dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing

The Manulla river

A chilly wind is scattering the last of the leaves in the garden and the daylight rapidly fades to an inky blackness. Winter nights can be so depressing, can’t they? To cheer myself up I’ve been thinking about the coming trout season and places where I will ply the gentle art. One place where I am seriously considering is the rarely fished Manulla River here in Mayo.


The Manulla is a small stream but one which holds a good head of wild brownies. Access is pretty good with entry points at the usual bridges. Why then is it so rarely fished? The answer can be summed up in one word – trees. Big, tightly spaced hardwoods line both banks of the river making casting an impossibility for much of its course. Alders, willows and whitethorn make up the bulk of the cover but there are oaks and sycamore plus a full range of smaller species to fill in any gaps. Fishing the Manulla is more like jungle warfare than a peaceful pastime. So why am I even contemplating risking my sanity by attempting to fly fish this water? Let me explain…………


A heavily wooded section of the Manulla river

Due to the extreme difficulty in accessing the river the angling pressure on the Manulla has been virtually nil over the years. The meetings pool where it joins the Castlebar river gets a few wormers and I have seen some kids chucking spinners in at the N60 bridge, but apart from that the river is largely ignored by anglers. To me that spells the opportunity for trout to grow unmolested to a reasonable size and worthy of some effort to winkle them out. Of course there are going to be huge challenges but I firmly believe there are good trout to be caught with some perseverance.

Timing is going to be important as I will need low water to be able to fish. Low levels will allow me to get into the river and wade. This alone will be exciting as the river is narrow but deep and I can foresee some mishaps and wet feet as I explore the various pools under the canopy. Some stretches are just too deep to wade and so I may have to resort to poking the rod through the vegetation and ‘dibbling’ the fly over the fish.

Further up river, beyond Belcarra, there are some open stretches of water where the OPW in their thoughtfulness dredged the river back in the 1960’s. Here it looks more like a canal and the numbers of trout are much lower than downstream. As with all of this type of water the fishing is tough. High banks (10 to 20 feet above the surface of the water) and no cover for the fish in the river mean they are well nigh impossible to approach from the bank. Once again, chest waders and an iron nerve are required as you slither into the deep water and work your way upstream, casting ahead with nymph or dry fly.


A dredged section of the Manulla

The usual array of heavily weighted nymphs are going to be my mainstay when it comes to fly selection during the day, but the evenings will present the best chance of a fish and that’s when I will turn to the dry fly. The Manulla gets impressive hatches of sedges and a well placed G&H dragged over a riser will be my preferred tactic as the sun sets. there are other, similar streams in the immediate area. The Gweestion. Pollagh, Glore and a handful of others can all produce a trout or two to the persistent angler but I am going to persevere on the Manulla in 2017.

Fishing in Ireland

Dredging is not the answer

It is raining today. It rained yesterday and the day before that. The countryside around here in Co. Mayo is totally waterlogged and serious flooding is occurring as I write this post. People’s livelihoods and homes are threatened by this prolonged period of wet weather and they are understandably angry with a government who they blame for a lack of action after flooding last winter. Now voices are being raised to dredge the rivers. While I fully understand the desperate need of those under water, dredging rivers will not fix the problem.

Ireland has a long and ignoble history of dredging river courses. During the ’50’s and ’60’s the OPW systematically dredged most of the rivers in the country. Diggers scooped thousands and thousands of tons of gravel and rock from the bed and dumped it on the banks. Rivers were straightened so that the water could flow more quickly. What was left when the machines rumbled away was little more than a shallow drain, devoid of life and of no use to man or wildlife.

While all this was happening the government also introduce schemes for planting huge numbers of conifers on upland ground at the head of the rivers. These had the effect of allowing rain water to be very quickly funnelled into the rivers, both denuding the already poor soil of the last vestiges of nutrition and increasing the risk of flooding downstream. Towns and cities grew and they added tot he problems as efficient drains led more water into the rivers too. Lowland rough pastures have been ‘improved’ by digging deep ditches to drain new fields of grass for cattle production. In short, we have done everything possible to remove the ability of the ground to soak up water.

I have little or no faith in the political system here in Ireland, whatever it takes to get a vote is going to be the new policy. With so many people clammering for rivers to be dredged I can see 2016 being the year when a lot of our rivers are once again turned into canals. The really sad part of this is that it won’t stop the flooding. Until the uplands are rehabilitated we will continue to see flooding and the resultant loss of property and homes. dredged channel

A dredged stretch of the Manual River.