The Year Ahead – Cautious Optimism!

First off, it’s been a while since I have had blogged about anything fishy but I decided to take a little break after a fairly hectic end to the 2016 season.  I didn’t do a whole lot over the closed season except tie a few flies including some intruder style flies for my pal Ned for his trips to Canada.  One of these years I will join up with them as the whole experience seems mega.

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September 2016 was a bit of a scramble with the river trout and salmon seasons coming to an end combined with some fantastic bass fishing tides!  The weather was good and the bass fishing continued to provide decent sport right through November.

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I didn’t do anything like as much winter reservoir fishing as I have done in previous seasons and 2017 kind of crept up on me and before I knew it I was off to Dublin for the Ireland Angling Expo in February.  This is always a great event and this year was no exception although if anything there was more for the predator (bass/pike) angler to see than some previous years.  There was still a lot there for the trout and salmon angler too with top brands like Simms, Redington, Mackenzie, Airflo, Nautilus, Hardy/Greys etc etc all on display.  The attendance at my talks each day was brilliant and as always it was epic to meet up with the Mackenzie Pros and all of the various people who make the show tick in one way or another.  I always say this show is much much more than just tackle sales.

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March is now upon us and things are already starting to get busy.  I have been out giving tuition and guiding and later this month I have two stillwater courses running, a Match the Hatch course in Wicklow with Ken Whelan and a Stillwater Tactics course at Ardaire Springs in Mooncoin.  In the meantime I am putting a lot of effort into testing the absolutely awesome prototype for the new 10ft 6wt Mackenzie FX1 Graphene single handed rod.  So far the results have been superb.  It casts really well and everyone who tried it at the show in Dublin gave great feedback.  Trials have indicated that this will be a great buzzer/nymph rod that can also be used for some dry fly and small lure fishing if needs be.  I am enjoying the testing so much with this weapon that it will take another while before Scott will be getting it back!!!!

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So everything is looking great so far for 2017.  While some salmon rivers in Ireland had a disastrous start the Munster Blackwater seems to be performing quite well.  The quality of trout in Ardaire and the Waterford Reservoirs is excellent.  Initial reports on the river trout fishing in the Blackwater and surrounding rivers that are already open suggest that fish are in excellent condition.  With lots more courses running during the year including our new Saltwater Fishing Course in June and the North West Angling Fair in Strabane in April not too far away it is difficult not to be positive.

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However, in spite of this optimism it is still early in the year to get carried away as to what the salmon season here will produce.  The same can be said as regards sea bass. It will be interesting to see the effect of current conservation measures over a long period of time. Many rivers in Ireland are now classed as ‘closed’.  This seems to be causing great confusion as to whether an angler can still fish them for brown trout and indeed sea trout under 40cm.  Factor in the complete confusion as to what the rules are about fishing for sea trout in saltwater and you have something of a Gordian Knot.  More on this to follow in my next blog (not to be missed)!!!!

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Stillwater Trout Fishing

The first of our 2017 beginners and improvers courses will take place this March.  Ken Whelan and I start everything off with a Stillwater Match the Hatch course at some Private Ponds in Wicklow on March 19th. This is a very comprehensive stillwater course covering an entomology of all the major insects and likely hatches during the fishing season.  Learn how to select and fish imitative flies successfully.   Fee €80

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Following on from the match the hatch course I am running my annual Stillwater Trout Fly Fishing Tactics course at Ardaire Springs, Mooncoin, Kilkenny on March 25th 2017.  This course focuses on the various techniques and tactics that can be used throughout the year and is an ideal follow up to the match the hatch course.  One of the most frequent questions I am asked at demos, shows and on the water is how to select the correct tackle for specific tactics.  Learn how to tackle up and fish wet flies, nymphs, lures, buzzers, dries, indicators, boobies, blobs, mops, bloodworms and more. Fee €65

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North West Angling Fair

On Friday evening I made the long journey from Waterford up to Strabane, Co. Tyrone to the North West Angling Fair.  This was a new event on the Irish fishing fairs calendar so I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew there were some really good people involved in the organising of it so I was quietly confident it would be a good one.  It was late enough when I arrived and got checked in to the Fir Trees Hotel where I was joined by my good friend Dr. Ken Whelan who was going to be giving a series of talks with me at the fair.  On Saturday morning Ken and I went down early to the Melvin Complex which was the venue for the show.

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Everyone was busy setting up their stands and it was great to meet a few familiar faces on fly tyers row and the trade stands.

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My good friend Shane Rodgers from Rodgers Tackle was there with his fly tying materials and Brendan Winters has a fantastic range of fishing tackle.  Declan Tuffy, Stevie Moates, Roy Christie, Brian Finaly, Peter O’Reilly and many more were tying all sorts of wonderful flies.

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I also saw some very informative stands manned by the Loughs Agency people.Outside there was lots of free tuition for beginners and especially youngsters.

