Saturday, 4 April 2015

Sunday Morning Musings

We've had plenty of rain here on the East coast of Ireland. My local rivers all have plenty of fresh water in them so if there's ever going to be a chance of catching an elusive east coast springer, it could well be over the next few days. My fishing buddy, Simon, has already winkled a March fish out of the Boyne and there are reports of springers arriving in many of Ireland's rivers. I intend to avail of the good conditions over the next few days and put the hours in in search of silver. 

A beautiful evening on the Dee.

The OPW website, is an excellent source of information for anybody intending to fish and it can make extremely interesting reading. The readings for the River Glyde show that it has been rising steadily for the past seven days, despite the fact that there's been no rain for the past two days. This is due to the fact that there are a large number of lakes at the top of the system and once these are filled, it takes a long time for that water to permeate down through the river. The downside is that the eager angler has to wait a while until the river settles and begins to drop, the plus side is that the river remains at an ideal height for a long period of time. 

Trying an Orange Monkey on my trusty Loop Opti

Then there's the Dee. The Dee rises and falls at a much quicker rate than either the Glyde or Fane so anglers don't have to wait long before it's fishable. The Dee gets very coloured up while it's in spate and can stay coloured for a few days while it's dropping, which can be frustrating.
I crossed the Dee while doing an airport run yesterday and found that it was too coloured, yet upon my return in the evening, it has cleared sufficiently to warrant a cast. 

Yesterday evening was beautiful and warm, and to be honest, I found myself sitting on the bank chilling and mulling over a number of things that have been going on in my non-fishing life. This brings me to the question of why do we fish? Is it purely for the thrill of catching something or is the 'getting away from it all factor' more important? I must admit that when things in life get rough or when I feel under pressure, I get a really strong urge to be at the river. I sometimes wonder whether I'm running away from things but in honesty, I think that angling provides a sort of therapy to a cluttered mind. The simplicity and rhythm of cast and step can be a welcome antidote to the complexities of life. 
Sitting at the river yesterday watching a beautiful sunset and pondering on recent and current life events has made me grateful that I'm a flyfisher.
So today it's back to the river and here's hoping for enlightenment and success.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Springers on the Finn

I'm just back from 3 super days after springers on Donegal's River Finn. Easter holidays have arrived for me and this was an ideal opportunity for a few days fishing. The past week had seen a considerable amount of rain so luckily the river was in good ply for most of my trip.

The view from the Ivy Bridge in big water.

I arrived at Glenmore Sunday afternoon to a river with 4ft on the gauge so fishing was out. A right few beers and a catch up with new fishery manager, Jarlath Winters and two fellow anglers, Roly and Johnny, made for an afternoon of great craic.

There was 2ft on the gauge at Glenmore Bridge on Monday morning although it was raining fairly steadily.
Myself and Jarlath started at Mc Ginty's where I had a solid pull about halfway down the pool. A change to a smaller fly initially and then to a big Frances brought no further response. We had no luck at Keys either but Jarlath received a call from season rod, John Gilfillen to say that he had just landed a fish at Glenmore Pool. There was a super prize and trophy up for grabs for the first Glenmore salmon landed and John was well chuffed with his winnings. Well done John!
The river subsequently became unfishable due to the rain so we had no choice but to sit it out and hope Tuesday would bring better conditions.

 Prizes for catching Glenmore's first salmon and John Gilfillen's fly that did the damage.

 Sunset at Glenmore Bridge

Horrific weather was forecast for Tuesday and dawn saw gales and the river sitting at 3'6''. We had the Ivy Bridge Beat at our disposal for the day and there wasn't another person anywhere else on the river. The downstream gale and high water conditions meant that it was gonna be a day for the skagit and 10ft of T14 level tip. There were only a few showers knocking about and the water was clear and dropping steadily. At that height of water, the best option is going to be the bottom of the Graveyard so we started there in the crazy weather conditions. I matched the 510grain skagit switch line to a 11'6'' Loop Goran Anderson Signature Spey which Loop pro team member, Stuart Foxall had kindly sent over for myself and Liam to try. This rod is an absolute cannon and handled the high winds with ease. Usually I need a rod of at least 12'6'' to handle the Graveyard in big water, but the GASS 11'6'' was a revelation and I could cover the entire pool with ease. We had no action however so we headed back up to the top of the beat to try the 'V' which can often throw up a fish in big water. No luck there either so we decided that lunch was now required. 

 Throwing the skagit on the V with the Loop GASS 11'6'' #8

Wading the Graveyard.

