Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Robe trout

I wanted a break for salmon fishing so today I took myself off to the Robe near Hollymount to try for a few wild brownies. With no rain to speak of lately I knew that water levels would be low and so I avoided the streamier sections of the river.

Parking up, I strode over to the bridge to take a peek at the river. Sure enough, I was confronted with a shrunken stream. Rafts of weed decorated the pools and thick slimy algae encroached from both banks. Recent higher temperatures have caused this explosion of vegetation and my hope was that the warmth would also encourage the flies to hatch. By mid-May we should be seeing a wide range of flies hatching but the cream of the fishing is often when the blue-wing olives make an appearance.

I set up the gear and tied up a new leader. Three small wets were added, a size 16 Greenwell on the bob, a size 18 black spider in the middle and size 16 PT on the tail. I don’t use Greenwell’s too often but when I do it often produces a good fish for me. My plan was simple, work my way down the left bank casting into all the likely spots. A harsh, gusty upstream wind rippled the surface of the pools and the excellent drying conditions would assist any newly hatched flies to dry their wings and escape the surface. The wind was cold and this might make the session difficult.

I commenced operations in the bridge pool and was quickly into a small trout. A second soon followed and both were released. The next pool down seemed to be quiet but as I worked my way down the line tightened and a good fish splashed on the top of the water. This was a much better class of trout but after a few darts and more rolling on the top the hook pulled out and my prize swam off no doubt wondering what that was all about. I checked the hooks but they were fine, just bad luck in not getting a good hold. As that fish was on the top a lot I got a good look at him and I estimate it would have gone close to two pounds.

Some flies were hatching but not in any great numbers. I saw an occasional trout rise but to be honest not enough to encourage me to switch to the dry fly. Each pool I came to received the same treatment, start at the neck with short casts then fan out longer casts through the main body of the pool and down to the tail. Frequent stops were needed to clear weed from the flies.

There is a Greenwell somewhere in the middle of that snot!

Fish came to hand steadily but the bigger fish continued to elude me. The hatch was poor and never really got going. Could that cold wind have been the cause? It did warm up a bit after midday but the fly life seemed to reduce rather than increase after lunchtime.

By now I had gone to the end of the section I had planned to fish and with less and less action I turned back and started to head back to the bridge and the waiting car. I barely noticed while fishing my down river just how many electric fences I had crossed but the return trip seemed to be a succession of crossings, either hopping over at low spots on some electric fences or rolling under the higher ones.

One brand new style has been added for this season, a smart green affair which replaces a horrible partly fallen dry stone wall and cluster of barbed wire. This is a huge improvement and it would be great to see more of these styles on the Robe. Access is a big problem on the river, especially for those (like me) who are not as young as they used to be!

the new style, simple yet effective

I ended up catching eight trout, none of them any great size but it was an enjoyable few hours on the riverbank. A shot of rain is need to put a bit more life into the rivers around here but the forecast is for dry, sunny weather this week. It’s maybe as well that I will be away in Europe on business until Thursday!

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing

The Manulla river

A chilly wind is scattering the last of the leaves in the garden and the daylight rapidly fades to an inky blackness. Winter nights can be so depressing, can’t they? To cheer myself up I’ve been thinking about the coming trout season and places where I will ply the gentle art. One place where I am seriously considering is the rarely fished Manulla River here in Mayo.

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The Manulla is a small stream but one which holds a good head of wild brownies. Access is pretty good with entry points at the usual bridges. Why then is it so rarely fished? The answer can be summed up in one word – trees. Big, tightly spaced hardwoods line both banks of the river making casting an impossibility for much of its course. Alders, willows and whitethorn make up the bulk of the cover but there are oaks and sycamore plus a full range of smaller species to fill in any gaps. Fishing the Manulla is more like jungle warfare than a peaceful pastime. So why am I even contemplating risking my sanity by attempting to fly fish this water? Let me explain…………

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A heavily wooded section of the Manulla river

Due to the extreme difficulty in accessing the river the angling pressure on the Manulla has been virtually nil over the years. The meetings pool where it joins the Castlebar river gets a few wormers and I have seen some kids chucking spinners in at the N60 bridge, but apart from that the river is largely ignored by anglers. To me that spells the opportunity for trout to grow unmolested to a reasonable size and worthy of some effort to winkle them out. Of course there are going to be huge challenges but I firmly believe there are good trout to be caught with some perseverance.

Timing is going to be important as I will need low water to be able to fish. Low levels will allow me to get into the river and wade. This alone will be exciting as the river is narrow but deep and I can foresee some mishaps and wet feet as I explore the various pools under the canopy. Some stretches are just too deep to wade and so I may have to resort to poking the rod through the vegetation and ‘dibbling’ the fly over the fish.

