Fishing in Ireland, salmon fishing, trolling, trout fishing, wetfly

A quiet day on Conn

Saturday, 21.30 hrs: The modern version of jungle drums were beating a few minutes ago when I received a text to let me know that 7 or 8 salmon had been seen jumping on Lough Conn earlier today. That makes sense as I know there have been fresh fish running the river Moy for the past 2 weeks now. The gear is already stacked in the hall ready for the morning. I’ll need to buy some petrol for the outboard in the morning but apart from that small chore I will be good to go tomorrow.

Sunday, 6am: I am awake as usual and get up to do some odds and ends around before going fishing. Shirts for next week are ironed, dishes from yesterday evening are washed and dried, the pets, all that sort of thing. the weather looks good today with a stiff breeze out of the south-west and good cloud cover. The occasional showers which passed over Ireland yesterday have gone, leaving damp and cool conditions.

Oasis on the CD player as I drove out the quiet road to Pontoon. I was never really a fan but they had a couple of good tracks so I cranked up the volume and enjoyed the guitars as the green, green countryside slipped past. The boat required a little teeming (is that an Irish word or does everyone use it? Must check dictionary………….) after the recent showers but she was good to go apart from that.

looking south towards Pontoon Bridge from the Massbrook shore

All loaded up, I pushed off and motored around the pin and started drifting across the mouth of Castlehill in a nice 6 inch ripple. Once again, the most obvious problem was the all too evident lack of fly life. No olives, buzzers, peters or mayflies were on the water. with no response to the wets I set up a trolling for and turned her into the stiff wind and chugged down the Massbrook shore, over the salmon lies which I had hoped would be tenanted today.

The drop off (Yes, I know you can hardly see it!)

There is a major drop off which I like to troll over and I tried to capture it for you but as you can see it is not too distinct. On one side of the boat there is about 3 feet of water and the stones on the bottom are clearly visible; look over the other side and you are peering into an abyss, only inky blackness to be seen. here is a great place for pike as the patrol this edge but salmon and trout also favour this border between two worlds.

Cuppa

A nice cup of cinnamon tea kept my spirits up as I ploughed through the waves a couple of hundred yards off the Massbrook shore. Still no flies to be seen and certainly no silvery salmon leaping clear of the water! Trolling is a dull game but it gives you a chance to look around and plan drifts with the fly rod. the wind direction and strength made the lower part of Massbrook a good location to try the fly so I killed the engine and set to it with the 11 footer and a team of three.

A trout rod (#6) and a heavier one for salmon (#8)

I had only dropped the flies over the side at the start of the first drift when it was taken by a small lad of 8 inches. He fell off as I swung him in, saving me the problem of handling an undersized fish. Next cast and a repeat of the same with a similar sized fish. the drift gave me 4 of these small trout but no trace of large game.

other boats were finding fish in the area

I rowed close in for the next drift, dodging occasional rocks with the oar and still catching immature brownies. A bright green bumble was doing most of the damage on the bob. I finished the second drift well out in the main lake as the shallow water here stretches out a fair distance from the shore. Still no signs of salmon though and since it was salmo salar I was really wanting to catch it seemed prudent to go back to trolling again over the usual spots where they lie. I changed to a gold spoon and dragged it 30 yards behind the boat for the next couple of hours in excellent conditions.

boats on the move

Other boats wee constantly coming and going, a sure sign the fishing is hard. I pulled in to stretch my legs at one point and contemplated possible options.

pulled in

The reports of salmon jumping offered only a slight comfort. Once salmon get in to lough Conn there are no barriers to them and within hours they can be anywhere in this large body of water. Most will head right for the mouth of the river Deel and that certainly seemed to be what had happened this week.

40 shades of green

Time always speeds up when I’m fishing and a glance at the phone showed I had better think about starting for home. Still the other boats were dashing too and fro, 15hp engines straining and white wakes snaking across the surface.

flat out

I took a leisurely spin back to Pike Bay and tried a few casts around the pin with the salmon rod but by then my enthusiasm had waned considerably. I pulled the starter cord one last time and motored back to the reed bed where the boat is berthed.

The highlight of the day came on the road back home. Out of the grass on my side of the road, about 50 yards in front of me a Pine Martin appeared. Without even looking in my direction he hopped across the tarmac and disappeared into the trees on the other side. I saw him very clearly and I am positive it was a Martin. It’s unusual to see them in broad daylight like this. It’s great to see these marvelous creatures making a comeback after years of persecution.

