Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

Difficult day

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

The good news is that there are fresh salmon running into Lough Conn. The bad news is they resisted all efforts to winkle them out today! My excuse for the day is the wind, or should I say the almost total lack of it. Overhead conditions were excellent with good cloud cover, some light showers and occasional bursts of sunshine. The water was well up in the lake and fresh water was still pouring in from every stream and river. It should have been a red-letter day but the wind stubbornly refused to blow.

Rain heading our way, Lough Conn August 2017

Rain heading our way

Justin and his son Laurie were out with me today. They are no strangers to Mayo but this was their first time on Lough Conn so I was extra keen to find them some fish. The flat calm which greeted us meant we were forced to kick off trolling hardware over the usual well-known salmon lies along the western shoreline. Spoons fluttered enticingly through the shallows but the salmon remained absent until we approached Massbrook Point were some silver lads started to splash and jump. I only got a good look at one of these fish and it was bright and silvery, a fresh grilse straight in from the sea. I covered the area diligently but we just could not get a response from the fish. By now the day was warming up and I decided to turn around and head for the pole outside Pike Bay. If there were salmon at Massbrook there was every chance some were holed up only a mile or two further along.

Fly life had been non-existent until we started to motor back along the shore. Sedges, mainly Cinnamon but with a few Green Peters and Welshman’s Buttons began to hatch. I expected to see some surface action from the trout but only a couple of brownies broke the glassy surface in the distance. We hunkered down for the long troll back, following the edge of the deep water and trying to avoid the rampant weed beds which are now a feature of the lough.

The faintest of breezes, coming out of the North, got up around 3pm and so we pulled in to set up the fly rods. After the briefest of casting lessons (break the wrist and remember to pause between the back and forward casts) we set off  again, leaders adorned with small salmon flies. Some grilse showed close to the shore and I was sure our time was coming but the very next drift saw the meagre wind dissipate completely. Virtually becalmed now, we flogged on, the only tugs on the line coming from the underwater vegetation. In the end we gave up and trolled back to the berth, fishless.

Today was an example of how conditions beat us fishers. A steady wind could have transformed the day but instead we were always chasing the ripple. I felt bad for Justin and Laurie, they fished hard and really deserved a fish or two. Could we have tried something different? I had considered switching to the dry fly at one point in the afternoon. I’ve had success on difficult days in the past by switching to small dries fish delicately in the shallows but this is pretty technical fishing requiring good stalking skills and pinpoint casting accuracy. I just felt that today we had a better chance on smallish spoons and Rapalas, covering a lot of ground rather than hammering one spot.

Even a leggy Claret Bumble didn't work

Even a leggy Claret Bumble didn’t work

In the end we had to admit defeat and retired for the day after 5pm. At least we had seen some salmon moving and that always engenders hope. The reasonable hatch of sedges was also an encouraging sign, especially since hatches have been so poor so far this season. I hope the lads come back again next year and we get better conditions. As for me, I want to head down to the salt water next trip……………………..

Fishing in Ireland

Baling out the boat

After a very dry spring and early summer the long-awaited rains arrived a few weeks ago and there have been periods of showers and heavier rain since then. Rivers have flowed again and water levels in the loughs have risen accordingly. This is good news for salmon and salmon fishers and catches have improved as the grilse run finally got underway. I am bringing some visitors out on lough Conn to try their luck tomorrow so today I nipped up to see how the boat was after recent rain.

Unless you own a boat it is unlikely you spend much time thinking about the basics of looking after a craft. If you hire a boat for a day’s fishing you simply rock up and drive off across the lake. It is different if you have your own boat though and here in Ireland we have to be constantly aware of water levels, wind strength/direction and of course the rainfall. Most fishers leave their boat on the side of the lough rather than haul it out and take it home after each outing. Back in Scotland it was common to see covers stretched over boats to prevent them filling with water but that is  a very rare sight here in Ireland. Instead we accept that rain will fall and fill our boats and that we then go to empty out the water. That menial task was my lot for this morning.

