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

A stretch in the days

The days are growing longer again as winter begins to lose her grip on Ireland. I took a drive around North Mayo today for a look around. The weather was cool but bright and (most importantly) dry. Water levels are up due to the heavy rain the west has endured lately. That is good, the high water will allow the kelts to move quickly down river and exit the systems. It should also attract in a sprinkling of fresh salmon too. The Moy was high and coloured as it powered through the Cathedral Beat in Ballina.

Springers have been in short supply across the country so far with only a couple of fish off the Drowes and ones and twos of the other early rivers. It is early days though and there is plenty of time the runs to strengthen.

The afternoon has brought increased cloud cover and the threat of more rain. Time to tie some flies and drink endless mugs of strong, aromatic coffee. I need to top up a few patterns before we get the rods out for the 2018 season. Firstly, I want to tie up some Fl. cascades with hackles from the capes I bought last year.

Standard Cascades, I want to make some fl. versions

My endless love for muddler headed salmon flies shows no signs of abating, so I intend tying up some more this weekend.

Deadly! A muddler Clan Chief

Early season nymphing is always one of the highlights of my season and I am planning on trying out some hot head versions this March/April

Murroughs – I am short of Murroughs too!

Fiery Brown Murrough

And Balloon Caddis dry flys. They are so useful in the summer months and I only have a couple left in the box right now.

This Balloon Caddis is a bit worn

OK, time to get going. I will post again soon.

dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling, trout fishing

A look back in…………….disappointment

Pike on the Rapala

Pike coming to hand. No big ones this season but the usual sprinkling of jacks grabbed various spoons and plugs. This lad took a shine to a Rapala

It’s over. The trout season that is and much of the salmon fishing too. The 2017 season coasted to its finale last weekend and, for me at least, it was a season to forget. Yesterday we fetched the boat in and over the next couple of weekends we will repeat the process with everyone else’s boats. Autumn will bring some sea fishing and maybe a couple of derisory outings to troll for Pike, but the game fishing is over for us in the West of Ireland until next spring. I thought I’d quickly run through the season, disappointing though it most certainly was for me.

The Carrownisky as it exits the lough

very low water on the Carrownisky river

Water levels were all over the place this season, not enough in the spring and too much later in the year. A dry spring does nobody any good and both salmon and trout fishing suffered greatly due to a lack of water. I have never seen the rivers so low in April and May! Is global warming taking effect here as well as in other, more exotic climates? I suspect it is and the changing weather patterns are having a negative impact on the fish and our fishing. Given the we in Ireland are nowhere near meeting our commitments on greenhouse gas reduction it is hard to climb on to any moral high horses. Sure, we are a small country and relatively speaking make little difference compared to the huge carbon footprint of other, larger and more densely populated nations. That does not exonerate us from our duty as world citizens to reduce our effects on the planet, indeed I would argue it should be easier for us that for the likes of India or China.

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back. Normally this pattern catches me lots of springtime brownies but not this past season!

So, it was dry and cold to start with and the spring salmon were scarce. Work sucked me dry every week. Time spent in Mayo was infrequent and I totally failed to make it to the riverbank for the spring salmon fishing. By all accounts I didn’t miss much. Instead, I was able to squeeze some trouting in during March and early April, usually very productive times for me. This year however I could (and did) walk across some parts of the river Robe without the water reaching above my ankles. Northerly and Easterly winds combined with low water are quite possibly the worst conditions for the springtime fly fisher, but that was exactly what I met during those trying March outings. Fly life was non-existent. No Iron Blues or Large Dark Olives. No stoneflies or Diptera. I tempted a few small fish to wets and nymphs but it was hard work with little reward.

Tiny Brown Trout from the river Robe

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

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

Great plans to fish hard during May came to nothing and others made use of the boat in my absence. By now I was becoming concerned the whole season would pass me by with work hungrily consuming me. Returning home after time away requires ‘catching up’ with family and all the tasks which have been left unattended need to be addressed in the fleeting few hours with loved ones. Fitting a day or even a few hours fishing into this complex mosaic proved be beyond my organisational skills. Then the rain started to fall.

one from the Robe

small but very welcome!

From June through to September we endured frequent periods of sustained precipitation. The heavens unloaded water on Ireland in biblical quantities. Rivers rose then burst their banks. Each time I found a chink in my diary it coincided with filthy brown spates. My fishing buddies who did venture out with rod and line found the grilse late and well scattered. Salmon fishing is always a case of being in the right place at the right time but this year it seems that maxim was even keener than normal. Tiny windows of opportunity presented themselves when the water was right for an hour or less and experienced rods who knew where to be connected with resting runners. I fumed and shook my head with every text or FB post from friends as they celebrated successes. I never even made it out with the salmon rod after June. A film of dust covers my salmon gear in testimony to my inaction.

