You all know by now we lift the boats out of the water on the Glenisland coop side of Lough Beltra. Here are some photos of the efforts this morning on a beautiful autumn day in the west of Ireland.
It’s that time of year again, angling AGM’s are in full swing here in Ireland. There is always a rush to hold the annual general meetings just before the serious fishing starts. I recall that back in Scotland these meetings generally took place at the end of the previous year so that all the agreed changes could be brought into force well ahead of the fishing starting again. Things are much more relaxed in Ireland and AGM’s pepper the months of February and March despite the season being open for weeks before that.
I have been thinking long and hard about which clubs to join this year. The Glenisland Coop is a certainty for me as I love fishing Lough Beltra and find the club to be well run and focused on improving the fishery. It is so handy for me, being only 15 minutes drive from home and while salmon numbers are low there are still a few fish to chuck flies at on Beltra.
After that though I need to think about where else I want to spend fishing time this season. Despite the disastrous fishing I have endured on Lough Conn over the past few years I will no doubt keep heading back to that lake again this season. Again, it is close to home and easy to access. One positive of the poor fishing is that anglers have voted with their feet and even the best drifts are only lightly fished these days. I will no doubt moan and groan about the lack of fish but I will be back drifting and trolling the shallows on Conn again this season, God willing.
What about the Moy? Here is where it gets a bit tricky for me. I have been lucky enough to fish some of the finest beats of the Dee and Tweed in my time and at the other end of the scale joined the queue to fish down pools on hard pressed association waters both in Scotland and Ireland. Not being a wealthy man I need to accept that club waters will be a big part of my angling experience these days. The East Mayo Anglers waters are a fairly typical angling association with access to a lot of the river Moy. I have been a member in the past and I need to make up my mind if I will join again this season. Although the river opened for salmon fishing last month it has been unfishable due to the continued high water levels this spring. Will there be some springers around when the water recede? Probably yes.Will there be a lot of them? Almost certainly no! And so here is the conundrum, lots of angling pressure from a large and very active membership chasing a small number of fish. Space is going to be at a premium when conditions are favourable. Last season I abandoned trying to fish on a couple of occasions not because it was so busy on the bank but because I couldn’t even find a parking spot! That was at the start of the grilse run, the time when you really have the best chance of contacting a salmon. Instead, I spent ages driving the length of the beats and still couldn’t even nose the car into a space. God knows what the best fishing spots were like on those days.
For me, fishing should be relaxing, almost meditative. I dislike any elements of competition in my angling and don’t really like crowds on the riverbank. Club waters are always going to be a challenge for me and I can accept that I need to be more flexible when on busy river banks. It is a question of just how crowded the beat is I suppose. Is a couple of hundred Euro money well spent on a very busy club membership? Last season I only landed one fish from the EMAA but that was entirely my own fault as I hardly fished the river. I managed some enjoyable high water spinning in March and April but largely missed the rest of the year when the fly is usually better. I see that a photo of that one fish is on the EMAA website: https://www.eastmayoanglers.com/gallery/2019-season
And there is the nub of the problem, staring me squarely in the face; I need to get out fishing more often! I body-swerved the Moy last year telling myself it was too crowded when I should have gone looking for quieter spots. While there were relatively few fish around there were still some there to be caught if I had applied myself more to the task in hand. Part of the problem is that I don’t know the upper part of the river at all and this could be the solution for me, at least when the grilse are running. Springers are rarely encountered in the streamier upper section of the EMAA beats and the fly only section sees very little pressure until May or June. So instead of joining the throngs at the bridge or the high bank I will target the fly only stretch further up the river in 2020. There, decision made!
This dislike of crowds has certainly increased over the years. I can recall fishing Newburgh and the Macher Pool on the lower Ythan in Aberdeenshire as a lad when you literally had to push your way into a line of anglers to have a cast for the sea trout. I don’t know what it is like now for ADAA anglers but you used to be able to fish the worm from the bridge down to a marker pole on the North Bank of the Macher but when the fishing was good there would be scores of anglers shoulder-to-shoulder there. Nobody used a net, fish were just unceremoniously dragged out as the lucky angler reeled in furiously while walking backwards out of the water and up the shingle. I suspect there are way fewer fish there these days.