Guess what! Teem is a real word after all!

teem2

[teem]
Spell Syllables
verb (used with or without object)
1.

to empty or pour out; discharge.
OriginExpand
1250-1300; Middle English temen < Old Norse tæma to empty, derivativeof tōmr empty, cognate with Old English tōm free from
Advertisements
Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Fishing on the Robe picks up

 

20170416_143736

We went to our favourite restaurant last night, my better half and I. Luckily I had booked a table as the place was packed with others similarly engaged in eating and drinking. The food as superb (the spinach gnocchi with clams and prawns was to die for) and we washed the meal down with lashings of red wine and we talked and laughed. It was a great night. We are in the habit of lingering over our dinner and our conversation turned the dangerous world out there beyond Ireland’s shores. Fears of nuclear war, Trump’s tweets and imbecility, children dying in Syria, Westminster’s ineptitude, Brexit; the list seems to grow with each passing day. It made us both realise just how lucky we are to live in the West of Ireland.

This morning I was tied up with odds and ends around the house and it was after 1pm before I decided to go to the Robe for an hour. I had to shake the doom and gloom I have been feeling for the past week and which was heightened in light of the after dinner conversation last night. A short session swinging small wets in the stream would be just the ticket.

20170416_144419OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As you can see from these photos the wild browns were in a cooperative mood for a change and a total of 11 of them came to hand in a little over an hour. A couple of them would have nudged a pound in weight. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I only used 3 flies, a size 14 Partridge and Orange on the bob, a wee size 16 midge pattern int he middle and Hare’s ear with a copper bead head on the tail. Honours were even between all three.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The fishing took my mind off of the rest of life for the hour and a bit. Refreshed and grounded, I headed back home to enjoy what was left of the holiday weekend.

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

Hold your horses

The trend these days is for more and more synthetics in fly tying. While I use a wide range of these wonders of the chemical industry I still fall back on more natural materials for most of my tying. Let’s take a look at a very old material which has fallen out of favour, hair from a horse’s tail.

More years ago than I care to remember I discovered that hair from the tail of a horse made a good body material for trout flies. I recall there used to be an early type of buzzer pattern called the Footballer which had an abdomen made from a single strand of black horse hair wound alongside a single strand of white horse hair. If memory serves me correctly, the thorax was of dubbed mole’s fur and the head was a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl. I have no recollection of ever catching a fish a Footballer but I was keen to try horse hair on other flies. I liked the segmented effect hair gives when wound and the ‘glow’ of  the under body if you use clear hair on top. Since those far off days I have used horse hair in a number of trout flies, so here are some ideas for you.

  1. My Horse Hair Partridge. A general copy of an olive, this one used to be almost ever present on my springtime casts, but for some reason I haven’t used it for years now. Tying silk/underbody is Pearsall’s olive (no. 16) or Yellow (no. 4) and the hackle is a Brown Partridge feather taken from the back of the bird, tied sparse. The over body is of a single strand of clear horsehair and you can add a couple of turns of bronze peacock herl for a thorax. Varnish the horse hair to give it a bit of strength. I nick Helen’s clear ‘Hard as Nails’ for the job. I must give this one a swim again this season. A variant uses a strand of clear wound with a strand of black horse hair and a golden plover hackle. 

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Maybe a bit too much hackle on this one…………….

2. A dry variation of an Adam’s which consists of replacing the grey fur body with strands of clear and black horse hair wound together and then varnished. This fly works well in a hatch of small olives when tied on a size 16 hook.

3. Connemara Gold Spider – Tied in sizes 14 to 18, Pearsil’s Yellow silk is used to tie in a flat gold tinsel under body which is then over wound with clear horse hair before varnishing the lot. A sparse hackle of either a starling body feather of a hen hackle dyed black is wound at the neck. Connemara Gold spider4. You can make a good dry copy of the Yellow Dun by winding clear horse hair over an under body of yellow tying silk and varnishing it. The hackle is sparse cock hackle dyed yellow and the tails are some fibres from the same feather. By using hen hackles and adding wings made from the secondary wing feathers from a thrush you have a reasonable wet version of the Yellow Sally

5. Mike Harding gives a spider pattern called the Grouse and Gold in his excellent book ‘A Guide to North Country Flies’. This wee pattern has a dark grouse hackle and a body made of Pearsall’s no. 6A (Gold) over wound with clear horse hair (varnish as usual). A lovely looking fly but as yet untried by me. Maybe later this season…………..

