Fishing in Ireland


An interesting piece in the local rag (the Mayo Advertiser) by Cllr Michael Burke who sits on Mayo County Council. In a half page piece he discusses the huge changes in the structure of the old IFT which has over the years become Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI). He rightly points out that angling tourism which is so vital to the local economy is down and the poor catches of recent years is a major contributing factor. He goes on to point out that a lot of the important work such as maintaining the spawning beds does not appear to be happening as they used to. He says that IFI staff numbers are now down to ‘about 300’.

I can’t disagree with anything in Michael’s article but I would add some additional reasons for the slump in catches. The whole ecology of the western lakes has radically altered over the past 30 years and invasive species are now thriving at the expense of our native trout and salmon. There is no control of the huge shoals of roach and increasingly bream in our lakes. Just imagine the biomass consumed by there fish which would have otherwise fed trout and young salmon.

Mink are present in large numbers across the country and these creatures do immense damage, not just to fisheries but all forms of wildlife. Virtually no controls are in place bar the odd trap here and there.

Agricultural run off is a problem nobody wants to talk about for fear of upsetting the farmers (read voters). Intensive cattle production in a huge local employer so the slurry produced and then sprayed on the land is not going to tackled by government.

The number of dwellings on or near the banks of lakes and tributaries has exploded and these feed phosphates into watercourses, further upsetting the balance of nutrients.

I love fishing the peaceful lakes and rivers here in Ireland but the days of good catches and pristine waterways is long gone. I applaud Michael Burke’s piece in the local paper but it is actions we need if there is going to be any sort of an improvement in angling here in Ireland.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Western Lakes Dabbler

Here is a dabbler pattern I created some years ago to use during the mayfly hatch on Lough Carra. It’s proved to be a consistent killer and has taken trout from the other lakes too, so I can vouch for its effectiveness.

A calm start to a day on Lough Carra

I used to keep a boat at Moorehall on Lough Carra and enjoyed some great fishing on that lovely water but these days the fishing on Carra has deteriorated to the point where I no longer leave a boat there. It’s easy for me to get a loan of a boat on any of the local lakes so I fish Carra occasionally these days when I hear the trout are rising. 

Carra has long been famous as a lake with a massive hatch of mayfly. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer mayfly each season now but the fish still respond to a well fished artificial. I prefer Carra on a day of big winds when large waves roll the length of the lake. Big winds seem to stir the bigger trout in my experience. This pattern was designed to be fished in just such conditions.

Tying silk: brown

Hook: heavy wet fly, size 8

Tails: Cock Pheasant tail fibres, about half-a-dozen

Rib: thick brown silk. I use rod whipping silk which has a nice colour and is very strong.

Body: natural seals fur

Body Hackle: a dark red game cock hackle, palmered

Shoulder hackle: a grey partridge dyed golden olive or yellow

Cloak: well marked bronze mallard tied all round

As you can see, this is a simple dabbler style pattern and it is easy to tie. To my eye the natural seals fur is an excellent match to the ivory coloured body of the naturals. The trout certainly approve and it has been a very consistent pattern over the 20 odd years I and my friends have been using it.

The natural fur
Heavy rod wrapping thread for the rib
Tapered dubbed body

I recommend that you fish this fly as part of a three fly team. It has caught me trout in all positions on the leader but if pressed I would put it on the tail in preference to the droppers. Many times I have boated trout on a wide range of patterns on the same drift, so exact copies are not usually required in a big wave. The secret is to find the fish where they are feeding and this is not always easy. Experience plays a large part in finding the trout but you cover a lot of water in a big wind so keep flogging away safe in the knowledge you are going to cover fish somewhere on your drifts.

The only drawback with this pattern is the weakness of the pheasant tail fibres. These break off easily and the resulting tail-less fly is not effective. Try replacing the pheasant tail fibres with some moose main hair – it is much tougher and longer lasting.

dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

Fathach glas (Green giant)

The fly I am writing about today is not especially unique. Indeed, many of you reading this post possibly have one or two similar patterns in your box of dry mayflys. What singles this one out is one thing only – it’s SIZE. Let me transport you back in time to the crystal clear waters of Lough Carra, many seasons ago……..

