Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Fishing on the Robe picks up

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fishing in Ireland, Nymphs, trout fishing, wetfly

Green with envy

I seem to recall it is one of the seven deadly sins. Envy. That gnawing wishing that someone has something better than you and you want it – badly! I am not generally prone to this particular sin, others come way higher up my list of deadly vices. Usually I take life pretty much on face value and simply  get on with it. Material wealth and goods don’t float my boat. Well, not beyond a good trout rod and matching reel I suppose. But these past two weeks or so have seen me descend into the dim, dank underworld of envious thoughts. Let me expand.

Looking upsteam

Social media has played a large part in my unedifying fall. Twitter an FB are full to the brim of reports from rivers across the UK and Ireland and they all seem to herald the same event – hatches of upwinged flies. The Usk appears to be teeming with LDO’d and March Browns. The Aberdeenshire Don is fair polluted with the damn things. And so it goes on, images of sub-imagos with their wings daintily splayed, hatching nymphs breaking the surface and the fish! Oh lord the photos of huge brown trout that have succumbed to artificials so very similar to those in my own fly boxes. Surely I have no need to be envious of my fellow anglers when the River Robe is practically on my doorstep?

Here is the rub. The Robe is bereft of any discernable fly life. Two weeks ago when I fished it the river was in spate and obviously out of ply, fair enough. This past Sunday I ventured out again in what was close to perfect conditions. The water was a bit above normal and carrying a little colour but this should have had no effect on hatching olives or stoneflies. It was warm and bright with passing cloud cover and a good wind to ruffle the surface. Confidence welled up in me and I was sure this would be ‘der tag’.  Alas, the gods turned their heads and smiled in another direction.

I fished hard between noon and 3.30pm. In all that time and over a couple of miles of prime fishing water I saw not a single stonefly or ephemerid. Of course the fish were not in evidence either. They were resolutely hugging the bottom and even down there they seemed disinclined to take anything I offered. As I say, I fished hard and winkled 10 small trout out of the water. This may sound like a good day’s fishing but trust me, on the Robe, in the first week of April, this is not great. The total lack of surface activity is troubling. There was a some foam on the river, not a huge amount, but enough to get me thinking there may be more agricultural pollution in to this watercourse. The river flows through rough pasture and bogland for the first few miles before cutting across the wide flatlands of the plains of Mayo enroute to Ballinrobe and thence into Lough Mask. Those flat lands are pretty intensively farmed, mainly growing grass to feed cattle.

Beaded hare’s ear when wet

Seven of the fish I did catch fell to deeply fished nymphs, tungsten headed jobs which caught on the bottom far more frequently than lodging in the scissors of any passing trout. I had all but packed up and was walking back to the car when I stopped at an unremarkable run. I watched for a while but saw nothing. Somehow I felt there was a fish to be caught in that run. I took off the nymphs and tied up a cast of wets as this part of the river lent itself to swinging a cast down and acrosss rather than casting upstream. Flies and leader checked I lengthened the line. Sure enough the line tightened and a lively three-quarter-pounder was landed. Safely returned, I repeated the cast a couple of steps further down river. Bang, another one on the very next cast. Not content with that I repeated the feat a third time! Then – nothing. The next 50 casts yielded not a nibble. The spot which produced the three trout looked absolutely identical to the water immediately above and below it, yet the fish would only take in that one spot.

This where the three fish were lying

Plans are afoot to launch the boat next weekend, most probably on Lough Cullen. Maybe I’ll have better luck with the big fellas on still water. I am off to check who is catching what on twitter now. So if you hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth, it will be me.

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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.

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Both hackles tied in together

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Tail fibres tied in

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A pinch of mole’s fur

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Gold wire tied in and the thorax dubbed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhackles wound down over the thorax

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

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fly tying

My take on the Gold Butcher

Everyone knows this fly – right? Gold Butchers are just a ‘normal’ Butcher with a gold tinsel body instead of a silver one! Well I see this pattern very differently, and I would urge you to make up a few for yourselves. It is a versatile fly which works well for trout (brown and rainbow), seatrout and it will even tempt an occasional salmon. Here are the basic instructions for making them:

  1. Start the black tying silk behind the eye of the hook. Here I am using a size 12 Kamasan B170 and, keeping it traditional, some black Pearsall’s Gossamer silk.

2. A small slip of swan or goose feather dyed blood red is tied in to form the tail.

3. Continue to wind the silk towards the bend in touching turns, catching in a length of fine gold wire as you do so. Snip off the waste end of the tail material.

4. At the bend tie in a piece of flat gold tinsel of a strip or a narrow strip of Crunchie wrapper.5. Wind the tying silk back up to a point about 3 mm behind the hook eye. Now wind the flat gold tinsel up in touching turns a secure with the tying silk. Rib the body with the fine gold wire to give the tinsel some protection from the fishes teeth. 

6. Cut two matching slips form opposite secondary flight feathers from the wings of Crow or Jackdaw. Tied them in on top of the shank, taking care to align them properly. When tying this pattern it pays to concentrate on getting the proportions just right, especially if you decide to use the crow feathers for wings. It is very easy to end up with a fly that looks ‘wrong’ if the wings are too short or the hackles are too sparse.

7. Select two cock hackles, one dyed blood red and the other dyed black. Trim the excess ends of the wings and tie in the butt of the red hackle.

8. Wind one turn of the red hackle and tie off before removing the waste. Repeat with the black hackle.
    

9. Whip finish to make a neat head and varnish.

10. As an alternative you can make the wings from a bunch of Squirrel hair dyed black.

Hook sizes range from miniscule size 16’s all the way up to wolloping great size 6’s. I love this fly for those small bog lakes and sizes 12  – 14 would be my favourite when fishing these smaller waters. It does its best work as a tail fly on those overcast days with something claret as a partner on the cast. Those of you who know me will not be in the least surprised to hear that I often add a small black muddler head to the larger sizes. Happy tying!

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

Three flys from my table

I was trying (unsuccessfully I might add) to tidy up the mess of feathers, hooks and other assorted odds and end which have accumulated on my fly tying bench. In amongst the detritus I found some flies so I thought I would share them with you.

First up is a Grey Winged Salmon Gosling. Goslings are widely used in this area for trout and the occasional salmon has grabbed one in passing before now. The difference with this one is the hook, a large bronze double (size 6 or 8). Tied on the tail of a cast for salmon it can do the business on lough or river. It looks so radically different to other salmon patterns I am sure it is taken sometimes just because the fish haven’t anything like it before.

Next we have a variant of the Clan Chief, this one is tied in Fiery Brown colours. It is sporting a couple of strands of twinkle in the tail too and the head hackle comes from a grouse body feather. I tie this on a size 8 for salmon but there is no reason why it would not work for brownies on a size 12.

 I love this fly. The Charlie MacLean hails from the outer isles and does well here on the small brown trout bog lakes. There is a bit of work required fitting all the materials on the hook but when you see this fly in the water and how those long hackle work with every pull of the line you will forget that it took you 20 minutes just to make one. I am toying with the notion of adding a glo-brite no4 head to this pattern

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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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