Lessons Learned

Last Sunday I held our River Trout Fishing Course on the Blackwater River.  I was joined on this course by fellow Mackenzie Pro Team member Maurice Cahill and our ace photographer Kuba Standera.  On the day we met up at Ballyhooly village with all 11 participants for the course.  From there we traveled over to the Ballincurrig beat which was our venue for the course.  Access to the beat was a short walk from where we parked.


This is one of the nicest stretches of the river I have fished over the years.


I started off the course with a chat about tackle choice for different fishing techniques and also what might be suitable for small and large rivers in Ireland.  We had a range of Mackenzie rods to use for demonstration from 9ft 5wt to 11ft3 7/8 switch rods.  Maurice did a demo on dry fly fishing and another on wet fly fishing to a captivated audience!  As it was still very early in the season there was little chance of anything on dries but he did get a pull on the wets.



After this I went through various nymphing tactics from short lining with heavy nymphs to long lining and using French leaders.  Kuba showed everyone a range of “genuine” Polish nymphs and many gasped at the size and weight of some of the flies on display.  I demonstrated some nymphing at medium range but it was obvious that this was not going to be productive with the high cold water.  So I changed over to short line with heavier nymphs.  Everyone was happy to see how the leader was constructed and fished.


I used an indicator and had a take within a few casts that everyone managed to see.  It was a small trout but it showed how a change in tactics can produce a trout from a spot that appeared fishless shortly before this.


Once the nymph fishing was explained I then did a demo on streamer fishing.  I used a 10ft 7wt Mackenzie and streamer line for this.  This is an awesome rod that I often use for big lures at stillwaters so fishing a large streamer on a specialist streamer line was no problem.


One of the things that often happens with streamer fishing is that some really good locations do not allow room for a good backcast so double hauling a large streamer is out of the question.  Roll casting streamers on fast sinking shooting heads is not so easy either!  So I also showed everyone where a switch rod with a compact switch line with a sinking head is really useful here.  I simply spey cast the streamer across using this Kit and the evidence was there for all to see.


I had one hook up on the streamer during the demo but mentioned to the participants that there was a really good piece of streamer water further up that I was leaving unfished for later.  Cal headed up there after lunch with the Mackenzie outfit and sure enough he had his first ever streamer caught wild brown trout.  Result.  Everyone fished different techniques for the evening and there were hook ups, lost fish and one or two landed on nymphs and wets.



The weather on the day had started cold but the sun shone for the afternoon and everyone seemed to have a great time.  We took a little group photo in the evening and there were lots of smiling faces.  Our next course on the Blackwater will be a salmon fishing course in May.  There will be tips on casting and fishing, and we also have a top Irish Pro Fly Tyer to tie a few fish catchers!

DSC00565s - Copy

First Wild Brown Trout of 2015

My pal Kuba and I decided to try for some wild Munster Blackwater River brown trout.  I knew from a contact of mine that the river was in good order with just a slight stain.  Our venue was the absolutely beautiful although short Flower Hill Beat below Ballyduff.


This is always a good early season trout beat and has some really nice streamer water.  I fished with an 11ft 5/6 Mackenzie Switch rod as the extra length might prove advantageous on this stretch at this time of year.


When we arrived at the Beat Kuba was delighted to see that we had only a very short walk from the car to the riverbank.  We started at the top of the beat and worked our way down along the bank, wading one short part which has a lovely gravel bottom.  We even spotted a salmon break the surface as we walked along.


The trout seemed to be holding in the slower water and I managed to get a few hits before managing to hook up and lose a fish or two. I changed fly and this worked a treat as the next three trout all stayed on.  No monsters but they were very welcome.


Unfortunately a lot of debris started to float down the river, probably due to a rise in water height.  This was making fishing a little awkward and as we had enjoyed the session enough we decided to finish up and come back another day for a proper try.


It was good fun and although Kuba didn’t fish much he enjoyed photographing the beat (including this awesome fallen tree) and I know he is really keen to get back there to fish for these trout.

DSC09263s - Copy

Full House

We had a full house today for our Stillwater Trout Tactics course at Ardaire Springs.  Eight hardy souls were at the fishery bright and early this morning and we set about going through various techniques in theory in the tackle lodge.  Before lunch I demonstrated a number of fishing techniques using the 9ft 6wt, 10ft 7wt and 11ft 5/6 Mackenzie Rods.  I managed to catch 4 nice rainbows during the demonstration session which was very pleasing.  The day turned cooler but we were not deterred as Ned had prepared burgers and sausages.  After lunch the participants tackled up and tried out some of the techniques they had learned.

Some cracking fish were caught on dries:






And Lures:

IMG_20150215_194337 (1)

A massive well done to all.  I hadn’t even made it home and I had received positive feedback by text from some participants which really made my day.  Our next course is our River Trout course on March 8th.