Barely used all last season, I will strip the reels down lubricate them all before tucking them away for the winter

So what positives were there this past season? I had a nice brownie in the gloaming from the Keel canal which grabbed a small Wickham then charged around the pool like a fish twice its size. Then there was introduction to the tiny river Griese down in Kildare. The sheer joy of trying to fool those wee trout in difficult conditions was wonderful balm to bruised angling ego and I am already planning on fishing this gem of a river next season. For me, size means nothing, angling is all about being immersed in nature and trying to solve the problems in front of me. A hard-earned 8 incher can be more rewarding than a dozen fish which fling themselves at the flies.

The Griese in Co. Kildare. Clear and stuffed with small trout. I’ll be back………….

My current contract ends early in November and there will probably be some free time from then until Christmas. I’ll do some sea fishing and tie lots of flies when I get to that point. I’ll also make my plans for the 2018 season and I’m going to do some work on this blog as well when I get some free time.

Not many gaps in the fly box but I will be busy at the vice over the winter regardless

The boat about to be hauled out of Lough Conn last weekend

part of an old roller conveyor which an angler uses to ease beaching his boat.

Last view of the lough for this year

There is always next season. At least I managed to get out a few times, walking and wading the rivers and taking the boat out for a look around the bays and shallows. It doesn’t matter how bad the fishing is, just being able to get out in the fresh air is a joy.

And finally…..

My beloved collie left this world in September after 15 years at my side. The sense of loss seems overwhelming sometimes and I am still struggling to come to terms with life without her. The pain will subside over the coming weeks and months but for now life is just ‘less’ in ways which are hard to form into words. So if you have a dog, go and give him/her a rub behind the ears and maybe a wee treat to chew on. You miss them something awful when they are gone.

Ness looking for waterhens

Nessie, 2002 – 2017

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Gone for good

lovely small grilse÷

It is never a good sound. Sometimes it is a loud, alarming crack, sometimes it’s a grating, snapping sound and then again it can be a deadly, barely audible ‘phut’. However it manifests itself the noise of your rod breaking is disturbing and emotional. We anglers grow so attached to those lengths of carbon fibre in a way which must seem very weird to normal, non-fishing folks.

My 10’6 Hardy has gone west. It broke at the top joint when casting the other day. It was a strange one as I wasn’t casting a long line or dragging a fast sinker from the murky depths at the time. Just flicking 15 yards casts with a floating line should not have stressed the old rod in any way, shape or form. But it did and with a soft sigh the venerable old girl became two useless, raggedy ended pieces of high tech tubing. She will be sorely missed.

this one was around 7 pounds

I bought that rod when I was living in London and fishing trips were rare events. It had it’s first outing on the Aberdeenshire Don one fine May day. Quarter-of-an-hour after I first set it up I was playing a ten pound salmon and by the end of the day a 12 pounder had been added to the tally. You quickly fall in love with a rod that delivers the goods so dramatically! A red letter day at Bewl followed with fiesty rainbows bending that Hardy into a hoop in a strong cross wind on the southern shore.

Soon after that day it was time to pack up my goods a chattels and head back to Eire and that’s when the rod really came into action. I had bought with the intention of using it as a grilse and heavy lough trout rod and here in the west of Ireland it has excelled in both roles.

2 pounder from Mask

A two pounder from Lough Mask, one of many that fell to the old Hardy 10’6

Many’s the day I wielded that rod on Loughs Mask, Conn and Beltra, not to mention Carrowmore Lake and most of the salmon rivers in Mayo. Paired with AFTM 7 lines it could handle most anything I threw at it and it was my ‘go to’ rod for an awful lot of my fishing. Like an old friend it was there when I needed it and demanded nothing in return other than an annual clean and overhaul. A whipping had to be re-tied here and there and a small hole in the handle had to be filled before it grew into a crater, but otherwise it was a great tool. I landed 5 fresh grilse one hectic September day on it. Then there was the epic battle with a dark seven pounder hooked on the very lip of a pool that dragged me around for a full ten minutes before I could gain control. The rod doubled, the wind sang though the line and the reel screeched that day I can tell you! Memories…………………

Number 2 of 5

one of the 5

I examined the damage, thinking there may be a repair of some sort which would get the old girl back into use, but no, the crack is too long and far too much would need to be cut off for any repair. I guess I could badger Hardy for a replacement section but my heart isn’t in it. No, I will save some pennies and buy a new rod. I’m contemplating something radically different but I’ll take my time before deciding to part with any cash. For now, the old rod has gone, gone for good.

Here is the wonderful Samantha Fish with a great blues number called (appropriately enough) Gone for good.

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.