dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

That Black Sedge I was on about…..

I mentioned this fly in passing in my last post so I figured you might like the dressing. I know it annoys me when people allude to specific flies then don’t tell you how they are made! I make a couple of different versions, one wet and one floater, to cope with different conditions. Let me be very clear, this is not a fly for ever day use. My experience of this one is a dismal failure on most waters but just occasionally it works and when it does it works very well indeed. So tie up a couple and tuck them away in a corner of a fly box, you never know………….

Let’s start with the wet version. Size is important, the naturals are not big, so a size 14  is about right. Maybe in your part of the world there are larger black or very dark sedges and you could risk going up one or two sizes. I like to use a Kamasan B175 for the extra strength that hook provides. The waters where I find this fly works hold large browns, so that little bit of extra metal gives me some degree of security in the heat of battle.

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magpie tail feathers for the wings

Tying silk is purple or crimson. I form the body with rabbit or moles fur which has been dyed black. I have been known to add a small gold tag before winding the body but I seriously doubt if that additional effort is appreciated by the fish. The wing is made from matching slips of crow secondaries or you can use magpie tail just as well. The hackle is a couple of turns of black hen tied in front of the wing.

the body is formed of dyed black fur

The finished wet fly.

The dry pattern is very similar but I add two CDC feathers dyed dark grey as an underwing. This gives both a better shape to the wing and at the same time increases the floatation qualities of the fly. The black hen hackle is replaced with a short fibred cock hackle of the same colour and I give it at least 4 turns to increase ‘buzz’ effect.

here are the paired CDC feathers being tied in over the back of the dry pattern

The dry version

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Old school on the Keel

Sunday morning:

No wind. Not even a faint zephyr. Glassy surfaces on the loughs meaning every cast causes fish scaring ripples. The thought of a day spent chasing corduroy ripples across the vastness of Lough Conn did not appeal so I demurred on my planned visit to the Massbrook shoreline. I needed a plan ‘B’ so I made some coffee and mulled the options. Recent rains have enlivened the rivers and there seem to be a few salmon in the River Moy. The problem is that a weekend day on the Moy after a rise in water levels attracts anglers in their hundreds. Health and Safety professionals would have a heart attack seeing quantities of sharpened treble hooks being flung around with so little regard for human flesh. Pushing through crowds of rod wielding fishers is both unproductive and testing. I can find little in the way of relaxation when confronted with lines of anglers casting into the pools. Sure fish will be caught but when the river is so busy I’d rather toddle off to somewhere less infested.

Wickhams

The river Robe saw some much-needed water and this will have livened up the local trout population no doubt. Half way through June means the BWO hatches will be in full swing and there is every chance of some hectic sport as the westering sun dips below the Partry hills. A possibility…….

The Keel Canal. This enigmatic stretch of unlikely looking water is also on my radar at this time of year. The main road from Ballinrobe to Castlebar (N84) crosses the Keel and the visitor could easily miss it. The channel is narrow and straight. Reeds crowd the banks where the water exits Lough Carra and these give way to high banks for the rest of the passage to Lough Mask. Its crystal clear water is populated with wild trout equipped with telescopic eyesight. If you enjoy a challenge then the Keel canal is ready to provide it both in terms of technical difficulty and the potential size of the quarry. I have landed trout to nearly 5 pounds here and lost fish that have simply disappeared at the end of scintillating runs, leaving me shaking and awestruck at their power. Yes, I think I will hit the Keel this evening. Fist though, I need to get the right gear together.

The most important piece of equipment every angler needs for an evening’s trout fishing in Ireland is insect repellent. Don’t even think of venturing out on the river bank without some. Trillions of biting midges are out there waiting for your succulent blood. Failure to prepare accordingly will ruin your fishing, so invest in some good insect repellent and apply liberally.

Leaders need to be made up too. I generally don’t make up leaders ahead of time as I have had experience of catastrophic failures when using old casts with all the strength of cotton thread. But an evening on the Keel requires quick changes in the darkness, so I want to keep knots to a minimum. 5x casts for earlier on and some 6 pound mono ones for the sedge fishing in the dark.

my Ginger Sedge

Normally I get by with very few patterns, especially dry flies. An Adams, a small red sedge, a red spinner – I’d be pretty confident if I only had these three in my box for ‘normal’ dry fly fishing on Irish rivers. The Keel is different though and the fish seem to switch quickly between different food forms, meaning you have to keep watching and adjusting your approach constantly. One pattern I have used to good effect is a small dry Black Sedge. I have tried this pattern elsewhere with a conspicuous lack of success, but on the Keel it works and occasionally works extremely well. I tied this fly up after seeing a trout feeding on the naturals one evening a few years ago. We have all seen those small dark/black sedges in large numbers dancing over the surface but the trout steadfastly ignore them. I have read about this and my own observations concurred that the fish simply did not like these insects, until I clearly saw that fish on the Keel chomping them.

