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.


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.


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!


Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.



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



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

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.

2013-05-26 10.24.45

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.


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

Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Lough Cullin

Many of you are familiar with the great western lakes. Conn, set below the heights of mighty Nephin, the wild Mask with shallows and reefs rising from the depths, beautiful Carra with the near tropical look of the green water and Corrib, huge and daunting too the newcomer. Less well known is Lough Cullin, the little sister to Conn and a pleasant place for a few hours fishing.

IMG_1809[1]Pulled in near the bridge on Lough Cullin

Cullin lies to the North of Castlebar, close to the village of Foxford in County Mayo. It is part of the River Moy system and it is joined to Lough Conn by a short channel at Pontoon Bridge where the R310 road crosses. I am no expert on celtic mythology but I think I am right in saying that loughs Conn and Cullin were named after Fionn MacCoul’s hunting dogs who both drowned while chasing a wildboar.


Pontoon Bridge from Lough Cullin

In addition to the waters pouring in from Lough Conn at Pontoon the lough also receives the flow from the Cashel River, itself an amalgamation of the Castlebar and Manulla rivers. This can lead to the strange phenomenon of the flow at Pontoon changing direction when there is high water on the Cashel. Most anglers will agree that when this happens the fishing will be useless.

Ballyvary river

The Cashel River which flows into Cullin

Cullin is a shallow water with a high pH due to the underlying limestone bed. In the past the lough has suffered from pollution both from the agricultural run off of fertilisers and muck spreading as well as sewage from the towns and villages in the area. It is only recently that some improvements have been made in waste water treatment in the county and this will take time to be reflected in the quality of water in Cullin. The eutrophication of the lough has harmed the trout fishing and at the same time improved the environment for coarse fish such as roach and pike. These two species are now present in huge numbers and grow to a good size. Many pike are caught by accident when fishing for salmon and I have seen huge roach caught on the fly by trout anglers (I have only managed very small specimens though)

16lb+ from Cullen

A pike from Cullin. They grow much, much bigger than this!

So what is the fishing like on Cullin? It is a shadow of the former fishery with a greatly reduced stocks of both trout and salmon now present. Salmon numbers have declined alarmingly in the whole Moy system over the recent past and this has been obvious on Cullin with very few springers landed. Cullin was never much good for grilse as the lough weeds up in the warm months of the season making vast tracks of the lake unfishable. Some early grilse are boated each year and they seem to favour the same lies as their larger brethren.


Any of these spoons will work on Cullin

There are a few noted salmon lies in the lough and these are hard fished by locals trolling spoons and plugs. In the shallow water it is easy to get hung up on the bottom and in weeds, so some losses are to be expected. Dangerous underwater rocks are generally marked with pins but take care when the water is high as it is easy to run into shallows which are normally visible. Salmon like to lie in shallow water, so time spent trolling around rocks and reefs is time well spent.

sea lice near the vent

A small springer taken on the troll on Cullin, note the sea lice near the ventral fin

The lies are pretty well defined on Cullin so there is a lot of boat handling to keep the baits working over the fish, making this a less boring day out than some other trolling venues. Tobies, Swinford Spoons and Rapalas are all widely used here. Salmon can also be fished for off the shore at Pontoon Bridge but this has been the site of a number of unsavoury incidents over the years when ‘anglers’ dispute who has the right to fish from certain spots. I can’t say I recommend any visitors to try try and fish at the bridge.


Looking out on to Cullin

The trout fishing is at best patchy. The huge numbers of chironomids which live in the lake now mean there is ample feeding for the fish on the bottom or in mid-water. That means they have little interest in coming to the surface for a meal and the traditional wet fly is largely unproductive. There are some exceptions and the mayfly gives us the best chance of surface sport on Cullin. April and May are by far the best months for trouting on this lough. I am sure there are great hatches of sedges during the summer but we never see them as Carra and Mask hold our attention at that time of year. Fighting the weeds on Cullin is not a great option compared to the other lakes.

The size of trout was always smaller than those encountered in neighbouring Lough Conn and a trout of a pound is a good one for Cullin. That said, there are much bigger trout in the water but they cruize the bottom and are very difficult to find. Fishing a buzzer from an anchored boat can provide sport but I find this a tedious way of fishing on the big lakes so I tend to stick to wet or dry fly most days.

I don’t think that the trout on Cullin are particularly fussy when it comes to flies. Claret Bumble, Connemara Black and Green Peter are usually on my cast here and they seem to do as well as anything else. I prefer smaller sizes on Cullin though with a size 12 used in favour of the normal size 10s. Mayfly patterns are in legion, so pick one or two favorites and don’t be tempted to change too often when the greendrakes appear.


A Mirage Gosling will work on bright days on Cullin

I concentrate my efforts for trout in Healys bay and the rocky north shore. Even when there is a good hatch on the trout are slow to show on top so don’t expect too much in the way of casting to rising fish on Cullin. Takes when they do come are fast, very different to Carra fish who take with a degree of leisure. I use a light 11 foot rod throwing a number 6 line on Cullin to get the best of the smaller fish you are most likely to encounter. The length gives me better control of the bob fly which I consider useful in attractive the fish up to the cast.

No day out on Cullin would be complete without a pint in Healys. The bar is full of old fishing relics and there are some rods and stuff on the walls too! The beer is grand and there is always a bit of fishing chat in the bar.

So there you have it, Cullin is a nice lough to fish, especially for those not familiar with the big waters. It is less demanding of boat handling skills than Mask or Corrib and can often produce a nice trout early on in the season. Give it a lash if you are in the area in April or May and bring a trolling rod in case the salmon are running.