Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

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Met Eireann forecast

Met Eireann forecast

Rain is a-coming! The weather gurus are sure the heavens are going to open over the next day or two, meaning I will be out and about chasing the silver tourists with the fly rod. There are lots of posts on this branch of our sport already on this blog but here is a quick refresher on the do’s and don’ts of river fishing for grilse.

Big spate on the Bunowen river

Big spate on the Bunowen river

Rain is everything to the summer salmon angler. While it is not impossible to winkle out the occasional fish in dead low conditions a shot of water makes a huge difference to all the rivers. Here in the west of Ireland many locals turn to their spinning rods or worming gear when the spate eventually arrives but I firmly believe that the fly will do the business on most days. So my first piece of advise is to stick to the fly.

Timing is all important and is probably the one thing that the visiting angler finds the hardest to achieve. Spate rivers by their very nature rise and fall quickly, much quicker than many visitors realise. Peering over the bridge in the morning and seeing a raging, mud coloured flood the angler suspects there will be no fishing until the next day. Wrong! Depending on the catchment area a small west coast river will probably be in fine fettle by that evening and may well be back to its bare bones within 24 hours. On all the rivers I fish I have these ‘markers’, some are stones, others are trees or fenceposts. Whatever they are I look to see where the water has reached in relation to them. I am also looking for one more vital clue – is the river still rising or (joy of joys) starting to fall. It is the falling water we want because that is when we can expect some action with the grilse.

perfect for backing up

Backing up a pool can be productive for summer salmon, especially on those long, deep, normally stagnant stretches so common on west coast rivers. A strong wind to ruffle the surface improves your prospects no end. Even if the wind is blowing up the river that a normal cast across/down and across is not possible (or safe) simply angle your casts upstream and allow the line to settle as you take a couple of steps up the bank. You may be surprised how effective this is.

Water colour is an issue that some anglers seem to get hung up on but I have seen salmon caught in absolutely filthy conditions and I am less concerned about colour and more worried about the fact the river is dropping. I happily fish in very high and dirty water, safe in the knowledge that the salmon will take in those conditions.

Small grilse on the floating line

Due to the small size of my local rivers I use either a full floater or a slow sinking fly line for all my summer salmon fishing. If I want to fish deeper or counteract a strong current I switch to a small brass tube fly to give me that bit more depth rather than reaching for a fast sinking line. I carry a sinking poly leader too just in case I really feel the urge to go deep.

The Bunowen river in Co. Mayo at a nice height

The Bunowen river in Co. Mayo at a nice height

What about fly patterns? If you restricted me to some form of a cascade, a black and gold shrimp and an Eany tailfire it would not bother me too much. A Hairy Mary is always reliable and a Wilkinson is good on sunny days. Every year there are new, brighter and more complex patterns to pick from but don’t get into the bad habit of constantly swapping flies.

Black and Gold Shrimp

Black and Gold Shrimp, a favourite of mine for the grilse

Eany Tailfire

Eany Tailfire

Fly fishing for grilse can be a mixture of long periods of inactivity interspersed with short bursts of high octane action as a small pod of them pass by. As with all salmon fishing the angler who spends the most time with their flies in the river will catch the most fish.

T (time on the river) x E (experience) = S (success) when it comes to summer grilse fishing with a fly rod!

3 pounder

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing, SWFF

A change is as good as a rest

It has been a terrible season so far on the rivers and loughs for me. I have yet to catch a decent tout and only a single salmon has fallen for my flies. Time to change things around and do some salt water angling.

Clew Bay at low water

I have agreed to fish as part of a team in a local sea angling competition on 9th June. We will be dropping lines in Clew Bay and at this time of the year we would expect to contact dogfish, Pollack and possibly some early Mackerel. I’m looking forward to getting out on the briny again after a couple of years break from it. Whether we catch very much is another thing altogether. Clew Bay has been very poor for a long time now, a victim of gross over fishing by both commercial and sport fishermen. I’ll give it a lash anyway for the craik.