Drifting gently down the shoreline one May afternoon we came across some fish feeding on hatching mayfly. ‘We’ consisted of Ben, my usual boat partner and myself. It had been a slow morning for us with little in the way of action but it was a lovely day to be out and about on the water. A spring day on Carra is always good for the soul. The sprinkling of fly which had started to appear raised our hopes for sport and I swapped the cast of wets for a solitary dry (I forget the pattern). A trout rose followed by another, then another. Tensions rose perceptibly as the trout grew more confident and broke the surface to grab the poor fly as the hatched. Here we were, in every fly fisher’s dream.


As we drifted I covered first one, then a second fish but without response from either. Change the fly! The hatch can end very quickly or the trout get spooked and go down, so if the fly is ignored after a couple of fish have seen it I tend to change the fly rather than persevere. The day had metamorphosed from lazily drifting and stroking the top of the water with calm, ill-defined casting to one of high tension and focussed thinking. Were the fish hitting emergers or duns on the surface? Would we be better to set up on a drift closer to the reeds? Wulff or Fan-wing? Is that leader long enough? Maybe I should add a new tippet? To a non-fisher the detail we fly fishers consider must seem like a form of self-inflicted mental torture but the unravelling of the complexities of a day’s fishing are fundamental to our enjoyment of the sport. I tied on a dry version of a Lough Arrow but it was ignored. So was a Royal Wulff and a Yellow Fan-wing. And still the trout rose, some in a steady, no nonsense roll over the fly. Others, probably small trout, splashing violently as they engulfed the naturals. I was beginning to struggle and the pressure that we all apply inwardly when surrounded by rising trout grew exponentially with each natural rise within casting range.

Why I decided to tie on the Green Wulff is not very clear in my memory. It was not the most obvious choice as I had tied a couple up with Lough Mask in mind and in particular for use on a windy day. Yet here I was fishing a smallish ripple on Carra and yet the green monster called out to me. Like a football manager deep in the second half with the desperate need to find a goal I reached out to the biggest lad on the bench. My equivalent of a six-foot-five-inch centre forward was a humungous Green Wulff. Tied on a size 6 longshank and sprouting squirrel hair wings and tails that made it look even bigger. This was an Fathach Glas – a green giant!

‘What are you trying next?’ asked Ben. I paused before answering, trying to judge if he will be mildly amused or simply turn the boat around and head for the nearest mental asylum where I could be incarcerated for my own safety. ‘Green Wulff’. ‘A big one’. He glanced in my direction then did a double take when the size of my latest offering became obvious. Now Ben has seen a lot on these Irish loughs so nothing much fazes him. ‘Worth a lash’ was all he said but I could tell he was trying to grasp my reasoning for trying this oddball.

I made the first cast, or rather I tried to make the first cast with the Wulff. Damn you physics! The air resistance of big dries can be difficult to overcome and huge hairy Wulffs are right up there among the most awkward flies to present. It took me a few minutes of flailing to find my timing and alter the loop sufficiently to project the fly about 15 yards out in front of me. That would have to do for now. I was feeling a tad self-conscious about this now, a mad yoke of a fly and obvious difficulty casting it out. And now it was sitting on the surface it looked even bigger! It dwarfed the naturals around it and looked absolutely nothing like the creatures I was trying to imitate. Maybe I should change back to something more normal.

Then, in one of those sublime moments which you never forget, it happened. I saw the whole thing clearly and even now, all these years later the picture is fresh and vivid in my mind. The trout broke the surface perhaps a couple of inches abaft the Wulff and opened his mouth to engulf it as he turned down again. My timing was exquisite, the duration of pause perfect for once and the line tightened as the hook found lodgement in his scissors. All of this happened because I was in shock at the sight of the take. I could hardly believe a modestly sized trout had swallowed the enormous fly. After boating the trout I checked the fly and it was undamaged but sodden. Drying it proved to be the next challenge as it had shipped a lot of water and took plenty of blotting and blowing to get it dry enough for a re-application of floatant. More unsightly whipping and hauling finally landed the fly in front of the boat again and I settled back to digest what had just happened.

Not even a couple of minutes had passed when the whole process repeated itself and a second trout was plunging to the depths of the lough with the Wulff firmly attached. By the time the rise was over I had taken five decent trout, all on the green giant. I missed some others but in general the takes were very confident and the hook holds very good. In my limited experience this is very unusual when fishing large mayflys on the surface – lots of splashy rises, misconnections and poor hook-holds seem to be commonplace when using big dries.

