It is widely described as a variant of a very old fly called the Red Palmer which is thought to be a copy of a hairy caterpillar. The simple addition of a red tail turned that fly into something much, much more effective. I used to have great success with this fly for rainbows back in Scotland and have no reason to doubt that it still kills ‘bows back in my native land. I even recall catching a rainbow on a Soldier palmer fished dry one evening! The trout were rising all round me but I couldn’t tempt one until I greased up a size 12 soldier and fished it static. Sure enough, a two pounder slurped it down, saving a blank for me. Here in Ireland I use it for a very different species, Salmo Salar. Tied in big sizes for the roughest days a Soldier Palmer can be just the medicine for springers and grilse alike. Go as big as you dare, size 4 is about my normal but there are one or two even bigger in my box, just in case…………..

Most of you know the dressing already so I won’t bore you with the details of tying the fly but here are a few tips which I think are important. Firstly, the colour of the body and tail need to be a bright red, not dull and lifeless. I have seen the body tied with florescent wool but this is a step too far for me. Just bright vermillion red wool is perfect. A fl. tail is good though.Next the colour of the hackles needs to be a deep, rich, dark ginger shade. I don’t mind if the hackles are a wee bit too dark but find lighter ginger does not work for me. Lastly, I use an additional hackle at the head to give the fly a better shape.

The flats on the Bunowen

The Soldier Palmer is a great fly for spate rivers like this one

Do not be tempted by such fripperies as bodies made of Peacock herl, red Lite-brite or (heaven forbid) flat red tinsel. If you really must interfere with this old timer try adding a wing of gold flashabou. I have not tried this variant for Salmon but Scottish rainbows used to push each other out of the way to snaffle this gaudy creation.

The only drawback I can see with the SP is that it proves to be next to irresistible to Perch. These little stripy fellows absolutely love the palmer and can be a real nuisance when you are trying for bigger game.

The grilse are due any day now so think about giving the old Soldier Palmer a swim.

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Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs

Dragons and pole dancers

Friday night’s revelries led to a very tired Colin this morning which was not good as Ben and I had an arrangement to launch another boat on Lough Conn. Scrambling out of bed and into some fishing clothes, I noted the blue sky and stiff breeze moving the trees in the garden, scattering the last of the cherry blossom. The forecast of a cold and windy day looked about right. I looked out the 11 foot fly rod and prayed my wrist would stand up to a day casting with the brute.

We set off around the planned time and chatted about the fishing as we drove up to Pike Bay.  It’s a handy spot, nice and sheltered with good access to the whole lough and the added bonus of a couple of good lies near at hand. Launching went smoothly and we were soon out on the water in a wind which was much more Easterly that the forecast Northerly.

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Safely launched

We adjusted plans accordingly and fished the lies in and around Pike Bay itself, but nothing fishy showed any interest in our flies. So we switched to trolling and dragged spoons and Rapalas all the way down to Massbrook. Once again, no stir from the fish.

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The Peter Ross Bumble in the middle of the cast

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My Green and Claret Dabbler was given a swim today too

With a more favourable wind behind us we drifted the lies on the Massbrook shore. No hatch of flies today which was a disappointment for the third week in April. Lake Olives are usually appearing in reasonable numbers by now but today must have been too cold for them. We trolled for a while again, retracing our passage back up to Pike Bay and then beyond into Castlehill. Enthusiasm was waning fast in the face of an apparently empty lake so we pulled into the shore for nourishment and a stretch of the legs and to take some photos.

As is my want, I prowled the edge of the water, flipping rocks to see what lived there. In amongst the usual louse and shrimps I came across  the imposing shape of a Dragonfly Larvae. Brian Clarke referred to these beasts as ‘the Ghengis Khan of the lake’ as they eat anything smaller than themselves.

Tea break over, we decided that enough was enough, so one last drift at the pole outside of Pike Bay would provide a final chance for today. The wind took us just to the inside of the pin which marks a shallow some 50 yards from the shore.

Ben’s deft oar strokes kept us just clear of the marker and my cast, like hundreds before landed 15 yards in front of the boat. Half way back to me a solid tug and a flash under the surface woke me up somewhat abruptly. A Springer!

