Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

An evening on Beltra

I will leave the photos to tell the tale of an evening spent on Lough Beltra in the company of Ben and Pat. The fish did not cooperate but it was great just to be afloat on a pleasant Spring evening.

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deep in concentration

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Pat helping to make some space in my fly box!

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You can just make out the marker buoy below Nephin

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I had a bag of reels with different lines on them but I stuck to my slow sinker all evening

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Drifting in towards the dock (a good lie for salmon)

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A heavy shower passed over us

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Great conditions as the sun dipped but nobody told the fish!

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End of the day and we head back to the shore

We all want to catch fish when we head out to the lough or river but blanks are a part of our sport and we need to accept them as the opportunity to enjoy our surroundings.

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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!

 

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dryfly, Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, Pike, salmon fishing, sea angling, shore fishing, trolling, trout fishing

A look back in…………….disappointment

Pike on the Rapala

Pike coming to hand. No big ones this season but the usual sprinkling of jacks grabbed various spoons and plugs. This lad took a shine to a Rapala

It’s over. The trout season that is and much of the salmon fishing too. The 2017 season coasted to its finale last weekend and, for me at least, it was a season to forget. Yesterday we fetched the boat in and over the next couple of weekends we will repeat the process with everyone else’s boats. Autumn will bring some sea fishing and maybe a couple of derisory outings to troll for Pike, but the game fishing is over for us in the West of Ireland until next spring. I thought I’d quickly run through the season, disappointing though it most certainly was for me.

The Carrownisky as it exits the lough

very low water on the Carrownisky river

Water levels were all over the place this season, not enough in the spring and too much later in the year. A dry spring does nobody any good and both salmon and trout fishing suffered greatly due to a lack of water. I have never seen the rivers so low in April and May! Is global warming taking effect here as well as in other, more exotic climates? I suspect it is and the changing weather patterns are having a negative impact on the fish and our fishing. Given the we in Ireland are nowhere near meeting our commitments on greenhouse gas reduction it is hard to climb on to any moral high horses. Sure, we are a small country and relatively speaking make little difference compared to the huge carbon footprint of other, larger and more densely populated nations. That does not exonerate us from our duty as world citizens to reduce our effects on the planet, indeed I would argue it should be easier for us that for the likes of India or China.

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back

My olive emerger. Fur body and CDC looped over the back. Normally this pattern catches me lots of springtime brownies but not this past season!

So, it was dry and cold to start with and the spring salmon were scarce. Work sucked me dry every week. Time spent in Mayo was infrequent and I totally failed to make it to the riverbank for the spring salmon fishing. By all accounts I didn’t miss much. Instead, I was able to squeeze some trouting in during March and early April, usually very productive times for me. This year however I could (and did) walk across some parts of the river Robe without the water reaching above my ankles. Northerly and Easterly winds combined with low water are quite possibly the worst conditions for the springtime fly fisher, but that was exactly what I met during those trying March outings. Fly life was non-existent. No Iron Blues or Large Dark Olives. No stoneflies or Diptera. I tempted a few small fish to wets and nymphs but it was hard work with little reward.

Tiny Brown Trout from the river Robe

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Anglers fishing the fly on a shrunken river Corrib at the Galway Weir

Great plans to fish hard during May came to nothing and others made use of the boat in my absence. By now I was becoming concerned the whole season would pass me by with work hungrily consuming me. Returning home after time away requires ‘catching up’ with family and all the tasks which have been left unattended need to be addressed in the fleeting few hours with loved ones. Fitting a day or even a few hours fishing into this complex mosaic proved be beyond my organisational skills. Then the rain started to fall.

one from the Robe

small but very welcome!

From June through to September we endured frequent periods of sustained precipitation. The heavens unloaded water on Ireland in biblical quantities. Rivers rose then burst their banks. Each time I found a chink in my diary it coincided with filthy brown spates. My fishing buddies who did venture out with rod and line found the grilse late and well scattered. Salmon fishing is always a case of being in the right place at the right time but this year it seems that maxim was even keener than normal. Tiny windows of opportunity presented themselves when the water was right for an hour or less and experienced rods who knew where to be connected with resting runners. I fumed and shook my head with every text or FB post from friends as they celebrated successes. I never even made it out with the salmon rod after June. A film of dust covers my salmon gear in testimony to my inaction.