I resumed the search alone at the Graveyard in the early afternoon. The water was now dropping nicely and was striking in its clarity. I decided to try something quite dark in colour and tied on a wee brown  foxwing tube with a few turns of yellow grizzle softhackle and grey grizzle softhackle. This looked the part in the water and I got stuck in with renewed confidence. At this stage, I spotted a fish turn beside me and then I got a good take which resulted in a few headshakes before coming off. By this stage, the water had dropped sufficiently for me to be able to wade the top part of the graveyard and it was here that I hooked and landed my first springer of the season; a nice bright fish of about 5lb. After sending the fish on its way, I continued down the pool and got another decent pull right at the very end of the pool. Plenty of action for a March afternoon so I was well pleased to get off the mark for 2015.

The fly that caught my 1st fish of 2015

A lovely bright Finn fish.

Safely landed and about to go back.

The water had dropped to just under 2ft the following morning. Jarlath and I began by fishing the corner pool and Martin's with nothing to report. Jarlath returned to the lodge to catch up on some paperwork so I headed up to try Mc Ginty's and Key's.The gales of the previous day had abated and I changed from the skagit to a short Zpey float/S5 shooting head. This head is ideal for rivers such as the Finn. The angler can adjust the floating section of the line to fish around rocks and other obstacles while the sinking section really digs in and gets down to those springers lying hard on the bottom. I like to use a long tapered leader with sinking heads. Henrik Mortenson described this method to me at a seminar last year, the theory being that the sinking head drags the long leader and light fly down the water column where the fly is able to waft seductively in front of the fish. On this occasion, the method worked and I tightened into a decent fish in front of a submerged boulder well down the pool. I played the fish, which was really gleaming silver, for about 5 minutes before it threw the fly after some pretty aggressive headshaking. Sickened, I struggled to concentrate sufficiently while fishing out the rest of the pool so I left Mc Ginty's and headed downstream to try Key's, The air temperature had taken a noticeable drop and the constant rain had caused the river to rise so with no action forthcoming at Key's, I returned to the lodge for lunch and a catch up with fellow anglers.

There were perfect water conditions Thursday morning but unfortunately I had an appointment back in Louth which had slipped my mind so I had to drag myself to the car and head back down the road. Still, three great days of fishing for spring salmon has boosted confidence as the season progresses. I can't wait for my next trip back to the Finn.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Carlingford Lough

Spring is no longer just around the corner. The temperatures are on the rise, well during the day anyway, and the clocks change next weekend. Today I planned to meet with Liam for a walk along the Dee with maybe a few casts here and there. The weather, however, was very bright so any notions of trying for salmon were dispelled and I decided to take a run out to Carlingford Lough and try for some early season sea trout.


During the week I work in Omeath on  the shores of Carlingford Lough. My classroom overlooks the stunning lough with the Mourne mountains in the background and I have potentially top class sea trout fishing at my fingertips in the evenings. For some reason, since I started working in Omeath, I haven't really fished the sea lough all that much. I've resolved to fish it a bit more this year, especially during the week. 

Today I fished under very bright sun and had no luck with the trout. The tide was on the way out and the water was nice and clear. I saw one trout leap but as I said, no fish or takes. I'll keep my finger on the pulse though and hopefully it won't be too long until the sea trout fishing picks up.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Looking Forward to 2015 on the East Coast.

       The 2015 trout and salmon season on the east coast of Ireland draws nearer. The official start of the season on the Dee and Glyde is in February but the local angling club that controls most of the fishing on these rivers delays opening until the 1st March.

 Springtime on the Glyde at Castlebellingham

        Springers do seem to be few and far between on the Dee and Glyde nowadays. Last year I put in plenty of effort in good water conditions in spring without a touch. I do however feel that last year was just an exceptionally bad year in most parts of the North Atlantic. The main run at the backend just didn't materialise, never mind springers. I did hear of at least 3 fish caught on the Dee in May though, so a few did show up. Anyway, this season I am once again determined to put the hours in locally in the hope that last year was just a freak. I think salmon anglers must maintain some sense of optimism otherwise the pursuit would be utterly pointless and perhaps border on soul destroying.
I have some new kit to try out and plenty of new additions to already crowded flyboxes. Over the past few seasons I have found myself using tubeflies more and more. Since many of the rivers I fish are catch and release, barbless singles are a necessity and it makes sense to use tubes since it allows me to switch to doubles and barbed singles wherever they are permitted. I generally don't use trebles anymore, although I have a guilt ridden urge every now and again to use a Red or Black Frances tied on gold or silver ED trebles. They just look so good and inspire confidence. I only ever use them on rivers where catch and release is not the rule, of course!
There is one style of tube that I seem to be using more than any other these days. It's a foxwing tube tied on a really small piece of plastic tubing. The body consists of no more than a small blob of dubbing which props up the wing nicely. The wing, tied with fox, is tied in next 'scandi' style. sometimes I add a small amount of flash, sometimes I forget or don't bother. I tie the hackle in front of the wing and set the whole thing off with a mini disk of some sort. Usually a Future Fly Drainer Disk but often a FF UFO Disk or a Frodin Turbo disk. I don't really buy into the whole 'water pushing' theory but the disks look nice and inspire a certain amount of confidence.
I'll do a wee article on them in the coming weeks.
One of my mobile foxwing tubes.

