Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Photos of the Moy

No fish the other evening but here are some photos from the Moy

under the wires, a good lie

the new disabled access stretch

the long bank

 

Ballylaken

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Fishing in Ireland

Salmon spinning

In these days of reduced salmon runs there seems to be an understandable move away from spinning in favour of fly fishing. While I am personally primarily a fly fisher I do still enjoy using the spinning rod when conditions dictate it would be more effective. This season I will be fishing the River Moy and the long, deep, slow stretches of that river demand proficiency with spinning gear. For what it’s worth here are a few of my ideas on this form of salmon angling. I need to stress that I am no expert with the spinning rod, just an enthusiastic amateur.

In my opinion spinning is both a useful and productive way of fishing when the fly is not an option or simply when you want a change from fly casting. So for example small, heavily overgrown parts of rivers that are impossible with the fly can fished effectively with a short spinning rod. For those anglers (like me) with physical limitations, spinning can offer a viable option to wielding a big fly rod all day. Sometimes just a change does you good and an hour spent fishing water which is not really suited to the fly can be a welcome break.

In terms of gear, in general I prefer a powerful rod, one that can handle big fish if required. As for reels I fluctuate between multipliers and good sized fixed spools. They both see action, the multipliers for the heaviest work. For reel line I favour 18 – 20 pound with a trace of 15 pound breaking strain. My traces consist of a BB swivel at the reel end and a snap link at the other so I can swap baits easily. Overall trace length is two and a half feet. In deeper pools or faster flows I add a hillman or Wye weight above the BB. In low water conditions I suppose there is an argument for a lighter spinning set up but I would much prefer to fish the fly at that sort of water level.

My earliest encounters with salmon on a spinning rod involved the use of the devon minnow, a bait normally overlooked by modern day anglers. This is a shame as fishing a minnow is a lovely way to cover the water and it can still be very effective in certain conditions. Think of a river which has been high but it dropping back now, still too high for comfortable fly fishing but clearing up nicely. I would happily get out the spinning rod and those old devons in conditions like that. The technique is to cast at an angle downstream of straight across. The actual angle will vary on the speed of flow and the depth, so the skill and enjoyment comes from working out where each cast needs to land so the devon reaches the correct depth. The rod held high, the bait is allowed to fish around in an arc with minimal interference from the angler. Just keep in touch with the bait and if required wind in slowly through any slower flows. When the minnow is directly below you wind in rapidly in preparation for the next cast. A step per cast downstream is the normal rate of progression through the pools. I like the minnow to fish deep and find the occasional bump on the bottom reassuring that I’m not too high in the water column. Think of fishing a deeply sunk fly, long casts, the lure slowly sweeping around in the current below you and try to emulate that with the minnow and you won’t go far wrong. I have a twist of lead wire in my pocket for ‘fine tuning’ devons by adding some wraps of the wire to the mount.

Keeping the rod tip up is crucial otherwise the line will belly in the current, dragging the minnow across the river too fast. Aim to have the minimum amount of line in the water. While I am talking about line I better nail my colours to the mast and say that I like to use old fashioned nylon when spinning for salmon on the river. Yes, I know all about the benefits of modern braids but I want the springiness of nylon when casting with a fixed spool reel. If you prefer braid go right on ahead, this is another case of personal preference and you can make a perfectly good case for either material.

Size and colour of minnows is a matter of personal choice. I have caught fish on just about any colour over the years but I’d hazard a guess that Black /Gold has possibly been the most effective for me in 2 to 3 inch sizes. Yellow bellies and ruby red ones are also good. Having said that anglers on big rivers use 4 inch minnows and I have landed fish on tiny one inch baits before now.

Of course you can substitute other baits in place of the devon and fish in the same manner. The reliable Swedish Toby is effective too. Sizes vary from the elephantine ‘Salmo’ pattern which weigh in at a hefty 30 grams down to 7 gram ones for lower, warmer water. Again, colours are a source of rich debate. What one angler swears by another swears at! If you limited me to only one it would have to be a silver and gold in 12 gram size (Swedish original of course!).

good spinning water

The Toby had an interesting minor tactic which used to be very successful but I believe is now frowned upon – the upstream cast in fast water. A big Toby was cast directly upstream and wound back as fast as possible. Tiring work but it used to produce fish. The trouble was that unscrupulous fishers would snatch fish using this technique so it lost favour.