Ahead of then I will try to pop out to Achill Island to see if there are any sandeels around. These are great bait for just about anything that swims in the sea around here so catching some on tiny feathers is always a good idea. While they are definitely better used fresh they still work well after freezing.

sandeels

greater sandeels or Launce

I have a theory (here we go again……..) that shore fishing is much better during the hours of darkness. I’m plotting a couple of ‘after hours’ sessions over the next couple of weeks. Successful fishing at night is all about proper preparation so I’ll make new traces this weekend and check all the gear is in good order. Nothing worse than trying to find the item you want in the dark. If you are new to night fishing then I suggest fishing from piers or jetties is a good place to learn as there are usually lights there to give you some comfort.  A rocky headland or exposed storm beach can be intimidating in the pitch black.

Roonagh pier at night

Roonagh pier at night

I tend to keep my rigs very simple.

  • Three-hook flappers for flats and small stuff, usually armed with 1/0 Aberdeens
  • Pulley rigs in different weights and with a range of different hooks to meet a wide variety of situations. The Pulley rig is my ‘go-to’ for most situations.
  • Sliding float with an anti-tangle section for wrasse and mackerel

I always take a spinning rod with me so I can try for Mackerel even when bottom fishing for other species. This adds a bit of extra interest to each session, even the ones when the fish are absent. The spinner can sometimes attract an occasional sea trout or pollack. I love those old ABU Krill lures but it is heartbreaking leaving them stuck on a rock or in thick kelp. I use cheaper alternatives over rough ground!

One of the great joys of sea angling is the chance of picking unexpected species. Pollack, mackerel and dogs are our staples here in Mayo but bass, turbot and other less common fish do turn up from time to time. Some local anglers seem to be forever catching oddities but these are the same lads who put in the long hours on the shore and try out new spots. I’m hoping to find the time to do just that this summer!

So there you have it, some sea fishing in my diary from both boat and shore this month unless it rains heavily. If it rains I will grab a fly rod and go chasing grilse in the rivers but until then it will be the tang of the salt air and the roll of the Atlantic swell beneath my feet.

wake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea trout spoons

Sea trout spoons

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Toby Slim, 20gm

the sailing club, a well known mark

the sailing club, a well known mark

 

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Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, sea trout fishing, shore fishing, SWFF

Saltwater fly patterns

There is still time to enjoy a few casts in the sea before the winter gales arrive in earnest, so here are some of my favourite fly patterns for chucking into the briney. I don’t tend to go in for very complex patterns and even my range of colours is limited, but all the flies here will catch you Mackerel, Pollock and Saithe. Let’s start with the good old Clouser minnow.

This example is tied with white Bucktail, a couple of strands of flash and bead chain eyes. I also like Black, green and pink versions too. Bucktail is hard wearing and moves well in the water.

Next we have a Black Worm pattern:

I tied this up years ago to imitate a swimming Ragworm. The tail is made of Black or dark brown marabou and the body is of black fritz. A heavy gold cone head adds weight and makes the work move enticingly on a jerky retrieve. As there are very, very few ragworm on the west coast of Ireland this fly should not work – but it does and can be very good for Pollack early in the season.

A basic sandeel pattern now, one which won’t tax your tying skills to any great extent. Whip a slim bunch of fl. green hair and a couple of strands of your favourite flash to the top of a smallish hook and there you are! It works a treat when stripped back quickly.

Lefty’s Deceiver is a great fly and I always have a few in my box. Apart from my white/black/pink/green ones I also use this version. Tail is made of white cock hackles, back to back with some added flash, a tinsel body of either silver or gold and an under wing tied below the hook of white Bucktail. The top wing is yellow/orange/black Bucktail. Add eyes if you like.

Rogan’s Gadget is an unusual looking beastie but the sea trout love this fly. I make the body from flat braid to give it a little more shape than flat tinsel. Mallard flank (either natural or dyed) is tied in at the tail then pulled over the back and tied down. The head can be formed from either bronze Peacock herl or dubbed Glister (the later takes more punishment from the fishes teeth).

Sometimes the fish can be a bit picky and a more accurate imitation of baitfish is required. Something like this which is made from different colours of hair with dyed mallard flank cheeks a glued on eyes can sometimes save the day for you.

Here is an all-black Deceiver with JC eyes. One to use in the dark or in very coloured water.

And finally, the old reliable flash-on-a-hook. Look, there are days when the fish are shoaling and willing to grab anything which is pulled in front of them. There is no point in using complex patterns under these circumstances so have some simple flashy lures on hand for those red-letter days. Silver, Pearl or Blue all seem to work equally well.

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