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The river was only a stones throw (and I mean this!!) from the venue and there were casters giving demonstrations down there including my good pals from Mackenzie, namely Scott Mackenzie and Andrew Toft.  It was great to catch up with these guys at the fair.

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The atmosphere at the fair was great with lots going on including the talks in the lecture room.  Ken and I gave talks on Saturday on Seatrout fishing which were really well attended and we had lots of interest at our stand area in our courses and people were getting Ken to sign his book Nomads of the Tides.

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After the fair closed, I nipped down to the river with Brian and Ken and spotted some nice wild browns rising.  I tackled up with a dry olive pattern of mine and waded out.  I managed to land 7 lovely trout in less than an hour and lost a few more including two about 1.5lbs.  It was somewhat inevitable when I was trying to get them back across the current to the guys on the shore to get a photo.  We did manage one nice video clip of a fish approximately .75lbs going back.

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On Saturday night we had an excellent dinner at the hotel and chatted with some of the other contributors to the show over a pint of beer.  It was clear that they really enjoyed the fair and were keen to see it continue into the future.  It was more of the same on Sunday and again our salmon talks went really well.  We were followed in lecture room by Stevie Munn who was talking about Dollaghan fishing.  I didn’t mind the journey back on Sunday evening because the buzz of the fair was still there and the weather was great.  This fair has great potential into the future and the organisers did a fantastic job for their first attempt.  They deserve all the credit that goes their way.

Trout n About

I’ve been very busy lately with casting tuition and guiding. There is a good run of salmon at the moment but most of my guiding has been for wild river trout and a day or two on stillwaters. The reservoirs have been fishing really well.

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The hard fighting rainbows give a great battle.

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Still there is something about wild river browns that makes them special regardless of size.

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Although when you hook up into a good one the heart races.   One of my clients from Atlanta lost an 18inch brown at the net on the River Blackwater the other day.  His face said it all!!

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There is a lot more trout food in that river than some people realise.

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I have been hearing a lot of talk lately about getting more youth involved in fishing and fly fishing.  I know my local club has a youth day coming up and despite a hectic guiding schedule that weekend I will be there to help out. But there is no point talking about it, you have to get out there and do it!

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This weekend I’m one of the experts at the Northwest Angling Fair in Strabane. I’m looking forward to it a lot.  I’m demonstrating and giving casting advice on the Suir next weekend and on a stillwater the weekend after. And Ken Whelan and I have Seatrout fishing courses coming up in July and August. I think the August one will be a cracker so watch this space!!

Rye Match the Hatch Course

Yesterday Ken and I had a great day on our Match the Hatch Course on the River Rye where we were facilitated by the local angling club.  We arrived early to Leixlip and had a quick sample of the river near the village.  We found water slaters, caseless caddis, olive nymphs and quite a lot of shrimps as well as few other bugs.  We then went on to meet the participants at our arranged venue for the first part of the course.  Ken explained in detail the connection between the available food and the quality of trout in a river.

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He then discussed the fly life anglers were likely to encounter when sampling the river.  After a short tea break I made a presentation about matching the real insects with suitable imitations.

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After lunch we went to a stretch of the river and Ken showed the participants how to sample the river and identify the insects found.

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I then gave a short demonstration of some fishing techniques that the participants could use in order to catch some trout!

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The day flew bye and soon it was at an end but I really enjoyed it.  Many thanks to Ken, Brendan and all the participants who made it a great day out. Ken and I will be at the Northwest Angling Fair in Strabane towards the end of the month and I am really looking forward to this as I have a lot of good friends living in the area.  In July we will have our seatrout fishing course on the Slayney which proved very popular last year.  We are working on organising some further courses before the year is out so “watch this space”!

APPS-solutely Bloody Squirmy-ish – Winter Stillwater Tactics!

Finally, after an unprecedented spell of mild and rainy weather we are starting to see temperatures drop.  At this time of year most of our angling opportunities are going to be at stocked stillwater fisheries, like Ardaire Springs in Mooncoin.  If it is really cold then a spot of bank fishing is on the cards.  Walking around on the bank keeps the body from freezing!

Into a fish at Ardaire Springs

So what about tactics for these venues in cold weather.  Of course there is always the chance of a few fish rising and fishing dries or subsurface but the window of opportunity tends to be very small when the water is cold and the fish are lethargic.  Moreover, natural food items can be scarce and those that are around will also have slowed down in their movements.   Stripping lures back at speed might trigger a response, particularly if there are some sticklebacks in the the margins but is it going to be realistic and very productive to the trout – probably not.  You could inch back boobies of course, but that’s a tactic for another blog!

Typical Bloodworm

Typical Bloodworm

One food item that is definitely going to be on the menu at this time of year is the bloodworm or midge larva.  These guys are drifting around near the bed of the lake not moving a whole lot and trout love them.  BUT remember they move really slowly, even when they ascend in the spring as what we anglers call Buzzers, they still move really slowly.  So you have to fish them really really slowly or static.  I think you might be getting the really slowly bit at this stage!!  As far as equipment goes something like a 9ft6 6wt would be good.  A full floating line and a long leader.  You could fish two flies but on some of these waters where trout are well into double figures I usually fish a single fly.

