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, fly tying, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

The Bumper

I always have a few of these flies in my box as they come in handy on those days when you have no idea what to try next. It is a very simple variation of that grand old favourite of the trout fisher the Wickhams Fancy. I love the original in all it’s different forms but mainly as either a tiny dry fly (anything bigger than a size 16 is a monster), or as a middle fly on a traditional cast for rainbows. I lost count of the number of ‘bows I netted on a size 12 Wickhams many moons ago!

The Bumper

The Bumper

But back to the Bumper. It hails from the North East of Scotland I believe and it did sterling work for me on the rivers Dee and Ythan. It was never responsible for big baskets of trout nor indeed can I recall landing any particular monsters on this fly. It’s ability to produce the odd ‘normal’ sized fish is what makes it useful. I like it on the bob and enjoy stripping it back to me at a fair old lick. It is a poor imitation of anything natural so it pays not to give the trout time to look at it too closely.  Here is the tying:

Hook: wetfly, size 10 (I have tried other sizes but none seem to work as well as a standard shank 10)

Silk: brown or black

Tail: a bunch of red game cock hackle fibres, reasonably long

Rib: Fine gold wire

body: flat gold tinsel

Body hackle: red game cock, slightly long in fibre

Head hackle: Bright blue soft cock hackle, 4 or 5 turns

As a slight variation I sometimes use a long fibred grizzle hackle dyed bright blue at the head.

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Here are a few I tied up this week:

I will experiment with a version for salmon next season. I think that adding a wing of squirrel hair and a blue muddler head this could be a useful pattern for Lough Beltra in a good wave.

So there you have it, a great fly to have when you are scratching your head and muttering oaths under your breath, Tie on a Bumper and pull it in at a good clip. It will give the trout toothache!

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Random photos

My computer is full of photos taken when fishing, most of which will never see the light of day, so here are a few random pics for you to enjoy.

My boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

a boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

This one has obviously been idle for some time!

A Beltra Springer

A Beltra Springer

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

An audience

An audience

Rising tide, Ballyness bay, Donegal

Rising tide, Ballyness Bay, Donegal

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

Bridge over the Robe

Bridge over the Robe

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

The weather is settled and dry so salmon fishing is dead slow here. Trout angling is patchy but there are still some good fish being caught on Lough Mask. Expect things to pick up with the next spell of wet and windy weather. Planning an all-nighter off the shore this week!

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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

The Iron Blue Dun

I want to discuss the Iron Blue Dun (it is too much hassle to write Iron Blue Dun all the time so I will refer to it as ‘IBD’ in this post). For such a tiny insect it has generated a huge amount of words in  angling literature, and rightly so. From the earliest history of fly fishing the IBD has been recognised as a hugely important species. I won’t bore you with the minute differences between the three separate species as they so closely resemble each other it requires a magnifying glass to differentiate. I am more concerned with the practicalities of catching trout when the IBD hatches out.

IMG_6875 There is a common misconception that the IBD only hatches out on cold, windy days when no other fly life is active. While I have certainly seen them hatch in just such conditions I have also seen them coming off the water on mild and calm days too so I am inclined to treat the whole ‘bad weather fly’ theory as highly dubious. What is not in doubt is the high regard the fish have for the IBD. Back in the days when I fished the Aberdeenshire Don it was not unusual to see heavy hatches of Large Dark Olives, March Browns and IBDs on the same day. The Olives would come down the rivers in a pretty steady trickle and the March Browns would just appear in explosive bursts, none on the surface one minute then a host of them like miniature speckled sail boats the next. Within the space of a few moments the March Browns would be gone again only for the process to repeat itself  20 or so minutes later. The IBD hatch can vary widely. Some days they would gradually build from one or two flies to a heavy hatch over the period of up to an hour while on other occasions they never seemed to appear in more than a trickle.

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The problem for the fly fisher is to initially spot the IBD when the hatch starts. They are tiny and in moving water can be hard to spot, especially when other species are present at the same time. I have been guilty of missing the start of an IBD hatch more than once because I simply didn’t see them. Surely an experienced fisher would not not caught out like this? Well, let me tell you that when olives and March Browns are drifting down the stream and trout are rising all over it is very easy to fix your concentration on what seems to be the obvious and automatically cast your olive or March Brown copies at the risers without stopping to study the water for the possible appearance of something else. I have been fooled many times into thinking I knew what was happening because I had seen fish actually take a few olives. Trout will accept the olives all right but they much prefer the IBD when it is available in my experience.