My plan is simple, arrive on the water around 8pm and await developments, possibly amusing myself by targeting roach on tiny nymphs until the trout come on the feed. Fish into the darkness with dries until I can’t see them and switch to skating sedges. It is like a game of two halves; the first is sight fishing, casting to specific trout on a short line. The second half is completely different, inky blackness enveloping you, listening intently for the noise of a rising fish and directing your casts accordingly. The big lads come out to play once the sun has completely set so the excitement is cranked up a few notches knowing any take is liable to be from a monster.

Sunday evening:

The day, which had started dull and overcast but very warm, had blossomed into a glorious summer’s afternoon. We went to Westport, had a bite to eat and enjoyed the grand weather. I had some things to do around the house and it was nearly 9pm before I hit the road. As I was setting up at the roadside an old work colleague stopped for a chat and so it was gone 10pm before I cast my first line.

very low water on the Keel

The air was alive with flies, buzzers, some empherid spinners and a host of small sedges. I fished dry with spinner patterns and took some small trout off the top. Although the fish were small this was very challenging fishing as the flow moved around constantly, making drag a huge problem. I missed dozens, pricked a good few and half-a-dozen or so came to hand.

small but still hard to catch!

Eventually I decided to change to sedges as they seemed to be by far the most numerous species on the wing. My Ginger Sedge occupied the dropper position while a size 14 Wickham’s Fancy was attached to the end of the leader. I dropped down to the lower pool and on the very first cast hooked a nice trout.

a good fish on the Wickham

The Wickhams was buried in his scissors. Fishing out the pool proved to be unproductive so I went back upstream to find the surface pock-marked with rising trout. Great sport ensued as fish hurled themselves at the flies I dragged over them. None were massive but each was welcome in this season of poor fortunes. By now it was getting pretty dark so once again I sauntered down stream and combed the lower pool with the cast of two.

The take, when it came, was the stuff of fishing dreams. Out of nowhere the line tightened as the surface broke. All the slack I was holding vanished in the blink of an eye and the reel gave a screech. The rod bent as out there in the darkness a hefty trout dashed for cover. It didn’t jump but I reckon it tried very other trick in the trouts repertoire. I stumbled across some large limestone boulders to gain a landing spot on a narrow gravel bar, unhitching my net as I went. The landing went according to plan and a fine fish slid over the rim and into the mesh.

I was in a hurry to get this lad back into the water so I am afraid the photos do not do him justice. This was a fine fish of perhaps a couple of pounds, beautifully marked and the shape of a rugby ball. And the successful fly? That old school Wickham’s again!

I fished on for a bit more but without any further success. The midges were beginning to bite despite my insect repellent (why do they always bite my ears?) and I had work in the morning so I called it a day and negotiated  the meadow between the river and the car accompanied by numerous bats enjoying a midnight feast. I mulled the events of the evening as I drove home. I had done OK but I should have done better. My ratio of fish risen to landed was very poor. As it used to say on my school reports ‘Colin can do better’

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

Variation of a spinner pattern

Old age is a bugger, isn’t it. Advancing years bring some positives I will grant you; experience, appreciation of the good things in life and a calmness which is rare in the young. But weighed against these positives are some pretty hefty negatives, the chief one being (in my opinion) failing health. Now look, I’m not ready for the pine box just yet but as 60 looms large my body is starting to show definite signs of wear and tear. Joints are arthritic, energy levels are noticeably declining and my eyesight deteriorates and a near daily basis. I used to be blessed with excellent eyesight but now life revolves around the never-ending hunt for my glasses. I hate spectacles with a passion, they are never where you want them and the fiddle of putting them on to perform the smallest task irritates me enormously. Unfortunately I just can’t see without them so I am trapped in the thrall of these hideous contraptions.

the top pool

the neck of a pool where sighting your dry fly is a real challenge

Given my ocular limitations, spotting tiny flies on the water is a huge challenge for me. It is bad enough in good light, but as the shadows lengthen in the evening I struggle to see anything at all, let alone a size 16 spinner floating along in a streamy run. Glasses or no glasses, frustration grows as cast after cast is fished out with me blithely unaware of where the damn fly is. A remedy was called for so I spent some time at the vice this afternoon to tackle the problem of making my small dries more visible.

