Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Fishing on the Robe picks up

 

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We went to our favourite restaurant last night, my better half and I. Luckily I had booked a table as the place was packed with others similarly engaged in eating and drinking. The food as superb (the spinach gnocchi with clams and prawns was to die for) and we washed the meal down with lashings of red wine and we talked and laughed. It was a great night. We are in the habit of lingering over our dinner and our conversation turned the dangerous world out there beyond Ireland’s shores. Fears of nuclear war, Trump’s tweets and imbecility, children dying in Syria, Westminster’s ineptitude, Brexit; the list seems to grow with each passing day. It made us both realise just how lucky we are to live in the West of Ireland.

This morning I was tied up with odds and ends around the house and it was after 1pm before I decided to go to the Robe for an hour. I had to shake the doom and gloom I have been feeling for the past week and which was heightened in light of the after dinner conversation last night. A short session swinging small wets in the stream would be just the ticket.

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As you can see from these photos the wild browns were in a cooperative mood for a change and a total of 11 of them came to hand in a little over an hour. A couple of them would have nudged a pound in weight. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I only used 3 flies, a size 14 Partridge and Orange on the bob, a wee size 16 midge pattern int he middle and Hare’s ear with a copper bead head on the tail. Honours were even between all three.

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The fishing took my mind off of the rest of life for the hour and a bit. Refreshed and grounded, I headed back home to enjoy what was left of the holiday weekend.

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Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

After the rain

The rain finally stopped last week and the rivers have been slowly dropping back to more reasonable levels. I had a look at the Robe last weekend but she was over the banks and in the fields in most places so there was no chance of fishing. Today was a beautiful spring day though and so I fired up the old VW, put some CCR on the CD player and headed off in search of my first trout of 2017.

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High, coloured water

My initial look at the river was last Sunday when the rain was still falling. At Hollymount the Robe was charging under the bridge, a full five feet above normal level. Familiar runs and pools were invisible under the brown torrent.

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Last weekend, near flood conditions on the Robe

I elected to fish a few miles above Hollymount today, an area I know well having fished for many years now. I had my eye on one particular pool which usually fishes in high water conditions. Parking up near a bridge I took a look at the water before starting to fish. The levels were certainly down, by the look of the banks some 3 feet lower than a week ago, but the river was still highly coloured. With an air temperature of 15 degrees and bright sunshine it felt like there should be some fly life on the water. I tackled up deep it thought about what to try.

This particular stretch features some nice runs and pools but most of them fish best a little later in the season and in lower water so I marched of down the bank to get to the slower water about a mile down river. The local farmers had been busy erecting new electric fences. It’s a feature of this part of the world that fences are placed as close to the edge of the river as possible, making it hard for us fishers to access the bank without the unpleasantness of occasional electric shocks. I have lost count of the number of those horrible numbing shocks I have had over the years as I tried to negotiate fences.

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Electric fences; oh how I hate these things!

I initially set up with a weighted Hare’s Ear on the tail and a Plover and Hare’s ear on a dropper and fished them down and across. This is a good combination for searching the water normally but today it only seemed to interest small trout. My first of the season took at the very lip of a pool where the water gathered pace and shallowed. At only 6 or 7 inches it was little more than a baby but at least I had broken my duck.

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The first of the season.

A couple of other similar sized lads fell for the charms of the weighted Hare’s Ear too but the sport could hardly be described as hectic. I found a grassy bank to sit on and thought about what was going on around me.

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The beaded hare’s ear

With high water and a strong flow it felt like my flies were not getting down deep enough for the fish to see them. No flies were hatching despite the lovely weather so any action should have been happening on or very close to the bottom. A change to deeply fished nymphs seemed to be a logical option.

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I can’t for the life of me remember where I got those fancy green beads from but they sure work

A pair of tungsten bead weighted nymphs fished below an indicator was soon rigged up. With my failing eyesight the use of an indicator has sadly become a necessity for me these days. Anyway, on the fourth or fifth cast the indicator stabbed forwards and another smallish trout was duly landed. By now it was becoming very warm indeed and the sun beat down from near cloudless skies.

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I worked my way back upstream, fishing hard and with my eyes glued to that indicator. I covered the water carefully and methodically, fanning my casts out across the pool and only when I had covered every inch would I take another step upstream and repeat the process. Being so limited to the amount of fishable water I had to ensure I didn’t miss a single piece of it. Halfway up the pool my indicator gave what I can only describe as a small stutter in its progress back towards me and I struck with a sweep of the rod and a sharp pull on the line with my left hand. The hook found lodgement and a better fish charged off and leaped clear of the brown water.