Further up river, beyond Belcarra, there are some open stretches of water where the OPW in their thoughtfulness dredged the river back in the 1960’s. Here it looks more like a canal and the numbers of trout are much lower than downstream. As with all of this type of water the fishing is tough. High banks (10 to 20 feet above the surface of the water) and no cover for the fish in the river mean they are well nigh impossible to approach from the bank. Once again, chest waders and an iron nerve are required as you slither into the deep water and work your way upstream, casting ahead with nymph or dry fly.

dredged-channel

A dredged section of the Manulla

The usual array of heavily weighted nymphs are going to be my mainstay when it comes to fly selection during the day, but the evenings will present the best chance of a fish and that’s when I will turn to the dry fly. The Manulla gets impressive hatches of sedges and a well placed G&H dragged over a riser will be my preferred tactic as the sun sets. there are other, similar streams in the immediate area. The Gweestion. Pollagh, Glore and a handful of others can all produce a trout or two to the persistent angler but I am going to persevere on the Manulla in 2017.

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Small river fly fishing

Tackling small streams can prove a challenge for anglers who are more used to wide open spaces and plenty of elbow room for casting. Here in the west of Ireland we have a number of small streams, most of which are never fished, yet contain a reasonable head of wild Brown Trout. Rivers like the Pollagh, Glore and Trimogue which are all tributaries of the River Moy can be excellent on their day, so learning a bit about how to fish smaller Irish rivers is worthwhile.

pools-on-the-keel-river

 

The Keel which joins Lough Carra to Lough Mask

Firstly, what can you expect to catch in these rivers? Unfortunately we don’t have any Grayling in Ireland, a fish I miss a lot. They pretty much all contain Roach, Pike and Perch but I can’t say that I fish for any of these species intentionally but they do grab the flies some times. Salmon are a possibility in some small rivers any time after a flood in July, but fishing specifically for them is very hit and miss. So that leaves us with the wild Brown Trout, one of the greatest sporting fishes. Size wise in these parts brownies run from a few ounces right up to 3 or even 4 pounds. The vast majority will be around 8 to 12 ounces though. That means tackle needs to be sized down to get the best sport.

 

 

Rods casting 2 – 5 line sizes will cover most situations you are likely to encounter. For my own part I use two very different rods for small river work. The first is a seven footer rated AFTM 3 and this is the one I use most of the time. Or specific conditions, such as high water or high winds, I turn to a ten foot Orvis which casts a size 5 line. How come I go for such a long rod? In my experience the biggest trout are active either late in the evening or in high water, so I like to have a rod with plenty in reserve if there is a greater likelihood of meeting a trophy sized fish.

 

 

The Orvis bent into a good sized trout

An additional aspect of fishing in these parts is the state of the banks. Long stretches of small rivers are thickly wooded meaning access is going to be by wading and then casting under the overhanging branches. For obvious reasons this means a short rod is going to be a distinct advantage and is the reason for my trusty seven-footer. I occasionally drool over 6 foot glass wands which must be a pure delight to fish with, but I digress…………….

Reels are whatever you like as long as it matches the rod and has room for the fly line and some backing. You will usually be fishing at short range and if you do hook a trout which can run for 50 or 60 yards you are not going to land it anyway due to the rough nature of the unkempt banks and river beds. I have an itsy-bitsy little reel made by Grey’s which has given years of trouble free service.

boulders

Limestone, the reason the fishing can be so good on these small rivers

Fly lines are simple, all you are ever going to require is a floater, full stop. I personally buy a double tapered floater one size heavier than the rod is rated (so my seven foot rod which is rated AFTM 3 is loaded with a number 4, chopped in half). I lose a little in the way of presentation but I make this up by building a steeply tapered leader.

Bridge pool

The Pollagh near Kiltimagh

Leaders are the only complicated part of the set up. Casts will in general be short so it is vital that every scrap of energy you impart in your casts is transmitted through the line and leader to the fly. That means a stiff butt section and a steeply tapered leader. I nail knot eight to ten inches of stiff 20lb b.s. nylon to the end of the fly line and add 12 inch sections of reducing thickness (usually 4 sections is about right), the last one being 6 pound breaking strain. My leader is then attached to the end. That leader can vary in length depending on conditions and whether I want to add droppers. For most of my small river fishing I use 3 pound b.s. nylon as I find it forgiving and the fish tend not to be overly line shy.

See how clear the water is on the Keel

A brownie putting up a good fight

While that is my usual leader set up I do vary it from time to time. For instance, I have had some success hurling ultra-heavy nymphs into deep holes and these tungsten loaded monsters need a beefier leader to fish properly. In a spate with a team of heavy nymphs I would go as heavy as 6 pound nylon without feeling at any great disadvantage.

Due to rapidly failing eyesight I sometimes use indicators when nymphing and like those ones which twist on to the line so they can be repositioned quickly.

just above the meeting pool with the Gweestion

This is the Trimogue

Let’s focus now on the methods to use on small rivers. The rivers I fish are, in general, only lightly polluted. Population density is low in rural Ireland and there is little in the way of household or industrial waste being flushed into watercourses. By far the biggest pollutant is the agricultural sector. This is cattle rearing country and slurry spraying is a problem. Most of the rivers flow over limestone and the higher pH encourages good weed growth. This means the fish have access to a wide range of invertebrates to feed on. So with all these factors in play you can see that our quarry has lots of food to pick from and our methods need to be flexible to meet the ever changing diet of the fish.

