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, salmon fishing

Beltra is fishing very well

Latest news from Beltra today:

Great fishing on Beltra. Michael Dolan 7lb Salmon released, James Kenny 7lb Sea Liced salmon on the Newport River, Dr Cahill 8lb salmon, Jonas Romauld 9lb Salmon, Steven Howard 7lb Salmon released, Michael Gross 7lb salmon released, Eamon Kennedy 2 fish 8lb and 9lb both released, Maria Bunzel 6lb salmon, Richard McDowell 7lb Salmon and Pat McHale 9lb Salmon at Flannerys Dock.

I also heard that there were 5 fish caught on Carrowmore today.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

The lost dry flies, mystery solved

I bet you were all worried. Did you lost sleep over the mystery of the missing fly box full of dry spinners. Was there an act of criminality? The revenge of a fellow angler, envious of my deadly spinners? Or perhaps something altogether darker. Was Big Brother at work, taking these subversive patterns for the good of the nation? Could alien abduction be ruled out?

Rest easy followers,  the missing fly box  turned up eventually after a mammoth hunt in every jacket pocket, tackle bag and compartment in the car. I had simply put it away in my salmon reel case. Why, will forever remain a complete mystery to me as there was no earthly reason to deposit dry flies in that case.

This getting older is no laughing matter. My memory seem to dim a little more every day now. What on earth was I thinking sticking this wee fly box in with my dirty great salmon reels in the first place?

I peeked inside the box hoping to find some large red spinners but the biggest were tied on 14’s. The chances are they would have not been significantly more effective than the size 16 BWO I used last night.

Most spinner patterns I see are tied with very slim and tightly wound bodies. I take a different approach and use dubbed fur to imitate both abdomen and thorax, accepting that my spinners will look too ‘fat’. I want the fibres in my flies to catch the rays of light and glow (these flies are used almost exclusively for the evening rise). Tails are widely spread cock hackle fibres,  micro fibbets or trimmings from paintbrushes. Wings are constructed from poly yarn in white or grey. Hook sizes are generally 16 or 18 but after last night I an going to tie some larger examples in 14’s and even 12’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Trout in the freezer without wetting a line

I know I should have been fishing today. The weather was good, the fish are a bit more active than they were a few weeks ago and I had an open invite to fish Lough Conn. Instead, I pottered around in an inconclusive muddle, half finishing odd jobs and doing bits around the house. By 4pm I was done with my chores and sat down at the vice to make a few flies. You see I received a present last week of a pair of hen pheasant wings and I have been looking forward to using these beautifully marked feathers. One of the lads at work, Francie O’Toole, brought the wings in for me after his wife had hit the bird when it flew into her car.

First up a made some Purple March Brown’s. I reckon I must be the only person in Ireland who uses this pattern but it works well on difficult days. Just tie a normal March Brown but make the body out of purple dubbing and rib it with fine oval silver tinsel.

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Next up were a few Invicta’s with an opal tinsel body, just the job when the trout are hammering pin fry in the shallows. I remain unconvinced this pattern fishes any better than the standard silver version but it looks nice and bright.

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Invicta with a mirage opal body

Just like the rest of the day I became distracted and started to experiment with new ideas. I was just finished the first of these, a super bright Orkney Peach Dabbler when Ben appeared. He had fished Conn all day with only one fish to show for his unstinting efforts, a brown of around three pounds. Initial congratulations were stifled when I learned this trout had grabbed not a dainty mayfly imitation but an 11c Rapala intended for salmon. We habitually return any browns which are boated while trolling for salmon, but this guy had swallowed the Rapala and was in no condition to be returned. So instead he ended up in my freezer.

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Conn is now fishing a bit better and some good catches are being registered by anglers. A steady trickle of salmon are entering the Moy system and are being landed throughout the length of the river. I also hear that the trout fishing has improved markedly (at last)

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The Peach Dabbler tied on a size 8 – could this work for salmon?

While I remember, Francie O’Toole gave me not just the pheasant wings but also one of the pens he fashions out of bog oak. It’s a lovely thing and nice in the hand to use when scribbling on paper for a change from endless key tapping.

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A pen made from bog oak

Next weekend is going to be more organised and I am planning to fish both Saturday and Sunday. The weekend after that I will be demonstrating fly casting and fly tying at:

Féile na Tuaithe 2016  /  21 & 22 May

National Museum of Ireland – Country Life

Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

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Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Decisions, decisions

It was a very last minute decision. Given the choice I would have been in South East London, at the Valley to be precise, watching Burnley play Charlton Athletic on the last day of the season. Instead, I was at home after working in the morning and felt an hour on the River Robe might be worth a look. Even as I joined the traffic I was unsure of exactly which stretch would receive  my attention. Running the options over in my mind I finally settled on a rough and under fished part of the river between Claremorris and Ballinrobe.

