Google maps and dead presidents

After another fruitless day trolling for salmon yesterday I was ready for some fly fishing today. I felt like a change of venue so I turned to technology and consulted Google maps. At the highest resolution you can discern water features such as bends, weirs and rapids and I use this to guide me to new spots on the local rivers. I spent some time this morning going over parts of the River Robe which I had not fished before looking for just these kind of features and I liked the look of a short stretch near Crossboyne. I’ve fished upstream of Crossboyne many times but between there and Robeen was virgin water to me. I knew a lot of this part of the river is deep, slow and canal-like, very poor water for trouting. But the maps seemed to show some weirs and bends around Curraghadooey. I planned to give them a try after a quick look further upstream at Castlemagarret.

IMG_1771[1] I know the Castlemagarret stretch in great detail and started at the first good pool. Water level was good and the river was obviously slowly dropping after the recent rains. I set up with a team of 3 wets to search the water. An experimental size 18 Iron Blue Dun pattern went on the bob, one of my own ‘Benjamin’ spiders occupied the middle position and a Beaded Endrick Spider was the point fly. After a handful of casts an 8 incher grabbed the Iron Blue, a good start! I fished a couple of pools and runs without any further offers so I legged it to a long pool further up river, bypassing less likely water.

The remains of a Pike were lying in the grass at the high water line. The Robe has a big population of these and I keep meaning to fish for them during the winter but somehow never quite get around to it.


Remains of a Pike. I reckon this one was around 6 pounds when alive

I slowly fished downstream, flicking the flies into the little bays and around any rocks in the river. I missed 3 fish before finally landing another smallish lad, this time on the Endrick Spider. With no fly life and certainly no fish rising this was looking like it was a day for wet flies so I plugged away with the team of three, ending up with a tally of 7 trout only two of which would have been worth keeping.


By now it was well after 1pm and I walked back to the car and set off to execute the second phase of my plan for today. Some dodgy map reading notwithstanding, I eventually discovered the tiny concrete bridge over the river I had identified on the computer and parked up nearby.


I had planned on fishing my way upstream from the bridge as I had seen a weir and some fast water on the map up there, but when I looked over the bridge it was clear there was some good water immediately below the bridge. The only problem was going to be how to get to the water’s edge. The farmer had his fence as close to the river as possible and the bank was pretty much vertical and around 10 feet high. I decided to try fishing from inside the field, casting over the barbed wire fence and accompanying each cast with a prayer I wouldn’t hook anything too big. The water looked perfect with excellent flow and depth. Only a few casts in and the first trout snatched at the flies. I got him on the next cast, a shade under a pound in weight and a nightmare to swing up to my hand through 3 yards of thin air. He had fallen for the Benjamin. Within a few minutes I was in action again when first one and then a second fish took the flies but they both fell off during the fight (the Lord be praised). The fishing was hectic for the next half-an-hour with trout coming steadily to all three flies.


Access  became worse as the bankside vegetation increased. I managed to slither under the barbed wire to get closer to the water which helped slightly but the going was tough and I nearly took a ducking when a fencepost I was using for support came away in my hand. Some Sandmartins appeared, the first of this seasons swallows and the fields were home to a number of very vocal larks.


A bit of bank erosion

Time spent on the river always passes quickly and today was no exception. Sport slowed and finally died away just after 3pm so I trudged back to the car which had by now settled into the soft verge and was sitting at a somewhat alarming angle. Loaded up, I was able to extract it from the muck without too much drama but I will need to find another spot to park when I go back to this stretch again.


Looking downstream

‘What has all this got to do with Dead President’s’ I hear you ask. Well, my Benjamin fly is named after Benjamin Franklin. The hackle is made from a body feather from an African Francolin, so ‘Francolin’ morphed into ‘Franklin’ in my head and fly got the forename of the great man. The full dressing of ‘Benjamin’ is:

Hook: 12, 14 or 16

Tying Silk: Pearsall’s no. 6

Body: the tying silk covered with touching turns of clear horse hair

Thorax: one strand of Bronze peacock herl

Hackle: the small body feather of an African Francolin.  These are pale tan with lovely dark barring.

I also tie a dark version of the Benjamin with claret tying silk and use both versions when small stoneflies are on the water.

Francolin (Crested) 9732a

A Francolin, the hackle feathers are on the chest of the bird

I will definitely be back to give this stretch another try soon. There is some excellent water and it fished very well despite the lack of a hatch today. And I have yet to venture upstream as was my original plan. My final count of trout for the day was 16 with 4 or 5 of them being in the 14 to 16 ounce class. All the flies I tied on produced fish, so they were not too fussy (for a change). I had better make up  a few more Benjamins this evening and I have an idea that a Hare’s Ear variant might be worth a try!

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.


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.


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.

Fishing in Ireland, fly tying

Fly patterns – the Claret Bumble


Since I tie lots of flies and use a small proportion of them actually fishing it seems only sensible for me to show you all the patterns that I and my fishin’ buddies use. Let’s start with the Claret Bumble since that is where the name for this blog comes from.

I use it in big sizes (6, 8 and 10) for salmon and sizes 12 and 14 for brownies on the local loughs. There are hundreds of variants of the original and just being told a fish was caught on a Claret Bumble is not going to be the whole story (this is Ireland, so the chances are it was actually caught on a Green Peter or a Watson’s Fancy anyway, but I digress). The basic claret fur body with a black and a claret cock hackle palmered and a blue jay or blue dyed Guinea Fowl hackle at the shoulder is pretty standard. The shade of claret ranges from nearly magenta right through to almost black. Personally I like a rich reddish claret usually. The rib is fine oval gold tinsel. Tails can be tippets or toppings (dyed or undyed) and there are sometimes tags of floss, fur or tinsel added to fool the fish and confuse the fisherman even further. Legs are also a common addition and other assorted fancy bits and bobs can also feature. Oh, and then we have muddler heads to consider – black, claret, brown or blue are all alternatives. All these variants will catch fish on their day so don’t stress out too much about exact patterns with this one. I think size is much more important and would never stray bigger than a 12 for Brownies.

Glister headed Claret Bumble