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”!

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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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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All in the Hands!

On many of our stillwaters at this time of year the fish are well acclimatized residents used to natural feeding and the water temperature is dropping steadily.  In other words the fishing often gets that bit tougher.  In recent weeks I have noticed rod catches dropping on our local reservoirs even though fishing continues to be good and the quality of trout is excellent.

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The obvious question is why are anglers that were doing so well in the summer suddenly not catching.  A few things come to mind:

  • are they using the wrong flies/not matching what the fish are feeding on?
  • are they concentrating on the wrong areas?
  • are they presenting the right flies at the wrong depth or speed?
Shrimp and hoglouse should be on the menu

Shrimp and hoglouse should be on the menu

To my mind most anglers now know the various food sources fish are likely to feeding on at various times of year.  They also have a good grasp of where the fish are  in their local lake.  That just leaves the third possibility – they are not presenting their flies correctly.  Quite often when I am guiding beginners they think that presentation is only important for dry fly fishing – MISTAKE, BIG MISTAKE!  Presentation is ALWAYS important.

At this time of year resident browns often switch to feeding on snails

At this time of year resident browns often switch to feeding on snails

To cut to the chase, as the water temperature drops and hatches slow down fish are more likely to be feeding deeper in the water on slow moving creatures, e.g. shrimp, hoglouse, snails.  This all seems fairly obvious but time and time again I see anglers ripping back every fly (buzzer, nymph, shrimp, etc) just as if it was a wet fly or lure.  Even when I say “slow down the retrieve” it often only goes from super fast to very fast!

A slow retrieve fooled this brown trout in cold conditions

A slow retrieve fooled this brown trout in cold conditions

So concentrate on your retrieve, try to incorporate slow short pulls, lots of pauses and of course the lethal slow figure of eight or static retrieve (just keep in touch with the flies as they drift).  Remember – it’s all in the hands! Enjoy your winter fishing.

 

Sea Trout Course

Last weekend I travelled up to the village of Bunclody, Wexford to meet up with my good friend Ken Whelan to deliver our sea trout course on the magnificent Clohamon beat of the river Slayney.  The first element of this course took place on Saturday afternoon and consisted of detailed information on the sea trout itself(delivered by Ken) and tactics for catching them, particularly at night on the fly (delivered by yours truly).

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Once the classroom presentations were delivered and some excellent questions from the eight participants answered we were joined by another pal of ours and pro fly tyer Denis O’Toole.  Denis tied the flies featured in Kens sea trout book “Nomads of the tides”, and he tied a sea trout tube fly for each of the course participants which they added to the complimentary box of six flies they already had received.

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We then headed over to a local hotel and had a fantastic three course meal.  That really set us up for a few hours night fishing!  From there we went to the fabulous Clohamon beat which had some lovely water and excellent facilities.  Everyone set up their tackle and spread out to their fishing spots assisted by the course delivery team.  The fishing was slow to start but eventually a few nice fish were hooked (and lost) on surface lures and then one of the participants landed a nice finnock.

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At about 2am it was time to finish up and head to our accommodation.  After a substantial breakfast we all met up again on Sunday morning at the Clohamon beat.  I did a demonstration on some daytime tactics including wet fly and streamer fishing.  The participants fished on for a while and some more fish up to about 1.5lbs were hooked.

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We have already received some really positive feedback on the course from the participants.  They were very complimentary of the fishery and the combination of theory and practice in the course and inclusion of the flies and fly tying session. Once again our resident photographer Kuba Standera did an awesome job. Looking forward to our next course already!

Exceptional Salmon Course

On May 17 we held our salmon fishing course on the beautiful Ballincurrig beat of the Ballyduff Salmon Fisheries.  I was joined by Maurice Cahill (Mackenzie Pro) and Denis O’Toole (Pro Fly Tyer).  Our regular top photographer came along to take more amazing photos for my blogs! We met up with the participants at the village of Ballyhooly and then headed over to beat.  We got our waders on and headed off down to the river.

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In the morning I explained some different fishing outfits to the guys, including: spey, switch, skagit and shooting head.  The approach was to simplify the range of available tackle into matching outfits for different fishing situations.

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After this I demonstrated 4 useful spey casts: single spey, double spey, snap-T and snake roll. Maurice explained some likely holding lies and we had a great informal discussion about fly selection and leader set up.  Denis showed the lads different styles of salmon fly and talked about how they would behave in the water – really useful stuff.

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We took a break for lunch and held a raffle for the free Mackenzie Perflex rod which was sponsored by Scott Mackenzie.  The lucky winner was Cal from Bandon.

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Denis did a fly tying demo and tied some cracking intruder flies on tubes.  Then he gave everyone on the course some of his amazing flies to use for the evening. What a nice chap!

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The guys then worked on their casting and everyone saw a good improvement in what they were doing.  A few useful tips and a little confidence made a significant difference.  They fished on and Frank from Dundalk had a short take not long after Damien had seen a fresh fish enter the pool below.

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The course came to a close but it was great to see lots of happy anglers and get some fantastic feedback.  I received several messages after the course which were all very positive.  One participant wrote that: “It was a really great day, exceptional in every detail.  I think the course content, the simple and effective delivery, having the opportunity to get coached on how to cast a double hander and the fly tying demonstration from Denis made the day great value for money. For myself it gave me a greater understanding of what I need to do to enjoy fishing the fly for salmon.”

Masterclass!

Yesterday I traveled up to Cavan with Ken Whelan to deliver our trout match the hatch course on the River Annalee.  On arrival we were met by a very enthusiastic bunch of participants, mostly members from the Bunnoe and Cavan Angling Clubs.

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In the morning classroom session Ken gave a presentation on the insects likely to be encountered in the river and how to identify them.

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I delivered the next session which was choosing suitable imitations and also tackle set up for fishing them.

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After a bite to eat we went to the river and the course participants kick-sampled the river. A fantastic selection of trout food was discovered including cased caddis, caseless caddis, stone clingers, mayfly nymphs, water worms and more! I then demonstrated various fishing techniques and caught a few nice wild trout on nymphs.

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The participants fished the river for a while and put what they learned into practice, catching some nice fish in the process.  It was a superb day on a cracking river spent with some great people.  We will be organising another match the hatch river course for a few weeks time.  In the meantime I have a salmon fishing course organised for the Munster Blackwater on May 17th.  There are still three spaces left on that one.