Barely used all last season, I will strip the reels down lubricate them all before tucking them away for the winter

So what positives were there this past season? I had a nice brownie in the gloaming from the Keel canal which grabbed a small Wickham then charged around the pool like a fish twice its size. Then there was introduction to the tiny river Griese down in Kildare. The sheer joy of trying to fool those wee trout in difficult conditions was wonderful balm to bruised angling ego and I am already planning on fishing this gem of a river next season. For me, size means nothing, angling is all about being immersed in nature and trying to solve the problems in front of me. A hard-earned 8 incher can be more rewarding than a dozen fish which fling themselves at the flies.

The Griese in Co. Kildare. Clear and stuffed with small trout. I’ll be back………….

My current contract ends early in November and there will probably be some free time from then until Christmas. I’ll do some sea fishing and tie lots of flies when I get to that point. I’ll also make my plans for the 2018 season and I’m going to do some work on this blog as well when I get some free time.

Not many gaps in the fly box but I will be busy at the vice over the winter regardless

The boat about to be hauled out of Lough Conn last weekend

part of an old roller conveyor which an angler uses to ease beaching his boat.

Last view of the lough for this year

There is always next season. At least I managed to get out a few times, walking and wading the rivers and taking the boat out for a look around the bays and shallows. It doesn’t matter how bad the fishing is, just being able to get out in the fresh air is a joy.

And finally…..

My beloved collie left this world in September after 15 years at my side. The sense of loss seems overwhelming sometimes and I am still struggling to come to terms with life without her. The pain will subside over the coming weeks and months but for now life is just ‘less’ in ways which are hard to form into words. So if you have a dog, go and give him/her a rub behind the ears and maybe a wee treat to chew on. You miss them something awful when they are gone.

Ness looking for waterhens

Nessie, 2002 – 2017

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trout fishing

Mayo game angling guide

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a drift on Beltra

For those of you who are considering a trip to Co. Mayo for a bit of game fishing later this year there is a handy guide published by IFI. See this link:

http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/angling-1/294-county-mayo-game-angling-guide-1/file

Some of the information regarding which rivers are open for salmon angling is out of date so check before making final plans, but in general this is a useful guide for those not familiar with the area. Living here it is easy to forget just how fortunate we are with some much game angling on our doorstep. The quality of the fishing is a shadow of what it was 20 years ago but even still there are wonderful places to cast a line for trout and salmon.

4 lb grilse

With so much different game angling available it is a shame that many visitors tend to stick to fishing the big loughs, even when they are not producing good sport. Rivers around here are under-fished and those who enjoy dry fly and nymphing for wild browns on small waters will find excellent sport in Mayo.

upper-pool-july

I hope you find the IFI guide useful.

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling

Hopes of a salmon

Today there is an air of excitement around the town as the Mayo GAA team are in semi-final action against Tipperary this afternoon. Cars bedecked with green and red flags are heading across the country to watch the game in Dublin, full of hope and anticipation. I on the other hand, am off to try my luck on the Cashel River. Recent rain has pushed water levels up in the Moy system and I hope to intercept some late running grilse.

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On the Cashel

Later…………….

OK, so that didn’t quite go to plan. The weather was perfect and the fiver was dropping after a small flood. All in all the conditions could not have been better for salmon fishing. Pulse suitably quickened, the boat was emptied of water in double quick time and the gear safely stowed before motoring upstream to troll over the likely lies. I clipped on an orange and gold Rapala to start with and trailed it 30 yards behind the boat. Soon enough the rod gave a rattle but it was only a small Perch. More of these followed throughout the session.

Ben got off the mark with a tiny Pike followed by  couple of reasonably big perch which I claimed for supper. Not many people eat perch but they are very good and I would encourage you to try them. I don’t know what stocks are like elsewhere but in these parts there are large shoals of these lovely fish, so one or two for the pot won’t cause too much of a problem.

