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.

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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.

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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!

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Fishing in Ireland

The trouble with work

This has been a terrible year so far for me when it comes to fishing. As you can tell by the dearth of posts I simply have not had the opportunity to get out and spend time on the loughs and rivers. Work has been busy and even when I have sneaked away from the shackles of employment there have been commitments at home to attend too. My previous job as a self-employed consultant allowed me to manipulate my calendar, creating pockets of time off to go and fish. My current job is not so flexible and I am struggling to make the necessary time for my angling. I am guessing that many of you who are reading this post are in a similar position and feeling the same frustration that I currently am.

So how do we anglers create the time required to partake in our sport? This vexed question has been occupying my mind of late. The answer is going to be planning. Now let me make it very clear from the outset that I have never been particularly good at planning my fishing. I habitually change my plans based on the rainfall, wind direction, cloud cover, tides, reports from other anglers and a dozen other variables. So my best laid plans usually fly out of the window at the drop of a hat. I love the flexibility and challenge of selecting just the right venue for a few hours with rod and line. I frequently set off for one stretch of a river and end up on a completely different one altogether based on little more than a hunch. The satisfaction of catching some fish under those circumstances is very fulfilling to me, much more so than turning up at a pre-appointed spot and flogging it to death (you can see now why I don’t fish competitions). Back to the planning thing though…………….

Windows of opportunity are now very rare for me so I need to take advantage of even very small gaps in my diary. That means reducing travel to a minimum. Time behind the wheel is time lost on the river bank. I am also postulating that using the boat is just too time consuming. Gathering up engine, tank, pins etc then launching the boat and motoring to the hot spots takes time – time I don’t have. So instead I will either fish the rivers or from the shore over the month of August. Just by removing all thought of boat fishing the planning process has become simplified. The impossible looks achievable for a change.

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The boat

With the decision to forsake the boat taken the choice of venue had been simplified and narrowed down to a couple of options. The most obvious is the Moy which is not far from me and at this time of the year has a run of grilse. This has another advantage for me as the tackle required is minimal, a fly rod and reel, a box of small shrimp patterns and chest waders. That lot can be stashed in the car ready for use at a moments notice.

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Shrimps and Cascades

The Moy is but a shadow of the great fishery it used to be and the massive runs of salmon the river used to support are a thing of the past nowadays. A rise in the water during the summer still encourages some grilse to run so my new plan is to fish the Moy when the opportunity arises in the evenings after work. I will keep you posted………..

One of the reasons I have not been fishing recently was that we fitted in a short family holiday to Tenerife. A lovely island and one I would recommend to those who have not been there. While there I took a stroll down to the local harbour to watch local anglers fishing. I must have spent the best part of an hour observing these guys and only saw them land one small fish. Tackle was the same for each of them, a longish rod of maybe 12 feet and a medium sized fixed spool reel. The business end consisted of either a large bubble float or a truly enormous sea float. Below the float was either a weight or what looked like big split shot and a single hook baited with slivers of fish or squid. I don’t understand why their floats had to be so big. It was presumably for weigh to aid casting but they could have achieved that with smaller floats and better weights. They all seemed to be suspending the bait around 3 or 4 feet below the float in a water depth of maybe 10 – 20 feet. The one fish I saw landed was a tiny Wrasse, which left me thinking that a longer trace fished near the bottom would have a better chance of success. I can only think they were fishing for mullet in mid water instead. Nobody was using heavy gear to fish into the surf which surprised me too. The rough ground looked like it should produce good fishing but the locals just concentrated on the harbours instead.

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Angling update

A wee update for you on the fishing in these parts.

Beltra -the odd spring salmon being caught but to be honest the lough needs a good shot of water in it now to encourage a run of salmon.

River Moy – a trickle of fish seem to be entering the system now and catches, while still low, are beginning to pick up. East Mayo Anglers water is producing an occasional fish including a 10 pounder on the fly last week.

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The Moy in Ballina

Lough Mask – continues to fish well. All the normal spots are seeing some action but a lot of very thin trout showing up

Lough Conn – It is still very quiet on Conn but the angling pressure has been virtually nil so there could be more chances for sport than people realise. Should be worth a cast from now on.

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Trolling for salmon on Lough Conn

Lough Cullin – good buzzer hatches and the first olives now hatching.

Carrowmore Lake – Fishing very well when conditions allow. Ben Baynes took a 4 pounder there last week and followed up with a 9 pounder which he released on Lough Beltra on the same day!

In summary, the cold weather and East wind have not been doing us any favours this month so far, but if we get a spell of wet and mild weather things will liven up and the fishing will be good here in Mayo. Carrowmore is the hotspot right now!

 

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Ballina

Herself wanted to pick up a few things in Ballina so we drove up there yesterday. For those who don’t know this area Ballina is a bustling little town on the River Moy and the famous Ridge pool is right in the middle of the town only a few yards from the main street.Helen went off to do her bits and I took a wander down to the river to see what was happening there now the season is over.

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With no rain to speak of recently the Moy was low. During a spate the river rumbles impressively under the bridges but in low water it loses much of its splendour. On an overcast day like Saturday with the hum of activity from the local shops and businesses the river felt almost forgotten, the casting and wading over for another year and the the waters looking lonely,empty and cold.

