Fly Fishing for Pike

Having very recently received a new Mackenzie 9ft / 9wt I was really keen to put it through its paces  but saltwater fly fishing for sea bass is not likely to kick off for another few weeks.

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I was delighted to get an invitation from The K Club (www.kclub.ie) Fishery Manager, John O Neill, to visit with my friend Ken and to fly fish for pike, both along the River Liffey and in the wonderfully productive lakes on the estate.

Our trip to County Kildare also offered us the opportunity to assess a number of potential venues for our first Fly Fishing for Pike Course planned for this October. Little did I realise what an awesome venue this hidden treasure of a fishery would turn out to be!! It has first class facilities and seriously high quality fish: massive rainbows and browns, and excellent pike. During our all too brief fishing session I witnessed a number of large pike harassing and smashing relentlessly into shoals of silvery roach.  The pike proved choosey at first but once I launched a large whistler fly, tied by Dougie Loughridge (Scotland), in among the swirls the pike just couldn’t resist!

A massively powerful fish engulfed the fly and after a challenging 10 to 12 minute battle amongst the luscious marginal weeds, John landed my PB pike – a 103cm fish of over 20lbs.

It just doesn’t get any better! The Mackenzie rod handled the big predator exceptionally well. I’m so impressed and can’t wait to try it out on some feisty Copper Coast bass in May.

For details of fishing at The K Club contact John on: fishing@kclub.ie or ring him for a chat on:  +353 871361689

If you would like more details on our Pike course (Saturday, 19th October) contact myself (joriordan0@gmail.com) or Ken (ken@kenwhelan.info).

Go Deep or go Home!

I had heard a few times that the western Lough’s can fish well at the end of the season to daphnia feeding fish in the deeps. There can also be a chance of dry fly fishing with sedges and daddies.

With this in mind I contacted my pal and Corrib boatman Tom Doc Sullivan to see if a trip would be worthwhile. Tom really knows his stuff and he told me to make the journey. However I wouldn’t be fishing any of the drifts I had fished on previous trips. It seemed like – go deep or go home!

I was joined by my mate Dave who has also fished the lake before but never at this time of year. Preparation had gone well and I was armed with a Mackenzie FX1 10ft #6 and #7wt. Tom had recommended tying up some bright daphnia patterns to pull on an Airflo Fast Intermediate line. As usual he was spot on.

We didn’t know what to expect but followed Tom’s advice and with good conditions we had great sport catching beautiful wild Irish trout in a fantastic location. 24 trout landed in 2.5days fishing is awesome.

We learned a lot about fishing the lake at this time of year and it was brilliant to have several nice trout take our dry flies.

There is still a month left and the great thing was there wasn’t as many boats out compared to mayfly time. The weather was much milder than some of our early season duckfly and olive fishing trips too.

We will definitely be contacting Tom around this time next year and if prospects are good we will be back.

Lough Corrib 2018

This year a pal and I delayed our visit to Lough Corrib until late April due to the abnormally cold spring. It proved to be a good move as the weather was horrible all March. We knew we had missed the duckfly hatch but were hoping for Olives and large buzzer. Once again we stayed at Grasshopper cottage Cornamona near Clonbur.

We hired a boat and engine from our good pal and top guide Tom Doc Sullivan. Unfortunately we were too early for Olives this time. Our approach was to fish the conditions as there was no significant hatch. On the morning s the Lough was calm and the sun was high although it was cool enough with a Northeast wind.

In these conditions we fished buzzers. I was really impressed with my Mackenzie FX1 10ft 6wt for this method. Luckily we managed to boat some nice trout with the largest 58cm and in prime condition.

In the mid afternoon the wind picked up and we tried pulling traditional wet flies and dabblers on intermediate lines. This was productive especially around shallow areas. We had a mixture of small trout with some better fish to just over 2lbs and quite a few missed takes also.

Overall we had a great weekend and are really looking forward to next year already.

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)!!!!

October Bass on Lure and Fly

I recently spent a few days guiding Ken, Brendan and Lee for sea bass along the Copper Coast and around Dungarvan.  We had some of the best bass fishing in a long time.  It wasn’t just about the numbers of fish but the average size too.  We had some seriously well conditioned bass.

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One of our best hard lures was the ever reliable IMA Komomo (sf125, slim 130 and Komomo II).  It really does do the business over shallow rough ground.  It casts well and works great on a slow retrieve.  The IMA Sasuke 120 is another similar and reliable lure.

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I can’t explain the delight when Brendan caught his first bass in over 40 years!! He seems to be a natural when fishing weighted soft plastics like the Fiiish Black Minnow and HTO Artic Eel.

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Ken was keeping up with brother and nailed some really good fish.

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When everyone had caught the boys were very generous  and said I could fly fish for a while.  I didn’t need to be asked twice because normally I never get to have a cast when guiding and if there’s one thing I love to do it’s catching bass on fly.  I tie my own bass flies but also use some tied by friends of mine who are commercial tyers of predator flies.  Andy and Paula of Chasing Silver Flies tie some awesome  proven bass patterns.  My pal Dougie from Scotland also ties stunning predator flies.

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We caught bass just about everywhere we fished, shallow rough ground – deep channels – clean sand bars and beaches.  Tactics were altered to suit the conditions – jigging soft plastics, weightless/weedless stick worms, shallow diving and surface lures.  Changing colours for different light conditions.  There is a lot to learn but what a way to do it!

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The Copper Coast was just on fire and it one of the nicest places to pursue this hard fighting wild fish.

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Of course when you are catching good numbers large fish it is important to practice catch and release.  Bass are a very slow growing species.

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There are still good opportunities to fish for bass right through October and into November.  I’m looking forward to some more good sessions and I know the boys are itching to get back out there.

All about the bass, about the bass!

Been very busy with guiding and tuition since I got back from the Northwest Angling Fair in Tyrone. At the Clancy festival in Carrick on Suir I did some casting demonstrations and tuition on the local Carrick on Suir Club waters.  This is a super club who are very interested in promoting fly fishing and have worked hard to provide fantastic facilities of members and day permit holders.  They have a really impressive stretch of water along the River Suir.

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The daytime trout fishing has been tough in the bright warm conditions but we still had lots of fish on nymphs and dries but no really big ones.  Having said that wild brown trout certainly don’t have to be big to be pretty fish.  Just look at the beauty we had from a local stream the other day.  Remarkable colours.

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On the other hand the bass fishing along the copper coast and into Tramore has been awesome over the last set of spring tides.  There were large numbers of fish caught in the Tramore area during night sessions.  When the weather is very warm and sea is calm night fishing over shallow sandy surf beaches can be very productive indeed.  However, as a fishing guide a lot of my clients either cannot or just do not want to fish during those hours so I am faced with trying to get them onto fish in daylight during the same conditions.  This means trying a lot of tactics but the big tides do help quite a bit and we had some fantastic bass recently, with several over 70cm and one over 80cm.

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Adapting to the fishing situation is important and we had fish on surface lures, shallow divers and in particularly the soft plastics.  Senko worms are really doing the business along with some paddle tails.

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The next spring tides are not far away so I’m really looking forward to getting out there.  Remember the be familiar with the bass angling regulations and practice catch and release.

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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.

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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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.