Fishing in Ireland, Uncategorized


Leaving for work every Monday morning at the same time means I can see the days lengthening. Only a couple of weeks ago backed out of the driveway in pitch blackness which persisted until I was fully half way across Ireland. This Monday there was a paleness in the eastern sky as I crossed into Roscommon and by the time Athlone was behind me and I was speeding along the west bound lanes of the M6 the sky was light. Spring is coming; it is far in the distance yet but you can feel it edging closer.

The weather has been wet lately but no worse than we normally experience in the West of Ireland in January. All the rivers are full and some are slopping over their banks, oozing into the adjacent fields. Migratory swans are enjoying the wetlands, a welcome sight against an otherwise dreary background of dun-coloured earth and shimmering water. Crows seem to fill the sky at times, wheeling and cawing as if they enjoy this cold weather. And all the while, deep in turbid, boisterous flows, the fish wait for warmer conditions. Cold eyes, slowly rotating fins. Lethargic. Just waiting………….

Food supplies on the rivers must be tight but those fish who live in the loughs have an all-together easier passage through the wintertime. The great limestone lakes of the west are alkaline, and they support huge numbers of freshwater shrimps and hog louse. These highly nutritious snacks are hoovered up in immense quantities by the fish, allowing them to maintain condition through the short days of winter. Come the start of the season we fly fishers will reach for fiery browns and golden olives, both of which are good imitations of the louse and the shrimp. Our angling cousins in England and Scotland use excellent close copies of the crustaceans, but the style of fishing over there is very different to our lough style, plonking heavily weighted but perfect imitations in front of discerning rainbows is a different sport to short lining from a boat over wild brownies in a force six.


Sad news

It is sad to see Duffy’s of Headford have closed down after 60 years in business. I relied on them to keep my old Johnson motors running and the shop was always a hub of gossip for fishers, local and visitor alike. I popped in as I was passing last weekend but the shelves had been cleared and only a couple of local guys were picking over the bones of the stock before the front door slams shut for good. In this age of the internet I can only imagine how hard it must be to keep a small hardware shop open in a county town. It will be sorely missed.



Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing, trout fishing

4 for the new season

I have been busy at the fly tying table again. With a bit of time on my hands this week I was able to spend some time immersed in fur and feather. Ever the optimist, I am hoping this year will be kinder to me and days on the water will be more frequent than in 2016. With that in mind I have been examining the fly boxes and filling the obvious gaps. You and I both know that I have too many flies as it is, but I always seem to find an excuse for some new patterns to try out on the unsuspecting fish. Let’s start with a very easy one.

  1. Plover and Peacock


I have not come across this pattern anywhere else but surely others have tied something very similar. Plover feathers are hard to come by these days as the poor wee birds are now quite scarce. Gone are the days when you came across them frequently on any upland moor. I am down to my last pair of wings now so I am only using the feathers sparingly. The combination of stripped peacock quill body and a couple of turns of one of those marvellously spangled Golden Plover hackles makes for a lovely subdued combination. Keep the dressing light, not more than a couple of turns of hackle. Untried as yet, this is one early in the season for river brownies. It will get a wetting on the Robe in April, swung gently down and across or flicked upstream into the tight wee pockets around the stones and limestone outcrops.

2. Bibio variant


Yes, I know that the last thing I need is another Bibio pattern. I have pearly ones, copper ones, green ones, ones tied with legs, some with tails and god knows how many other blooming Bibios. Serried ranks of them line my fly boxes and they get frequent use throughout the season. So why add to the confusion by introducing another one? It was the yellow tag that hooked me; in my imagination I could just see that dot of yellow glowing in a peaty loch and turning a trout’s head. This is not my pattern; I spotted it on a Twitter in a post by Connor McLennan. Standard Bibio dressing but with a fl. yellow butt wound at the bend and a browm partridge hackle at the throat. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

3. The Sooty Bumble


Nothing new here eh? Just your normal Sooty Bumble. Well yes and no! I love using Sooties in the spring, they seem to have the ability to produce fish like magic, in even the most challenging conditions. A size 12 sooty with a red rib is a frequent addition to my cast from March right through until the greendrakes start hatching. The bumble version is a good fly too but I always had reservations about the head hackle and figured it was needing something different. Inspiration came to me at the vice a couple of years ago and I used a ‘Mexican blue’ feather from the rump of a cock pheasant as a head hackle on an otherwise normal tie. The result is a very useful pattern, even if it does not exactly jump out at you in the box. the next time you are on a lough with dark buzzers hatching in a stiff wind give this lad a try.

4. Hairy Mary. Just the mention of this lady’s name evokes memories of tea-coloured rivers, sparkling grilse, damp Irish summers and bent rods. It is with great trepidation that I tinker with this iconic pattern but you see the blue hackle is a bit of a problem for me. I think that blue works well for very fresh fish but they tend to to off it very quickly. I have read this in many books and it does seem to be generally true to me. So what to do with the redoubtable Hairy Mary then?

I decided to replace the blue throat hackle with one of Golden Olive. This is not a colour you see used too often on salmon flies but it looks fabulous in the water, seeming to glow in the peat stained waters of the west. The shade of golden olive I want is a rich, deep olive, not too pale and watery. And I’ve tied it long in fibre so there is plenty of movement. So far this one is untried and may be a complete disaster but I like the look of it and have high hopes. Oh for a wet summer!