Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

Decisions, decisions

It was a very last minute decision. Given the choice I would have been in South East London, at the Valley to be precise, watching Burnley play Charlton Athletic on the last day of the season. Instead, I was at home after working in the morning and felt an hour on the River Robe might be worth a look. Even as I joined the traffic I was unsure of exactly which stretch would receive  my attention. Running the options over in my mind I finally settled on a rough and under fished part of the river between Claremorris and Ballinrobe.

Parking up on the verge one field from the river the conditions looked to be favourable. A light mist veiled the countryside and a steady wind was cool but not cold. Through the grass to an impressive new barbed wire fence which barred access to the bankside. I found a gap and wriggled, worm-like under the wire. The river looked very low but my first glance upstream showed the fish were rising. It was now a I made a poor decision and headed off downstream to some inviting looking water.

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I new this stretch of the river was not developed and the banks would be rough, but the next couple of hours developed into an assault course rather than a peaceful distraction. I elected to get into the river to avoid the vegetation but this  strategy came with its own hazards. While most of the river was only a few inches deep there were some nasty holes in the bottom , making progress ‘interesting’. I slid down into one of these holes and only prevented a ducking by grabbing a tree branch. I can recall how many times I hooked up in bushes, trees or other bankside vegetation but it felt like a never ending saga.

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one of the many hawthorns 

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Trees all the way to the waters edge

Spiders, cast upstream or down caught plenty of trout but nothing of any great size. Large Dark Olives hatched continually for an hour after my arrival, inducing a great rise and a feeding frenzy among the swallows and martins.

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Partridge and Orange in his mouth

The mist gradually morphed into steady, soaking rain and while the river badly needed lots of fresh water it was taking the edge off of my enjoyment. That and the lack of any deep water combined to cut short the afternoon for me and I retraced my steps back up to the gap under the fence. Looking upstream there seemed to be a slow, deep pool just on the next bend, exactly the kind of water I had been searching for in the other direction. The rain drummed on the hood of my jacket – was it worth another ten minutes? To hell with it, I waded up through some thin water, taking another three brownies on an upstream wet fly before I eased into the tail of the deep pool. I picked up another couple of small lads then had the bright idea of dropping the cast into a little pocket just where the water broke at the tail. just as expected a trout pounced on the spiders and thrashed on the surface as he felt the hook – a nice trout of around the pound and a half. This wily character shot around an underwater rock and snagged the line which parted after some tugging from my end of the connection.

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The one that got away was in this little corner below a deep pool

I had suffered sufficient humiliation for one afternoon and wound in for the last time. The lesson was plain to see, more diligent observation before starting to fish would have led me to decide on exploring upstream instead of down. Ah well, you cant win them all. Unless you are Burnley football club, who soundly thrashed Charlton while I was catching tiddlers and hooking trees.

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Remains of crayfish, probably eaten by an otter

postscript……..

And Burnley did win. 3 -nil. Finished the season as champions. UTC

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Reflections so far

We are in the last week of April and  I have been thinking about the season so far and any lessons I need to learn. By now I would normally have landed my first salmon of the year and brought some decent brown trout to hand. Neither of these things have come to pass and the 2015 spring fishing has been very poor for me. I don’t think that I am alone and from the reports I hear other anglers are experiencing a similarly difficult time. So what has gone wrong?

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Cold air and low water are not a good combination

To my mind there is more than one cause for the poor fishing. The weather has certainly played a part. We have had very low temperatures followed by a period of unusually fine, bright conditions then a return on Saturday to a bitingly cold northerly wind. Our prefered conditions of a steady south/south-westerly air flow bringing cloudy, mild and wet weather have been conspicuous by their absence. Normally good levels of fly life which are a feature of April have failed to materialise so far and we can only hope that this is a delay in the hatches rather than the loss of them in total. A few hardy olives and Iron Blues have hatched out and the small stoneflies have shown up as normal but I have yet to witness any significant numbers of flies on the surface so far. With not much to eat on the surface the brownies are hugging the bottom for now.

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Water levels were high during the month of March, something which usually provided good fishing. I like to think that the higher flows push food out into the open where the trout can prey on them. But March failed to meet expectations and April has been no better. With the water level on the Robe now down to summer heights the advantages of high flow have gone. Yesterday I fished two stretches of the river, both of which should be in good fettle at the end of  April. I gave up on the first stretch after only a 20 minute session. The runs I fished 2 weeks ago were now ankle-deep and weeding up fast. One half pounder fell to a PT but it was clear more rain was needed urgently for this part of the river. I decamped for a deeper section some miles downstream.

A change of flies and a reduction in leader thickness, based on the low clear water, and I was soon up and running again. The air was full of midges but the water was apparently devoid of ephemerides. A lot of wading and tramping and casting followed without any response. This has been the theme for the season, very little signs of life in the river. I genuinely don’t get too upset when I am not catching but a lifeless river is difficult to stomach. The bitterly cold Nor-Easter could be partially to blame but I believe it goes much deeper than that. I suspect that the numbers of trout in the river at much lower than normal. Pollution, poaching or natural selection are all possible reasons for the drop in the trout population. The river has an eerie quietness about it, bird life seems to be quiet and I have seen none of the animal tracks in the margins that I would expect.