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Maybe a couple of ounces over the pound

Safely netted and returned, I took stock of the situation and elected to call it a day. The afternoon had flown by, fish had been landed and there was no signs of any flies. The river was far from at its best and I felt that I could fish on for another hour without much improvement in conditions. Enough for one day!

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Spring at last

Spring days like these are treasures. Just to be out on the river bank as the warmth and life returns to the land is something not to be missed. There will be better days in the near future but for now I drank in the views across the Mayo countryside and happily walked back to the bridge and the waiting car. With the gear safely tucked in the back I turned the key and pressed ‘play’. The Fogerty lads were singing ‘Up around the bend’ which was more than appropriate for the day that was in it.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing

Hail, drains and trees

The weather is all over the place. After a couple of days of unseasonably warm, dry weather the rains came back yesterday evening. Temperatures dropped overnight and today dawned cool and breezy. Showers, some of them of hail, added to the feeling that winter was sneaking back again and I had to push myself to go down to the Robe for a few casts. The gear was chucked into the car and I headed south by east to my ‘new’ spot.

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This is a very deceptive photo – it was bloody freezing!

My plan was to run down the pools below the bridge quickly with the wet fly then switch to the dry and fish back upstream again before prospecting above the bridge for the last hour or so. As it turned out I stuck fairly closely to this plan but it could have worked out better I think.

The most notable feature of the day was the very strong, gusting wind. At its worst the near gale force wind ripped and tugged at everything and fired hail at me like shotgun pellets. The cold during the squalls was intense and it really felt more like February than mid-April. This did not deter the Large Dark Olives from hatching and they appeared in good numbers for the 3 hours I was fishing. The trout showed their appreciation by rising occasionally to the duns. I can’t say it was a good rise today but it was the best surface action I have witnessed so far this season. If we had not suffered the cold wind I suspect today could have been a wonderful day’s fishing.

I gowned up at the car and decided that a fleece hat was called for in the conditions instead of my usual baseball cap. I was glad that I sacrificed sartorial elegance for warmth as the hail showers came frequently and each one seemed to be more severe than its predecessor.  At times my hands were frozen and I had to break from fishing to rubs some warmth back into them. Ah, the joys of spring fishing!

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In between the hail showers

I cut off the old leader which was on my line and built a new one with only one dropper instead of my normal two on a wet fly cast. The wild conditions would be challenging enough without the added problems of trying to stop 3 flies tangling. As it was, a number of flies became victims of bankside vegetation with around a dozen meeting their end on the far bank due to the gusting wind. I opted for a copper beaded PT on the tail and my experimental Iron Blue Dun on the bob, but Partridge and Olive Spiders, Beaded Endrick Spiders and P&O all made cameo appearances during the afternoon.

The first pool below the bridge gave me a flavour of just how difficult this session was going to be. After  dozen cast the line was whipped into the far bank by a big gust of wind and the flies lost on a branch. A new cast was tied up and a hail shower chucked frozen water down on me. I could see olives on the surface so I figured it was still worth the effort, so I fished down the pool. Sure enough, I started to rise fish but hooking them was a problem. I checked the hooks – all OK. I altered my casting so I was fishing more squarely to the current but that didn’t seem to make any difference. I swapped the tiny size 18 IBD and put an Olive Partridge Spider size 14 on the bob (thinking the small hook was maybe not getting a good hold). That still didn’t make a difference. Time to try another piece of water.

The pool broke into a fast, shallow run and off the far bank there was a rock under the surface. This chunk of limestone pushed the flow out and created a likely looking lie. The gale was proving to be tedious to fish in and more flies were left in reeds before I eventually got things together and made a good cast just ahead of the rocky lie. I wish I could say there was a powerful take and I struck it perfectly but the truth is the trout just ‘appeared’ on the end of the line. He fought well in the fast water and I was relieved to bring him to hand, a handsome fish of around a pound. The PT was wedged in his scissors. Leader and flies were checked and after a few more casts I rose, hooked and landed another fish of the same size.

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First fish of the day

By now the hatch was well under way and some fish were showing on the top of the water. I fished the wets down the river casting into likely spots and keeping moving the whole time. By the time I reached the bottom of the fishable water I had taken 5 trout, all between three-quarters and a pound. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because the conditions were challenging. I switched to the dry fly as I had planned and fished my way back up the river. If fishing wet had been hard trying to fish the dry fly in the windy conditions proved to be next to impossible. Admittedly I did rise a few trout but none of them were hooked due to the large loop in the line between the rod and the fly caused by the wind. I regained the bridge and paused to consider the options.

