dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing


Of all the many things I dislike in this world, sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s surgery is right up there near the top of the list. It was my misfortune to find myself in just such a hell-hole yesterday through no fault of my own. My new employer required me to have a medical check up to give them some peace of mind that I would not keel over in the workplace, so the beautiful sunny morning was spent in close confinement with a number of sick people. I entered the cramped room perfectly healthy but left after a couple of hours with my immune system battling every sort of air-borne infection.


At least I had time to ponder where I could cast a line over the weekend and I settled on another trip to the River Robe this coming Sunday. Between the frequent coughs and sneezes of my fellow sufferers I day dreamed about which stretch to fish and what patterns to try. It must have been the medical surroundings, but I decided that a wee fly called the Sanctuary could be the job on the Sabbath as it often works at this time of the year.

Not a fly that I see other anglers using but one which has done the business for me more than once. The Sanctuary is a simple fly to tie. It is not substantially different from a number of other patterns which you can use to imitate the large dark olive but I like catching trout on different patterns.

I think I’m right in saying this pattern was devised by a certain Dr. Sanctuary (hence the medical connection). He fished the chalk streams of east Yorkshire in the late 19th century and was an avid fly tyer.


The Costa Beck in the east riding of Yorkshire – it looks very similar to the Robe!

As usual, I have mucked around with the original pattern! The good doctor saw fit to omit tails from his fly but I like tail fibres on my dry flies so some were duly added. To my eyes the Coch-y-bondhu hackle was too dark on its own so I wind an olive hackle through it.

  • Hook: your choice of dry fly hook, size 14 works best for me
  • Tying silk: 8/0 or, if you want to more traditional, use Pearsils in brown
  • Tails: A few stiff fibres of dark ginger cock hackle
  • Rib: fine flat gold tinsel
  • Body: dubbed with fur from a hares ear
  • Hackles: a Coch-y-bondhu cock hackle with a couple of turns of olive cock wound through it

The coughing and spluttering of my near neighbours seemed to be reaching a devilish crescendo and my mind wandered of down different paths in an effort to blot out the horror of being confined amid all this disease. It took me all the way back to the eighties and that brilliant track by the Cult – She sells sanctuary.

Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Fishing on the Robe picks up



We went to our favourite restaurant last night, my better half and I. Luckily I had booked a table as the place was packed with others similarly engaged in eating and drinking. The food as superb (the spinach gnocchi with clams and prawns was to die for) and we washed the meal down with lashings of red wine and we talked and laughed. It was a great night. We are in the habit of lingering over our dinner and our conversation turned the dangerous world out there beyond Ireland’s shores. Fears of nuclear war, Trump’s tweets and imbecility, children dying in Syria, Westminster’s ineptitude, Brexit; the list seems to grow with each passing day. It made us both realise just how lucky we are to live in the West of Ireland.

This morning I was tied up with odds and ends around the house and it was after 1pm before I decided to go to the Robe for an hour. I had to shake the doom and gloom I have been feeling for the past week and which was heightened in light of the after dinner conversation last night. A short session swinging small wets in the stream would be just the ticket.


As you can see from these photos the wild browns were in a cooperative mood for a change and a total of 11 of them came to hand in a little over an hour. A couple of them would have nudged a pound in weight. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I only used 3 flies, a size 14 Partridge and Orange on the bob, a wee size 16 midge pattern in the middle and Hare’s Ear with a copper bead head on the tail. Honours were even between all three.


The fishing took my mind off of the rest of life for the hour and a bit. Refreshed and grounded, I headed back home to enjoy what was left of the holiday weekend.

Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing

The drought continues

Sunday saw me out with rod and line not once but twice in one day but I am still waiting for a good fish in my net.

Loose plans had been agreed for a short session on the Cashel River later on, leaving me time for an exploratory trip to the River Robe. I knew the stretch immediately below this bridge intimately but upstream of road was virgin territory as far as I was concerned. The map suggested some interesting bends but a large portion of the river was shrouded in trees. What delights were hidden from view?


I normally thoroughly enjoy my drive to the fishing. It has a completely different feel to the everyday commute, beyond what could reasonably be attributed to less stress. Just the act of driving the car in the direction of a river is part of the whole experience. Thoughts and ideas about the fishing are pondered as the car zips along the tarmac. I’m permeated by feelings of well-being and gratitude for my luck to be living in a free and safe country where I can fish whenever I want. For me the journey along these well-worn byways, rods in the back seat, are an integral part of the days’ fishing.

30 minutes after pulling out of the driveway I turned left on to a narrow road which had not seen a shot of tar for many a long day (council cutbacks no doubt). Bumping along, all the time scanning the road in front for pot holes, I wound round some bends and found a convenient parking place. This alone was a small victory; finding somewhere safe to leave the car can be difficult. Soft verges are the norm here-abouts so finding any hard ground roughly car sized and within walking distance of the water has to be a good start to the day. I tackled up and set off for the river a couple of fields distant.

