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, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

New beginnings

 

I am hopeful that tomorrow I will escape the drudgery of paid employment for a few hours to enjoy a few casts and mark the start of my 2016 season. Before then I need to sort out my tackle and make some final repairs. I am planning a short trip to the River Robe and in particular a stretch which promised much but produced only limited results last spring. High water is needed on this short section of the river and we have plenty of the wet stuff here in Ireland this year. Indeed, most of the country is still saturated after a long winter of near constant rain. Temperatures are still low, ranging from 2 to 5 degrees lately, so the probability is I will be deep nymphing or at best swinging a team of wets in the cold water.

 

I have a couple of new fly patterns to christen including a small Stonefly nymph which looks good in the fly box. As usual, I have been tweaking some patterns in the hope of improving their powers of fooling the fish. Adding a fur or herl thorax behind a soft hackle on spiders really seems to make the fly more effective so I’ve tied up a clatter of them for this year. Partridge and Orange, Snipe and Purple and most of the other classics have all been given this treatment as well as my own patterns.

 

I have already checked all my rods for damaged whippings, broken or chipped rings and worn handles, and all are in fine fettle. My reels need a quick once over to clean and oil them (most of them never saw the water last year). My lines are also fine as I unwound them at the end of last season and they just need to be re-loaded on to the various reels again. Where some work is required is the making of new butts for my leaders. I like to use heavy nylon butts for the link between the fly line and the leader proper and only occasionally do I use those braided jobs which are so popular these days. I admit they are very useful when you want to add a sinking section to a floating line but I think they prefer the stiffness of heavy nylon as an aid to turning over my casts. Depending on the amount and type of fishing I am doing these butts can last a whole season or need to be changed every few weeks.

 

Why not use fluorocarbon instead? Two reasons for me, firstly fluorocarbon sinks, so it is no use for dry fly fishing and secondly I keep snapping the damn stuff! I seem to be in a small minority of anglers who suffer from this but I have a tendency to break fluorocarbon at every opportunity and have lost all faith in it as a leader material.

 

Other pieces of kit which causes me problems are nets. This has only started in the last five years or so, before that I owned 2 nets and I can’t recall them ever causing me a minute’s doubt. Nowadays I have 4 nets to pick from and they all present a range of ailments. Sticking telescopic handles, seized locking mechanisms and torn bags all need addressed before Saturday rolls along. One of my trout nets needs a new bag and the spare has a rip in it which I only discovered the other day.

I have no shortage of flies to pick from and some may suggest I own too many but that is part of the fun for me. I might try to sort the teeming hundreds of wets/drys/nymphs into a system which is easy to use on the riverbank on a blustery spring afternoon, thus saving me a high level of frustration and overuse of bold language. I am thinking about filling one box with favourite patterns and seeing how that works out for me. By applying the 80/20 rule I believe this should reduce the time wasted while fishing by a considerable amount.

 

Prospects for the new season are hard to quantify after the wet winter we had. Did the prolonged periods of high water affect trout stocks? Was the relatively high temperatures we ‘enjoyed’ good or bad for the rivers and their inhabitants? What changes to the banks and river bed will I find after the long periods of damaging flooding? Some stretches of the Robe have high, soft banks of earth which will probably be radically altered this spring. Perhaps the high water will have encouraged some lough trout who run the rivers to spawn to linger in the flowing water. The Keel River will be a favourite candidate for this behaviour as Mask fish regularly turn up there early doors.

 

Then there is the personal question of how will I cope with my arthritis this season? Last season my mobility was very limited and pain levels reached an alarming and debilitating level with wading being transformed from one of the pleasures of our sport to pure torture. Those of who are afflicted by arthritis or other life altering diseases know the frustration wrought when the sport you love is severely compromised due to pain and physical limitations but if you are lucky enough to be in good health I would urge you to get out there and enjoy life to the maximum now. Live and fish each day like it is your last, you never know when your physical or mental functions will deteriorate or desert you. For me personally, the changes to my diet have certainly improved my day to day health but the challenges of the riverbank are now upon me, challenges I eagerly accept but with the trepidation of one who lost many battles last year. Too often during 2015 my fishing days were punctuated by deliberately missing out pools where I couldn’t wade, river crossings which not attempted or abandoned due to the pain or even sessions cut short as I limped back to the car with swollen ankles and deflated heart. I’m hopeful this year I will perform much better.

Right then, enough writing for now. I will start the tasks outlined above and give the Robe an auld lash tomorrow if the weather is fine and report back to you good folks if I am blessed with a measure of success.

 

 

 

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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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