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.

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”!

Erriff Salmon Course

Last Friday evening I arrived at the wonderful Aashleagh Lodge on the Erriff Fishery that divides Galway and Mayo.  The Lodge itself was stunning and I received the warmest of welcomes from the fishery manager and the staff.

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Osgur, the fishery manager accompanied me on a walk from Beat 9 (near the tide) up to Beat 7.  He also gave me a very comprehensive leaflet that contained descriptions of all the beats and the taking spots at various heights of water.

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Just below the lodge was a bridge across the river and below this bridge was the wonderful sea pool.  Above the bridge was the famous Aashleagh falls.  With the good weather the scenery was simply spectacular.

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When we got back to the lodge some of the 13 course participants had arrived and my colleague and fellow course instructor Ken Whelan.  After a short briefing session it was early to bed for breakfast at 8am Saturday morning.  Breakfast was followed by a classroom session where Ken and I explained about salmon and salmon fishing.

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Then we headed down to the lawn to demonstrate some basic casts including overhead and roll casts.

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Following a light lunch we headed up to beat 7 and the participants all worked on their casting with some advancing to the double spey cast.

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In the evening we had a most fantastic three course meal at the lodge.  My compliments to the Chef!  Some participants headed to the pub and others went upstairs to watch a video about salmon.  The schedule was to all meet up again for breakfast at 8.30am.I had taken some Mackenzie Atlas and Mackenzie Switch outfits with me in case anyone wanted to try them and one of the participants was so taken with the 12ft7in that he bought one for the following day!!

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On Sunday morning we reinforced the tactics and casting covered the day before and also explained some useful knots etc.

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After a light lunch we were back on the river with the participants all fishing away.  It was great to see how well they were doing.  The course ended around 4pm but participants fished on and one of the guys was unlucky not to catch a springer as he had a good follow at the sea pool.  With the low water conditions this seemed to have been the likely spot and several fish were seen jumping there over the weekend.

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Overall it was a great weekend and the feedback has been tremendous.  It was noticeable how blown away the guests were with the facilities and the environment.  Ken and I are off to Leixlip on Sunday for our match the hatch river course.  We will have another weekend course later in the year on the River Slayney but this time for seatrout.  It takes place in July.

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Salmon Fishing Courses

Yesterday I had a very successful stillwater trout fishing course at Ardaire Springs in Mooncoin.  Luckily we had some great weather for the day.

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For anyone interested in improving their salmon fishing skills I have two courses coming up.  The first is a local course taking place on the Munster Blackwater in early April.

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This was a very popular course last year and there are still a few places left.

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The next course is a full weekend salmon courses where I have teamed up with Ken Whelan, renowned fisher, author and qualified instructor.  This course takes place on the River Erriff on April 23rd and includes tuition, accommodation, meals and fishing.  So far we have had an excellent response for this course.

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Stillwater Trout Course 2016

Our stillwater course at Ardaire Springs has been very popular for the last few years.  This is ideal for someone new to fly fishing or if you have done some stillwater fly fishing but want to learn some new techniques.  Ardaire is a perfect venue that is fishing well with fish well into double figures caught regularly. Date March 13th. Fee €65

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