Fishing in Ireland, Walks in Mayo

Earlier this week

May is the height of the season here in Mayo with so much going on for anyone interested in the outdoors it is hard to fit in such necessities as work and sleep. The long, long winter has finally released her grip and we can look forward to the softer weather of spring and summer at last.Here is how this past few days have panned out.

It was a Bank Holiday on Monday so Helen and I went for a long walk around Lough Furnace. This is a lovely walk with some great views across the loughs and mountains of Burrishool. Despite living in the area for many years I have never fished Furnace. This fishery does not open until the middle of June and can provide exciting fishing for grilse on its day.

view from the old bridge

We walked along quiet single track roads from the community centre at Derrada, out past the research centre, along a short section of the ancient road that used to link Newport with Bangor and finally on a short stretch of the new Greenway.

 

the salmon research centre

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The old road to Bangor

On Wednesday evening the wet and wild weather tempted me and Ben out on to lough Beltra. The conditions could not have been better, a strong blow from the south and dark overhead conditions looked to be exactly what the salmon enjoy and we met up on the shore in high spirits and full of hope we would meet a salmon or two. Unfortunately the fish had other ideas and we failed to rise a single fish. Four other boats which were out on the Glenisland Coop side also came in fishless.

the sun trying to break through the thick cover of clouds over Beltra

Another boat drifts behind us

The wall

The boatshed on the Glenisland side, a great resource for the club

So it is back to the drawing board again! I hear that Lough Mask is fishing well, with Toby Gibbons winning the Westport club competition last weekend. He had a nice bag of 4 trout on the day. I will venture out again this weekend to try my luck.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

An evening on Beltra

I will leave the photos to tell the tale of an evening spent on Lough Beltra in the company of Ben and Pat. The fish did not cooperate but it was great just to be afloat on a pleasant Spring evening.

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deep in concentration

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Pat helping to make some space in my fly box!

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You can just make out the marker buoy below Nephin

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I had a bag of reels with different lines on them but I stuck to my slow sinker all evening

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Drifting in towards the dock (a good lie for salmon)

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A heavy shower passed over us

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Great conditions as the sun dipped but nobody told the fish!

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End of the day and we head back to the shore

We all want to catch fish when we head out to the lough or river but blanks are a part of our sport and we need to accept them as the opportunity to enjoy our surroundings.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Beltra this evening

Tried Lough Beltra for a few hours this evening but with no success. The wind was good for drifting the Coop shore but the fish were unresponsive. Bright conditions gave way to some high cloud as the sun set but the outstanding feature of the evening was the cold. Still no sign of Spring in this part of the West of Ireland. At least I managed to take a few snaps.

The only action was a small fish of around a couple of pounds slashing at the bob fly as we drifted along the shore of Walsh’s Bay. It looked like a sea trout kelt to me (certainly too small to be a spring salmon).

snow still hanging around on Nephin

Even the faithful Badger could not tempt a fish

on the engine

Morrisons

Sunset

Walsh’s bay

Ben, deep in concentration

So, no fish but a great evening to be out and about on the lough. The winds are due to slacken off as the week goes on so Beltra will be out of order but Carrowmore should pick up. I could be in Bangor next week!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Tips for Beltra

 

Ben bending into a springer

Ben Baynes bends into a springer on Beltra a few seasons ago

March 20th marks the start of the salmon season on Ireland’s Lough Beltra. If you are one of the lucky few who will be fishing the lough this spring here are a few pointers which may help you to connect with one of those shiny springers.

  • Be prepared for the weather! Being cold or wet is going to ruin your day on the lough, so make sure you wear plenty of layers of clothing and have a good hat on your head. A proper waterproof jacket and leggings are a must. Whilst not a dangerous lake, you still need to wear a lifejacket at all times.
  • If you are fishing the Lough for the first time then consider using a boatman for your first trip out on the water. A boatman will know the lies and be able to put you over all the likely spots. They will also control the boat, allowing you to concentrate on casting and fishing.
  • Sticking to it. Every successful salmon fisher I know has a tenacity which earns them fish. A dogged determination to keep casting and retrieving hour after hour. On Beltra this trait is particularly vital in my opinion. Beltra can be very dour for long periods then suddenly switch on. The angler who spends as much time as possible casting over the lies stands the best chance of meeting a fish.
  • Don’t waste time fishing deep water. I know there are always exceptions, but the fish in Beltra like to lie in shallow water. If you are casting over water any deeper than the length of an oar the chances are you are in water devoid of taking salmon.
  • Use a sinking line. Again, I know of exceptions when floating lines have worked in the springtime but in general you need to get down to the fish on Lough Beltra. A wetcell 2 or similar line is fine.
  • Fish a good sized fly. I love fishing small flies for summer salmon but March / April on Lough Beltra means size 4 or 6 hooks. I am less worried about pattern than getting the size right and I would not think of using a small fly until the water has warmed up in May.
  • Move around to find the fish. Salmon can be scattered all over the lough so even if you hear there are fish in one particular spot I still think it is better to keep searching all likely water.
  • Don’t cross the line! Newport House fish the North side of the lough and the Glenisland Coop fish the south side with an invisible line running roughly down the middle of the water. Please stick to the side of the lough you have permission to fish and don’t stray on to the other side.
  • Ask the locals for advice. We have some very experienced Beltra experts who fish the lough frequently and know the moods of the water. Ask them for advice you will find them forthcoming and happy to help out in any way.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Wind and waves