A little bit of me is hankering to fish Lough Carra this season. To be brutally honest the fishing on that lovely lake has been poor for many years now but it is such a gorgeous place to fish I might be tempted to give it a try again. The huge mayfly hatches are a thing of the past but the summer evening fishing when the sedges are hatching might still be good. The Carra club AGM is to be held tonight in Castlebar so I might brave the risk of infection of Covid-19 and go along to see what is happening. As a club the Carra boys are usually very active and there is always something going on to try and improve the fishing there.
So, in summary, I will definitely join the Glenisland Coop and East Mayo Anglers. I may also join Carra too. I’ll go in search of quieter spots instead of braving the crowds and hopefully I’ll catch a few fish this year.
This craik of ‘naming’ windy days is a nonsense to me. I live in the west of Ireland and guess what? It gets wet and windy during the winter. The near constant weather warnings and maps with shaded areas where it is going to rain are over the top in my opinion. Anyway, Ciara soaked us all and blew a hooley last weekend and we are facing storm Dennis this coming weekend with yet more rain to be dumped on us from the heavens. Today though it was a quiet and dry morning so I decided to check on the boats in the harbour on Lough Beltra. We put 4 boats out a couple of weeks ago and they need to be checked periodically to make sure they do not come to any harm.
The car park was under a foot or so of water when I got there but the floating pontoon dock was doing its job perfectly and all 4 boats were safe but half full of water. Time to get the bucket out!
Gerry Hoban (fisheries officer) saw my car parked and came over for a chat. Seems a few early springers are nosing into Carrowmore which is a good sign and Delphi has turned up a couple of fish so far. I explained to Gerry that I will be doing some coarse fishing this year and he told me of a lake nearby with Tench in it. I’ll be giving that a try during the summer alright!
It didn’t take too long to empty all four boats and check the securing ropes were all OK. With another 4 boats to be launched soon I will be back on the shores of this wonderful lake very soon. Fishing opens on 20th March.
Today was a big day for the Glenisland Coop, we lifted all the boats out of the lake. As many members as we could muster gathered at 3pm and amid heavy showers we rowed the boats to the bank, dragged them to the shed or the space behind it and turned the boats over. Heavy, back breaking work but a job that has to be done. Being part of an angling club means that you enjoy access to the fishing but also you need to pull your weight when the hard work needs to be done. Today was made easier by the jovial atmosphere and the willingness of everyone to ‘muck in’ and get the job done. All the boats are safely ashore now and the ones for varnishing are in the boat shed. Thanks to everyone who helped out today, it was a great team effort. Here are some photos of the day.
There can’t be many Irish lough fishers who don’t have this fly or something very like it in their fly box. Perhaps one of the earliest variations on the Dabbler theme, this one is a good early season pattern for trout.
Use black tying silk, an 8/0 for preference. Hook sizes vary depending on what you will be fishing for and I go all the way from teensy-weensy 14’s right up to gigantic size 4’s for use on Lough Beltra. Tied on a size 8 or 10 it is a great pattern for the salmon in Carrowmore lake.
Start the silk near the eye of the hook and catch in a black cock hackle. Now run the silk to the bend in touching turns.
Make the tail out of a few fibres of nice dark bronze mallard. Tie them in so the tails are about the same length as the hook shank. This is important as short tails will upset the balance of the fly and makes it look odd. I you feel like adding a bit of bling then a couple of strands of pearl flash can be added to tail at this stage.
Tie in a length of oval silver tinsel which will be used for the rib and dub the tying silk with seals fur a similar rough fur. Begin with black at the tail end, then a band of red in the middle and finally black near the head.. Leave plenty of space at the head.
Palmer the black cock hackle down the body and tie it in with the oval silver tinsel. Wind the rib up through the hackle, carefully binding it down in open turns.
I like to add a couple of turns of a long fibred hen hackle dyed red under the wings but you may decide not to bother with this refinement.
The wings are your normal bronze mallard tied in cloak style around the hook. Finish off my making a neat head with the silk and applying your favourite cement or varnish.
The real beauty of this fly is adaptability. It can occupy any position on the cast and can be fished with confidence on a floater of sinking line. It’s well worth tying a few up if you are doing some fishing in Ireland or Scotland.
Where is this year going? We are about to enter the last week in February. January, that laggard of a month, is a distant memory and the weather has already decided it is spring here in Ireland. It was 17 degrees the other day and the exceptionally mild weather seems set to continue for a while yet. Last year at this time we were in the grips of ‘the beast from the east’ battling frozen pipes and treacherous roads. That weather event appeared to me to upset the whole of the spring fishing in the west of Ireland and it never really got going after that. So what are the prospects for the start of this season on my local lough?
