Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, sea trout fishing, trout fishing, wetfly

The Bumper

I always have a few of these flies in my box as they come in handy on those days when you have no idea what to try next. It is a very simple variation of that grand old favourite of the trout fisher the Wickhams Fancy. I love the original in all it’s different forms but mainly as either a tiny dry fly (anything bigger than a size 16 is a monster), or as a middle fly on a traditional cast for rainbows. I lost count of the number of ‘bows I netted on a size 12 Wickhams many moons ago!

The Bumper

The Bumper

But back to the Bumper. It hails from the North East of Scotland I believe and it did sterling work for me on the rivers Dee and Ythan. It was never responsible for big baskets of trout nor indeed can I recall landing any particular monsters on this fly. It’s ability to produce the odd ‘normal’ sized fish is what makes it useful. I like it on the bob and enjoy stripping it back to me at a fair old lick. It is a poor imitation of anything natural so it pays not to give the trout time to look at it too closely.  Here is the tying:

Hook: wetfly, size 10 (I have tried other sizes but none seem to work as well as a standard shank 10)

Silk: brown or black

Tail: a bunch of red game cock hackle fibres, reasonably long

Rib: Fine gold wire

body: flat gold tinsel

Body hackle: red game cock, slightly long in fibre

Head hackle: Bright blue soft cock hackle, 4 or 5 turns

As a slight variation I sometimes use a long fibred grizzle hackle dyed bright blue at the head.

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Here are a few I tied up this week:

I will experiment with a version for salmon next season. I think that adding a wing of squirrel hair and a blue muddler head this could be a useful pattern for Lough Beltra in a good wave.

So there you have it, a great fly to have when you are scratching your head and muttering oaths under your breath, Tie on a Bumper and pull it in at a good clip. It will give the trout toothache!

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, sea trout fishing

Casting practice

Friday morning and the weather vane on top of Lagduff Lodge is still firmly set in a Northerly airflow. Dry again today so the fishing will be little more than casting practice, leaving me less than overjoyed

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I fished from pol Garrow down to the Rock Pool but the only fish I saw was a  large resident who made a terrific splash in the Brigadier’s pool. Small flies like the Black Pennel, Blue Charm and Stoat’s Tail were all given a swim but without success. Time to head back to the comforts of the lodge.

The walls were decorated with old photos of past glories and the fishing register had pride of place on the table in the sitting room. 155 salmon had been landed from the beat this season but we were not going to be adding to that impressive total this week!

Gawn, who had been fishing down river returned to say he had an offer from what he was fairly sure was a salmon but the fish didn’t stick and we remained fishless apart from Julian’s early success with a Sea Trout

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Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

Grilse still in short supply

July is often a wet month in Mayo. A little rain fell on Tuesday night and some more as the Wednesday morning wore on, so I decided it was worth a look at a small river I sometimes fish in North Mayo. Expecting a small rise in the water I was instead confronted with a bank high flood upon arrival. Bits of trees and other rubbish were being washed down river and I tackled up thinking I may have hit the water at exactly the right time (for a change). I marked the edge of the water where I entered it with a stick so I could see if the water was rising or falling.

stick

My stick to mark water level

A size 8 Tailfire and a Silver Garry were first up on the cast and I edged into the stream, feeling the pull of the flow and the gravel moving beneath my feet. Due to the high water I used a sinking line to try to get down a little. The rain was lightler now so I was hopeful the river would start to drop soon. Debris in the water was a real pain in the posterior and the flies had to be cleaned every few casts. No fish were showing but that is to be expected in high water and I fished down the initial short stretch without a stir. Other anglers were now appearing as word that the river had risen passed through the neighbourhood, mainly armed with worms and Flying ‘C’s. The rain kept falling…………..

Very high water

Very high water

I persevered for a while but the water level was still rising, albeit quite slowly. Salmon fishers will agree that a rising river is the hardest to catch fish on and today proved to be no difference. Rain further up the catchment area was still filling the river when I thought it would be dropping and any salmon who were there are running hard.

The gusty wind would die then spring up again and I mistimed a cast just as a gust blew up, landing my cast in a thicket of bushes behind me. I snapped the leader trying to pull them out so I marked the spot to retrieve the flies later. My arthritic ankles are in agony (deep wading seems to upset them no end) so I decide to exit the water and get back on to dry land.

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It’s time to rethink tactics so I headed off to a local pub for a pint and a chat with Ben (who was also fishing). Guinness is great for relaxing the mind and after a pint of porter and a final check of the river (still rising) it was unanimously agreed that operations would cease immediately and resume early the next morning.

next morning………………….