It’s August now and the foliage around the berth for the boat is lush again. Car parked, I donned waders and grabbed an old bucket from the back of the car. As suspected, the lough had risen and the boat was afloat but she contained many gallons of rain water. The air was alive with buzzing insects and the trees were laced with hundreds of spiders webs. The sense of ‘life’ was all around and it felt good just to be out in the fresh air again.

half full of water

half full of water


Baling or ‘teeming’ a boat is a simple case of filling the bucket and tossing the contents over the side. I know you can buy small pumps to do the job but hey, what is a little exercise? I waded along the side of the boat and started the rhythmical dip, fill, toss.


Helen had come along for the spin so she snapped some photos of me in action. I checked the mooring and because the water level had come up I had to re-position the boat nearer to the bank. Dragging her back, I shortened the chain to keep her from drifting out again. Then the light line I use to tie her to the post had to be re-positioned too. You need to leave some slack as the water could rise or fall, leading to the boat tipping over if tied too tightly.

safely chained up again

safely chained up again

I guess all of this took about 15 minutes, not much out a weekend but a very necessary task to ensure the boat was afloat and undamaged for the next time I wanted to use it. Caring for the boat, looking after the old outboard engines and the 101 other minor tasks of maintenance and repair are all part of the bigger picture of angling for me. I would not get the same enjoyment from the sport if I just walked up to to a river bank and started to fish. The ‘nuts and bolts’ of the sport are just as important to me as the physical catching of the fish. Getting my hands dirty fixing boats/engines or other items of gear add meaning to the whole sport for me. The few minutes standing at the edge of a lough heaving buckets of water may look like a basic, menial chore but it was part of the fabric of angling in the West of Ireland.


We drove into Ballina for a bite of late breakfast and while there I wandered down to the bridge to check on the Ridge pool on the Moy. Sure enough, the river was up but in good order, perfect for salmon to run. High water is bad news for the Ridge pool as the salmon can run through the fast water at ‘the boxes’ unhindered. The Ridge fishes best during periods of sustained low water when it simply fills with salmon and grilse as they wait for the rains. But the river is up today and I fully expect there will be fresh grilse in Lough Conn tomorrow.

looking up the Ridge pool

looking up the Ridge pool

a lone angler worming on the ridge

Let’s hope the fish are in responsive mood tomorrow!

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

A quiet day on Conn

Saturday, 21.30 hrs: The modern version of jungle drums were beating a few minutes ago when I received a text to let me know that 7 or 8 salmon had been seen jumping on Lough Conn earlier today. That makes sense as I know there have been fresh fish running the river Moy for the past 2 weeks now. The gear is already stacked in the hall ready for the morning. I’ll need to buy some petrol for the outboard in the morning but apart from that small chore I will be good to go tomorrow.

Sunday, 6am: I am awake as usual and get up to do some odds and ends around before going fishing. Shirts for next week are ironed, dishes from yesterday evening are washed and dried, the pets, all that sort of thing. the weather looks good today with a stiff breeze out of the south-west and good cloud cover. The occasional showers which passed over Ireland yesterday have gone, leaving damp and cool conditions.

Oasis on the CD player as I drove out the quiet road to Pontoon. I was never really a fan but they had a couple of good tracks so I cranked up the volume and enjoyed the guitars as the green, green countryside slipped past. The boat required a little teeming (is that an Irish word or does everyone use it? Must check dictionary………….) after the recent showers but she was good to go apart from that.

looking south towards Pontoon Bridge from the Massbrook shore

All loaded up, I pushed off and motored around the pin and started drifting across the mouth of Castlehill in a nice 6 inch ripple. Once again, the most obvious problem was the all too evident lack of fly life. No olives, buzzers, peters or mayflies were on the water. with no response to the wets I set up a trolling for and turned her into the stiff wind and chugged down the Massbrook shore, over the salmon lies which I had hoped would be tenanted today.

The drop off (Yes, I know you can hardly see it!)

There is a major drop off which I like to troll over and I tried to capture it for you but as you can see it is not too distinct. On one side of the boat there is about 3 feet of water and the stones on the bottom are clearly visible; look over the other side and you are peering into an abyss, only inky blackness to be seen. here is a great place for pike as the patrol this edge but salmon and trout also favour this border between two worlds.