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Cathedral Beat, looking up towards the Ridge pool

Some tiny fry were jumping in the shallows as I scanned the cathedral beat for signs of life. The Cathedral Beat is immediately below the Ridge Pool and is a nice piece of water in terms of flow and structure but it is very busy so I don’t bother fishing it (I like a bit of elbow room when wielding a fly rod). A heavy swirl well below where I was standing caught my eye so I moved down river to see what had caused the commotion. It looked to be too big a disturbance to be a salmon and sure enough a head appeared some 30 yards from me in the current – a seal.

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These lads often chase the salmon up the river as far as the Ridge pool and they can do a lot of damage in the confined spaces of a river. Nothing can be done about this, as culling seals is not an option. Large numbers of seals live in the Moy estuary and can be seen sunning themselves on sandbanks further down river. I watched as he swam up to the bridge before he disappeared from view. I checked the time – I had to go and meet herself. Like the seal, I was due to get a bite to eat.

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early August update

Salmon – some fish being taken throughout the whole of the Moy system, mainly grilse as you would expect. Beltra is pretty quiet with just a few Sea Trout coming to the net.

Sea angling- good numbers of rays in Clew Bay with the usual shore marks producing well. Mackerel finally appearing in the are too.

Trout fishing – evening fishing is steady if not spectacular on the major lakes.

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bait fishing, Fishing in Ireland, sea trout fishing

Sea trout in the Moy estuary

Killala in North Couty Mayo is a pretty little place with windy roads and old stone buildings.It’s a pleasant place to visit at any time, but yesterday we were in Killala on a mission – to catch some sea trout in the Moy estuary. Three amigos  gathered on the quay, Ben, Ronnie and yours truely.

Ben, Ronnie and me

Ben, Ronnie and me

I have done a lot of estuary sea trout fishing over the years, mainly back in Scotland when we used small flies and silvery spinners, but here on the Moy we would be using natural bait in the form of sandeels to tempt the fish.

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A sandeel mounted ready for use

The basic concept is very simple, a sandeel is mounted on two hooks, a short shanked size 10 single and a size 16 treble. It is then cast out and either allowed to drift down with the current or very slowly retrieved back to the boat. I would love to wax lyrical about the intricacies of this method but there are none. Just pop a sandeel on the hooks, cast it in and let it drift away on the current. If you get a bite open the bail arm and let the trout get a good hold of the bait before striking. A light spinning rod and 6 pound breaking strain line are all you need.

Malcolm

Malcolm

We had booked a day with Malcolm and as soon as our gear was stowed on his boat we headed off down the channel and into the bay. Within 10 minutes of casting off from the harbour we were fishing. With so much water to pick from local knowledge is vital for success. Just finding the trout is the hard part but Malcolm has years of experience and he soon put us over some feeding sea trout. Sadly our striking left a lot to be desired and we could only manage a couple of trout for the whole day despite a good number of bites.

freelining a sandeel bait

freelining a sandeel bait

The tide fairly rips in and out of the estuary as there is an average 4 metre difference between high and low water. We had started two hours after high water so the water was flowing out of the estuary in the morning and back in again in the afternoon. our biggest problem was weed – that stinking, soft brown stuff which clogs your gear and is a royal pain to remove. It was not too bad in the morning but the afternoon fishing was all but halted due to the smelly stuff.

Spinning does account for sea trout too and a small ‘krill’ type lure does well. Malcolm finds that spinners get a lot of follows but the ratio of hook ups is very low with most of the trout simply following the lure without taking it. We had fly rods with us hoping we would have a chance to chuck some fluff at the fish but alas this was not to be.

Fishing ceases at high and low water when the flow stops altogether. We used that time to have a stroll on Bartra Island, admiring the wonderful view and taking some photos. We also caught some sandeels for bait in the afternoon, Malcolm showing us how to handle the small net in a quiet backwater close to the harbour. There were an awful lot of very small eel and only a few mature ones but we got enough to keep us supplied for the afternoon session.

netting sandeels for bait

netting sandeels for bait

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Once we had sorted out the bait it was time for a short break and we nipped over to Bartraw Island. The island changes shape depending on the wind and currents and the view from the top is breathtaking. After admiring the scenery for a while it was back to the fishing again but despite numerous follows and bites we could not add to the 2 fish we had caught in the morning. Typical of sea trout – they can be impossible to catch one tide and yet throw themselves at any old lure the next.

Entrance to Killala harbour

Entrance to Killala harbour

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

A quick update

Just a few lines to update you all on the game angling in Mayo this week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Strong winds have disrupted the fishing on Carrowmore Lake once again. For those unfamiliar with the lake a big wind, which is normally so desirable for salmon fishing on other lakes, churns up the peat sediment on the bottom of Carrowmore. The water turns an opaque brown colour and catching fish is extremely difficult. We need a more settled period for Carrowmore to deliver constant results. There are certainly fish in the system with catches into double figures on days when the boats are getting out.

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Lough Beltra is a bit disappointing and I heard of some very experienced rods who fished it this week without meeting a single salmon. There are a few in there, so it is a case of putting in the hours.

heading downstream

The River Moy rose and slowly fell this week and salmon were landed the length of the river, many in the 8 -12 pound class. The level is back to normal again and we await the next flood to bring in a substantial run of grilse. One angler had 2 grilse on the fly on the East Mayo waters this week but worm and flying C accounted for most of the remainder.

Loch Conn is producing a few salmon on the troll and to the fly. The top part of the lough seems to be fishing better than the Pontoon end. Cullin is beginning to weed up pretty badly in some areas. The Ballyvary River benefited from the recent rain and a small run of salmon penetrated as far upstream as the castle where a few grilse were landed.

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I will add some more information early next week once I have had a chance to get out with the rod myself.

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