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.
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.
‘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.
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!