It’s getting close now. The cold weather can’t disguise lengthening days. Daffodils are blooming, an incongruent splash of sulphur yellow against the washed out land. New buds are showing on the trees and bushes in the garden promising green foliage in the coming weeks. Yes, it is definitely getting close – the opening of the season on Lough Beltra.

In previous posts I have talked about fly patterns for Beltra but today I want to share some of the lies where you can expect salmon and the importance of the wind for sport on the lough. So let’s start with some basics of lough salmon fishing first.

 

Any angler here in the West of Ireland will tell you that the biggest factor for success is the wind when fishing still water. The premise of ‘no wind = no fish’ is not 100% accurate as the very occasional salmon can be tempted in flat calm conditions, but this is such a rarity that it can almost be categorised as a statistical anomaly. What you need is a good, strong wind whipping the surface up into waves. Some fishers will tell you that there is no such thing as a wind that is too strong but I disagree with that point of view. Fishing, or rather trying to fish in a gale is not my idea of fun as casting becomes difficult, tangles more frequent and the ability to move the fly how I want to is compromised. For me a steady force 5 or so is just fine; a gusting 7 or 8 is not my cup of tea.

 

Captain Ben!

Next in importance is the direction of the wind and nowhere is that more so than on the Glenisland Coop water on Lough Beltra. Wind direction is a topic which could fill a good sized book, but to keep it simple the wind needs to come from a direction which does not hinder the drifts over the salmon lies. Note that I did not say it must assist you. Sometimes all you can manage is a breeze which is sort of nearly in the right direction but vigarous work with the oars is required to keep drifting over the fish. The Glenisland Coop side of Beltra fishes best when the wind is in either a South West or North East direction, ie. blowing directly up or down the lough. A North westerly is very difficult as you will be blown directly on to the shore and as the fish lie within 30 yards or so of the rocks this means you only get one or two casts before pulling back out into the lake, obviously a huge amount of work for very little return. A South Easterly is even worse as the high ground on the Glenisland road side blocks the wind from that quarter leaving the fishable water in flat calm.

So where exactly do the salmon lie in Lough Beltra?

 

I am going to keep this very, very simple for those of you who are visitors to Beltra and are fishing the Glenisland Coop fishery (Beltra East). Look at the map above and note where the L136 road passes close the the shore. You want to be drifting along that shore between 10 and 30 yards out from the edge. That’s it. Locals all know exact spots along that shore to concentrate on but if you don’t know the water just drift the full length of the shore and you won’t go far wrong. You will hear of specific salmon lies such as Morrisons and the Red Barn (now confusingly painted grey) but in a good wind the boat will drift the full length of the shore in around 30 minutes, so time over unproductive water is not too great. Walshes Bay can also be good as can the buoy out from Flannery’s Pier which marks the dividing line between the east and West fisheries.

 

Now let’s turn to Carrowmore Lake in North Mayo for a very different set of circumstances and the effects wind will have on your day’s fishing. Carrowmore is set amid extensive bog land, largely flat with little to break the wind from any direction. You can see the Atlantic Ocean just a few hundred yards away so this is obviously a windy spot. That should be good, right? Plenty of wind for that all important wave? Well, ‘Yes’ but……………

 

The surrounding bog does not stop at the lake shores but continues under the water. Run off from the countryside deposits huge volumes of fine peat silt into the lake which settles on the bottom where it lies in clam weather. Problems start when the wind gets up and causes waves which stir up this fine silt, turning the lake the colour of Oxtail soup. This happens frequently as the lake is shallow and any wind above a fours 4 or so is going to turn the water cloudy. I don’t know if there is any proof the fish go off the take when the water colours but I have never seen a salmon caught in those conditions and the received wisdom is the fish become uncatchable in the brown water.

Glencullen

beginning to churn on Carrowmore

 

One possible ray of hope when confronted with the silt colour on Carrowmore is to look for other parts of the lake which are not affected. Sometimes the wind from a certain quarter churns one area but leaves another part of the lake clear. Local knowledge really comes to the fore here and visitors will find it hard to figure out where the clear water is without consulting the local guru’s.