Iron Blue spider pattern

That brings me to the question of tactics and fly patterns for fishing the IBD hatch. There are a number of traditional spider patterns which imitate the IBD such as the Snipe & Purple and the Dark Watchett. Fished up or downstream as the situation dictates these are very effective cathers of trout. Avoid the temptation to use flies bigger than a size 16. the naturals are very small and size seems to be one of the triggers for the fish. Some IBD patterns sport a crimson tag and while I have netted numerous fish on flies with this adornment I remain sceptical they add significantly to the success rate.

Personally I prefer to tackle trout rising to IBD’s with a dry fly. I find that they take a floating dun imitation well and will come to it even if the hatch is light. Tiny klinkhammers and parachutes are ideal for this job. Brightly coloured wing posts are a real help to those of us with dodgy eyesight.

You can expect to find the IBD in numbers from now until mid-May so be prepared to scan the water closely for them. It is so easy to miss them but you can be sure the trout won’t. Those minute flies which resemble spots of ink in the water can provide you with some unforgettable sport if you keep your eyes peeled.

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Fishing in Ireland

A difficult day

Robeen Bridge as a handy entry point on the River Robe. Both banks are clear downstream of the bridge but there is a heavily wooded stretch immediately upstream and this means that you have to get into the water and wade upriver to fish this part. The bottom is very slippery and there are some deep holes to watch out for so it makes for exciting fishing. Well it did, because now some of the trees have been cleared from the left bank. I decided to give this newly cleared section a try today.

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Notice the stumps of the chopped down trees

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The branches were piled up in the field

This is always a challenging piece of water and today it proved to be even harder than normal. There was very little fly life and a horrible cold, blustery wind made the fishing uncomfortable. After an hour of fruitless casting I gave it up and packed the gear up. Time for a change of scene.

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A few miles upstream I parked up and headed down to a series of small pools which had provided good sport in the past. The wind had increased in strength and was now a major problem for me. Casts had to be kept short and each one finished with the rod point very low to push the line into the teeth of the gale. Some Large Dark Olives were hatching and some stoneflys were also being blown past me in the wind. Time was against me as I had been late in starting so I fished quickly downriver. Not long after I started I had a lovely take and a brightly marked brownie gave an acrobatic display on its way to the bank. He has taken a Partridge and Orange tied on the bob.

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With no signs of surface activity I stuck to fishing wet fly. I covered the water quickly and passed many smaller lies which would have taken time to access. Tangles were becoming a problem as I pushed each cast hard against the wind. I spotted most of them quickly and they were easy to clear but one took me ages to untangle and on reflection I would have been quicker to cut the old leader off and replace it with a complete new one. I also swapped flies a few times but nothing seemed to be working today. The already sparse fly hatch also seemed to be petering out. One LDO did land on me, giving me the chance of a decent photograph.

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I stuck a Plover and Hare’s Ear on the middle dropper and it produced a wee trout after only a few casts. Any thoughts that I had finally cracked it were cruelly dispelled during a 30 minute period of intense fishing without eliciting a single response. This was proving to be a tough day!

Off I went down to a long, deep pool which was slightly sheltered from the cold wind. I fished this carefully but once again came up empty handed. Around the corner was a deep run under a bush, hardly a pool really. I rose a fish (which I missed by a country mile) before finally setting the hook in a nice trout.

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Another smaller fish took me a few yards further down taking the total for the day to 4. I doubled back to go over the last two pools again but before starting I sat down and tried to think through what was happening. With no surface activity it was logical any trout on the feed were taking nymphs. I was seeing many more stoneflies than olives, so there was a reasonable chance that a wet stonefly copy could do the trick. I found one in the box and tied it on the bob, adding an Endrick Spider on the tail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first pool was still dead. Down on the bottom pool it was a different story though. I rose half a dozen trout, losing a couple and landing two more. All were on the stonefly.

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The wind was blowing a gale by now and I had chores at home so it was time to call it a day. I failed to hook any monsters today. The problems were many and it took a bit of work to seek out some sport but it was satisfying to catch at least a few modestly proportioned fish. It’s still only March so there is time for the fishing to pick up.

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Fishing in Ireland

As good as it gets

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The bridge, good water below here

19th March. The bright and warm weather is unusual for this time of year and I decide to go fishing, hoping the good weather will have raised water temperatures and brought the trout on the feed. So with Bob Seger blasting out on the CD in the car I motor down to the River Robe again.

