Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Successful flies for Carrowmore lake

Here are some patterns which have worked for me and my boat partner over the years on Carrowmore lake, Co. Mayo.

Claret Bumble, blue head

Claret Bumble, blue head

Claret head

Claret head

Claret bumble is the first choice on a dark day with low cloud. The standard dressings works just fine but I like mine to have a Muddler head in either claret or blue.

Clan Chief

Clan Chief

The Clan Chief would probably be the fly most likely to be on my cast on any given day on Carrowmore. It seems to be able to produce fish under any conditions and you really must have some in your box if you are fishing the lake.

Goats Toe

Goats Toe

I personally love a Goat’s Toe with a black muddler head on it.

Golden Olive Shrimp

Golden Olive Shrimp

The Golden Olive shrimp has taken many salmon over the past few seasons and the orange tail looks great in the water.

Connamara Black

Connemara Black

The Connemara Black is a good dark fly for the tail position

Magenta Bumble

Magenta Bumble

I confess that I have never caught a salmon on a Magenta Bumble but I have been in the boat when it has succeeded. One for a bright day in my mind.

Claret Dabbler

Claret Dabbler

Always worth a try, the Claret Dabbler is an ever present on the cast of many who fish Carrowmore.

Bruiser Bumble

Bruiser Bumble

A deep blue hackle is needed for this pattern, much darker than the colour on a teal blue and silver.

Silver Doctor

Silver Doctor

I prefer a hairwing version of the Doctor, it is tougher than the original feather winged fly.

Silver Stoat variant

Silver Stoat variant

The silver stoat with an orange hackle does good work. I like it on a heavy hook and fish it on the tail off a sinking line.

Green winged Green Peter

Green winged Green Peter

And a Green Peter of course………………this one with a green squirrel tail wing.

As you can see, I prefer Black and Claret flies in general. If pressed I would be happy to fish with a Goat’s Toe on the bob, a Green Peter in the middle and a Claret Bumble on the tail.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

The Goat’s Toe

One of the great joys of salmon angling is the sight of a fly in the scissors of a fresh fish you have just landed. The hours/days/weeks and months of abject failure melt away when you see your fly in the corner of the king of fishes mouth. We all love the scenery, the company of fellow fishers and the hundreds of other facets to our sport, but those fleeting moments when your prize is in your hands and that scrap of fur and feather is lodged in his mouth makes all the effort and expense worthwhile. I am going to discuss a fly with you today which can make that wonderful vista a reality for you – the Goat’s Toe

The Goat’s Toe is very much a fly for the North and West of Scotland and Ireland. It is an excellent pattern for Carrowmore Lake in Erris. I read many years ago that it could be used as an adult damsel imitation on lowland waters but I have serious doubts if that is the case. It might well catch a fish or two in those types of waters but even the most short sighted of us would mistake it for a damsel! No, this is one for wild waters and wild fish.

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A very old one I found in my fly box (the red wool rib has been chewed off)

The basic pattern is very easy to tie and the Peacock provides most of the materials. A tail fashioned from red wool, a peacock bronze tail herl body ribbed with a single strand of the red wool and a hackle from the neck of the peacock. As it stands this is still a good pattern but as with all good flies we fishers have played around with it to make it even better.

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Basic materials for the Goat’s Toe

The red wool was the first thing to be substituted and Globrite no.4 fl. floss was introduced as a direct replacement for the red wool in both tail and rib. I am aware that other colours of floss have also been tried but to my mind no.4 is the most deadly. One of the most commonly seen variants replaces the red wool with chartreuse and has a further refinement in that the head is formed with red silk.

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Note the red head on this Chartreuse version

Next came the addition of a second hackle. A black cock hackle was wound behind the peacock neck feather and this is a feature which gives the fly more life in the water. The Peacock hackle is very soft and went wet it clings to the body. The stiffer cock hackle reduces this tendency and I think it is a valuable addition. Some tiers have gone further and palmered the cock hack the full length of the body. Around the same time some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to stick a couple of Jungle Cock eyes on the fly and I have to admit these do seem to look right.

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A JC Goat

By now most of you will be aware of my addiction to deer hair (my name is Colin and I am a dyed deer belly hair addict). A black deer hair head on a Goat’s Toe turns a very good salmon fly into a real killer. Unlike some of my monstrosities, I keep the head reasonably small and retain only a few strands of full length hair so that the all important iridescent blue peacock hackle is not covered up.

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My favourite on a number 6 iron

I’m also experimenting with a new version for brighter conditions. i have changed the body from Peacock herl to mirage tinsel and added a body hackle of grizzle cock dyed bright blue. It looks nice but it is untried as yet.

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Looks OK!

Hook sizes for all of the above range from a whopping great size 6 right down to a size 12 and I use heavy wire hooks at all times for the GT as you never know when a salmon will grab it.

Proof of this fly’s effectiveness can be seen below!