He wasn’t big but he certainly was lively. An initial short, boring run culminated in a spectacular jump before he charged off towards open water. Next, he came up to the top and danced across the surface in a kind of rolling tailwalk. The next 10 minutes saw him circle the boat 4 or 5 times and kept me guessing right up to the end. Ben netted him on the second pass as the fish tired. A new fish, not sea-liced but a bar of silver never-the-less. Around the 7 pound mark he had taken the Green Peter fished on the bob. Time only for one quick photo before he was slipped back into the water.

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Hook on the outside of the salmon’s mouth

We squeezed in one more drift before packing up but the lone springer was the only action we saw all day. No matter, at least we met a fish and breathed some good, fresh air. That boat will get good use over the next few weeks!

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The fly that did the damage

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Fishing in Ireland, trolling

Cold day on Cullin

It looked for all the world like one of those days in mid-winter when the sky fills with menacing clouds and snow falls thickly, snarling up traffic and turning the pavements into streams. That was Saturday and the cold snap continued into Sunday.

Between the snow showers three of us flipped my boat over and loaded it on to a trailer, ready for Sunday morning’s journey to Lough Cullin. An inch of ice in the boat greeted me the next day and it had to be hacked off before we hit the road. The snow had retreated to the hill tops but the bitter wind remained to test our resolve. Rods and gear had been brought along but with such coldness we remained undecided to last minute if we would venture out. Cullin looked blankly uninviting, the wind blustered and blew out of the freezing east and even the strenuous effort of launching the boat failed to generate any heat in the pair of us. The moment for decision came once the boat was safely in the water and we managed to convince ourselves there was a chance of a fish. So the outboard spluttered into life and we motored off to the favourite spot to troll for a while.

A small but steady hatch of buzzers came off the lake all the time we were afloat but not a single fish rose. I didn’t blame them. We were threading our way between the pins when my rod buckled and the reel woke me from what I considered to be the early stages of hypothermia. A ten yard dash and then………….nothing. Just a heavy weight and the odd head shake. Pike. A stone of teeth and slime came to the boat, hooked conveniently in the corner of the mouth.

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Ben boated another Essox around the 7 pound mark before we stopped for a bite to eat on the shore near Pontoon Bridge. As usual, the prawning brigade were hard at it but enquiries showed they were fishless like us.

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Pulled in near the bridge

We changed baits, switching to plugs instead of spoons but all to no avail. The cold and rising wind made it unpleasant to be out in so we decided to call it a day around 2pm. Hardly an exciting day’s sport but the boat is now in place for when the fishing does eventually pick up.

 

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Small river fly fishing

Tackling small streams can prove a challenge for anglers who are more used to wide open spaces and plenty of elbow room for casting. Here in the west of Ireland we have a number of small streams, most of which are never fished, yet contain a reasonable head of wild Brown Trout. Rivers like the Pollagh, Glore and Trimogue which are all tributaries of the River Moy can be excellent on their day, so learning a bit about how to fish smaller Irish rivers is worthwhile.

pools-on-the-keel-river

 

The Keel which joins Lough Carra to Lough Mask

Firstly, what can you expect to catch in these rivers? Unfortunately we don’t have any Grayling in Ireland, a fish I miss a lot. They pretty much all contain Roach, Pike and Perch but I can’t say that I fish for any of these species intentionally but they do grab the flies some times. Salmon are a possibility in some small rivers any time after a flood in July, but fishing specifically for them is very hit and miss. So that leaves us with the wild Brown Trout, one of the greatest sporting fishes. Size wise in these parts brownies run from a few ounces right up to 3 or even 4 pounds. The vast majority will be around 8 to 12 ounces though. That means tackle needs to be sized down to get the best sport.

 

 

Rods casting 2 – 5 line sizes will cover most situations you are likely to encounter. For my own part I use two very different rods for small river work. The first is a seven footer rated AFTM 3 and this is the one I use most of the time. Or specific conditions, such as high water or high winds, I turn to a ten foot Orvis which casts a size 5 line. How come I go for such a long rod? In my experience the biggest trout are active either late in the evening or in high water, so I like to have a rod with plenty in reserve if there is a greater likelihood of meeting a trophy sized fish.