My particular issues were how to make spinners easier to see in low light. I was thinking of evenings on the Robe and the Keel canal where, by mid-May there should be falls of olive spinners. The brownies can rise in big numbers during these occasions so a good copy can be very effective and my normal design incorporates a couple of features which I think make them winners. Firstly they have wings tied fully spent made from pale grey floating yarn. I imagine this gives an instantly recognisable shape for the fish to key on to. The second feature is a fur body which allows any remaining light in the sky to shine through giving a ‘glow’ to fly. I am not a fan on ‘hard’ bodies on spinner patterns (quill, silks etc).

Micro fibbet tails, a body of dubbed rusty fur and a post of pink fibres for me to see gave me the look I was after. I tied up a couple with a chocolate cock hackle wound around the pink post but it didn’t seem to add anything to the fly so I didn’t bother with it on subsequent models.

These flies are fine for the streamy necks of pools but in the flat water and smooth tails I feel the need for something softer for presenting to trout who have time to be very choosy. I replace the synthetic yarn wings with CDC for challenging water.

Looking downstream

Challenging water on the Keel canal

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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, fly tying

What you need in your box

The trout fishing on the rivers has taken off now and those of you who are lucky enough to be able to fish for wild Brownies in the West of Ireland should be on the river at every opportunity. A lot depends on the weather of course, but the next 6 weeks will provide us with the best fishing of the whole year. So what flies are the killers? Let’s take a look at a few of the old reliables which produce the goods every season.

The Wet Flies

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The Partridge and Orange

The P&O is a regular on my wet fly cast. It takes fish consistently during April and May when it is probably taken as a nymph rising through the water column and it does well during hatches of olives and stoneflies.

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Wickhams Fancy

Good on days when there is a bit of sunshine and the fish are feeding in fast water, the Wickhams catches trout despite looking like nothing in the natural world. I am constantly amazed by the ability of this gaudy creation to catch fish but it does so I don’t complain.

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The Connemara Gold

Some of you may not be familiar with the Connemara Gold but it is a really good spider to have in the box for the days when small dark flies are hatching out. A simple black hen hackle with a body of Pearsall’s gold silk covered with gold tinsel and then clear horsehair is all that is required. I fish this in small sizes, sizes 14 to 18.

Claret Partridge

Claret Partridge

On the days when claret duns are hatching this  fly will do the business for you. Claret Duns hatch out in small numbers in the slowest pools so they tend to be overlooked by many fishermen but the trout seem to like them and this fly is a good imitation of the nymph.

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Beaded Hare’s Ear

My ‘go to’ tail fly this is a hugely effective pattern. I add a touch of red seal’s fur to the Hare’s Ear body and vary the bead between copper and gold to meet the needs of the day. I guess I use a copper beaded one more often than the gold version.

The Dry Flies

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Adams

My favourite dry fly in either the normal tying or klinkhammer (both shown above). This one takes fish right through the whole season so make up plenty in a wide range of sizes. it even takes trout feeding on the mayfly so some size 10’s area good investment.

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Gold ribbed Hare’s Ear

A very old pattern, the GRHE still warrants a place in you dry fly box, especially when olives are hatching in the spring. You have probably noticed that I tie my dry flies with synthetic wings. This is so they are stronger and it also gives me the option of changing the wing colour to pink of lime to aid sighting in difficult light conditions. My days of tying double split wings are well and truly over!

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When the trout are feeding in fast water keeping your dry fly afloat becomes a nightmare. That is when I turn to the Irresistible. The one in the photo is tied as an Adams but you can turn many patterns into an Irresistible with a little thought. OK, so they are a bit tricky to tie on small hooks but I think the effort is well worthwhile.

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Black Bi-visible

Dressed very small (18 – 24) this can be a handy one to have on difficult days. Trout can become preoccupied with tiny dark Diptera and this is the pattern you need for those days. A small Griffiths Gnat also works well in those circumstances.

The fly is only as effective as the fisherman, so stealth, attention to tippet diameter and good water craft are every bit as important as the pattern. Take you time getting into the correct position to allow you covering the water correctly and keep watching out for the clues about what is happening around you. Don’t get too hung up on swapping flies – any of the flies on this post will catch you a trout this spring.

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