The Mayo/Galway region is not blessed with the infrastructure of mass transportation. I guess my description of the pot-holed bumpy roads kinda gave the game away on that front. There are precisely 2 railways in Mayo, the one from Dublin which reaches out to Westport and a spur line off of that one which swings north and follows the Moy on up to Ballina. Train spotters would lead lonely and deeply disappointing lives this side of the Shannon. There used to be more tracks but these have all long since fallen into disuse, reminders of busier times. I hiked along the skeletal remains of one such track which led to an old bridge over the river. I had hoped there may be some fishable water above the bridge but it was choked with rushes and enclosed by steep banks. I clambered down the other side, squeezing through a small gap between a barbed wire fence and the ancient iron work and finding a stable bank a few feet above the water.

The river has dropped to near summer level over the last week but it is still quite coloured. I confess that I am puzzled by this browny-greyish hue to the water. The Robe is never in clear but there seems to be a change in water quality since last season and not a change for the better. Heavy nymphs were the order of the day and I worked my way through some likely looking water but to no avail. Trying to flick the flies under an overhanging branch to fish a likely looking pocket cost me a leader and pair of nymphs. Cast and flies replaced I skipped the next bit of dead looking water and emerged at a road bridge. Hopping the wall, I crossed a field and regained the river bank at a short, fast run which screamed Trout! Sure enough, a small lad grabbed the hare’s ear and another of similarly modest proportions fell off as I swung it to hand. It only took a few minutes to run through all the fishable water then it was off across another couple of fields, criss-crossed with the inevitable electric fences.

My next obstacle was a small wood. I knew that it was only a few hundred yards across but this was a very old stand of trees and they had not been tended, meaning the ground was littered with fallen boughs, tangles of brambles and hidden dips and troughs. I surveyed my surroundings and thought I could make out the remnants of a disused pathway same yards back from the river. Scrambling up a steep but mercifully short slope I found myself on a path which could have come straight out of a Tolkien book. The purpose or reasoning for this once fine path is lost in time but it was very welcome to this by now tired and sweaty angler. A few fallen willows and ash had to be hurdled but otherwise it was pretty good going. I emerged from this enchanted wood at the corner of a large field with the river flowing more purposely on my right.

The nymphs swung enticingly near the bottom but only two small trout intercepted them. This was lovely water, a series of short pools with occasional trees and bushes to provide cover but not thick enough to cause me problems. Early April, good water and a hatch of flies – no hang on just a minute, that was the only thing missing (again). No fly life. No LDO. None of those stoneflies which the trout love so much. Not even midges. Nothing to tempt the fish to look up for a meal.

I was due to be home for 4pm and by now I had wandered a distance from the car. A good looking lie under the far bank required my attention before leaving so I dropped the nymphs in to the corner with a resounding ‘plop’. A final six-incher tugged at the tail fly and that was that for the day.

Crossing another fence, I cut across the expanse of rapidly growing grass and made for the road which was the other side of a cattle crush. A brisk march along the road brought me back to the car, red-faced and slightly out of breath. The drive home was used to reflect on another poor day when judged simply on results. No good fish, very little activity of any sort and a worrying lack of flies on the river were my lot for the day. But the walk through the wood and the sight of those pretty little six-inchers made up for any disappointment I might have otherwise felt.

I will scribble some more about the second trip of last Sunday soon…………….

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Messing around with the Hare’s Ear


A standard Gold Head GRHE nymph

The GRHE gold head nymph is one of my standard patterns but I thought I would tie up a variation, so here it is:


This is dressed on a curved grub hook and I added some chopped up fl. lime floss and red fur to the HE to form the body. I also added a partridge hackle dyed brown olive for movement. A copper wire rib and a thorax cover of opal mirage add a bit of flash. I will give it a trial the next time I am out.

Fishing in Ireland

First casts

The morning drifted past today with no chance of sneaking off to the river, but after lunch I grabbed the chance to fish for an hour on the River Robe. The weather was horribly bright but the river was running at a good level and colour after recent showers. It was after 3pm before I was on the water, too late for any serious thoughts of seeing a hatch of flies so this was always going to be a reconnaissance mission rather than a major fish catching session.


I set up with a Hear’s ear goldhead  and fished upstream through a couple of pools without a touch. A sprinkling of small duns in the air suggested I had missed a hatch earlier in the day. Onwards and upwards though and I made my way upstream.


A change to wet fly was called for so on went a Partridge and Orange on the dropper and a beaded Hares Ear on the tail. The flies fished nicely through the pool but again, there was no interest from the trout. It was very bright indeed so I was not too disappointed at the lack of success and was just enjoying being out on a day like this.



The next pool upriver is deep and slow with trees overhanging along one bank. It usually holds a few big fish but with no hatch and blazing sunshine I decided to give it a miss this time. A tramp over a couple of fields brought me to a lovely run which has always been good to me in the past.


Casting around the clock to search through the little pockets of water between bushes and then working the flies down and across eventually resulted in a soft take. It was obviously a small fish but I took my time in getting him to hand as I didn’t want to lose the first fish of the season. Sure enough it rolled on the surface and was lifted out for a quick photo before being released back to the stream. He had taken the hare’s ear and was nipped in the very front of the mouth. Only around 8 inches it was still a welcome start to the new season for me.


I fished on down for a few more yards but there was no further action so I headed back to the car and the drive home. OK so it was hardly and action packed afternoon but it was good to be out in the fresh air again after a long winter.