Standing on the bridge the view upstream didn’t look overly impressive. The right bank was steep and topped with a barbed wire fence. Getting as far as the bank looked daunting as there was a big drop over the side of the bridge on that bank. The water looked deep and slow as far as the bend, far from ideal. On the left bank a large drain came in about 50 yards above the bridge.

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Your average Irish drain

Ireland is criss-crossed with drains like this. Without them much of the agricultural land would be bog, so I can see why they are so necessary. I do have misgivings about draining every square inch of land though and these drains funnel large volumes of water into river systems, creating problems further downstream. From an anglers point of view drains are a royal pain. While some of them have been bridged the vast majority have to be navigated by wading or in the case of the smaller ones, jumping. Some drains are death traps; deep and with soft, silty bottoms. This one would have been very hard to cross but luckily there was a good bridge over it so I decided to fish the left bank for an hour.

I negotiated some wire and electric fences and got into the water in a large, slow moving pool. I would have prefered to fish it from the throat of the pool but trees on my bank prevented access. I had changed back to the wet fly and was quickly into a lovely trout of better than a pound. A second one followed and then a third, the last one being a bit smaller.

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The smallest of the three

I turned to face upstream and fished upstream wet for a while, landing 3 more fish in truly deplorable conditions of gusting wind and hail showers. Timing the strike fishing upstream is something I find hard to get used to this early in the season. Practice is the only answer to this deficiency and it is worth the effort as the upstream wet fly is so deadly.

The trees were getting closer and closer together and it got to the point where is simply wasn’t possible to fish the fly any more from the left bank.

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Now how do you cast in this little lot?

It was now obvious I had made a wrong move by electing to fish from the left bank. The trees lined this bank as far as I could see while the right bank was open and clear. Worse still was the sight of some lovely fly water just up river, water which was completely unfishable from the bank I was on. By now it was nearly 3pm and the hatch was slackening off, so hiking back to the bridge then up the far bank would be a lot of effort for little reward. Better to leave it for another day.

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Can’t wait to try this stretch out

I went back to the deep pool and tied on a dry fly again. With still one or two trout showing I thought I could maybe winkle out a brace but it wasn’t to be. I rose a couple but the same old issue of slack line due to the wind beat me. Fishing wets meant I could tighten up on the flies once they were in the water and drag was not an issue. Fishing dry removed the option of tightening the line as it caused the fly to drag. I wound up and trudged back to the car. Eleven landed and a lot more trout risen, pricked or lost. Not too bad for 3 hours of hail, drains and trees I think.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

A typical spring day on the river

16th of March. A Monday, blessed with an overcast sky and light winds from the North East. By 11.30am I have cleared the desk and can hit the river for a few hours. A west wind would be better but beggars can’t be choosers at this time of the year so any day that is not frosty or stormy can be considered a fishing day. I make my excuses and check the gear is all in the car. Then it’s on the the N84 and the short trip to the River Robe.

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The wet fly accounted for a nice wee trout in the first pool I fished and a couple of others splashed at the flies without holding on. A sprinkling of Large Dark Olives were hatching, always a welcome sight at this time of year. I fished down through the next pool and then the one blow that without further action despite the trickle of duns on the surface. Out of the lee of the bridge the temperature dropped as the wind cooled the air and I felt this was what was putting he fish off. I re-traced my steps and headed off upstream to find a warmer spot.

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A trudge across a couple of fields brought me to a good pool which has given me big fish in the past. A few minutes watching for signs of life revealed some LDO’s and also a hatch of stoneflys. A small trout was rising steadily below me and another fish was taking flies off the surface some yards upstream. Time for a change.

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On went a dry fly, a size 14 Olive Klinkhammer to be exact. I managed to fool the trout in front of me and he was carefully returned to the water after a brief fight. Great! My first trout on the dry fly this year. I worked my way up river looking for more rising fish but none were forthcoming. Searching the water with the dry fly produced nothing and after a promising start I was beginning to struggle. I had not fished this part of the river before and the going became harder as trees and fences barred my way.

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Perseverance brought me to a nice pool which I fished through with the dry fly without response. A change to a nymph was equally unsuccessful and since there was no sign of rising fish I wound in and pushed on upstream once more.

Time to change the setup again so I swapped back to the wet fly and a three fly cast of Olive Partridge, Plover and Hare’s Ear and a Beaded PT occupying the tail position.

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By now the wind had swung East and it was cold. Fly life has ceased too, so things were not looking too optimistic for me. However, the team swung around perfectly in the current as I worked down the pool and eventually the line tightened as a perfect Brownie grabbed the PT.

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Enough was enough and I plodded back to the car going over the days events in my head. The trout were keen to take but only in certain pools. Other spots failed to produce a single take. Maybe I had stuck with the dry fly too long today and I should have gone back to a team of sunk patterns sooner. Ah well, we are always wiser after the event.