I park up near a bridge and take a peek over the parapet. The water is at pretty much at a perfect height and colour and even at the first glance I see Stoneflys hatching. There are lots of them in the air already and it is only 10.30am, so it could be a heavy hatch today. I set up a team of wets, tying on the same three I used the last time I was out, then I head down to the first pool.

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The first pool below the bridge

Half way down the pool the line tightens and a 12 oz trout comes easily to hand. It had taken the Plover and Hare’s ear on the middle dropper. A good start.

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The first of the day

I work my way downstream, fishing carefully and searching out all the likely spots. Having fished this stretch many times I know these pools well and am full of confidence that more trout will come along. This confidence begins to evaporate though as no further offers are forthcoming. More of a concern is the total lack of surface activity despite the now heavy hatch of stoneflys and a steady stream of Large Dark Olives. One or two Iron Blue Duns are also hatching so it is unusual for the trout not to feed on or near the surface. By now the sun is very strong and maybe this is keeping the trout near the bottom.

Break through!

I change the top dropper for another beaded nymph and try to pay more attention to any shaded lies under the far bank. This requires a lot of concentration to avoid hanging the flys up on bushes and branches on the other bank. I am absorbed in this task, watching where each cast lands and making small adjustments to angles, mends and speed. I’m happy the flies are fishing properly and I slowly make my way down river either crouched down to keep of the skyline or wading close to my own bank when required. It’s hot and bright and I am in a world of my own here.

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I cast as close to the far bank as I dare (the actual spot is above) and as soon as my flies touch the surface a large brown head appears and then promptly disappears as my line tightens. It is obviously a good fish and he tugs and runs with spirit but I get him to the net without much hassle.

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The Plover and Heare’s Ear has done the business again. I was lucky on this occasion as my cast must have landed just as he was looking up. I estimate his weight at nearly a pound and a half and after a quick couple of pics he is popped back into the water.

I continue to work my way down the river. A kingfisher darts past, a flash of azure and orange. Another couple of smallish brownies are caught and released, then one of nearly a pound comes to the net. 5 so far and it is not even noon yet.

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 Poult Bloa. This one is heavily dressed for fast water

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have only seen 2 fish rise so far, hence the reason I am sticking with the wet fly.

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I lose two fish in quick succession, both of them hooked at reasonably long range (for a small river). To mitigate this I find a gap in the thick gorse and bramble bushes and try again but this proves to be a mistake. The line catches on a bramble bush and I spend ages retrieving line and flies.

I pick up a small trout and lose another of similar size and I push on down to a good pool I know.

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Another small lad is landed quickly after only 3 casts in the neck of the pool and I rise another soon afterwards. I cast again and the fish has another go at the fly but fails to make contact. Lift, cast, mend and lengthen the line so I can try to induce a take with a slow pull as the cast reaches the trout’s lie. Bang, it works like a dream and the reel loses 5 yards of line in one rush. But there is something wrong – I see the trout as he comes to the surface and he is no more than 8 inches long. Then is dawns on me, I have hooked two at the same time!

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A good job they were not bigger!

They are like 2 peas in a pod and both are safely returned. It has been years since that has happened to me. The rest of the pool is fished out with further action and I trudge on again to a tricky little pool below. There are very few flies hatching now and I have already decided to call it a day after I fish this one

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Half way down the pool I catch a lovely 12 incher on a Poult Bloa which I had just tied on. Every fisher knows that warm glow of self satisfaction when a newly wetted fly does the business. It must be like a football manager making a substitution and the new striker goes and bangs in a goal right away.

I check everything is in order and re-cast. This is an awkward pool, there are multiple flows and a big back eddy at my side. Keeping the flies moving and controlling the line is difficult. To get under the bushes on the far bank I have to side cast too, so this rapidly degenerates into some kind of technical examination of my skills. To be honest I had all but forgotten about the trout until an almighty wallop brought me back to reality. Fish on!

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Safely in the net

This turns out to be a cracking brownie of around a pound. Back he goes and I wind in and start the long walk back to the car. As I re-trace my steps I ponder the day. 11 trout, all on wets. No surface activity. A good ratio of hooked to landed. I pack the gear into the car and take one last look at the river. For a river trout fisher days like today are just about as good as it gets.

Warren Zevon seems like a suitable choice of music for the journey home and I join in heartily as I head first west to Ballinrobe then north to Castlebar. I don’t think the smile left my face the whole way!

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