Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Rainy day on the Robe

Rain fell from the battleship grey skies, the day had been damp since early this morning. Leaden clouds poured pewter drops on me as I tackled up at the bridge across the river. Wet and cold before I even started, the day took a definite turn for the worse when I found there were no thick socks in the car. I normally have lots of pairs lurking in the back of the motor but I must have tidied them up at some point and now I was going to pay the price with cold feet while fishing. Note to self: Chaos is the natural order, DON’T tidy the car!

New sign, that wasn’t here last season!

A new sign has been erected by the Fisheries board at the bridge, giving some very basic information about catch limits, seasons etc.

General angling regs. for the river Robe

Across the way I spotted another new addition – a nice set of steps for access to the upstream part of the river. I have not fished this side of the river above the bridge as it used to be home to a particularly large black bull. Warning signs gave you notice not to enter the field but now the big lad was gone, perhaps to a new home or maybe he is now sausages on your breakfast plate. Anyway, the new ladder makes entry to the field and the river much easier and I look forward to giving that stretch a try out in May/June when good spinner fishing can be had on the weedy, slow-moving water there.

A grand new set of steps

Slow water above the bridge but it holds fish during the summer

The farmer’s gate was in poor condition and held together with a piece of blue rope, delaying me as I squeezed through and then had to re-tie the rope to close the gate. Finally, I was at the waterside and ready to go!

holding water below the bridge

With a pair of wets tied on I fished my way down the first pool without a touch. I was dismayed at the low water, at least a couple of feet below what I would expect at this time of year. Although it was raining today it will take a solid week of wet weather to bring the level back up to where it should be.

The fisheries board had also been busy on the banks too. The trees on both banks have been either trimmed back or even removed altogether. This is a very welcome change for the better as many parts of this particular stretch had become virtually unfishable due to overhanging branches. Well done to the board for all the hard work they have done to bring this piece of water back into full use.

A very short line, hanging the flies in the fast water at the neck of the next pool brought the first action of the session, a fiesty WBT ran and danced across the surface before shedding the hook just as he came to hand. Ah well………………..

Not long after that I had a solid pull and a nice trout came to hand. A quick picture and then he was back in the river again.

a 10 incher

A solitary Large Dark Olive fluttered by but there was no hatch as such. I meandered down the river, casting into likely spots but there was no response from the trout. Flies were changed and different presentation methods given an airing but the fish showed no appreciation of my efforts. The rain eased of for a few minutes only to turn heavier than ever by the time I had reached the next pool. I was, to use a good Scottish phrase, ‘drookit’.

where the second fish came out of

A small trout grabbed the passing fly just where the calm patch in the photo above merged into the faster flow. Again, very short casts allied to reaching with the rod to hold the fly line off the surface while leading the flies round was the successful method. A bit smaller than the first fella, I slipped home back int the water and he shot off, none the worse for our brief encounter.

Looking back upstream to the water I have just fished down – notice how clear the banks are!

Doesn’t look much but this is a great spot

I eventually reached the pool I wanted to fish most, an odd-shaped piece of water with a number of conflicting flows to contend with. It is not easy to fish but I have taken some good fish out of this area. Today was no exception.

Not a monster but very welcome of a miserable day

A partridge and orange fished on a dropper fooled this one. The take was confident and he was well hooked. I could not repeat the feat though so I changed back to a pair of hare’s ear weighted nymphs and fished my way back upriver, retracing my steps to the parked car.

a pair of nymphs

Today was fairly typical of early fishing on the river, with hardly any fly life the fish were dour and holding close to the bottom. I bit more water and higher air temperatures will bring an improvement in the fishing. It was just good to be out again today, rain or no rain!

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.


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……………..


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.


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:


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.

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