5. In the same book, Mike also gives the dressing for an olive spider. Pearsall’s olive gossamer (no. 16) forms the underbody with clear horse hair over wound and varnished. Hackle and tails are grey partridge hackle dyed olive. The illustration in the book shows the colour of olive to be light, but I suppose it is a case of matching the colour to the naturals which are hatching.

Using Horse Hair as a rib has a very long history. An early copy of the the Downlooker featured a strand of black horse hair as a rib over a yellow silk body. I personally have never seen a trout take a Downlooker (natural or artificial) and I am unconvinced it is a fly you need to carry around with you, but it fun to tie.

It can be hard to find good quality horse hair, especially the lovely translucent kind. Buying on line can be a bit hit and miss and I advise you to get yours from a retailer who will allow you to examine the product closely before you buy it. Brittle, poor quality hair is a nightmare to use, constantly breaking under the slightest pressure. I know many of you are thinking ‘I can use stronger/more translucent/easier to work with synthetic materials now’. Yes, you can, but I like the old ‘traditional’ approach sometimes and horse hair is a nice material to work with. Try it yourself sometime, it is cheap, readily available and nice to use. Oh, and the trout seem to like it.

 

 

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing, wetfly

A few hours on the Robe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring has sprung at last

I was late. The morning just seemed to slip away and it had gone noon before I set off for the Robe. With no wind, overcast skies and the temperature hovering around a pleasant 11 degrees conditions seemed to be favourable. I had decided to try the river at Castlemaggaret, close to Claremorris. The river here flows through pasture and was developed by the fisheries board a number of years ago, providing styles and creating some lovely pools and runs. Since then, little work has been done to keep the river in good order and access in some places is a bit difficult nowadays.

The car parked, I tramped off along the riverbank and after a half mile tackled up at a favourite run. The usual lies failed to produce any fish but right at the tail of the pool a small trout grabbed the stonefly imitation on the dropper. A small fish, he was safely returned and swam off strongly. Another trout splashed at the flies on the next cast but that was all the action and I moved on upstream to the next pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first of the day, only a small lad

Soon I was catching fish every few casts but they were on the small side, averaging only 8 or 9 inches. Everything was coming to the Partridge and Orange Spider with the other two flies on the leader contributing nothing. I stopped and changed the bob fly, tying on a Partridge and Yellow. Three casts later and a slightly better trout took the newly wet bob fly, this one being near the 12 ounce mark.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

One of the small trout had a deformed mandible:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A deformed mouth on this trout

Very few flies were hatching and the occasional olive was not enough to tempt the trout to start rising and instead they were feeding deep today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The run where most of the action took place today

I was beginning to think today was only going to provide small fish when a strong take announced something a bit better had arrived. A good scrap ensued before I landed the best fish of the day, just a little below a pound in weight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The best fish

I decided to try a pool further upstream and ploughed through a waterlogged field and over some fences to get to it. Unfortunately it only yielded one small trout after all that effort.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hooked on the outside of the mouth, another one for the P&O

Retracing my steps I gave the best pool one more run through and I managed to land another small brownie, making a total of nine for the day. None of them would break any records but it was grand being out in the fine weather again. The lack of fly life was disappointing and we maybe just need to wait another week for the river to burst into life.

 

 

 

 

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Endrick Spider does the trick

20160320_115441[1]

It was too cold yesterday for trout fishing, the east wind had a raw edge to it and so I kept my powder dry for today instead. At 8am the cloud cover was good and the temperature was beginning to rise a little, so I fed and walked the dogs before heading south to the river Robe for a few hours fluff chucking. I was torn between the stretch at Castlemeggaret or the pools above Hollymount and as I travelled the N84 I settled on the Hollymount water for today’s outing. I stopped off in Ballinrobe to get something to eat before bouncing along towards Claremorris and turning off to the small bridge above the village of Hollymount.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking downstream from the bridge

