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, 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, trout fishing, wetfly

A few hours on the Robe

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Spring has sprung at last

I was late. The morning just seemed to slip away and it had gone noon before I set off for the Robe. With no wind, overcast skies and the temperature hovering around a pleasant 11 degrees conditions seemed to be favourable. I had decided to try the river at Castlemaggaret, close to Claremorris. The river here flows through pasture and was developed by the fisheries board a number of years ago, providing styles and creating some lovely pools and runs. Since then, little work has been done to keep the river in good order and access in some places is a bit difficult nowadays.

The car parked, I tramped off along the riverbank and after a half mile tackled up at a favourite run. The usual lies failed to produce any fish but right at the tail of the pool a small trout grabbed the stonefly imitation on the dropper. A small fish, he was safely returned and swam off strongly. Another trout splashed at the flies on the next cast but that was all the action and I moved on upstream to the next pool.

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The first of the day, only a small lad

Soon I was catching fish every few casts but they were on the small side, averaging only 8 or 9 inches. Everything was coming to the Partridge and Orange Spider with the other two flies on the leader contributing nothing. I stopped and changed the bob fly, tying on a Partridge and Yellow. Three casts later and a slightly better trout took the newly wet bob fly, this one being near the 12 ounce mark.

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One of the small trout had a deformed mandible:

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A deformed mouth on this trout

Very few flies were hatching and the occasional olive was not enough to tempt the trout to start rising and instead they were feeding deep today.

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The run where most of the action took place today

I was beginning to think today was only going to provide small fish when a strong take announced something a bit better had arrived. A good scrap ensued before I landed the best fish of the day, just a little below a pound in weight.

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The best fish

I decided to try a pool further upstream and ploughed through a waterlogged field and over some fences to get to it. Unfortunately it only yielded one small trout after all that effort.

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Hooked on the outside of the mouth, another one for the P&O

Retracing my steps I gave the best pool one more run through and I managed to land another small brownie, making a total of nine for the day. None of them would break any records but it was grand being out in the fine weather again. The lack of fly life was disappointing and we maybe just need to wait another week for the river to burst into life.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Mayo angling update

It has been generally quiet from what I can gather but here is the latest angling news from the area around me here in Mayo.

On Lough Conn

Loughs Carra and Mask are turning up the odd brown trout but the sport is far from hectic by all accounts. Evenings are best. Lough Conn is patchy with some anglers finding feeding fish and catching good numbers while others fish hard and fail to even see a trout all day.

sunset over Castlehill

I heard (third hand, so don’t take this as gospel) that one lucky angler had 20 grilse in the space of a couple of hours at Pontoon Bridge. It is highly likely these would have fallen for the charms of a prawn, or at best a bunch of worms. Certainly some grilse were jumping in Lough Conn on Sunday evening when I ventured out with Ben for a couple of hours. Despite our best efforts we failed to contact any fish but some perseverance should result in a fish or two.

Sea fishing seems to be picking up a little with some large mackerel beginning to show up. I hope to be out doing a bit of boat fishing later this week so watch this space for a report.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

More news from nowhere

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Boat fully loaded and ready to go

Sunday. The weather is promised to get fine again later in the day so I decided to try my luck on Lough Conn for a few hours. The word on the street is that a small number of salmon and grilse has been running the Moy and a few have been landed all the way from the Ridge Pool up to the East Mayo Anglers water. I am hoping that at least some of these fish have turned into Lough Conn.

I load the car with engine, petrol tank and gear then head up the road. Nick Cave and the Badseeds are blasting out ‘more news from nowhere’ on the CD player. I love the juxtaposition of Nick’s tale of Greek mythology and the seedy video which accompanies it with my innocent journey through the glorious Mayo countryside. I am off down quiet country roads and winding lanes to Pike Bay where my boat is safely moored.

I get the boat ready but the wind is set North-North-East and the far horizon is shimmering blue already. Hopes of a decent day’s are fading before I even pull the cord and the old Johnson outboard splutters into life. Ah well, I am here anyway so I will give it a lash. Motoring up into Castlehill Bay there is no sign of fly life and the swallows are absent. I set up a team of wet flies for a start and drift across the bay a couple of times without stirring anything. No flies, no rising fish and no offers and by 11am the sun is burning in the sky and the wind is dropping. It is going to be a hard day out here!

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A cup of coffee and couple of tomato sandwiches are consumed as I set up a pair of trolling rods and head off down towards Massbrook. Something small grabs a bait soon after I get going but it quickly shakes the hooks (no mean feat considering the trebles on a Rapala). I’m constantly scanning the surface for any signs of fly life but the lough looks and feels absolutely dead. The light is now brassy and these conditions are very difficult for the trout angler on the western lakes. Of course I could break out the fast sinking lines and head out into the deeps to search for small trout feeding on daphnia but I am no lover of that type of fishing.

At the entrance to Pike Bay the rod with a small silver Toby on it jerks into life. I reel in a small fish and am surprised to see a small sea trout has taken the bait. Just as I reach out to land it the hooks fly out and the fish swims off none the worse for its adventure. Sea trout are not common in Lough Conn, despite good numbers being present down at the mouth of the River Moy. This one was only a small lad, less than a pound in weight by the look of it.

I double back and am heading down Cornakillew when the Rapala is taken again. Any hopes of Salar are quickly dashed and a brownie is boated. This one has swallowed the bait and so he gets a tap on the head and into the bag for my dinner tonight. He will be about a pound and a quarter in weight and is a well-shaped fish.

I take the opportunity to change the link swivel (which looks a bit suspect to me) and the bait. Since the Rapala is interesting small fish I think I will stick to them but go for a jointed version with a bit more wiggle to it in an effort to arouse the salmon.

Still no fly life. A solitary mayfly lands in the boat with me but that’s it. The heat is building and the sun burns down on me. Time to head home I think. One last turn around the pin yields a firm knock which turns out to be a Perch.

It seems I can catch anything today except the salmon I am really after! Back in Pike Bay I unload the boat and chuck everything into the back of the car, it’s too hot to take much care now and I just want to get back home in time to cut the grass.

Alder

Alder

Lessons from today? The Rapala is certainly worth more time on the end of the line. Not only did it lure some (admittedly small) fish but it is easy to use in the weedy conditions which are with us now until the end of the season. The floating models are a joy to use on the troll and they pop up to the top if you have to stop to play a fish on the other rod.

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

trolling outside of Pike Bay, Lough Conn

The lack of fly life during the day is not unusual on Conn at this time of year and the heat today suggests it is time to think about evening fishing. I might try the rivers again this week, Blue Winged Olives should be on the menu in the evenings and sedges in the darkness could elicit the attention of the bigger trout.

Back in the car I swing the wheel and slowly head down the narrow winding track back towards civilisation. So that’s it for now, I have no more news from nowhwere …………

Update: The trout made a fabulous dinner. When I was cleaning it I discovered that I had inadvertently been ‘matching the hatch’ by using the Rapala – the fish was stuffed with perch fry.

Link to the salubriously sleazy ‘more news from nowhere’ video:

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