A nice cup of cinnamon tea kept my spirits up as I ploughed through the waves a couple of hundred yards off the Massbrook shore. Still no flies to be seen and certainly no silvery salmon leaping clear of the water! Trolling is a dull game but it gives you a chance to look around and plan drifts with the fly rod. the wind direction and strength made the lower part of Massbrook a good location to try the fly so I killed the engine and set to it with the 11 footer and a team of three.

A trout rod (#6) and a heavier one for salmon (#8)

I had only dropped the flies over the side at the start of the first drift when it was taken by a small lad of 8 inches. He fell off as I swung him in, saving me the problem of handling an undersized fish. Next cast and a repeat of the same with a similar sized fish. the drift gave me 4 of these small trout but no trace of large game.

other boats were finding fish in the area

I rowed close in for the next drift, dodging occasional rocks with the oar and still catching immature brownies. A bright green bumble was doing most of the damage on the bob. I finished the second drift well out in the main lake as the shallow water here stretches out a fair distance from the shore. Still no signs of salmon though and since it was salmo salar I was really wanting to catch it seemed prudent to go back to trolling again over the usual spots where they lie. I changed to a gold spoon and dragged it 30 yards behind the boat for the next couple of hours in excellent conditions.

boats on the move

Other boats wee constantly coming and going, a sure sign the fishing is hard. I pulled in to stretch my legs at one point and contemplated possible options.

pulled in

The reports of salmon jumping offered only a slight comfort. Once salmon get in to lough Conn there are no barriers to them and within hours they can be anywhere in this large body of water. Most will head right for the mouth of the river Deel and that certainly seemed to be what had happened this week.

40 shades of green

Time always speeds up when I’m fishing and a glance at the phone showed I had better think about starting for home. Still the other boats were dashing too and fro, 15hp engines straining and white wakes snaking across the surface.

flat out

I took a leisurely spin back to Pike Bay and tried a few casts around the pin with the salmon rod but by then my enthusiasm had waned considerably. I pulled the starter cord one last time and motored back to the reed bed where the boat is berthed.

The highlight of the day came on the road back home. Out of the grass on my side of the road, about 50 yards in front of me a Pine Martin appeared. Without even looking in my direction he hopped across the tarmac and disappeared into the trees on the other side. I saw him very clearly and I am positive it was a Martin. It’s unusual to see them in broad daylight like this. It’s great to see these marvelous creatures making a comeback after years of persecution.

Guess what! Teem is a real word after all!


Spell Syllables
verb (used with or without object)

to empty or pour out; discharge.
1250-1300; Middle English temen < Old Norse tæma to empty, derivativeof tōmr empty, cognate with Old English tōm free from
Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

Mixed fortunes on Lough Conn

The big southerly wind we were promised on the forecast didn’t really materialise after all. A steady force 5 brought mild, damp air up over Ireland and a good day for fishing. I had semi-packed the gear the night before so it was just some last minute additions that had to be slung into the VW before heading off for Pike Bay. Mayo was verdant and lush around me as I wound along the Lahardaun road with Conn on my right. The car park at Brown’s Bay was busy and lots of boats were already hard at it along the Massbrook shore.

Parked up close to the boat, I donned my gear in a heavy shower. This would be the pattern for the day, steady winds and occasional heavy showers. I trolled my way out of the bay and turned left into Castlehill, scanning the surface for any activity as I progressed deep into the shallow waters. No signs of life that I could see but some boats were covering drifts at the extreme edge of the bay close to the reeds beyond the mouth of the Addergoole river. I joined the queue but still can’t figure out why they were combing the water there – not a sign of fly or fish was to be seen! I gave it a couple of drifts then headed out of Castlehill and trolled down towards Massbrook. I saw my first mayfly of the day a few yards from the start of the Cornekillew shore, quickly followed by the first rise too. I pushed on down the shore a bit further before stowing the trolling rod and  setting up for a drift to take me back over the spot where I had seen the rise.

coming out of Castlehill bay

The wind was difficult as I was alone in the boat and with my weight at one end and just fresh air at the other she tended to dig in by the stern and slip sideways on the wind. I like to use this to my advantage when wet fly fishing on my own and ‘hang’ the bob fly for a long time as each cast fishes out. The wind forms a sag in the line as I am crossing it, giving the fish that extra few seconds to grab the flies. That tactic worked a treat today with browns nabbing a Green Peter on the the bob fly and hooking themselves in the scissors. A couple of smallish lads were quickly hussled to the boat before a better fish made a mistake and walloped the size 12 Connemara Black in the middle. I was thoroughly enjoying myself up until now, but then my good fortune deserted me.