I was greeted with a low river; surprisingly low after the winter floods. The past week has been dry and the water levels have receded rapidly. Clouds were thinning as I tackled up and by lunchtime clear blue skies were overhead, making things a little tricky. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I planned to work my way downstream, searching the lies with a team of wets to start with and then change to nymphs if necessary. That wonderful feeling of getting back into the river again after the close season is such a joy! Birds were singing and the fields beginning to green up, so the whole experience of being out on the river in spring seemed to envelop me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tail of a pool

It was obvious that fly life was sparse and all day I only saw a handful of olives and a couple of large Stoneflies. With nothing to attract then to the surface the trout were staying deep but my beaded spider was failing miserably to pull anything. I swapped patterns a couple of times but all I had to show for my efforts after an hour were a couple of half-hearted plucks from small fish. I kept working my way down river and stopped just above the village for a re-think. Checking the water again I found only a few olives, not enough to induce a rise from the fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stonefly

I sat on the bank for a while, taking in the vista and pondering the situation. I knew I should change to nymphs but instead I decided to stick with the wets for now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Down river, near Hollymount village

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

throat of a pool

 

I carefully fished through the best pool in this section of the river, then the pool immediately below that, meeting 3 more tout, both of which managed to throw the hooks before I could land them. Time for another change and I put a beaded Endrick Spider on the tail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Endrick Spider

Some more fruitless casting ensued before I decided to head off to the water immediately below the next bridge. There is always a few trout hanging around in this area and sure enough, I rose one on my second or third cast.  I covered him again and was rewarded with a firm take to the spider. I played him gingerly, not wanting to lose this one too! he was only a half-pounder but I had broken my duck and landed my first of the 2016 season. A bonnie wee trout, the fly lodged in the point of his nose. I flicked the fly out and took a couple of snaps before easing him back into the water.

20160320_144118[1]

The harsh sunlight was not helping the fishing so I decided to call it a day. From now on the fishing should pick up as the water heats and fly life increases.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old weir with a fish pass

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely water on the Robe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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

Half Stoned

One of the great benefits of living and fishing in these parts is the lack of pressure to catch something. There is a strong and highly organised competitive angling scene in Ireland but I am not competitive in life and certainly not when it comes to angling. For me the simple joys of a few hours fishing for wild trout and salmon with no great expectations of success are all I want. This in turn creates a freedom to experiment, be that with tactics or patterns. One of these experiments is my variant of the the Half Stone.

A fly with its origins in the South West of England, this is a pattern I have meant to try for years now and simply never got around to it. One winter evening I was contemplating emerger patterns and though about this fly. I am unsure if it was originally meant as a copy of a hatching fly but the palmered thorax looked good to me so I set about tying a few.

Half Stone ‘normal’ dressing:

Silk: primrose yellow

Tails: a few fibres of blue dun cock hackle

Body: in two halves, primrose yellow silk at the rear, moles fur dubbed on to the tying silk at the front

Hackle: a blue dun hackle palmered over the moles fur

While I liked the overall shape of the fly I felt the colours were too bright for the rivers here so I set about making a few alterations. I wanted to retain the half palmered look but felt adding a second hackle would give the fly more ‘life’ so I added a ginger cock hackle and wound it with the blue dun. Then I added a rib to lock the hackles in place. I also figured the primrose silk was a bit too bright for what I wanted – an imitation of a hatching ephemerid. So I swapped the primrose for gossamer no. 6, a much more muted shade of yellow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both hackles tied in together

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tail fibres tied in

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A pinch of mole’s fur

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gold wire tied in and the thorax dubbed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhackles wound down over the thorax

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

finished fly, my Half Stone variant

I am planning on using this fly during Large Dark Olive hatches and by fishing it wet on the top dropper position I can keep it fairly close to the surface where I hope it will fool the brownies mopping up emergers. There is a very particular situation which I have in mind for the pattern. Much of the rivers where I fish are heavily wooded and some pools are only accessible from above, meaning normal dry emerger fishing (casting upstream) is out of the question. The half-palmered wet idea is my way of combatting this problem. We will see if it works soon!

