Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Half Stoned

One of the great benefits of living and fishing in these parts is the lack of pressure to catch something. There is a strong and highly organised competitive angling scene in Ireland but I am not competitive in life and certainly not when it comes to angling. For me the simple joys of a few hours fishing for wild trout and salmon with no great expectations of success are all I want. This in turn creates a freedom to experiment, be that with tactics or patterns. One of these experiments is my variant of the the Half Stone.

A fly with its origins in the South West of England, this is a pattern I have meant to try for years now and simply never got around to it. One winter evening I was contemplating emerger patterns and though about this fly. I am unsure if it was originally meant as a copy of a hatching fly but the palmered thorax looked good to me so I set about tying a few.

Half Stone ‘normal’ dressing:

Silk: primrose yellow

Tails: a few fibres of blue dun cock hackle

Body: in two halves, primrose yellow silk at the rear, moles fur dubbed on to the tying silk at the front

Hackle: a blue dun hackle palmered over the moles fur

While I liked the overall shape of the fly I felt the colours were too bright for the rivers here so I set about making a few alterations. I wanted to retain the half palmered look but felt adding a second hackle would give the fly more ‘life’ so I added a ginger cock hackle and wound it with the blue dun. Then I added a rib to lock the hackles in place. I also figured the primrose silk was a bit too bright for what I wanted – an imitation of a hatching ephemerid. So I swapped the primrose for gossamer no. 6, a much more muted shade of yellow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both hackles tied in together

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tail fibres tied in

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A pinch of mole’s fur

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gold wire tied in and the thorax dubbed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhackles wound down over the thorax

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

finished fly, my Half Stone variant

I am planning on using this fly during Large Dark Olive hatches and by fishing it wet on the top dropper position I can keep it fairly close to the surface where I hope it will fool the brownies mopping up emergers. There is a very particular situation which I have in mind for the pattern. Much of the rivers where I fish are heavily wooded and some pools are only accessible from above, meaning normal dry emerger fishing (casting upstream) is out of the question. The half-palmered wet idea is my way of combatting this problem. We will see if it works soon!

Advertisements
Standard
Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

New beginnings

 

I am hopeful that tomorrow I will escape the drudgery of paid employment for a few hours to enjoy a few casts and mark the start of my 2016 season. Before then I need to sort out my tackle and make some final repairs. I am planning a short trip to the River Robe and in particular a stretch which promised much but produced only limited results last spring. High water is needed on this short section of the river and we have plenty of the wet stuff here in Ireland this year. Indeed, most of the country is still saturated after a long winter of near constant rain. Temperatures are still low, ranging from 2 to 5 degrees lately, so the probability is I will be deep nymphing or at best swinging a team of wets in the cold water.

 

I have a couple of new fly patterns to christen including a small Stonefly nymph which looks good in the fly box. As usual, I have been tweaking some patterns in the hope of improving their powers of fooling the fish. Adding a fur or herl thorax behind a soft hackle on spiders really seems to make the fly more effective so I’ve tied up a clatter of them for this year. Partridge and Orange, Snipe and Purple and most of the other classics have all been given this treatment as well as my own patterns.

 

I have already checked all my rods for damaged whippings, broken or chipped rings and worn handles, and all are in fine fettle. My reels need a quick once over to clean and oil them (most of them never saw the water last year). My lines are also fine as I unwound them at the end of last season and they just need to be re-loaded on to the various reels again. Where some work is required is the making of new butts for my leaders. I like to use heavy nylon butts for the link between the fly line and the leader proper and only occasionally do I use those braided jobs which are so popular these days. I admit they are very useful when you want to add a sinking section to a floating line but I think they prefer the stiffness of heavy nylon as an aid to turning over my casts. Depending on the amount and type of fishing I am doing these butts can last a whole season or need to be changed every few weeks.

 

Why not use fluorocarbon instead? Two reasons for me, firstly fluorocarbon sinks, so it is no use for dry fly fishing and secondly I keep snapping the damn stuff! I seem to be in a small minority of anglers who suffer from this but I have a tendency to break fluorocarbon at every opportunity and have lost all faith in it as a leader material.

 

Other pieces of kit which causes me problems are nets. This has only started in the last five years or so, before that I owned 2 nets and I can’t recall them ever causing me a minute’s doubt. Nowadays I have 4 nets to pick from and they all present a range of ailments. Sticking telescopic handles, seized locking mechanisms and torn bags all need addressed before Saturday rolls along. One of my trout nets needs a new bag and the spare has a rip in it which I only discovered the other day.

I have no shortage of flies to pick from and some may suggest I own too many but that is part of the fun for me. I might try to sort the teeming hundreds of wets/drys/nymphs into a system which is easy to use on the riverbank on a blustery spring afternoon, thus saving me a high level of frustration and overuse of bold language. I am thinking about filling one box with favourite patterns and seeing how that works out for me. By applying the 80/20 rule I believe this should reduce the time wasted while fishing by a considerable amount.

 

Prospects for the new season are hard to quantify after the wet winter we had. Did the prolonged periods of high water affect trout stocks? Was the relatively high temperatures we ‘enjoyed’ good or bad for the rivers and their inhabitants? What changes to the banks and river bed will I find after the long periods of damaging flooding? Some stretches of the Robe have high, soft banks of earth which will probably be radically altered this spring. Perhaps the high water will have encouraged some lough trout who run the rivers to spawn to linger in the flowing water. The Keel River will be a favourite candidate for this behaviour as Mask fish regularly turn up there early doors.

