Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

The wall

This is nothing to do with Trump’s madness.

Athletes talk of hitting ‘the wall’ and we anglers face a much less physical, but none the less real challenge too. It is not that our body’s become exhausted, rather it is our reasoning which reaches a limit and we simply can’t figure out what to do next. Here are some examples and possible strategies which just might help you.

  1. River fly fishing for wild brown trout

River trouting can be a challenge when no fish are showing

Confronted with a river apparently devoid of life we tend to adopt well defined processes to find fish. Firstly we gravitate to spots where we have had success before. Next we fish deep because we can’t see any fish near the surface. We swap nymphs and methods of presentation. If none of this works we hit a wall. We are doing everything right and yet the fish do not cooperate. What do you do next?

Firstly, I would try Klink and dink for a while. A large dry with a small nymph fished New Zealand style below it. This has worked for me in the past on days which were otherwise fishless. I look for streamy or pocket water and use a sedge pattern for the dry fly. Short drifts with constant casting to show the flies briefly then whip them away seems to work best.

Or you could try a streamer. We are pretty conservative here in Ireland when it comes to using streamers on rivers but they have a place in our armoury. Pretty much anything that looks like it could be a small fish will do the trick. Look for structures of some kind where trout can hide and work the streamer by casting across and down. An erratic retrieve is best in my opinion but try different methods till you find what the fish will respond to.

2. Evening rise, fish showing everywhere on the river but you can’t even get one of them!

The sun dips below the horizon and the trout are feeding, but what if you can’t get them to take?

We have all been there – the river is alive with rising trout but you can’t hook a single one of them. Time is always against you as the light fades. It can be incredibly hard to find out what the fish are taking. The chances are they are feeding on spinners but it could just as easily be small sedges, caenis, smuts or even midges.

If your favourite spinner imitations are not doing the business then change to a small sedge (size 14 at the most). If you still don’t move anything then consider going very small with something like a Griffiths Gnat on a size 18 or 20 hook. These wee flies are a fair representation of a number of the smaller insects and in the semi-darkness they can be really good – as long as you can see them! Short casts are the order of the day.

Still no joy? Swap to a biggish wet sedge and fish it down and across. This could easily bring you the biggest trout of the day.

3. Blank day on the lough with no trout in the boat

Out in the deeps on Lough Mask

Perceived wisdom these days is that you motor off into the deeps and fish a team of wets on a sinking line until you bump into a shoal of trout. It is hard to argue with the logic of doing exactly that, but the deeps can be just as frustrating as anywhere else on a dour day. Try different sinking line speeds to search different levels.

I have had success by carefully fishing the shallows, changing on to dries and fishing blind on difficult days. A mayfly and a sedge cast close to the shore, especially in the vicinity of some trees if possible, has worked for me before now.

4. Salmon fishing on the river, great conditions but no takers

Good water, why are they taking?

It happens. A perfect day, fresh fish showing but you can’t tempt one. What to try next? I suggest that if you have been flogging the water for a long time that you take a break and just take some time to simply watch what is going on. Think about how your fly is fishing and perhaps consider changing the depth you are fishing at by changing line or adding a sinking tip. Try to resit the temptation of swapping flies too often, select one or two patterns which you have confidence in and stick to them. Try backing up the pools instead of ‘normal’ casting. Fish until it gets dark – the last 30 minutes of light are usually the best period of the day

5. Dead low water

The Owenduff showing its bones

Low water daunts some fishers. With little flow to move the flies they struggle to find ways of moving grilse. Here are some possible strategies to consider when faced with summer lows.

We all accept that low water means small flies but how small can you go? The answer is very small indeed. Trout flies catch a lot of salmon every season so I carry some trout size 10’s and 12’s with me and tucked away in a corner a couple of tiny size 14 and 16 trout doubles. Use them carefully.

On the other hand salmon are funny creatures and something totally outrageous may bring a strike. A deep pool can be searched with a fierce big fly, something like a 2 inch tube for example. Don’t waste a lot of time with this tactic, if it is going to work it will happen quickly!

The main chances of a fish in very low water will occur at daybreak and again at sunset. try to arrange your fishing around these two times and it will pay of handsomely.

There you go, a few ideas to try out when all else fails and you hit the angling wall. Hope that helps a little!


Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Casting practice

Friday morning and the weather vane on top of Lagduff Lodge is still firmly set in a Northerly airflow. Dry again today so the fishing will be little more than casting practice, leaving me less than overjoyed


I fished from pol Garrow down to the Rock Pool but the only fish I saw was a  large resident who made a terrific splash in the Brigadier’s pool. Small flies like the Black Pennel, Blue Charm and Stoat’s Tail were all given a swim but without success. Time to head back to the comforts of the lodge.

The walls were decorated with old photos of past glories and the fishing register had pride of place on the table in the sitting room. 155 salmon had been landed from the beat this season but we were not going to be adding to that impressive total this week!

Gawn, who had been fishing down river returned to say he had an offer from what he was fairly sure was a salmon but the fish didn’t stick and we remained fishless apart from Julian’s early success with a Sea Trout

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Sticks and stones

Day 2 on Lagduff and the drought continues. There was some mist in the morning which we all prayed would develop into a deluge but it petered out without making any difference to the water level in the Owenduff river. I elected to try fishing down at the bottom of the beat and set of with rod and wading stick along the side of the shrunken stream. The wading stick was an essential bit of kit as the bottom of the river consists of rounded stones covered in very slippery algae.

All the way down the river was a sad shadow of a river, more stones than water.

I fished the deeper pools but this was hard work as there was so little flow the flies were virtually lifeless. A couple of very small sea trout jumped in one pool but it was quiet apart from that. I was picked up at lunchtime and caught up with the rest of the party who all had similar tales of woe. The only salmon we saw all morning were in the photographs on the walls of the lodge.

After a bite to eat I strolled up river to the Rock Pool. A slight increase in the wind ruffled the surface at the top of the pool but because it was coming from the North the main body of the pool was flat calm – not ideal conditions.

As I fished down a grilse jumped some 20 yards below me giving a degree of encouragement. I covered the lie without success but some small sea trout started to jump hard against the far bank. Julian appeared from upstream where he had fished without seeing any signs of fish. He worked his way down the pool and near the tail another grilse jumped close to him. We fished on for a while but could not stir the salmon so Julian went back to the lodge for a well earned cuppa.

Two more grilse jumped in quick succession but these all looked like fish which had been in the river for a while and were highly unlikely  to be takers. I called it a day and made my way back to Lagduff Lodge where it was my turn to make the dinner. Maybe Friday will see a change in fortune for us.

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

No water on the Owenduff

The Owenduff. Just the name is enough to set the pulse of any salmon fisher racing. This lovely stream flows through some stunning scenery in North Mayo and I am  lucky enough to be fishing it for a few days this week. I’m staying at Lagduff lodge in the company of 3 other like minded souls and casting small flies for salmon and sea trout.

I drove up in the morning and met the rest of the guys as they were tackling up outside the fine old lodge. The news was not good however as the river was at extreme low summer level with no forecast of any rain to come. This was not unexpected but disappointing all the same as the river has fished well this season when there has been a spate. High pressure has settled over the country and any chance of rain looks to be remote. The river is down to its bare bones.

Undaunted by the challenges I set off to the top of the beat. The river is well managed and provided with bridges to cross the river.

I fished down from the top of the beat to the famous Rock Pool, covering some lovely water with the flies but there was no signs of fishy activity beyond a couple of yellowfin (junior sea trout). The low water levels meant the flow was weak and the flies had to be hand-lined back to impart some degree of life to them.

Julian (that’s him in the photo at the top of this post) saw a small fish move in the Rock Pool when he approached it first thing in the morning and covered the rise without any reaction. He had a lovely 3 pound Sea Trout last Saturday but the river was showing 6 inched on the gauge that day, now it was below the gauge completely.

I  fished on through the middle pools and then headed back tot he lodge for a bite to eat. Julian had beaten me back to the lodge and was catching up on some work beside the fire.

After a spot of lunch it was time to try some pools further downstream. My arthritic ankles precluded much in the way of exploring and I had to be satisfied with a short walk down the river casting into the likely looking spots where a salmon or sea trout could be sheltering. I was using my faithful old hardy rod – the one which I repaired the handle on earlier this year.

For flies the choice was tiny single hood offerings like the Black Pennel.

At the end of the day we all gathered back at the lodge, each with the same tales of no water and no fish. A hearty dinner and a few glasses of wine restored some degree of hope for the next day and we retired for a good night sleep. Tomorrow would be another day……………….