River Trout Flyer

River Trout Fishing Course (March 8th)

Preparing for the Season Ahead

All roads lead to the Munster Blackwater River, Ballyduff Fishery, Ballyduff Upper, Waterford on Sunday March 8th for our River Trout Fishing Course which focuses on preparing for the coming season.


Wild brown trout in the river environment can be challenging and very rewarding to fish for.  On this course we cover:

– tackle selection: rods, reels, lines, accessories

DSC08080s (2)–  river dry fly fishing: tackle set up, leader construction, matching the hatch, fishing demonstration

IMGP7866–  river wet fly fishing: tackle set up, leader construction, fly selection, fishing demonstration

DSC08231s– river nymph fishing: tackle set up, leader construction, short line nymphing, long line nymphing, duo or dry/dropper method, fishing with indicators, fishing demonstrations

pupa rach

– streamer fishing: tackle set up, streamer lines, leader construction, fly selection, fishing demonstration

Releasing John's brute

I will be joined on this course by fellow Mackenzie Ireland Pro Team Member Maurice Cahill, an experienced guide on the river.

IMGP0153A light lunch of tea/coffee & sandwiches will be included as part of the day.  Course participants can fish for the afternoon for trout on a catch and release basis – a chance to put what you learned into practice!

Facebook-20140514-115731This is a very popular course with a Fee of just €60.  In fact some people have already pre-booked their place.  If you are interested in attending you can contact me:

by e-mail: gamefishingireland@gmail.com

by phone: 087-2965712




Taking the Mick!

My pal Mick had heard we had been putting the Mackenzie DTX single handed 10ft 7wt through its paces over at Ardaire Springs recently so he decided to have a go there himself.  Having fished the lower Suir for years Mick was very familiar with the Mackenzie Spey Rods but had not yet tried any of the single handed rods.

The average trout at Ardaore is a very good size and there are plenty rainbow trout in the 4lb to 6lbs range.


These are broad well finned hard fighting rainbows that can really test your tackle.


Mick is a very good angler and has a habit of catching decent fish so it came as no surprise to me that he managed one of the even larger rainbows in the fishery although this one just fell short of being a double.


After a quick photo the trout was safely released.


When I asked Mick to sum up his trial of the rod he used just two words “top class”!




Des & the DTX

A local chap Des who normally river fishes was keen to have a go at lake fishing during the closed season on rivers.  I arranged with him to go over to local fishery Ardaire Springs to try some bank fishing for a few hours.  Des started off with his own 9ft 5wt rod and although he is a very capable caster it was something of a struggle in the strong wind on the day.  However, he did manage a fish or two on a dead drifted bloodworm pattern in a sheltered corner.


I suggested to Des to try fishing deeper with a lure on a DI5 line. As he only had his 5wt with him I gave him the use of a Mackenzie DTX G2 10ft 7wt Rod that I am trying out at present.    I tried this rod myself at a local reservoir recently and I am already a massive fan.  That said, I was keen to see how Des would get on with it too.  After a cast or two Des was impressed with the ease with which the rod cast a long line into a strong wind.  In no time at all he was comfortable with the rod and caught fish to boot


In fact, fishery manager Ned came out for a look and couldn’t resist a few casts with it too.  It was a good sign when Ned asked if I could bring it over again soon so that he could spend more time casting with it!!


Des caught his largest trout to date shortly after that while using the DTX.  A lovely conditioned rainbow trout of about 6lbs.


Well done Des – your hooked now!   Designed by 3 times world spey casting champion Scott Mackenzie, the DTX 10ft 7wt is a superb rod and I would happily recommend one for reservoir fishing.  To find out more about the DTX range of single handed rods click here.

Night Fishing for Seatrout

It is that time of year when the numbers of seatrout in our rivers begins to increase.  The early runs of large fish begin to get fewer and the large runs of juniors or “blueheads” as they are known in my area, begin to make their appearance.  In addition although the recent heat wave weather we have had may not be great for salmon and trout fishing it is ideal for night fishing for seatrout.

A junior goes back

A junior goes back

As regards preparation nothing beats being well organised for seatrout night fishing.  Here is a quick checklist of items I normally take with me in my wading vest – fly boxes, leader, sink tips, torch, spare torch and batteries, scissor-forceps, landing net, mobile phone, waterproof phone pouch, camera, fishing license, insect repellent.  Ideally I will walk the river during the day to see where fish are holding and identify areas I am likely to fish at night.


The rivers I fish for seatrout are small and a short rod is ideal.  Mostly I use a 7ft 6in 6wt but anything up to a 9ft 6wt will work.  A floating line is fine but I always carry a few short sinking tips in various densities as I may need them for fishing deep pools late at night.  On the business end I use a strong stiff flourocarbon leader of about 10lbs breaking strain.  My aim here is to avoid tangles as much as possible – you won’t spot them easily in the dark.  Having a few leaders made up in advance can save time and hassle later at night.