A 16lb Ardaire Springs Rainbow caught on a Bloodworm

A 16lb Ardaire Springs Rainbow caught on a Bloodworm

A typical approach is to cast out the bloodworm imitation and retrieve it back with a really slow figure of eight.  Just keep the slack out of the line and keep in touch with your fly.  When fishing like this I like to fish into the wind if it is not too strong.  Firstly, lot of food can be blown into one corner of a small stillwater with the breeze and secondly, as you are retrieving at the same speed as the line is drifting towards you the imitation looks more natural.  If you think about it ,when you are casting with the wind behind you and retrieving the imitation against the wind it is moving in the opposite direction to the natural food items.  Will this fool a wary trout that has been caught and released several times before?

This beauty had seen a lot of flies before

This beauty had seen a lot of flies before

So what do bloodworm imitations look like.  Well they could be just red buzzers really, often tied on curved hooks.  These are good but they lack any subtle movement when they are drifting. One option is to add a red marabou tail that will move underwater as the fly is retrieved. A very popular fly is the Apps Worm.  This fly makes use of long strands of elastic material that adds movement in the water.  When you look at it first an Apps Worm looks like something scary with long red ‘legs’ protruding front and back.  However it is when the fly is wet and the elastic strands stick together that the fly really looks like a worm.  There are many variations of this fly with some having more ‘legs’ than others.  The one I prefer is with two strands front and back.

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The natural bloodworm has distinct segments (as in the photo above) and a great version of the Apps Worm uses red glass beads along the body. These also add translucency.  A great tip I was given by an international competition angler was to tie this one on a gold hook as it adds greatly to visual effect of the fly.  Us anglers are always looking for an edge and in recent times another fly (if we can call it that) that has really taken off is the squirmy worm.  This worm fly uses a really soft stretchy material that moves unbelievably in the water even when the fly is fished static.  The material can break easily so make sure you have plenty spare flies.

Squirmy worms and a home made indicator

Squirmy worms and a home made indicator

If you are new to this type of fishing then the way to fish a worm static is under an indicator (unless these are not allowed at the fishery). Indicators are a massive help in bite detection.There are many types of indicators including the very controversial ‘bung’.  What’s a bung?  Well to keep things simple it’s a very large and visible indicator that can support heavy flies, including lures.  Earlier this year an angler was fishing a bung when practicing for a bank competition and from the distance I thought his hat had blown onto the water!!  You don’t really need anything that big to support the weight of an apps worm or size 12 beaded squirmy worm.  I use a colorful foam indicator that I make myself from some booby cord glued onto a size 10 blob hook. It’s easy – cut the foam to length, spit it with a scalpel and glue it to the hook shank!  You can cut the hook at the bend afterwards. I slide it up the leader before I tie on the worm fly and I keep it fixed between two power gum stop knots.  If I want to change the depth the worm is fishing at I just move the stop knots.

Another one that couldn't resist the worm

Another one that couldn’t resist the worm

Worm fishing is not for everyone.  It requires a lot of patience to fish the flies slowly enough.  Some anglers I know won’t fish them (they think it’s like coarse fishing!), but there are days when they considerably out-fish everything else.  Other guys I have fished with will fish them but they won’t use an indicator.  This is sometimes because they are so confident in their abilities that they believe they won’t miss any takes!  For others, they won’t use indicators because they feel there is a stigma attached to fishing with them (especially because of anglers using big bungs).  The only comment I will make is “each to their own” and there is no denying that worms work, especially when fished static.

Fantastic Fishing Courses for 2016

My good friend Ken Whelan and I have teamed up again for 2016 to run a variety of fantastic fishing courses.  These courses are aimed at beginners and improvers.  There will be courses on salmon fishing, matching the hatch for river trout, and day/night fishing for seatrout.  After the success of last years courses for trout and seatrout we are delighted to add the salmon course for 2016. (Click on any of the images below for more details).

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The venues for this year are really great.  The Salmon course takes place over the course of a full weekend on the River Erriff (in conjunction with Delphi Resort) and there is some top class accommodation available as part of the whole package.  Participants will stay at the wonderful Aashleagh lodge and meals are also included.

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We had a lot of interest in the river trout match the hatch course last year and so this year we are holding the course in Leixlip on the River Rye.  I always feel that this is a great value for money course for anyone into trout fly fishing.

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The feedback on our sea trout course last year was tremendous and we are delighted to once again have access to the famed Clohamon beat of the River Slayney.  July should be a great time for sea trout and this course is unique in Ireland catering for both day time and night time sea trout fishing techniques.  I have fished for these trout since I was a boy and Ken has written a book on the species!  It’s going to be another cracker!

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