The season starts late on Lough Beltra and we don’t get going until 20th March. The anglers hopes are pinned on a complex array of weather factor for the fish to be there in the lough and for the conditions to be right for some chance to hook one. Migratory fish enter the lough via the Newport river, a short, narrow stream which needs a good height of water to encourage the salmon to run. So the ideal forecast for me would be some wet weather over the next two weeks or so to lift water levels a bit. The good news is that we have had had rain recently and fish could have been running since last month. Spring fish tend to keep their heads down and rarely show themselves unless they have to, so one or two could have sneaked in Lough Beltra recently unobserved. It’s exciting to think that some of the lies may be tenanted as I write!
Precipitation combined with the wind will largely decide how productive the opening days of the new season will be. No wind is a disaster for us. Seeing a perfect refection of the hills on the surface of the mirror-like water may be beautiful but the fish hate still conditions. We want recent rain and a good, strong blow from the south-west to get the fish interested. For me, there is no such thing as water levels being too high. I like to see the water lapping the trees on the shoreline when chasing springers.
The Newport house side of the lough are blessed with shallows and islands which mean that actual wind direction is of less importance than on the Co-op side. South westerly is what we look for with a North-easterly a poor, but never-the-less fishable, second choice.
Given that conditions on the day will have a major effect I remain confident there will be a few fish in Beltra for the opening day. I look forward to meeting some of you on those lovely shores soon.
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.
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.
I always have some Green Highlanders in my box but it is a fly I rarely use. The feather winged ones are fun to tie and look good but the hair winged versions have more movement in the water and are more likely to attract salar. Deeply conservative (like most salmon anglers), I tend to reach for the same old patterns or at least close variations of them. Cascades, Willie Gunn’s, black and gold shrimps are my staples. After that I am venturing into new territory! So the poor old Green Highlanders spends each season languish in a corner of the box beside other equally unloved patterns. Colours fade, hooks grow rusty and before you know it the old flies are jettisoned in favour of newer tyings. Some of my flies never see the water, they just hang around for a few season before they depart for the waste bin. It has happened to Green highlanders many times. In an effort to give the venerable old fella a new lease of life I have tied up some with a muddler head.
My thinking is that a muddler headed Green Highlander might just do the trick on Lough Beltra. That extra bit of movement and disturbance in the water, combined with the somewhat unusual colours may get the attention of a springer. I am always looking for a pattern for those ‘intermediate’ days when it is neither light nor dark. My normal mantra of bright day – bright fly, dull day – dull fly has served me well over the years but what do you do when it is somewhere in middle? If in doubt I put one bright fly and one dark one on my cast, but maybe switching to a green coloured fly could pay dividends.
Here is how I put this variant together:
I started with some green 6/0 tying silk on a size 6 single iron. At the start of the bend I tied in and wound a tag of fine oval silver tinsel. I confess that I simplified the rear end of the fly and omitted the yellow floss, ostrich herl butt and reduced the tail to just a single Golden Pheasant topping.
Next. a length of fine oval silver is tied in and then the yellow floss silk which will form the rear quarter of the body.
I used green floss silk instead of fur to make the rest of the body. tie in and wind a nice, even body then remove the waste end. Catch in a prepared cock hackle , dyed green highlander shade.
Now wind the hackle in open turns over the green part of the body only. This is secured by open reverse turns of the silver tinsel which has been previously tied in at the tail. Time now to tie in a wind 3 or 4 turns of a long fibred, softish cock hackle dyed yellow
The wing is formed out of three skinny bunches of dyed bucktail. In order from the bottom, I used yellow, orange and green highlander.
Now for the fun part – spinning two colours of deer hair to make the head. I used a small bunch of green first and followed that up with some yellow deer hair. Don’t go overboard with the deer hair, I was aiming for a small head, just enough to create a bit of disturbance.
Take your time trimming the head so it is neat and tidy. Make a whip finish and then varnish the exposed silk a couple of times.
There we go, not too difficult to tie and a nice pattern to have in the box for the new season.
Still suffering a serious lack of water here but some showers over the last few days have brought some salmon in at last.
Beltra has produced a few-
The river Moy is seeing some action too with the Ridge and Cathedral beats fishing well and beats right up as far as the East Mayo Anglers water giving both salmon and grilse.
The forecast is for more showery weather over the weekend so there are hopes more fish will run. With low water conditions the fly will do well so think small flies and careful wading. Indeed, stay out of the water completely if possible.