a nice gold Toby

Here in Ireland spinning for salmon means one bait above all others – the Flying C. If you spot an angler on a salmon river the chances are that they will be using one of these spinners. Fishing them is very simple, pick a spot and cast into it, then wind back. Upstream, right across the current, downstream – it doesn’t matter. Just cast and wind back. Colours are in legion but black, red and yellow are probably the most favoured. The same trace you use for the minnow will do just grand for the Flying C. While I admire the sheer fish catching ability of the Flying C its ease of use rather takes away the enjoyment for me. Yes, I do own and occasionally use the Flying C but it gets a bit boring for my liking. I much prefer the leisurely down-and-across slowly moving devon to all the haste and effort of the rapid retrieve of the Flying C.

keep the rod tip down when retrieving the Flying C

Although not commonly used in these parts I like the Rapala in 7cm and 9cm sizes. The range of designs and colour combinations takes my breath away and I guess they all catch fish on their day. I stick to silver, gold and orange/gold in floating and countdown models and find they are dependable fish catchers. The Rapala is fished in the same way as the flying C, the only difference being you may have to add a weight above the bait to get it to sink to the right depth.

Rapalas, always worth a try

I have caught salmon on large Mepps in the past too, size 4 and 5 work well after summer spates. These can be fished in the same manner as the Flying C. There are some big old ABU Droppens lurking in a tackle box which I might try out later this year on the Moy. You would imagine these would work just as well as a Mepp of similar size.

When it comes to hooking the salmon on the spinner I adhere to the old adage, let the fish pull first. There is usually nothing more to be done than tightening into the fish when it grabs the bait. Hook ups in scissors or front of the mouth are normal and this helps to facilitate the quick release of the fish. De-barbing the hooks will make the process of release even easier.

If all of the above makes spinning for salmon sound very simple I guess it is. What sets a good spin fisherman apart is his/her ability to read the water and employ the right bait, in the right way. You can chuck out a flying C and wind it back to your heart’s content and you will catch fish. The good fisher will usually catch more though as they think more about what they are doing. I still believe that the fly is more a enjoyable way to catch salmon and in lower flows it tends to be more productive. However I will keep spinning in high water or in places where my long fly rods are useless. Give it a try sometime, it is not as bad as you might think!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea angling, trout fishing

Forward thinking

With the season officially started I need to wrap my head around where I’m going to fish during 2019. Last season was a disaster for me so I need to think carefully about these plans to avoid yet more disappointment.

Some venues are just too special to ignore, so the likes of Lough Beltra and Carrowmore Lake will be on my hit list for the spring salmon fishing. I’ll admit that I am worried how many springers will actually return this year with already worryingly low numbers of fish around in both Scotland and Ireland. All we can do is hope and pray the fish have escaped the nets and pollution in sufficient numbers to populate our rivers and lakes once more.

Lough Cullin from Pontoon Bridge

Lough Conn didn’t fish worth a damn last year for trout or salmon so I will cut back my efforts there unless the fishing picks up considerably. The same applies to Lough Cullin which appeared to be devoid of life last year. Instead, I might turn to the River Moy for some sport. It is a river I used to fish and indeed one where I caught a number of salmon but I gravitated more to the loughs than the river for many years. Maybe it is time to enjoy the running waters again?

Fishing the fly through the Gub on the East Mayo Anglers water on the river Moy

My beloved local spate rivers were empty of grilse last summer so to prevent further heartbreak I am planning on skipping my normal trips to them in 2019, unless I hear reports they have recovered. I think that is going to be highly unlikely with the blatant netting which is carried out at the mouths of the rivers. I used to love fishing a fining spate and experienced some fabulous fishing in past years but, alas, these are only memories now.

Carr’s pool on the Bunowen

Then there is the river Robe, what do I do about the Robe? Again, the fishing was very, very poor last spring but conditions were bad. Low, cold water combined with non-existent hatches meant that normal fly fishing was severely curtailed in March and April. This year I will expect less from the river and only fish in good conditions when possible. I suspect I have become somewhat blinkered in my fishing and not spread my efforts widely enough. Less time on the Robe and more time on streams like the Glore or Pollagh may reap rewards this coming season.

The Pollagh flowing through the woods. It can be quite challenging to fish!

I am also toying with fishing some of the less well known waters around here too. The Castlebar river and the Clydagh are on my doorstep and both hold reasonable stocks of wild brown trout, potential targets for the odd free hour or two.

Pools and riffles, typical of the Castlebar River

I am also going to break a habit and enter one or two competitions this coming season. Not that I am expecting to win anything, nor am I in the least interested in any possible financial gain. I just feel ‘out of touch’ and miss the contact with good angling friends, most of whom regularly partake of the lively competition scene in the West of Ireland.

Start of a competition

There are other venues which I hope to try. Maybe an evening on Lough Carra for old times sake for example. Or a summer’s evening on the Keel (I hear it has been fished out but you never know…….). Then there is the sea angling which I’ve not even begun to consider yet. All in all it looks like a busy year ahead of me!

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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.

my-boat-in-muphys-field

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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