a well proportioned brown

a bit thin but still a good trout

I had reached the end of the drift and wound in. Pulling the starter cord on the old Evenrude elicited only a cough and a splutter. I repeated the pull, the engine gave me a similar reply. Hmm, maybe she is cold and needs some choke? Nope, that didn’t work and by now I am well out in the deep water, a few hundred yards from shore. Maybe swearing at the inanimate object might help? Surprisingly, this had absolutely no effect what so ever! Nothing else for it, so I grabbed the oars and bent my back into turning the boat into the wind and rowing hard into the stiff breeze. Some fellow anglers from the midlands who had watched my antics came to congratulate me on my sterling efforts and to see if they could help in any way. I declined the offer as there were fish moving and those lads should be covering trout not ripping an engine apart. Being the owner of old engines I habitually carry spares and tools so I had the Evinrude’s spark plugs out in a jiffy (thinking that she had possibly oiled the plugs). The spark plugs looked good so I decided to call it a day and head back home. It was 2.30pm and I figured I was not going to lose much by that time of the day. Driving home I had time to think about the problem and a duff coil would seem to be the likely culprit today.

a few minutes after this photo was taken the old girl packed in

While it was a shame the day was cut short by mechanical failure I still enjoyed my time on the lough. Mayfly are still scarce but a few are fluttering around now. I will get the engine repaired during the week and be ready to hit the lough again next weekend.

even the Perch were taking the fly today

The lough is fishing well so if any of you are contemplating a wee trip to Conn the next couple of weeks should be good.


Late update: I hear the Castlebar Anglers club held a competition on Conn today. 18 anglers caught 7 trout between them.

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!

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, wetfly

Conn today

Out for a few hours on Lough Conn today. Flat calm to start with but a wind came out of the North West later to to give us a small ripple. We were fishing for salmon but only saw 3 coloured fish show outside the mouth of the Deel river. Lots of other boats out – all clean. We need a lot of rain to lift river levels and get some fresh salmon into the systems. Here are some photos of today…………….

Nephin glowering down on us

boat berthed in Pike Bay

We fly fished drifting down the pumphouse shore then trolled spoons and rapalas back up wind again. This is an efficient way to offer the fish a wide rage of lures but they were not impressed with our joint efforts today. Ah, the joys of salmon fishing.

Floating line

Fellow anglers fishing Bog Bay

I heard my first cuckoo of the year while we were pulled into the shore at Gortnore and the woods at Pike Bay were alive with Bullfinches chasing each other through the trees.

Trolling outside the Deel

The dreaded Zebra mussels

Slipway at Gortnore

Over the course of the few hours on the water I saw a total of three mayfly hatch. Early harbingers of more to come.

Fishing in Ireland, trolling, wetfly

Boat out today

My boat was kindly moved from the yard to Lough Conn for me yesterday while I was at work so today I partly repaid the debt by helping Ben to launch a boat on Lough Cullin. We like to keep a boat there for those times when we just have an hour of two to spare and can nip out the road to fly fish for trout or do some trolling for salmon. Cullin is not nearly as productive as the Conn but it is grand for a short session.


At this time of the year we would expect huge hatches of duckfly on Cullin. The muddy bottom is ideal for the midges and April is the height of the season for the buzzers on this particular lake. But I spotted precisely two tiny duckfly today in 3 hours on the lake. Maybe everything is just running a bit later than normal.

The rumour doing the rounds in the local area is that Healy’s Hotel has been bought and will reopen under new management in about 18 months. If true, this is great news for the parish of Pontoon which needs all the local business it can muster. There also seems to be some movement in the sale of the Pontoon Bridge hotel too.

There was little wind this morning and coupled with no hatch of duckfly we were left with the options of simply launching the boat or going for an hour’s trolling. Deciding to drag some metalwork around for a while, we headed off towards the bridge and get it an auld lash around the pins there. Sad to report we drew a blank but it was lovely to be out in the fresh air and to have the boat safely launched.

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