 

More info on the Glenisland Coop water is available on the club website http://www.loughbeltra.com

The lough opens on 20th March

 

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

All hands on deck

At the end of each season the boats have to be taken out of the lake and safely stored for the winter. Today was the day for this task on the Glenisland Coop side of Lough Beltra. Yesterdays heavy rain had passed and the evening was cool and bright as the club members gathered on the shore.

All the boats were partially filled with water and the first task was to bale each of them out. As each boat was emptied it was rowed around to the beach were it could be dragged out by a combination of willing hands and Phil’s 4×4.

Glenisland boats sport 4 ‘removable’ thole pins but these can be the very devil to extract after spending the season in-situ. Vice grips and muscle power removed them all but some required a degree of persuasion.

A boat lift is all about team work and we all ‘mucked in’ to drag the boats out in good time. Using the 4×4 to drag the boats the few yards up from the beach was a great help. Phil was a bit heavy with the right foot and he set off like he was starting the Paris to Dakar rally each time, but sure that’s young lads and fast cars for you! (Below, here is Phil giving his grand-daughter a spin in a boat)

We worked on for an hour or more as the sun sank towards the western horizon and the hills of Mayo turned deep, solemn indigo. We spaced the boats carefully so we can get at them for sanding and varnishing later on. Some went in the boat house while the remained were overturned and raised on old tyres outside.

By the time we had nestled the final boat on some worn out Goodyear’s it was getting dark and the lads began to drift off home. I clicked the shutter a few more times to catch some photos and said my farewells to the others. There is a sadness at this time of year when the boats and gear are stowed away. The nip in the air, shortening days and partings on the lake shore signal the beginning of another close season. As much as missing the fishing we all miss the camaraderie, the messing and the craik.

And so we left lovely Lough Beltra for another year. Those of us spared to see next March will be back to tackle up at the boathouse, filled with anticipation and no doubt braving cold winds/high water/scarce springers. I can’t wait!

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Fishing in Ireland

Moving a boat on Beltra

Mid September and recent heavy rain has pushed water levels up. Small numbers of fish are running but Lough Beltra is pretty much finished for another season so I decided to take advantage of a quiet day to take a boat off the lake. All too often this task is attempted in high winds and driving rain making the whole exercise unpleasant and hard work, so a day like yesterday made a welcome change and I could enjoy just being out in the early Autumn countryside.

I borrowed a van and trailer and headed for the lake around 10am in glorious sunshine. I used to live very near to the lake so I know the people in the houses as I drove along the quiet road past the fields of cattle and sheep. I mulled over that strange sense of belonging yet being apart which every ‘blow in’ feels here in the West. Out the Newport Road and those never-ending roadworks which have kept Mick O’Malley’s lads so busy all summer and along the new stretch at the back of Cornanool before taking the Bangor road off to the right. The first views of Nephin and those deceptive bends at the Glenisland National School. Through the still green trees with the river on the right, now thankfully back down to a normal level. The land was very wet but still retained that vibrancy of well tended farmland. Then along the edge of the lake and the temptation to look at the water instead of the road! I swung the wheel hard left and drove into the harbour carpark.

Boats are an integral part of our fishing here. Back in Scotland everyone hired a boat for a day’s fishing but in the West of Ireland you don’t get off as lightly as that. Maintaining, baling, lifting, storing, varnishing, sanding, checking and moving boats takes a bit of effort and you either accept and enjoy the experience of owning a small fishing boat or the time spent on them will feel wasted. I admit to enjoying the whole boat owning experience and so days like yesterday were a joy for me.

The recent rains had left some boats full of water. The modern fibreglass hulls never really sink due to the buoyancy tanks fitted to them. They fill up to the top but with a bit of baling they can soon be re-floated. The boat I was moving was half full and took about 20 minutes to bale out with the aid of a big bucket. Some fellas fit pumps to their boats but the bucket meets all my water removal requirements and the little bit of exercise does no harm.

Taking the boat around to the small beach where I could load it on the trailer I stopped for a breather to take in the scenery. Glenisland is a beautiful place and on a day like yesterday with the sun on the hills it was picture-postcard Ireland.

 Now came the job of loading the boat on to the trailer. In a big wind this can be tricky but the flat calm meant aligning the boat and winding her up on to the trailer was pretty straight forward. Lights clamped to the back, run the cable to the connection on the tow bar then pull the belly band across to secure her in place – it all went like clockwork. 

I double checked everything and then set off back home bathed in early autumn sunshine. It has been a poor season but hopefully enough spawning stock has evaded the nets, sea lice, seals and all the other perils which salmon and sea trout face to regenerate the rivers which feed Beltra. I will be back here again soon to help out with the Glenisland club boat lift when we take all the club boats out of the lake for the winter and stow them safely inside. Only when that day is over will it feel like the end of the season for another year.

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