The alarm goes off and I hop out of bed to check the weather. No water in the little bucket I keep outside the back door meaning there was no further rain overnight. There is a a thick blanket of clouds and a steady westerly breeze. It is pleasantly warm already and my mind is made up-  time to get back over to the river! Country roads are quiet at this time of the day and I make good progress through the early mist. The river has dropped almost back to normal summer level and has thankfully cleared of the floating sticks and leaves which were such a pain yesterday.

I turn off the engine and start to tackle up. My jacket is still wet through from yesterday evening and it is unpleasant pulling it on. The sinking line set up is too heavy for the lower water level today so I change to a floating line and size 10 flies. Over the gate and down the lane, disturbing some cattle in the field who look less than pleased at my intrusion. More anglers appear downstream of me; it looks like I was not the only one with the alarm set this morning!

 A local spinning

A local spinning

I fish down a couple of pools without a touch then wade across the river and try my luck in a normally productive deep hole. A worm fisher is fishing there with a great bunch of lobworms suspended under a pike float. Gruff greetings are exchanged and it is clear he is fishless too. Cast, retrieve, cast, retrieve – the cycle continues as I fish steadily down to the tail of the pool. Still no signs of life and this is looking increasingly worrying. The flood of yesterday was sure to bring up some fresh grilse but nobody is catching them. I speak to another local who has been here since first light and we compare excuses (mine are definitely better than his in my opinion).

I decide to head way up river in case the fish have made a dash upstream in the high water. A short drive along some narrow, twisty roads brings me to a parking spot and I tackle up again. Swallows are darting around and a lark is high in the sky. The heavy black shape of a cormorant takes off from the big holding pool and turns towards the sea.

I walk up to the top of the fishable water and start casting. I fish through the best parts of the pool and again see no signs of life at all. I reach a narrow deeper section and hook a small Sea Trout on the dropper. At last, something to reel in! I noticed a second sub-surface flash when the sea trout took me and presume this is another trout which has grabbed at the tail fly (I have a size 10 Black Pennel on the dropper and a size 14 Black and Gold shrimp on the tail). The Sea Trout puts up a spirited scrap but it is soon obvious there is another fish on the tail fly after all. After a minute the Sea Trout has tired and I pull him towards me only for him to shoot off in the opposite direction – what ever is on the tail is much stronger. I pull back and a fresh grilse takes to the air. This should be interesting!

The fight takes longer than it should as every time the grilse tired the Sea Trout would waken up and splash around in front of him. Finally I drew both fish over the rim of the net. The Sea Trout was hooked under the chin and was quickly released back into the river. Mercifully there were only a few lice on him.

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The cheeky Sea trout being unhooked before release

The salmon had swallowed the shrimp and I could only just make out the eye of the hook away down the fish’s throat. A nice fresh grilse of around 4 pounds.

I fished on for a while but decided it was getting a bit crowded (word had spread rapidly of my success) so I went down to a pool I like, well away from the hustle and bustle. This is a tiny wee pool which most angler walk past without realising there is a good salmon lie there. Getting into the river here requires a leap of faith as the vegetation is dense and I have to slide down a bank into the water through 6 foot high reeds.

about to drop into the river through the reeds

About to drop into the river through the reeds

I fish down the pool without success but I am nearly back at the spot where I lost the flies last night. I wade across and fish down the run while at the same time looking into the dense undergrowth for my missing flies. Sure enough, I spot the Cascade first and manage to collect both it and the Pennel. Just as importantly I gather up the leader to prevent any wee creatures becoming entangled.

With some pressing jobs to take care of at home I call it a day and walk back to the car. Once again the fly scored when spinner and worm failed to produce. I am convinced that the ability to control the speed and depth of the fly gives it a huge advantage over other methods.

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If we get some more rain I will be out with rod and line over the weekend.

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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, fly tying, salmon fishing

Spate river tactics, part 2

OK, so in the first part of this post I discussed my views on the basics of rod, reel and line for fishing small spate rivers here  in Ireland. Today I want to talk about what we tie on the business end of our lines – the flies to use and how to fish them effectively.

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Choice of fly is purely personal and what works for one angler may be useless for another, so all I can do is give you some patterns which have worked for me over the years. Some you will be familiar with, others may be new to you. Let’s start with an old reliable – the Cascade.

Standard Cascade

Standard Cascade. This one is dressed on a size 12 treble

There are more variations of this fly than you can shake a stick at, but the standard half black/half silver bodied original with yellow and orange hackles and a slim, long tail of yellow and orange bucktail is as good as any and better than most. A couple of strands of pearl flash in the tail add something I think but any more than that just looks wrong to me. If you really have no idea what to tie on you can do a lot worse than plump for this guy.