10 pounder from Carrowmore lake

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, salmon fishing

Deer Deer – muddled thoughts

I am a big fan of deer hair. It is versatile and hard-wearing and of course it is buoyant. I first became aware of it when I was given the first three volumes of Tom Stewart’s ‘Fifty popular flies’ by my uncle for Christmas one year. I consumed the contents avidly and can still remember being baffled how to make the ‘Muddler Minnow’. Deer hair was an exotic material back then and I had no access to it. Spinning deer hair would have to wait a while!

I had tied thousands of trout and salmon flies before I got to grips with the various deer hair techniques. I was making flies on a sort of semi-professional basis and was purchasing my materials directly from Veniards (as I still do). I bought some deer hair and sat down to figure out the methods required on my own (no step-by-step videos on Youtube back then). Working with deer hair is not difficult but it is messy and you need to be handy with the scissors to get a neat finish. The ‘loose loop’, tension control, packing and spinning were all mastered and I made up some muddlers for my own use. They went into the box along with some other ‘lures’ which I had read about like the Polystickle, Jack Frost and Appetiser. At a time when i was used to making size 16 winged dry flies these looked like monsters and I had my doubts whether they would work.

A club outing to Loch Fitty in Fife (now sadly gone due to pollution from mine workings) gave me a chance to try out these wondrous creations. Nothing worked until I tied on a Black Muddler. Low and behold I boated a rainbow on it! I think at that point I was as firmly hooked as the trout and muddler heads abound in my fly boxes to this day. I will stick deer hair heads on just about anything given the chance.

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The Dunkeld receives the muddler treatment

The beauty of a deer hair head is it adds bulk without weight so that even small flies can create a disturbance in the water. This can be vital for bob flies in particular. These days there are a range of synthetics with excellent floating properties which you can use to form a head but somehow deer hair looks better and I am sure they catch more fish.

Deer hair comes in all sorts of different types depending on the species of animal and where on the pelt the patch of hair is located. In my opinion the best hair for spinning is deer belly hair. The fibres are relatively thick so they flare well under tension. Belly hair also takes dye extremely well so you can play around to get just the right colour you need.

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I still use the Muddler in various colours for rainbows. I like the tail and wings to be made of marabou with a hint of some flash like the Red and Copper one above. I still have a soft spot for the simple all black muddler with a silver rib though and it still catches its fair share and more. White ones do well at any time of the season too.

Salmon flies can be given a new lease of life by adding a deer hair head. I use a muddler Goat’s Toe a lot and had fish on it. It’s not the prettiest fly I grant you, but it is effective so that will do for me!

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A muddled Goat’s Toe

The ubiquitous Green Peter was an early convert to the muddler head and it is a useful addition to both the trout and salmon anglers armoury.

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Green Peter Muddler

Some patterns work better with a big, bushy head while others require a smaller, neater head.

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A Sunburst Bumble with a small deer hair head

I think the muddler head also has the advantage of creating a lifelike shape to a fly. Look at sedges and chironomids – they both have slim abdomens but bulbous thorax/heads. A spun and clipped deer hair head looks just like that shape and that may be at least part of the attraction for the fish.

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Blue Zulu Muddler

The deer hair which has been clipped is pretty static but any training fibres which remain provide good movement as well as adding to the shape and colour of the fly. Hackle fibres and legs are given extra movement due to the turbulence created by the clipped head.

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A Clan Chief tied on a size 6 iron and sporting a deer hair head. A mouthful for any salmon!

This brings me to the question of the shape of the head. Should it be spherical, a cone a wild straggly thing? The answer is all of these – it depends on the fly and the look you want for it. A small,neatly clipped ball shaped head may look fine and dandy or then again a shaggy shapeless one could be more in keeping with pattern so it pays to experiment a bit. I generally like to leave a few fibres as an extra hackle. This works very well when using blue deer hair and a blue Guinea Fowl hackle together.

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A round head on this Claret Bumble

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A tapered head with a cone added on this Yellow Muddler

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The untrimmed black deer hair fibres add to the hackles on this Willie Gunn Bumble

Experimentation with mixed colours and other ‘additions’ to the deer hair have not proved successful for me so far, the only exception being mixed colours in a G&H sedge wing (but that is a different thing altogether).

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A daddy with a large muddler head

When you need to create the maximum disturbance on top of the water a large deer hair head is the way forward. Look at the Daddy above. Without the muddler head the fly would be ok but the brown deer gives the fly the ability to push water away from in front of it as it pulled through the waves, leaving a big wake which the fish find so attractive. Takes to these flies can be savage on those wild days of scudding clouds and white horses.

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The Peach Muddler

I will end this post with a small muddler which I rarely see used in Ireland but can do great execution with the brown trout here – the Peach Muddler. The lads in Orkney are very fussy about the correct shade of peach to use but I can vouch for this fly’s effectiveness when tied with seal’s fur dyed in Veniard peach dye. This is a great wee fly and a size 12 is about right for most conditions.

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