 

Then there is the personal question of how will I cope with my arthritis this season? Last season my mobility was very limited and pain levels reached an alarming and debilitating level with wading being transformed from one of the pleasures of our sport to pure torture. Those of who are afflicted by arthritis or other life altering diseases know the frustration wrought when the sport you love is severely compromised due to pain and physical limitations but if you are lucky enough to be in good health I would urge you to get out there and enjoy life to the maximum now. Live and fish each day like it is your last, you never know when your physical or mental functions will deteriorate or desert you. For me personally, the changes to my diet have certainly improved my day to day health but the challenges of the riverbank are now upon me, challenges I eagerly accept but with the trepidation of one who lost many battles last year. Too often during 2015 my fishing days were punctuated by deliberately missing out pools where I couldn’t wade, river crossings which not attempted or abandoned due to the pain or even sessions cut short as I limped back to the car with swollen ankles and deflated heart. I’m hopeful this year I will perform much better.

Right then, enough writing for now. I will start the tasks outlined above and give the Robe an auld lash tomorrow if the weather is fine and report back to you good folks if I am blessed with a measure of success.

 

 

 

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Planning for the new season

Don’t you just love technology? OK, so it kind of takes over our lives sometimes and swallows up too much of our free time (if we let it), but on the whole technology enriches our everyday lives. Here in the West of Ireland I use Google Earth to look for likely places to fish. Much of the fishing for trout on the small rivers around here is not recorded or easily available, even to locals. Trout are seen as inferior to salmon and nobody really pays them much attention, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. The rivers are in general lightly fished once you are off the beaten track but they are heavily overgrown and access to the banks is a royal pain in the bum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Robe flowing through a wooded section

Today is a cold and miserable day outside, so after our normal walk Nessie and I are settled in the warmth of the sitting room. Laptop open and internet connected I am scanning Google Earth for tell tale signs of potential new fishing spots. There is a logical sequence to this process, the first question being can I even get to a part of the river? You see roads in Mayo are few and often end some distance for the riverbank. Even if there is tarmac close to the water, deep drains or rough ground can make the few hundred yards between the place the car is parked and the river difficult or even dangerous. And don’t even start me on parking! As a rule there is nowhere to park. Roadside verges are universally soft/boggy and more than once I have returned to find the old VW listing heavily to one side where she has sunk in the muck. Roads are very narrow and used by farm machines mainly, so you have to be very careful when looking for a spot to park up. Right now I am eyeing up a section of the River Robe I have never fished before and I can see why – there is no road close by and there are lots of wide drains in the area. I will keep looking……………..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very productive stream which I found thanks to Google Earth

Hang on, here is the remains of the old disused Sligo to Galway railway track which may just be OK for parking the car. It is still quite a long way from the river but in my experience the old railway is good for walking on and this could be just what I am looking for. A lot will depend on the ground and if it is solid enough for parking, but it looks promising so far.

railway

The river is off this map, just to the North along the disused railway track

Now comes the second step – is this stretch even worth fishing? These limestone rivers often have long, deep, slow stretches which hold very few trout. For example, the 4 miles immediately upstream of Ballinrobe are almost dead straight, 10 – 20 feet deep and resemble a canal more than a river. Great of you are fishing for Pike but pretty rubbish for Brownies.

Now for the final step. This is where technology really helps out. Zooming in to an eye height of about 200 metres there is sufficiently good resolution to make out key features of the river. Bigger stuff like weirs and bridges are easy to find of course, but I look for any feature which could possibly be of interest to the fish and therefore to me. Sharp bends, fallen trees, shallows, narrows etc could all possibly be spots worthy of a few casts.

bend (2)

Above is a screen shot of a short section of the Robe which I have fished for several seasons now. The most obvious feature is the falls on the bottom left of the photo. I initially thought this would be a great pool but in practice it is very deep and turbulent and has only yielded an occasional trout for me. The river is shallow above that pool and holds mainly small fish, but wading upstream I found a good lie under that bright green tree in the bottom right of the shot. So your original target pools may end up not being that good but you can still find good fish in that area.

Depending on the time of year when the images were taken it is sometimes possible to make out weedbeds under the surface. Streamy water appears as lighter areas and while it is impossible to make out things like individual rocks which divide the flow it there is sufficient evidence to make intelligent guesses about where fish would lie. This is not an exact science and many, many times I have been disappointed to find upon arrival the river is not accessible/fishable. Then again, this usage of Google Earth has led me to some truly wonderful fishing that would have taken me much longer to find by simply wandering up or downstream from a bridge (the normal method hereabouts).

looking at the wier

Features like this weir as easy to find, see below:

weir

In summary, Google Earth is a valuable tool when time is at a premium and hours/days spent driving down country boreens (roads) and hiking across fields only to find barren water is a waste of time. With experience you can make a pretty good guess at where to try and save you a lot of time and hassle. Always remember to ask for permission from landowners before crossing fields and follow the country code, closing all gates behind you.

If you found this post useful why not follow me? Just hit the button and you will get al my latest posts.

Standard
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!

Standard
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.

IMG_0149

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.

Standard
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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Notice the stumps of the chopped down trees

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Messing around with the Hare’s Ear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A standard Gold Head GRHE nymph

The GRHE gold head nymph is one of my standard patterns but I thought I would tie up a variation, so here it is:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is dressed on a curved grub hook and I added some chopped up fl. lime floss and red fur to the HE to form the body. I also added a partridge hackle dyed brown olive for movement. A copper wire rib and a thorax cover of opal mirage add a bit of flash. I will give it a trial the next time I am out.

Standard