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Black and Gold Shrimp

I suspect this is actually a recognised pattern but I have not seen it written down anywhere so I just call it my Black and Gold Shrimp. A wound GP body feather tail, half black and half gold body with an orange cock hackle wound at the joint and both halves ribbed with oval gold. A head hackle of soft black cock and optional JC cheeks. Finish off with a red head. I love this fly!

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Eany Tailfire (Light)

I save this one for high/dirty water and tie it with a very long tail. It has been a great executioner for me tied on size 8 and 10 hooks and fished off a slow sinker.

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Hairy Mary

They don’t come much more traditional than the Hairy Mary. I like to wind my hackle after applying the wing so there is plenty of movement in the fly. Small sizes are definitely the best.

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Gold Bodied Willie Gunn (GBWG)

One from my homeland now. The GBWG has landed me many, many salmon over the years tied on tubes, waddington shanks and normal doubles and trebles. I now tie it cascade style for small rivers.

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Silver Garry

Another exiled Scot now – the Silver Garry. I like this one on bright days when the silver body looks good in the water.

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Shadow Shrimp

This fly is an ‘all or nothing’ pattern for me. I tie it on not really expecting any results and that is normally the case. BUT, some days the fish go mad for it so it earns it’s place in my box for those red letter occasions.

Black Pennel variant

Black Pennel variant

I have mentioned this fly elsewhere in my blog but it bears repeating just how good this simple fly is. A Black Pennel on a size 10 Kamasan B175 with a slim tail made of a few fibres of red bucktail will catch you grilse until the cows come home. I almost always fish it on a dropper where the small fly doesn’t seem to tangle the leader as much as larger flies.

4 lb grilse

Enough about patterns, how do you fish these flies? Simple down and across with a very slow retrieve works most of the time. Some days the fish prefer a quicker retrieve, so it pays to vary it a bit until you find what is working. Backing-up a pool can be extremely effective, especially on the long, deep flats we have on some stretches here. A strong upstream wind can make fishing these pools difficult but here is a wee trick which sometimes works – cast up and across for a change. I know this goes against everything you know about salmon fly fishing but trust me, on the flats in a big wind the upstream cast followed by a brisk retrieve works a treat.

low water, looking upstream on the straight run

Mending line is also something which I don’t see too many anglers doing and this is a pity as it can make the difference between success and failure. The mend is usually upstream (to allow the fly to travel slower through the pool), but when the grilse are in the mood to chase the fly a downstream mend can work a treat.

all you need (plus some decent water)

So, to sum up – Timing is everything, dropping water is best. Wear chest waders so you can access the river when required. Keep it simple, no need to swap line densities or flies every five minutes. Use small flies. Drop into the local pub for a pint or buy something from the shop in the village (they depend on passing trade). Talk to the local anglers, they have that vital knowledge and are usually willing to share it. That is about all I know!

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

fr. Ronan

Despite the ecclesiastical name I don’t know of any particular connections with the church for this fly. It is a dabbler style pattern for use when fishing for sea trout and salmon but I can see no reason why it would not work for brownies too, especially around the time of the mayfly hatch.

Fr. Ronan

It is an easy fly to tie with the body in two parts, yellow seals fur at the front and red seals fur at the rear. A silver rib and a GP crest for a tail with a bronze mallard cloak and some JC cheeks complete the fly.

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I like to think that the combination of yellow and red hackles is the key to this patterns success, but until we find a method of communication with the fish I will never really know. I tie this one up in sizes 8 down to 12 but you could rattle some up on bigger or smaller hooks if you so desire.

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Keep the Jungle Cock cheeks small, if they are too big I think they detract from the yellow/red trigger.

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Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Who remembers the Bodie Special?

Not many is the answer!

Who or what is a Bodie Special? Sounds like it could be a Glasgow cocktail based on fortified wine, but no, this is a trout fly with a small but ardent following in Scotland. Here is how it is dressed and, as always, I have a small variation to the normal pattern which should be an improvement.

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The Bodie Special is a Dunkeld with a black body. That is it, just your bog standard Dunkeld with a black floss silk body under the orange hackle. My wee alteration is to replace the black floss silk with black holographic tinsel (see above). I like this stuff, it adds some life to the fly without being too ‘flashy’. I remember how that old salmon fly the Munro Killer was improved by making the body from a strip of black bin liner instead of floss and I think the holo tinsel is the natural progression of that trend.

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Here is what the finished Bodie Special looks like

The full tying is as follows:

Tying silk: Black

Tail: A Golden Pheasant crest feather

Rib: Fine gold wire

Body: Black holographic tinsel

Hackle: Hot orange cock hackle, palmered

Wing: Bronze mallard (Jungle cock cheeks are an optional extra on this fly)

So there you have it. A really good fly for browns and sea trout. Make some up and give it a try.

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