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Clear water on the River Robe

In total I brought about a dozen trout to hand, but most of them were in the small to tiddler range. I managed one good fish of around the pound from a very skinny piece of water at the tail of a gravelly pool. I swear there was no more that 3 inches of water covering him when he took my Francolin Spider.

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The hot weather sandwiched in between the periods of cold gave has given the algae a head start this year and margins of pools are bedecked in rafts of green slime. Chunks of it break off and can be seen floating down the river and hooked fish usually manager to cover themselves and the flies in a coating of the stuff when fighting. In itself I am not aware that the algae is harmful but it is an indication of the nutrient levels in the system.

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So what will the rest of the season bring on the rivers? If I am right and stocks of trout are well below normal then there will obviously not be much of an improvement in the fishing this year. The rivers around here are all natural and there is no stocking carried out, so nature will have to come to the rescue if possible but that will take time. With (hopefully) milder weather in May and June the evening fishing should start and I am planning on fishing the sedge hatches through the summer in the hope that some of the better fish which have been hiding in the deepest pools will move out and feed under the cover of darkness.

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My salmon fishing so far has been both low level and unsuccessful. Very few salmon have been caught in the area this spring with poor angling conditions again largely being blamed. I fished Carrowmore Lake on saturday but we came back to the shore with clean boards. Seamus reported 4 fish boated on that day but there were 17 boats out in reasonably good conditions so the lake is still not fishing very well.

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I am reading reports from Scotland and the lack of fish over there seems to echo our woes on this side of the Irish Sea. All over it looks like a dramatic collapse in salmon stocks, the kind of doomsday scenario which environmentalists have been warning us about for years. In Ireland the spring salmon were decimated years ago by the government sponsored environmental vandalism of  drainage works on just about every river in the country, so we have been struggling to catch many early fish for a long, long time. How will this year pan out? I expect a few more springers to turn up with the next spate and the grilse will show up beginning in May and gradually building in numbers if we have a wet summer. A dry summer will spell an angling disaster for us though.

I don’t have any answers to our lack of fish, the problems are complex and we humans seem to be adding more every year. Fish farming is a horrible business and it has added to the loss of wild fish here. More farms are at planning stage and if they are successful (which I have no doubt they will be) it could be the final nail in the salmon’s coffin. I plan to try hard to catch a few this year – there may be none to catch in 2016.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

A typical spring day on the river

16th of March. A Monday, blessed with an overcast sky and light winds from the North East. By 11.30am I have cleared the desk and can hit the river for a few hours. A west wind would be better but beggars can’t be choosers at this time of the year so any day that is not frosty or stormy can be considered a fishing day. I make my excuses and check the gear is all in the car. Then it’s on the the N84 and the short trip to the River Robe.

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The wet fly accounted for a nice wee trout in the first pool I fished and a couple of others splashed at the flies without holding on. A sprinkling of Large Dark Olives were hatching, always a welcome sight at this time of year. I fished down through the next pool and then the one blow that without further action despite the trickle of duns on the surface. Out of the lee of the bridge the temperature dropped as the wind cooled the air and I felt this was what was putting he fish off. I re-traced my steps and headed off upstream to find a warmer spot.

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A trudge across a couple of fields brought me to a good pool which has given me big fish in the past. A few minutes watching for signs of life revealed some LDO’s and also a hatch of stoneflys. A small trout was rising steadily below me and another fish was taking flies off the surface some yards upstream. Time for a change.

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On went a dry fly, a size 14 Olive Klinkhammer to be exact. I managed to fool the trout in front of me and he was carefully returned to the water after a brief fight. Great! My first trout on the dry fly this year. I worked my way up river looking for more rising fish but none were forthcoming. Searching the water with the dry fly produced nothing and after a promising start I was beginning to struggle. I had not fished this part of the river before and the going became harder as trees and fences barred my way.

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Perseverance brought me to a nice pool which I fished through with the dry fly without response. A change to a nymph was equally unsuccessful and since there was no sign of rising fish I wound in and pushed on upstream once more.

Time to change the setup again so I swapped back to the wet fly and a three fly cast of Olive Partridge, Plover and Hare’s Ear and a Beaded PT occupying the tail position.

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By now the wind had swung East and it was cold. Fly life has ceased too, so things were not looking too optimistic for me. However, the team swung around perfectly in the current as I worked down the pool and eventually the line tightened as a perfect Brownie grabbed the PT.

The very next cast produced another trout to the Olive Partridge and one more fell to the charms of the Plover and Hare’s Ear right at where the water breaks at the tail of the pool.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enough was enough and I plodded back to the car going over the days events in my head. The trout were keen to take but only in certain pools. Other spots failed to produce a single take. Maybe I had stuck with the dry fly too long today and I should have gone back to a team of sunk patterns sooner. Ah well, we are always wiser after the event.

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The fields were well populated with new lambs and the daffodils are in full bloom now adding a splash of colour to cheer the heart. So ended a typical spring day’s trouting. No monsters but a few problems to solve and the old familiar tug on the line and a wink of bronze under the surface. Spring is here at last!

This post is in memory of Ally Skinner, a great fisherman who would have been 40 years old on this day. His loss at such an early age is keenly felt by all who knew him. Rest in Peace Ally.

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