 

 

The Orvis bent into a good sized trout

An additional aspect of fishing in these parts is the state of the banks. Long stretches of small rivers are thickly wooded meaning access is going to be by wading and then casting under the overhanging branches. For obvious reasons this means a short rod is going to be a distinct advantage and is the reason for my trusty seven-footer. I occasionally drool over 6 foot glass wands which must be a pure delight to fish with, but I digress…………….

Reels are whatever you like as long as it matches the rod and has room for the fly line and some backing. You will usually be fishing at short range and if you do hook a trout which can run for 50 or 60 yards you are not going to land it anyway due to the rough nature of the unkempt banks and river beds. I have an itsy-bitsy little reel made by Grey’s which has given years of trouble free service.

boulders

Limestone, the reason the fishing can be so good on these small rivers

Fly lines are simple, all you are ever going to require is a floater, full stop. I personally buy a double tapered floater one size heavier than the rod is rated (so my seven foot rod which is rated AFTM 3 is loaded with a number 4, chopped in half). I lose a little in the way of presentation but I make this up by building a steeply tapered leader.

Bridge pool

The Pollagh near Kiltimagh

Leaders are the only complicated part of the set up. Casts will in general be short so it is vital that every scrap of energy you impart in your casts is transmitted through the line and leader to the fly. That means a stiff butt section and a steeply tapered leader. I nail knot eight to ten inches of stiff 20lb b.s. nylon to the end of the fly line and add 12 inch sections of reducing thickness (usually 4 sections is about right), the last one being 6 pound breaking strain. My leader is then attached to the end. That leader can vary in length depending on conditions and whether I want to add droppers. For most of my small river fishing I use 3 pound b.s. nylon as I find it forgiving and the fish tend not to be overly line shy.

See how clear the water is on the Keel

A brownie putting up a good fight

While that is my usual leader set up I do vary it from time to time. For instance, I have had some success hurling ultra-heavy nymphs into deep holes and these tungsten loaded monsters need a beefier leader to fish properly. In a spate with a team of heavy nymphs I would go as heavy as 6 pound nylon without feeling at any great disadvantage.

Due to rapidly failing eyesight I sometimes use indicators when nymphing and like those ones which twist on to the line so they can be repositioned quickly.

just above the meeting pool with the Gweestion

This is the Trimogue

Let’s focus now on the methods to use on small rivers. The rivers I fish are, in general, only lightly polluted. Population density is low in rural Ireland and there is little in the way of household or industrial waste being flushed into watercourses. By far the biggest pollutant is the agricultural sector. This is cattle rearing country and slurry spraying is a problem. Most of the rivers flow over limestone and the higher pH encourages good weed growth. This means the fish have access to a wide range of invertebrates to feed on. So with all these factors in play you can see that our quarry has lots of food to pick from and our methods need to be flexible to meet the ever changing diet of the fish.

Nymphs are just as effective here as in every other region blessed with Brown trout. Small rivers lend themselves wonderfully to the technique and just about every conceivable form of presentation will work.

on a goldhead nymph

A Roach which fell to a nymph

Dry fly fishing is such a glorious sport at any time, but winkling out a trout from a tight lie on a difficult Irish river is one of angling’s most enjoyable experiences that I know of. There will be lots of opportunities to fish dry fly on the small rivers here, so make sure you bring a good range of dry patterns with you and don’t be afraid to fish blind, ie. When there are no trout rising. I have often caught good fish doing exactly that.

Wet fly fishing is often over looked as irrelevant these days. Fancy deep water nymphing seems to be de rigour among trout bums but I still catch a goodly proportion of my small river trout on wets either cast upstream or swung in the current. One tip I can pass on for this type of water is to consider using a weighted wet fly on the tail of your leader. This will sink the whole team of flies quickly and this can be important if you are fishing at short range.

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Wets

I absolutely love fishing like this and it is a subject I will return to in future posts. In the meantime, please follow this blog so you can keep up to date with what I am up to on the rivers and loughs of County Mayo.

 

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