While the season is just getting underway here on the East coast of Ireland, other parts of the country have already started fishing and I took myself up to the Leannan in Donegal for a couple of trips. No springers to report but nice to be back fishing again. I'll do a proper report on my trips in the next while.

A new piece of kit and a replenished box of tubes.

Ready to give a Banana a swim on the Leannan

        The Fane season starts on 1st March for trout and salmon. Very few springers run the Fane and it certainly isn't worth a throw until the summer time, if there's water. The trout fishing on the Fane however, can be excellent. The Large Dar Olives usually show up in decent numbers given nice weather towards the end of March and great sport can be had. The Fane has become a popular river for competition anglers and many of the traditional methods of down and across wet fly and even the dry fly have given way to modern nymphing styles such as French long line nymphing. It's not unusual to see local specialists working up the river dressed like they're looking for a hidden skateboarding mecca hidden deep in the drumlins Monaghan/South Armagh. Don't think, however that I'm an anti- kneepad conservative; modern nymphing methods take a huge amount of skill and the Fane is the perfect place to hone ones skills with springtime being the perfect time to start. I intend to do more trout fishing this year and a 10' #3 rod is top of the wish list.
          So I have plenty of plans for the blog in the coming weeks. I'll do a few reviews of different bits of kit I've been using. I bought a decent DSLR camera so I'll do some step by steps of various fly patterns and perhaps a few videos also.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Salmon Season 2014

Season 2014 Review
As far as salmon fishing seasons are concerned, last year was definitely a season to forget. This was the case for many salmon fishers throughout the North Atlantic. Norway’s season was poor as was the case for most of Scotland. In Ireland, the rivers I fish had a very poor year.

River Slaney

I began my season on the Dee and Glyde and fished fairly hard while we had decent water levels during March, April and May; without success. I had a memorable day on the Slaney with my mate, Simon Cassidy with resulted in a springer for myself and another couple contacted. Simon also lost two fish during the heat of battle; excellent spring salmon action.

A Slaney Springer taken on a Sunray.

 I didn’t manage to contact any springers on my favourite haunt, the Finn. On reflection, Very few of my visits coincided with good fishing conditions, this coupled with the fact that the river didn’t get the best run of fish. I enjoyed a great day guiding on the Snaa Pool, River Mourne where a guest caught a superb fresh run, 12lb springer.

I travelled to the Tay at Murthly again this summer. Five of us travelled to Scotland and rented a pretty bungalow in picturesque Dunkeld. In typical fashion, our visit yet again coincidedwith a heat wave, yet Liam managed to winkle a fish out of his favourite Island Pool. The female members of our party did quite well. Caireen lost a fish in the Tronach after an epic late evening battle. Maeve landed here first salmon on the second day at Stenton. The trip to the Tay is the highlight of my angling year regardless of how the fishing turns out. Tony Black, the Ghillie at Murthly is fantastic company and a superb ghillie. Needless to say, Murthly is booked for July 2015 again.
The Tay at Murthly

There wasn’t much time to kill at home in Louth after the Scottish trip before I headed north-west to Donegal. Glenmore Rivers fishery manager Sim handed me the reins at the lodge while he attended a wedding in England. There were good water levels during my week at Glenmore, yet there was a mediocre run of grilse. Luckily, our guests from Florida caught fish, nonetheless and enjoyed a great holiday. After my stint as host, I got an opportunity to do some fishing and enjoyed a great day on the upper Finn landing five grilse and losing a few more.

Kevin is justifiably happy with his Finn grilse taken at Kearney's.

August saw some rain and I managed a few more Finn fish but the fishing in Louth remained exceptionally poor. The river Dee got a small rise on one occasion but very few fish seemed to run. While there was low water there was no build of fish in the lower stretched of the Dee and Glyde, in stark contrast to the previous season.
A lovely stretch of the Dee in Co.Louth. A single hander with a no.7 line is ideal.

Another highlight of 2014 was a day spent fishing in the breathtaking surroundings of Glenveagh National Park in the company of James, who caught a lovely 2.5lb sea-trout in very challenging conditions.

