Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing

TxE=S

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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fly tying, salmon fishing

The Crunchie Shrimp

I first tied this fly more years ago than I care to remember. I had read somewhere about using sweet wrappers to form the bodies on flies and experimented with a couple of ideas. This was pre-multi-coloured holo tinsel days and a box of Cadbury’s chocolates provided some pink, blue and red shiny wrappers. None of the resultant flies worked but the germ of the idea had been sown and I later hit on using Crunchie wrappers to make bodies. For those of you  not familiar with this particular confectionery the Crunchie bar comes in a brassy gold foil wrapping.

By carefully opening the bar and flattening the wrapper you can cut a few narrow strips which can then be wound as a body. The beauty of this material is the colour, it is a lovely deep, brassy shade. I will take you through the tying process of the Crunchie Shrimp.

  1. With the hook in the vice start the tying silk at the eye and catch in a soft dark ginger cock hackle

2. Next tie in a cock hackle dyed Fire Orange which is slightly shorter in barb length than the ginger one. Run the tying silk down to a point 2/5ths of the way to the bend.

3. Here you tie in another dark ginger cock hackle, again, shorter in barb length than the first hackle.

4. Now catch in a slim bunch of orange dyed Bucktail hair to form the tail which should be approximately the same length as the hook. At the same time tie in a piece of fine oval gold tinsel which will be used as a rib. If desired, tie in a tag of oval gold at the end of the body.

5. Take one of the narrow strips of foil wrapper you previously cut and whip this in. now run the tying silk back up to the point where the middle hackle is tied in.

6. Wind the foil up the body in touching turns and tie it in at the middle hackle. Cut off the excess. Rib with open turns of oval gold, tie in a remove the waste end.

7. Wind the middle hackle, 3 turns is usually about right. Tie in and cut of the excess.

8. Now repeat the foil/rib used on the rear half of the body to form the front half. As a variant you can use orange floss silk to make the front body.

9. Wind the orange hackle and tie off as usual.

10. The ginger head hackle is given 3 or 4 turns now and tied in in the usual way.

11. Form a neat head with the tying silk and whip finish.

12. I like to give the head a coat or two of red varnish to finish it off.

There you have it! Tied on sizes 6 – 14 this is a good pattern for salmon and grilse.

Happy tying!

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