Word spread like wildfire and everyone I bumped into seemed to know that I had had a good day on Carra with some sort of green dry fly. I tied up some more and handed them around the fishers who were interested. Amazed laughter was the normal reaction and I could see that most of the lads were not going to embarrass themselves by trying out this ungainly monster. Those that did were just as pleasantly surprised as I was that fine day on Lough Carra. For those of you who make your own flies here is the dressing:

Hook: size 6 long-shank (if you really can’t face the embarrasment of using something this big then an 8 long shank works too)

Tying silk: yellow or olive 6/0 – it needs to be strong for tightly binding the slippery squirrel hair

Tail and spent wings: grey squirrel tail hair dyed bright green. The wings are tied semi-spent. Watch out for tying the wings too long (an easy mistake to make with a long shank hook). Make them barely the same length as the body of the fly and not the length of the hook. If you make the wings too long it makes the finished fly all but impossible to cast.

Green squirrel hair is easily available, Veniards is good though

Body: mix of 50% green seal’s fur and 50% hare’s body fur dyed olive. Taper the body so that it thickens at the thorax

Rib: oval gold tinsel or clear nylon (the original used the tinsel but I think the nylon looks better)

Hackle: Grizzle cock dyed bright green. I clip the fibres underneath so the fly can sit in the surface film.

A good few of the locals around Mayo have one of these beauties in their fly box, and yes, they have caught trout on them too! I have heard it has been the downfall of fish on Mask and Corrib as well as Carra. I carry a couple around with me just in case, one fine May afternoon when the greendrakes are on the surface, history will repeat itself.

I start the tying silk at the bend so that there is a layer of silk along the shank

The hair for the wings is tied in over the eye then split with figure-of-eight turns to form a pair of semi-spent wings

Form the tail from a bunch of green dyed squirrel too

cut the waste ends in steps to give a smooth body shape

body dubbed and wound, then ribbed with nylon

Green dyed grizzle

Hackle wound and head formed. just a drop of varnish on the head now to finish the giant off


dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trout fishing

Wish list

It’s all over for 2017 and I am stuck in another hotel room a long way from home, thinking about next season already. It is a nice hotel, comfortable and warm with an excellent menu in the restaurant downstairs. However, it is not home and so it pales when measured against my abode in the west. I’m lucky in that I don’t suffer from loneliness or sink into morbid thoughts when separated from loved ones, instead I use my time to reflect and think about the future. I don’t usually overthink my fishing trips but, maybe on the back of a poor season, I have been contemplating my options for 2018 in an unusual level of detail. Everything will depend on how the gods of work treat me, too little and I will have lots of time but no money while too much work will keep me away from home and with no time to go fishing. I need to jot down where i want to go. I need to write a list!


I guess my train of thought is neatly divided along geographical lines. Irish angling will obviously be uppermost in any plans but I’m going to wet a line in Scotland too. So let’s take a look at the possibilities which I currently have under review.

Angling for salmon starts early over here with a handful of rivers opening on 1st January. The Drowes is close by, only a bit over an hour’s drive from home. The opening week sees large numbers of fishers descending on this river in an attempt to catch the first salmon of the season. Crowded banks are not my idea of fun but I may just venture up there for a change of scene. Much of the fishing is worming or spinning but there are some nice stretches for the fly and I like the idea of clearing away the cobwebs and casting an early line there.

the Drowes has some good fly water

The River Robe failed to produce the goods last Spring but horrendously low water levels ruined any chances of success. Undeterred, I will return to the banks around Claremorris in March and April when the stoneflies and olives should be hatching. Daffodils and bird song, the greening grass in the fields, the nip still in the air that turns your breath to silver in the early morning all combine to form the unmistakable feeling that winter is over and spring has arrived. The excitement of those initial casts, those first tugs of a small trout as the team of spiders swing in the current, sloshing though the shallows to cross at a ford, munching a sandwich with the sun on your face – all the immensely enjoyable minutia of a day on an Irish river. Happiness!

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite springtime stretch

The Robe at Hollymount, a favourite stretch in the springtime

If time allows I want to go back to Scotland in April. The fourth month of the year was always a lucky one for me for both trout and salmon. I cannot recall the last time I cast a line in Scotland during the month of April, 1996 seems to be most likely but I can’t honestly say it was with any sense of certainty. It was a heck of a long time ago anyway! If there has been some rain there should be a few salmon in the middle beats of the Aberdeenshire Don and even if it has been dry the trout will be feeding hard in anything but an east wind. The beats around Alford offer some wonderful fly water and if time allows I’d love to squeeze in a long weekend tramping the banks of the river where I learned to fish.