 Breathtaking views on Lough Beagh, Gleveagh National Park, Co.Donegal.

James Casey with a super 2.5lb Lough Beagh sea trout.

I spent a few hours on the Boyne at Navan with Frank Doherty and caught a lovely five pound grilse on a tiny turbo disc tube. This, however, was to be my last salmon of the season. September usually sees the cream of the fishing on the East Coast but a combination of low water and no fish prevailed. A small rise in water levels on the Fane in October failed to bring any salmon upriver and so the season simply petered out.

 A welcome fish on the Boyne at Navan. First blood to the Loop Xact 12'6 #8. GDC Float/Inty head.

The Boyne grilse.

Looking back, the eternal optimist in me is telling me that surely 2015 can’t be as bad as 2014. Last year I waited until March before wetting a line, this year, impatience has got the better of me. My new salmon licence arrived in the post this evening and it looks likely that I will wet a line in the next week or so.
 Putting the 12'6 Loop Xact through its paces on the Mourne in October.
Lord's Pool on the Mourne at Sion Mills.

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Drive Along the River Leannan System.

Myself and angling buddy, James took an exploratory drive today along the River Leannan in Co Donegal. The Leannan is open to angling on a catch and release basis for 2015. The Leannan was always a renowned spring salmon fishery which regularly produced opening day salmon on the 1st of January. It has however, been closed to salmon angling for a number of years. I, personally disagree with closing fisheries entirely because this leaves unoccupied fisheries open to unscrupulous poachers. It's welcome news indeed that the Leannan is open for catch and release hopefully and indication that salmon numbers are on the increase.
We began our trip at the famous Watt's Pool on the Lower River. Watt's Pool is a private fishery below a substantial weir just above the town of Ramelton. Prior to its closure, Watts Pool regularly produced spring salmon in early January; the weir holding lethargic springers back in the large pool itself. Today was my first time seeing the pool, a large inviting looking pool. There's a fast flowing neck which spreads out into a wide pool with a nice steady draw. 
   Watts Pool
I have no idea about how to go about purchasing a permit to fish Watts Pool or indeed if it is possible to do so. Perhaps the owners will provide information in the coming season.

                                                  Middle Section of the Lower River Leannan
We drove upstream along the river towards Lough Fern, Lough Fern divides the upper and lower sections of the Leannan and is a popular destination for trout fishers in Donegal. 
 Middle section of the Lower River

  Middle section of the Lower River
The upper section of the Leannan, above Lough Fern, is considerably longer than the lower river and flows through fairly rough pasture. Many of the fields were flooded in the high water and the river meanders for most of its way from Gartan Lough down to the Fern.
     The Upper River Leannan above Lough Fern

     The Upper River Leannan above Lough Fern

                                                The Upper River Leannan above Lough Fern

Lough Gartan and the start of the River Leannan.
Our tour of the Leannan system ended where the river begins, pictured here at the outflow from Gartan Lough, near Churchill. There is some great trout fishing to be had in numerous loughs in the Churchill area. 
All in all it was enjoyable taking a drive up along the Leannan system, which I had never previously scoped out. Perhaps I'll give it a throw in the not too distant future. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Trout on the Fane

The trout fishing on the Fane has been excellent recently so my fishing buddy, James Casey decided it was about time he came down from Derry to give it a throw. Typically, the weather turned rough on the Saturday and on Sunday we were faced with a colouring, rising river. Anglers had been enjoying tremendous sport with the trout keyed into hawthorn flies. The best of the hawthorn fishing was now over but we encountered a super hatch of Olive Uprights. For some strange reason, however, the trout failed to rise to these delicate upwings. We did, however, come across some trout which were feeding heavily in prime feeding lies. My brother managed an excellent trout on a dry paradun while myself and James got a couple of beauties, team fishing to a couple of rising trout. Great fun!

A lovely trout for Darragh.

Trout acrobatics!

James looks pretty pleased with himself!


A proper rise!

Safe as houses.

The end of May and June sees the cream of the fishing on the Fane. I usually manage my biggest trout of the year during the course of the next few weeks as the biggest trout key in on sedges. Fishing the hatches of small caddis flies, known locally as 'Grey Flag' can be absorbing and very tricky. The big trout often key in on the pupal stage of the fly and often hunt the swimming pupae just under the surface. If we get warm weather, I won't venture out before 8 o' clock and often stay on the river till after midnight. Luckily the Fane flows from west to east so you're often pitching your dry fly into the setting sun so visibility remains good till late on into the night. Spending a couple of hours in the lonely drumlin country of South Armagh/Monaghan as the night falls is a fantastic way to zone out after a busy days work.