Parking up on the verge one field from the river the conditions looked to be favourable. A light mist veiled the countryside and a steady wind was cool but not cold. Through the grass to an impressive new barbed wire fence which barred access to the bankside. I found a gap and wriggled, worm-like under the wire. The river looked very low but my first glance upstream showed the fish were rising. It was now a I made a poor decision and headed off downstream to some inviting looking water.

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I new this stretch of the river was not developed and the banks would be rough, but the next couple of hours developed into an assault course rather than a peaceful distraction. I elected to get into the river to avoid the vegetation but this  strategy came with its own hazards. While most of the river was only a few inches deep there were some nasty holes in the bottom , making progress ‘interesting’. I slid down into one of these holes and only prevented a ducking by grabbing a tree branch. I can recall how many times I hooked up in bushes, trees or other bankside vegetation but it felt like a never ending saga.

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one of the many hawthorns 

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Trees all the way to the waters edge

Spiders, cast upstream or down caught plenty of trout but nothing of any great size. Large Dark Olives hatched continually for an hour after my arrival, inducing a great rise and a feeding frenzy among the swallows and martins.

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Partridge and Orange in his mouth

The mist gradually morphed into steady, soaking rain and while the river badly needed lots of fresh water it was taking the edge off of my enjoyment. That and the lack of any deep water combined to cut short the afternoon for me and I retraced my steps back up to the gap under the fence. Looking upstream there seemed to be a slow, deep pool just on the next bend, exactly the kind of water I had been searching for in the other direction. The rain drummed on the hood of my jacket – was it worth another ten minutes? To hell with it, I waded up through some thin water, taking another three brownies on an upstream wet fly before I eased into the tail of the deep pool. I picked up another couple of small lads then had the bright idea of dropping the cast into a little pocket just where the water broke at the tail. just as expected a trout pounced on the spiders and thrashed on the surface as he felt the hook – a nice trout of around the pound and a half. This wily character shot around an underwater rock and snagged the line which parted after some tugging from my end of the connection.

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The one that got away was in this little corner below a deep pool

I had suffered sufficient humiliation for one afternoon and wound in for the last time. The lesson was plain to see, more diligent observation before starting to fish would have led me to decide on exploring upstream instead of down. Ah well, you cant win them all. Unless you are Burnley football club, who soundly thrashed Charlton while I was catching tiddlers and hooking trees.

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Remains of crayfish, probably eaten by an otter

postscript……..

And Burnley did win. 3 -nil. Finished the season as champions. UTC

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

The first day of May

Still dark. Awake, I decide to go online and check out the news in the hope my brain will tire and sleep becomes feasible again. One of the disadvantages of advancing years is sleep becomes erratic so these nocturnal forays into cyberspace feature more frequently now. Chaos in Iraq, a building collapse in Nairobi – the usual mix of death and fear. Maybe this constant bombardment of negativity is one reason I love angling so much. The total immersion in casting and the countryside leaves no space for the nasty things in this life. For a few short hours immersed in natures timeless cycles calms the savage breast. The natural world envelops me, draws me in and opens my eyes to a different, soothing and familiar place.

The first day of May should be a fishing day. Here we are on the very cusp of the highlight of the Irish anglers year so I simply have to fish. April will not be mourned; she was a cold mistress, largely barren and cloaked in dull, grey disappointment. She has handed Spring’s baton over to what I hope will be an altogether more virile and fruitful partner. May sometimes defines the whole season for me. A good month can be exciting, setting the mood for the rest of the year. Memories of good fishing are a well we draw from. We anglers revisit these memories of the good spring days regularly when low water reduces our sport in high summer.

9am. There is a loose arrangement to fish ‘somewhere’ today. A sprinkling of salmon have entered the river systems, enough to engender that rarest of qualities – hope. Sandwiches are carefully prepared and stowed safely away in a waterproof container. Recently tied flies are added to the flybox and a new leader tied on the end of the fly line. The minutest of tasks are undertaken with forensic attention to detail. At the allotted hour we set off through the quiet streets and out into the countryside. The decision has been made – Lough Cullin today.

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The shores of Cullin

A steady Southerly wind and overcast skies bode well and the real possibility of meeting a salmon looms large in our thoughts and conversation as we tackle up and load the boat. With the wind from this quarter we can drift across the best lies in comfort with little work on the oar.