Fly choice can be something of a personal thing amongst sea trout anglers but here are a few I wouldn’t be without – black pennell, teal blue and silver, butcher, dunkeld, alexandra, surface lure, medicine, mallard & claret and peter ross.  Most of my flies are tied on standard wet fly hooks in size 10 and 8 but I also tie some on low water salmon hooks, especially hairwings.  Our local rivers are single hook only so I don’t use doubles, tandems or secret weapons anymore.

Peter Ross

Peter Ross

As regards the fishing itself I aim to be at the river at least 30 minutes before I will be fishing.  I like to have a good look around to see if there is any fish activity and to get my bearings as to where I will be fishing.  If my advice is worth anything then whatever you do wait until it is dark enough to make your first cast.  Starting too soon must be the biggest mistake and most common mistake made by seatrout anglers.  I don’t worry about the clock, or bats or anything else.  Pick a spot on the far bank.  When you cannot really make it out any longer then it is time to start fishing.  This simple approach has served me well for about 30 years now!


Start your fishing at the head of the pool if you can.  Fish tend to hang here at dusk.  Then make your way to the tail of the pool.  If fish are moving in the darkness they will pause after entering the pool – a great taking spot.  Late at night the deep middle of the pool can be your best option.  You may need to fish with a sink tip and a heavier fly here.  It is always worth using a surface fly late at night.  On moonlit nights it is a great idea to face the moon and fish the darker areas, keeping your own silhouette off the water.  Vary your retrieve during the night.  A great general rule is to fish a quick retrieve early on and a slower retrieve later at night.


I could keep on with more pointers but hopefully you get the idea by now.  However, remember to take your phone with you and let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.  It is best not to fish alone at night if you can help it, especially if you might be wading.  Never shine your light directly on the water but always have a good torch with you and a spare.  Remember our seatrout are not as plentiful as they once were so practice as much catch and release as possible.  Tight lines!

Savage Fishing

The local reservoirs have been fishing well lately.  Today was another great example when Wayne who has returned to Ireland from Australia had a super session on Carrigavantry.  The fishing was quiet in the morning but fish were moving.  I suggested a few tactical changes and after lunch he was just slamming the resident bows on dries.

fish on

Fish on

These were not easy fish to fool but when they did hit the takes were just SAVAGE!

A quality bow.

A quality bow.

We even managed a few double hook ups which came as a surprise to Wayne as earlier in the day a lot of these fish were not interested in his offerings.

One each safely in the net

One each safely in the net

It was very pleasing to see that Wayne is a fan of catch and release.  He rarely ever keeps a trout.  One trout that we spooned was his bag limit for the day.

CPR (Catch Photo Release)

CPR (Catch Photo Release)


Festival Fishing

I was delighted to be asked to some fly tying and trout fishing demos at the Clancy Brothers Festival in Carrick on Suir today. There was lots going on and a fair old crowd about enjoying the mild weather. My good friend Kuba came along and as usual took some cracking photos.

marching band

marching band

I spent the first hour and a half tying flies, concentrating on salmon and seatrout flies.

Fly tying

Fly tying

A few of the local fly fishermen dropped by and asked lots of interesting questions. It was great to get some nice comments on the flies on display.


Next on the agenda was a wild trout fly fishing demo. The weather was fairly bright and I knew the town waters would be very heavily fished by local fly anglers and those expert Carrick bubble & fly men.  Catching wild trout here could prove tricky and there was also a very stiff downstream wind that was going to make nymphing difficult, but not impossible. I set up a nymph duo rig under an indicator and I must have got the depth just right because I managed 3 trout in the first three casts.. . . . Result!


fish on

fish on

They weren’t very large trout but welcome all the same. I’m always impressed by the beauty of these Wild Suir trout.  The highlight of the evening for me was the great interest shown by the local people, especially the kids, when they saw me catching those trout. I managed 6 nice wee trout in a very short space of time proving once more how fantastic the river Suir really is.  A big thanks to the organisers and everyone who dropped by to the fly tying area and fishing demo. Looking forward to next year already.

2 festival flies!

2 festival flies!

For more info on the festival click here.

Kick Sampling the Waterford Reservoirs

Following on from his last visit to Waterford where Dr Ken Whelan caught a superb 8lbs brown trout after kick sampling the margins of Carrigavantry, he was back again but this time it was Knockaderry Reservoir. To say Ken was impressed with the rich variety of quality food items available for the resident trout would be something of an understatement. Each area of the lake sampled showed some fantastic aquatic insects. There were everything from tiny fish, various caddis, chironomids, water worms, leeches, to nymphs shrimps and water boatmen.


One scoop of the little sample net near the boat dock contained some cracking damsel nymphs. Any trout would be glad to get hold of these beauties.


There was also some serious snails in the margins and lots of hoglouse.



After the sampling was completed Ken had a try at catching some trout. Conditions were more suitable to nabbing a rainbow trout as it was very warm and bright. There were a few rainbows rising in the wind lanes and Ken managed to catch several of these on emergers.


They were very hard fighting trout and some of the overwintered rainbows were fin perfect and of a good size. Nice going Ken.