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)!!!!

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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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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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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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.”

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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