We fish steadily, methodically casting and retrieving tick-tock, tick-tock. To the untrained eye we are repeating the same cast again and again but in reality each cast varies slightly from the last. The boat never drifts in an absolutely straight line so casts are directed to take advantage of the sideways slip so as to impart a curve in the retrieve. Eyes are glued to the surface looking for signs of movement, tell tale swirls left by fish as the turn below the waves. At the end of each drift we wind in and start the engine to motor back up wind, usually to drift a slightly different line so we cover new water. We are largely silent, wrapped up in our own world of concentration.

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Nearing the shore, time to start up the engine

On Cullin our drifts are easily recognisable as we find the fish lie in shallows dotted with marker poles. These metal rods, topped with orange floats, mark dangerous submerged rocks so unwary boaters don’t run into them. As we motor upwind I spot a small salmon rolling on top of the water. That flash of silver transforms the mood in the boat and we redouble our efforts, expecting that electrifying pull on the line with every cast now. Close to the outermost pole another fresh fish shows, this one is a bigger fish of maybe 8 or 9 pounds by the look of her. Our flies comb the water around that spot but to no avail. Drift completed, we head back up and repeat the whole process once again. As we are closing in the the shore Ben lifts to re-cast for the umteenth time. His flies are out of the water and in mid-air when the salmon boils but a yard from the boat. She was following but didn’t take and the boil was her turning sharply as the flies disappeared. Sometimes, dropping the cast back into the boil results in a positive take, but not today. We drift one more time then head to the shore for a cuppa.

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the view to the south across Lough Cullin

My apple and cinnamon tea, coupled with the cheese and tomato sandwiches revive me after what has been a solid few hours of fishing. As we entered the small bay I noticed a solitary Mayfly so I scoured the shore and sure enough came across another greendrake.

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Mayfly

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A local angler was walking his dog along the shore and he stopped to chat with us. Notes were compared and the news of fish caught or lost swapped. The dog seemed to be totally unimpressed with all this talk. 

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Bored

Lunch over we pushed back out on to the water once more. I changed the tail fly, substituting the Connemara Black for a Willie Gunn. Cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve….

When he came to the fly it was a carbon copy of Ben’s chance that morning. I lifted the line out of the water and was well into the back cast when the water boiled very close to the bow of the boat. It wasn’t a large salmon judging by the disturbance he left. Soon after we lost the wind  and the lake surface became flat and useless for fishing. We fished on but the day petered out without further excitement.

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Start her up and head for home!

So we had moved two fish to the flies between us. On another day one or both of them could have stuck and we would have repaired to Johnnies to celebrate, but not today. Salmon fishing is a tough sport on the mind. Confidence is everything, much more important than fly choice or the make of rod you use. Steely self-belief is you armour against misfortune. The first day of May reinforced this truth, testing our resolve. We will be back again soon.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Some flies for Lough fishing

I spent a few minutes at the vice this evening to tie some size 8’s for lough fishing. Not that was any great need to tie even more flies, I just wanted to enjoy making some old favourites. I know that I cart around an ridiculous amount of patterns but it is simply the price us fly tyers pay for enjoying both the fishing and the making of the lures. Most of them will sadly never even be tied on to the line, let alone catch a fish, but the sheer enjoyment of sitting at the bench and creating a fly from a bare hook and some feathers is just too much to ignore.

Tonight I kicked off with some Connemara Blacks tied for salmon. What’s the difference? Well, I like to add a bit of colour under the tail so I make a tag from two turns of Opal tinsel and then wind on some Glo.brite no. 5 floss. I rib the black body with flat silver tinsel to give it some extra flash too. I also make an underwing from a bunch of GP tippet fibres. This adds strength and a bit more colour when the fly is wet.

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Connemara Black

Next up was a few of my own version of the Raymond. With this one I add a small tag of Glo-brite no.4 but keep the usual body of golden olive fur and double body hackles of red and golden olive. The normal wing of paired hen pheasant secondarys are followed by a long fibred guinea fowl hackle.

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Raymond

I made up some small Green Peters too. Much more delicately dressed, these were busked on a size 12 hook. I can’t say there is too much different about this fly except that it is very lightly dressed by Irish standards. 3 or 4 turns of body hackle are all that is required.

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A lightly dressed Green Peter

Finally, I wanted some heavy Green Peters for the tail of the cast when lough fishing for salmon so I made this next pattern up on those lovely Loop heavyweight doubles. I used a size 10 and made the wing from the ‘bad’ side of a bucktail dyed green.

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Heavy Green Peter

So that was it for the evening, more flies to confuse me and the fish!

 

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