The middle Don and a fishy looking pool


I’ve not fished the mayfly properly for a couple of seasons now. I used to adore Lough Carra when the greendrakes were hatching but those days are firmly in the past now. Carra has not fished well for many seasons, despite some very good anglers giving a nostalgic try every year. The quantity of fly life has diminished alarmingly. Trout need to compete with the gulls for even hatching olives, let alone mayflies. Any trout still living in the lake keep their heads well down and those lovely, long rolling waves that you get on a windy day above on Carra still don’t attract the fish to the surface. I seriously doubt if I will bother with Carra next season unless the local ‘jungle drums’ tell me it has turned the corner.

Moorehall bay on Carra

Boats in Moorhall, Lough Carra

Most anglers would plump for the mighty Corrib for mayfly fishing but for me that hallowed water is principally a dapper’s paradise. I used to keep a boat in Salthouse bay at the northern end of the Corrib and learned to find my way around that part of the lake. I caught some nice trout on wets and dries but the real leviathans succumbed to other anglers using dapped naturals. I can’t explain why I don’t dap. I know how to do it, where and when to do it and yet I don’t bother. The dapping rod, reel and thick, unruly floss line, the wooden live bait box and even the little scoop for netting live flies from the surface for bait all nestle in a corner of the room, unloved and unused. Barring some sort of ‘road to Damascus’ moment I doubt if I’ll dap this coming season.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay, lough Mask

So for me it will be lough Mask for the mayfly. It will feel as if I am being unfaithful to my first love, Lough Conn, but Mask is a terrific fishery and I have missed drifting the shallows in a brisk wind. I lived in Ballinrobe when I returned to Ireland and spent many happy hours getting to know where (and where not) you can motor and drift. The boat picked up a few scars after encounters with unseen rocks but the rewards were many. These days much of the fishing on Mask is carried out over the deeps, pulling a team of wets on sinking lines. I’m not a fan of this type of fishing, effective though it undoubtedly is. I find it very hard to justify this disinterest as it looks to the untrained eye very similar to salmon fishing – combing the water with sinking lines and a team of flies. No signs of fish, just the rolling waves and the rhythm of casting. I love days like that on the salmon loughs but quickly succumb to boredom if the speckled lads are my quarry. So I must make time in late May or early June to fish the Mask, drifting the craggy shallows of the Rocky Shore or around the islands.

The mouth of the canal on Lough Mask

At some point during the summer I want to take the road south and motor down to the Kingdom of Kerry. Many, many years ago I fished down that way and it would be nice to try my luck in the salty waters around Dingle again. The only trouble is the holidaymakers are there in droves during the summer months and accommodation is hard to find and damn expensive when you do locate a B&B. Who knows, maybe I’ll camp instead, just like I did all those years ago when I rode a motorbike from Aberdeen to Fenit, pitched the tent near the pier and caught a bass on the second cast! There used to be some good Wrasse fishing from the shore too as I recall. That sport has completely changed nowadays with the advent of LRF.

When I practised wrasse fishing it was with a sliding float and lugworm for bait. I tried all kinds of other baits, especially crab which seemed to be the most logical choice, but lugworm out-fished everything else for me and the sight of the float disappearing into the depths as another big Ballan swallowed the hook was always a huge thrill.  Yes, Kerry would be nice for a change of scene.

my mate Chris with a shore caught Wrasse

I love the autumn. It is by far my favourite season. I am keen on returning to Scotland again to try for a late season salmon on one of the smaller back end rivers. Finding reasonable and affordable water on the Tweed or Tay is difficult but the Deveron used to see good autumn runs and rods were often available without having to win the lottery. So next October I am planning on a short trip to the Turriff area to try for a big back-ender. Many years ago I lost a huge salmon further upstream on the Huntly water. That brute turned and ran down through three pools before the hook pulled out. It was the last of three fish I had on in the space of a few hours and none of them made it to the bank. Sometimes it’s just not your day. I find the Deveron is a nice size, not too poky and yet not overly large and intimidating. Getting back to Scotland twice in one year is very definitely pushing my luck but this is a wish list so October on the Deveron has been pencilled in.

The Devervon near Rothiemay

2017 was an unmitigated angling disaster for me, mainly because work got in the way of time off. It was a poor season for many and maybe I didn’t miss much but I would rather have a poor day on the riverbank than a good day at work. So there is my wish list, I will review it in 12 month’s time see what I did and did not manage to achieve.




Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trout fishing

No fishing again!

I was ill today so my plans to fish Lough Conn came to nothing. I’m hoping to feel better soon and to get out for a few hours fishing through the week (work permitting). Here is a very brief up date on the local angling gossip:

Low water here on the Clare river near Tuam

There are a few salmon and early grilse being caught at the Galway weir but not as many as you would think given the low water conditions. The Clare river is down to its bare bones.

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir


All the rivers in the area are below summer level and fishing is out of the question on them all. Good pools on the Robe where I normally fish are now ankle deep. The tiny drop of rain we have had over this weekend has not made any difference at all. There is rain forecast for the south of the country overnight but it doesn’t look like we will see any up here.

Lough Conn remains quiet with no hatch of mayfly yet. I am hearing of only the very occasional trout being caught on the fly and no trace of salmon at all. The river Moy is producing a small number of salmon from the bottom of the river up as far as Foxford, but really it is very, very poor this year so far.

The Ridge pool on the Moy at Ballina. Low water suits this beat but the fish are in short supply so far

No mayfly hatch yet on Lough Carra but I heard that Kevin Beirne lost a huge brownie this weekend. Fishing with Pat McHale he hooked a leviathan, estimated to be 8 – 9 pounds in weight. Hard luck Kev!

Moorehall bay on Carra

Early mackerel are in Clew bay so the sea fishing will kick up a gear over the next few weeks.

Killery Harbour, July 09

Mackerel, like these caught on the fly from the shore, will begin to show up from now onwards

Not much to report there, but hopefully we will get some rain soon and the fish will appear.


Waiting for these guys to hatch!

dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing

An easy mayfly pattern

May came and went with unreasonable haste. I hardly wet a line during the merry month, a combination of work commitments and Mediterranean weather kept me occupied and the fish unmolested. Reports suggest the mayfly was late but is still hatching in good numbers as I write in the first week of June and as usual some trophy-sized trout are being landed on the big loughs.


3 pounder from lough Conn

So in keeping with the time of year here is a pattern for a dry/hatching mayfly imitation which I dreamt up a few seasons ago. It works well when the fish are mopping mays off the top and Lough Conn trout in particular seen to like this one. Tied on a size 10 hook, different colours can be used such as yellow, olive and green to meet the requirements on any given day. I will show you the yellow version here today.


Mayfly Emerger

Tying silk can be either olive or fl. yellow. If you use the yellow it creates a very bright fly so it pays to have some of both in the box.


Floss for the rib and fl. yellow tying silk

Run the silk down the hook to the bend where you tie in 3 or 4 fibres from a moose mane. I much prefer this material for making tails to the more traditional pheasant tail fibres because they last so much longer. Even up the ends of the moose hair before tying them in and aim to flair them out (a small ball of the body fur under the tail can help here). Now fix in a piece of rib which is globrite no. 4 floss. Dub a body of seals fur in the colour you desire. Leave plenty of space at the neck of the hook for tying in the wings and hackle. Wrap the floss forward in even spirals and tie it in at the head.



Now for the wings which are made of 4 CDC feathers. These are tied in over the back of the hook, almost in wet fly style. Tie in a matched pair of grey CDC with yellow or green CDC flanking them. I especially like the ‘dirty yellow’ CDC from Veniards. Take time to get these wings sitting just right, nice and straight.


The hackle should be good quality

The hackle is made from a good quality grizzle cock hackle dyed green or yellow. Tie it in and make at least 5 turns before tying it off and snipping off the waste. Form a head and whip finish. I make the hackle quite thick because this is a pattern which will be fished in a wave so it needs to be fairly robust.


Finished fly

The fly can be fished either well greased and riding high on the waves or ‘damp’ with just the CDC keeping the fly in the surface imitating a hatching insect. I use it on the loughs but there is no reason why it wouldn’t work on the rivers during a hatch. I like to fish this one on a cast with a spent gnat imitation in the evening. Sometimes the trout will prefer one fly over the other but often both will take fish in equal proportions.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Flies for Lough Conn, part 1

Every year hundreds of anglers from every corner of the world travel to County Mayo to fish Lough Conn. I used to be one of the hoard and can remember the intense excitement preparing for the trips, that deep rooted anticipation of each detail of how the fishing would be. Perhaps the greatest thrill was tying up flies for the trip on the long, dark winter nights. The pages of angling magazines were  thumbed and the merest details of last seasons killers slavishly adhered too. Now that I live close to the lough and can fish it more or less when I want to that sense of urgency to create exactly each potential new fly has all but disappeared, but the memories of preparing for those trips still lingers like the after taste of a good malt. It’s almost a metaphore for the way my whole life has changed since moving to Ireland; that strict adherence to detail with everything planned and double checked has been replaced with a more gentle acceptance that there is a need to enjoy what life brings and not to attempt to control it too much.