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The fields were well populated with new lambs and the daffodils are in full bloom now adding a splash of colour to cheer the heart. So ended a typical spring day’s trouting. No monsters but a few problems to solve and the old familiar tug on the line and a wink of bronze under the surface. Spring is here at last!

This post is in memory of Ally Skinner, a great fisherman who would have been 40 years old on this day. His loss at such an early age is keenly felt by all who knew him. Rest in Peace Ally.

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Fishing in Ireland

First casts

The morning drifted past today with no chance of sneaking off to the river, but after lunch I grabbed the chance to fish for an hour on the River Robe. The weather was horribly bright but the river was running at a good level and colour after recent showers. It was after 3pm before I was on the water, too late for any serious thoughts of seeing a hatch of flies so this was always going to be a reconnaissance mission rather than a major fish catching session.

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I set up with a Hear’s ear goldhead  and fished upstream through a couple of pools without a touch. A sprinkling of small duns in the air suggested I had missed a hatch earlier in the day. Onwards and upwards though and I made my way upstream.

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A change to wet fly was called for so on went a Partridge and Orange on the dropper and a beaded Hares Ear on the tail. The flies fished nicely through the pool but again, there was no interest from the trout. It was very bright indeed so I was not too disappointed at the lack of success and was just enjoying being out on a day like this.

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The next pool upriver is deep and slow with trees overhanging along one bank. It usually holds a few big fish but with no hatch and blazing sunshine I decided to give it a miss this time. A tramp over a couple of fields brought me to a lovely run which has always been good to me in the past.

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Casting around the clock to search through the little pockets of water between bushes and then working the flies down and across eventually resulted in a soft take. It was obviously a small fish but I took my time in getting him to hand as I didn’t want to lose the first fish of the season. Sure enough it rolled on the surface and was lifted out for a quick photo before being released back to the stream. He had taken the hare’s ear and was nipped in the very front of the mouth. Only around 8 inches it was still a welcome start to the new season for me.

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I fished on down for a few more yards but there was no further action so I headed back to the car and the drive home. OK so it was hardly and action packed afternoon but it was good to be out in the fresh air again after a long winter.

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Fishing in Ireland

What to use in March?

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Early season mean low water temperatures and not much surface activity so my normal approach to trouting on rivers at this time of year is either upstream nymphing or wet fly fished up/down/across/anyway I can get it in the water. Let’s start with the nymph.

I fish almost exclusively with bead-headed nymphs these days. There are still some other designs in my nymph box but in practice I just grab a gold or copper headed hare’s ear or PT and fish away with that. There may be small variations in the pattern such as different ribs or additional thorax covers but I am much more concerned about the weight of the nymph than the dressing. That means I carry a range of sizes, from 10 down to 16 and also a range of weights. Normal brass beads, tungsten beads and additional weight under the dressing provided by either copper or lead wire mean I can vary the depth I am fishing at to meet the particular piece of water I am fishing. I also carry a lot of them because I tend to lose a lot in trees, bushes and stuck on the bottom.

Leader length is something I play around with a lot when I am nymphing, again I am trying to get to the correct depth for the fish to at least see the fly. I roam over fairly long stretches of the rivers so that means lots of chopping and changing to meet the challenges of each new pool and riffle as I work my way up river. We don’t have any Grayling here in Ireland (unfortunately) so I am concentrating solely on the Brownies. A normal day will see my nymph my way upstream and fishing a wet fly as I retrace my steps heading back downstream to where the car is parked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If I am fishing upstream wet fly I tend to use simple spider patterns like the Partridge & Orange or Black Spider, but when I am fishing down and across i prefer a team of three flies and often include a beaded thorax pattern on the tail (see the Hare’s Ear with a gold bead thorax, above). This gives me the bit of weight which is sometimes required to get down to the trout. Down and across is a lovely way to fish and can be very effective at times, but I find nymphing will generally produce more and better fish than the wet fly this early in the year.

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Even the faithful old Partridge & Orange gets a bit of an uplift from me. All that is required is the addition of a small bronze peacock herl thorax to the fly. I found this idea in a book by Mike Harding and since it sounded good I gave it a lash. Sure enough, peacock herl thorax flies do seem to be more effective. I think this could be due to the hackle being forced out more and thus pulsating more in the current giving a more life-like impression of a struggling nymph. Try it for yourself, it only adds a few seconds to the time required to tie up the fly and any fly dresser worth his or her salt has a stock of peacock herl at hand.

The heavy rain and howling wind outside appear to be abating. Time for a few casts?

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