The fishing was a bit slow so i decided to give a small copper Toby a swim. We have a great fondness for the old original Tobies, the ones which were made in SWEDEN by ABU. The newer ones just don’t seem to be as effective and I would have a tarnished old original before a bright new copy any day of the week. Unfortunately the fish shunned this theory and the copper Toby was substituted later on for another Rapala.

An original Toby

The rain started around noon and with the wind grew stronger. By then we had turned right at the meetings of the waters and were trying our luck on the Clydagh River. Again, our hopes of meeting salar were dashed and in the gathering gloom we about-turned and headed back down river. There seem to be very few salmon around this season, a very worrying trend indeed. I’m going trout fishing the next time I am out.

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

How to fix a sticking net

A quick wee post that might be of some use to you……………

Ben’s extending salmon net was stuck fast, no amount of pulling would free it so I volunteered to try and fix it for him. I was confident I could do it as I have done the same before with my own nets over the years.

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The sliding collar

I took the net home and used clamps to move the collar up to the end of the shank. The expansion bolt was unscrewed and kept safe before forcing the frame off the shank. As suspected, the soft insert in the collar had deformed and was in need of re-profiling with a fine file. The temptation is always to take off too much so care is required and some restraint with the file. just smooth off any ridges and try to get back to the square shape. Offer up the frame to the shank again – it should just go on but still be tight. Now for the magic.

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The man on the black horse

Apply a very light coating of olive oil to the shank.I never use any other oil release agents like WD-40. And don’t try to put on too much oil, it will only cover anything it comes in contact with and attarct dirt.

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The insert after it was filed

Put it all back together and you are done. To maintain smooth operation simply apply a fine coat of olive oil once or twice a year or when there is the first sign of sticking.

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Fishing in Ireland, Pike, salmon fishing, trolling

Spring but no Springers

 

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Rain over the bank holiday weekend has pushed up water levels a bit so we decided to try for a springer today. Waiting for Ben outside the house in warm sunshine it really felt like spring was here at last. The trees were filled with chirping birds amid the early blossoms.

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Lovely spring morning, for a start at least

I caught up on all Ben’s news on the short journey out to the river  (he had a 10 pounder off Lagduff on the Owenduff on Saturday) and we assessed the chances for today. The river had risen over a foot but was now dropping back . Word was that a couple of salmon had been caught on the Moy system recently, one at Pontoon bridge and another at Foxford. All of this sounded good and we were pretty hopeful there was going to be a fish or two in the river today. Peering over the bridge the water was tinged, but not too coloured. Gear was hastily stowed on the boat and we motored up river in good spirits.

An hour later and we were beginning to flag. No signs of fish at all and the warmth of the morning was disipating as clouds rolled in from the south west. A thin drizzle began to fall, washing our confidence away. Conversation died and we sat hunched in the boat, each  of us lost in our own thoughts. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, off went Ben’s rod as something fishy grabbed his Kynoch. After the first run everything went dead and we both knew what that meant – PIKE.

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Note how the Kynoch has slid up the line and out of harm’s way

This lad headed for the weeds and had to be bullied back out into open water before he could be boated.

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Coming to hand

By the time we pulled in to have a bit of lunch we had 3 pike between us, all between 4 and 5 pounds in weight. Of the silvery salmon there was no sign. After a soggy lunch, consumed behind a brier in a cold and wetting mist, we met some fellow anglers who were bait fishing with similar results as ourselves. And so we turned for home and headed back the way we had come. Another pike and then 2 trout were boated as we retraced our steps. Both trout were, just like the ones we had on Friday, in perfect condition, deep bodied and well fed. I suspect these are fish from Lough Cullin which came up the river to spawn and have hung around due to the good food supply.

 

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trailing some weed, another Pike comes to the boat

We called it a day when we got back below the bridge and tackled down at a leasurely pace. Salmon fishing is a numbers game, the more often you fish the more salmon you will catch. Today was not our turn but that wont stop us from trying again soon.

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Get out of those weeds!

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Snow on Nephin today

With work beckoning tomorrow and the forecast of cool, wet weather for the whole week I am now resigned to no more fishing until next weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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