Nymphs are just as effective here as in every other region blessed with Brown trout. Small rivers lend themselves wonderfully to the technique and just about every conceivable form of presentation will work.

on a goldhead nymph

A Roach which fell to a nymph

Dry fly fishing is such a glorious sport at any time, but winkling out a trout from a tight lie on a difficult Irish river is one of angling’s most enjoyable experiences that I know of. There will be lots of opportunities to fish dry fly on the small rivers here, so make sure you bring a good range of dry patterns with you and don’t be afraid to fish blind, ie. When there are no trout rising. I have often caught good fish doing exactly that.

Wet fly fishing is often over looked as irrelevant these days. Fancy deep water nymphing seems to be de rigour among trout bums but I still catch a goodly proportion of my small river trout on wets either cast upstream or swung in the current. One tip I can pass on for this type of water is to consider using a weighted wet fly on the tail of your leader. This will sink the whole team of flies quickly and this can be important if you are fishing at short range.

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Wets

I absolutely love fishing like this and it is a subject I will return to in future posts. In the meantime, please follow this blog so you can keep up to date with what I am up to on the rivers and loughs of County Mayo.

 

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Fishing in Ireland

2016

I start a new and time-hungry job later this month, meaning my angling will be severely curtailed all Spring. I need to face up to little angling this side of the Mayfly other than occasional outings on Sundays. The new job is close to home, so the amount of long distance travel and periods away from home will all but disappear in 2016. This should present opportunities for short evening sessions through the summer and autumn. That’s the plan at any rate.

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Some of you may be aware that I have been struggling with arthritis for some time and last summer I reached a very low point with any movement in my ankles leading to excruciating pain. Wading in particular became torture and I despaired of ever being able to fully enjoy my angling again. Faced with this level of debilitation I turned to Google and started to research my self-help options. Many, many hours were spent during September, October and November researching surgery, diet, exercise and myriad other facets of the medical world. I began to perceive a glimmer of hope and decided to make some lifestyle changes which commenced 10 weeks ago with a complete change of diet and some light exercise.

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One of my regular walks

I am not cured, let’s get that out of the way. I still have significant pain in both ankles and many of the joints in my feet. But, the level of pain has reduced and I have gone from being barely able to walk in September to walking 5km every day now. Only muscle wastage (due to lack of use last year) is slowing me down and I can build that up gradually with exercise. So for those fishers who are struggling with similar arthritic issues, here is how I did it. Arthritis pain comes from inflammation of the joints, so if you can reduce the inflammation you reduce the pain. What is it that causes the inflammation? – usually what we eat. By changing my diet I reduced the pain. At first I was sceptical, but within days of starting my new diet the pain began to reduce. Here is what I cut out:

All dairy products, all tea and coffee, all wheat (breads, pasta, breakfast cereal etc), all processed foods, all red meat, all sugar and artificial sweeteners. Quite a list!

I replaced all those bad foods with oily fish, rye, pulses, brown rice, fruit and veg. I use only extra virgin olive oil for cooking. It sounds very draconian and uninspiring but I am loving both the food and the positive effect the new diet is having on me. My weight is down (I’ve lost 24 pounds in ten weeks) and a medical examination just before Christmas showed I was in pretty good shape for my age. So, if like me you are suffering joint pain I would urge you to make some changes in your diet.

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I spent an evening sorting through fly lines this week. A lifetime of fly fishing inevitably leads to hoarding of tackle and for me fly lines have become a bewildering and ever expanding cornucopia. My previously stated love of fly reels and the dubious delights of ebay led me to acquire assorted trout and salmon reels over the years, many of them arriving with lines still on the spools. As I normally run on my own lines the ‘old’ ones were taken off and wound on to rolled up newspaper, the intention being to sort them out later. Of course ‘later’ never arrived and the bag of orphaned fly lines began to bulge ominously. I needed a plan of action here. So a few evenings ago I sat down with the bag of lines and sorted through them all.

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Some were in more or less perfect condition, others needed cleaned and maybe a few inches trimmed off the ends and the remainder despatched to the shed for use in tying up sweet peas in the garden. I knew the profile/density of some lines so these were easy to deal with. I checked all my fly reels and had to replace a couple of floaters. That was quickly accomplished. Careful examination of other lines gave me a good idea of the sizes but not densities, so these have been set aside for trial before committing to keeping or discarding them. Three lines are a complete mystery and I have no idea what they are, nor how I came to have them in the first place. All three look like salmon lines with different coloured tips. By the end of the evening I had re-spooled all my fly reels, made numerous repairs and alterations and fitted stiff leader butts to all my lines in readiness for the new season.

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