Standard
Fishing in Ireland, fly tying, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

New beginnings

 

I am hopeful that tomorrow I will escape the drudgery of paid employment for a few hours to enjoy a few casts and mark the start of my 2016 season. Before then I need to sort out my tackle and make some final repairs. I am planning a short trip to the River Robe and in particular a stretch which promised much but produced only limited results last spring. High water is needed on this short section of the river and we have plenty of the wet stuff here in Ireland this year. Indeed, most of the country is still saturated after a long winter of near constant rain. Temperatures are still low, ranging from 2 to 5 degrees lately, so the probability is I will be deep nymphing or at best swinging a team of wets in the cold water.

 

I have a couple of new fly patterns to christen including a small Stonefly nymph which looks good in the fly box. As usual, I have been tweaking some patterns in the hope of improving their powers of fooling the fish. Adding a fur or herl thorax behind a soft hackle on spiders really seems to make the fly more effective so I’ve tied up a clatter of them for this year. Partridge and Orange, Snipe and Purple and most of the other classics have all been given this treatment as well as my own patterns.

 

I have already checked all my rods for damaged whippings, broken or chipped rings and worn handles, and all are in fine fettle. My reels need a quick once over to clean and oil them (most of them never saw the water last year). My lines are also fine as I unwound them at the end of last season and they just need to be re-loaded on to the various reels again. Where some work is required is the making of new butts for my leaders. I like to use heavy nylon butts for the link between the fly line and the leader proper and only occasionally do I use those braided jobs which are so popular these days. I admit they are very useful when you want to add a sinking section to a floating line but I think they prefer the stiffness of heavy nylon as an aid to turning over my casts. Depending on the amount and type of fishing I am doing these butts can last a whole season or need to be changed every few weeks.

 

Why not use fluorocarbon instead? Two reasons for me, firstly fluorocarbon sinks, so it is no use for dry fly fishing and secondly I keep snapping the damn stuff! I seem to be in a small minority of anglers who suffer from this but I have a tendency to break fluorocarbon at every opportunity and have lost all faith in it as a leader material.

 

Other pieces of kit which causes me problems are nets. This has only started in the last five years or so, before that I owned 2 nets and I can’t recall them ever causing me a minute’s doubt. Nowadays I have 4 nets to pick from and they all present a range of ailments. Sticking telescopic handles, seized locking mechanisms and torn bags all need addressed before Saturday rolls along. One of my trout nets needs a new bag and the spare has a rip in it which I only discovered the other day.

I have no shortage of flies to pick from and some may suggest I own too many but that is part of the fun for me. I might try to sort the teeming hundreds of wets/drys/nymphs into a system which is easy to use on the riverbank on a blustery spring afternoon, thus saving me a high level of frustration and overuse of bold language. I am thinking about filling one box with favourite patterns and seeing how that works out for me. By applying the 80/20 rule I believe this should reduce the time wasted while fishing by a considerable amount.

 

Prospects for the new season are hard to quantify after the wet winter we had. Did the prolonged periods of high water affect trout stocks? Was the relatively high temperatures we ‘enjoyed’ good or bad for the rivers and their inhabitants? What changes to the banks and river bed will I find after the long periods of damaging flooding? Some stretches of the Robe have high, soft banks of earth which will probably be radically altered this spring. Perhaps the high water will have encouraged some lough trout who run the rivers to spawn to linger in the flowing water. The Keel River will be a favourite candidate for this behaviour as Mask fish regularly turn up there early doors.

 

Then there is the personal question of how will I cope with my arthritis this season? Last season my mobility was very limited and pain levels reached an alarming and debilitating level with wading being transformed from one of the pleasures of our sport to pure torture. Those of who are afflicted by arthritis or other life altering diseases know the frustration wrought when the sport you love is severely compromised due to pain and physical limitations but if you are lucky enough to be in good health I would urge you to get out there and enjoy life to the maximum now. Live and fish each day like it is your last, you never know when your physical or mental functions will deteriorate or desert you. For me personally, the changes to my diet have certainly improved my day to day health but the challenges of the riverbank are now upon me, challenges I eagerly accept but with the trepidation of one who lost many battles last year. Too often during 2015 my fishing days were punctuated by deliberately missing out pools where I couldn’t wade, river crossings which not attempted or abandoned due to the pain or even sessions cut short as I limped back to the car with swollen ankles and deflated heart. I’m hopeful this year I will perform much better.

Right then, enough writing for now. I will start the tasks outlined above and give the Robe an auld lash tomorrow if the weather is fine and report back to you good folks if I am blessed with a measure of success.

 

 

 

Standard