This series of posts are intended to give visiting anglers some basic information about patterns which have worked for me on Lough Conn over the years. It is far from exhaustive and should be taken as rough guide rather than an exact piece of scientific reasoning.  To prevent you all being bored to tears with a super long blog I will post this in a number of sections as individual posts.

A word first about hook sizes. Too often I meet visiting anglers who are fishing with flies which I consider are too big on Lough Conn. As a general rule the trout on Conn tend to want slightly smaller flies than on Mask or Carra. Where I would use a size 10 on Carra  would drop to a size 12 on Conn. Of course there are exceptions but when making flies for this particular lake think of size 12 as your normal size with a few size 10’s for special conditions. I rarely use anything as large as a size 8 unless I am targeting grilse.

I will take as read that you will have ‘standard’ lough flies already in your fly box. By that I mean the following patterns:

Green Peter, Fiery Brown, Golden Olive Dabbler, Connemara Black, Bibio, Jungle Bunny, Gorgeous George, Daddies, Claret Bumble, Golden Olive Bumble etc.

Let’s start with some patterns for the early part of the season. While there are duckfly hatches on lough Conn they are not as dense as those on Corrib or the better duckfly holes on Mask. I am guessing this has something to do with the topography of the lake bottom. There certainly plenty of duckfly hatching in February – April but they are well spread out across the lake meaning local hotspots are rare. Regardless, visitors will need some duckfly patterns to meet the occasion of feeding fish and hatching buzzers.

Patterns: Peter Ross, White winged duckfly, Watson’s Bumble, Blae and Black and assorted buzzer patterns.

I use a variation of the Peter Ross which has worked for me in difficult conditions at Duckfly time. High winds and rough water are not good for fishing during a duckfly hatch but I found that a Peter Ross with some added bling will pull a few trout when you can see flies hatching but there is no sign of trout feeding. I presume they are still eating the pupa as they ascend to hatch but normal buzzer fishing is out of the question in a big wind. Give this one a try when faced with this situation.


Hen cape, dyed

Standard dressing for the Peter Ross except the black hackle is replaced with one dyed florescent red (you can get the dye from Veniard). I also add some tails of GP tippets dyed the same colour and use Holographic silver tinsel for the rear part of the body. Sizes 12 and 14 have worked for me and I fish this one on the tail on the cast.


Hackle tied in


nearly finished the body



Finished fly

Next up is a white winged hatching buzzer which does well in calm conditions when a more exact profile is required. I use some fine dubbing from Frankie McPhillips to make the abdomen and thorax.


This comes in a wide range of shades

The wings are white poly and are tied in spent fashion using figure of eight turns.


Tie the wings in first

I also add a short tuft of the same material as a tail. The rib is fine Fl. red floss.


Tail tied in. Both wings and tail will be trimmed to length later.


Finished fly

The Silver Dabbler is a fly which works all year round but it does great work early in the season. I like to fish it on a sinking line on Conn on those all too common days when nothing is showing on the surface. There are more variations of the Silver Dabbler than you could shake a stick at, but here are three which I use.

The original Dabbler sported a seal’s fur body but a silver tinsel bodied variant was quick to follow. I still use that one with the only addition being a couple of strands of flash added to the cloak.


An original tying of the Silver Dabbler

Next we have the red headed version. This is identical to the fly above except the head is formed with Globrite no. 4 floss. This makes a good aiming point for the fish and it can work wonders some days.


Red-headed Silver Dabbler

Finally I tie a fry imitating version with a red floss tag under the tail, a pearl tinsel body, grizzle body hackle, small Jungle Cock cheeks and a red head. A few strands of pearl flash are also added to the cloak.


Lookout for some more posts on flies for Conn over the coming weeks.


Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, trout fishing, wetfly

Invicta variants

Possibly one of the most effective all-round wet flies every concocted, the Invicta will catch trout from the first day of the season to the last. Invented in the mid nineteenth century by a chap called Ogden, it has spawned a wide range of variations and I want to share a couple of those with you today.


Bright and easy to use, Mirage Opal tinsel

First up, the Pearly Invicta is a good fly for the times when trout become preoccupied feeding on pin fry. They can become notoriously hard to catch when this happens, probably because they have so many targets to aim for that our flies stand little chance of being singled out. When I suspect this is what is happening I look to fish quiet corners close to weed beds and work my flies in an erratic retrieve to simulate a wounded fish. I like to tie both the Silver Dabbler and the Pearly Invicta on to my cast for this type of situation.


Tying a Pearly Invicta

My tying of the Pearly Invicta has a Golden Pheasant topping for the tail and a body of Mirage Opal tinsel for the body, ribbed with fine silver wire. The body hackle is taken from a ginger cock cape and the throat is made of Guinea Fowl dyed bright blue. A wing of hen pheasant tail is over laid with 2 or 3 strands of pearl flash.


Pat McHale invented the next variant many years ago and it continues to give grand service to those who know of it right up to today. This dressing is identical to the original Invicta with two important exceptions. The Golden Pheasant tail is replaced with one of bright red wool. The body hackle is still the red game colour of the old fly but instead of using a cock hackle it is replaced with one taken from a hen. The softer fibres seem to make a big difference. I have caught so many trout on this fly over the years it has earned a regular place on my lough cast in just about any conditions.

Cahir Bay

Cahir Bay on Lough Mask. The Red-tailed Invicta once gave me a wonderful afternoon’s sport here during a hatch of Lake Olives

Sizes for both of these patterns range from size 8’s (think Lough Carra in a big, rolling wave) right down to size 14’s for the hill loughs. I can’t say I have ever caught a salmon on either of these flies but Pat McHale tells a stirring tale of boating a fine 9 pound springer on a Red-tailed Invicta one time off the Colman Shallows on Lough Conn. The way Pat tells it you could almost be in the boat with him when the reel screamed as the fish grabbed the size 8 fly.


A Red-tailed Invicta


Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Three flys from my table

I was trying (unsuccessfully I might add) to tidy up the mess of feathers, hooks and other assorted odds and end which have accumulated on my fly tying bench. In amongst the detritus I found some flies so I thought I would share them with you.

First up is a Grey Winged Salmon Gosling. Goslings are widely used in this area for trout and the occasional salmon has grabbed one in passing before now. The difference with this one is the hook, a large bronze double (size 6 or 8). Tied on the tail of a cast for salmon it can do the business on lough or river. It looks so radically different to other salmon patterns I am sure it is taken sometimes just because the fish haven’t anything like it before.

Next we have a variant of the Clan Chief, this one is tied in Fiery Brown colours. It is sporting a couple of strands of twinkle in the tail too and the head hackle comes from a grouse body feather. I tie this on a size 8 for salmon but there is no reason why it would not work for brownies on a size 12.

 I love this fly. The Charlie MacLean hails from the outer isles and does well here on the small brown trout bog lakes. There is a bit of work required fitting all the materials on the hook but when you see this fly in the water and how those long hackle work with every pull of the line you will forget that it took you 20 minutes just to make one. I am toying with the notion of adding a glo-brite no4 head to this pattern

dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Random photos

My computer is full of photos taken when fishing, most of which will never see the light of day, so here are a few random pics for you to enjoy.

My boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

a boat in Pike Bay, Lough Conn

This one has obviously been idle for some time!

A Beltra Springer

A Beltra Springer

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

Favouite lures for Pike trolling in the winter months

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

The view across Lough Mask from Cahir Pier. Mamtrasna is in the distance

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

A small,coloured grilse about to go back

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

Ben with a nice, fresh 6 pounder off Carrowmore Lake a couple of years ago

An audience

An audience

Rising tide, Ballyness bay, Donegal

Rising tide, Ballyness Bay, Donegal

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

Moorhall Bay, Lough Carra

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

While working in Oxfordshire some years ago I tried my hand at Carp fishing

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

A big wild Brown trout form the River Robe

Bridge over the Robe

Bridge over the Robe

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

The usual suspects on a boat fishing trip

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

Fly caught Mackerel from a few years ago

The weather is settled and dry so salmon fishing is dead slow here. Trout angling is patchy but there are still some good fish being caught on Lough Mask. Expect things to pick up with the next spell of wet and windy weather. Planning an all-nighter off the shore this week!