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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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 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.

 

Dutch Gold

Fished Ardaire Springs yesterday with three Dutch anglers who were new to stillwater trout fishing.  Two of the guys were visiting their friend who lives locally and had never fly fished before.  We arrived at Ardaire around 11.30am but Ned was expecting us and had three Mackenzie single handed demo rods ready and waiting for the guys.

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There were a lot of anglers fishing the lake but I noticed a few spots available outside the fishing lodge.  The guys were keen to make a start so I got them all casting with different fishing methods and before I could pop back out to the car to put on my wellies Pieter was into a good fish.  It turned out to be a cracking brown trout.  What a start!  A beautiful fish with a lovely golden hue to it.

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The weather started to deteriorate with the wind getting stronger and rain looked imminent.  Nevertheless the guys fished on and landed some nice rainbow trout on dries.  Local angler Adriano managed to land a 14lb rainbow on a lure while we were there.  The wind got really strong but even so the lads were casting well.  Eventually the weather got very wet and cold so the guys decided to call it a day.  I heard that another big rainbow approaching 20lbs was landed afterwards.

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Overall it was a good day and I managed to get 10minutes casting in with the Mackenzie 7/8 Switch rod and Compact Switch line.  What an awesome piece of kit!  I left it on the rod rack and a few of the other anglers had a cast with it.  Ned told me afterwards that they were really really impressed with it.  No surprise there though.

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:

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Bloodworms:

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Wets:

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And Lures:

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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.

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Imitative Approach

Last Sunday I traveled to Courtlough Fishery in Dublin to tutor the Match the Hatch Course with Ken Whelan.  We had 14 participants on the course and Garrett the fishery manager and the staff at Courtlough were very welcoming to everyone.  In the morning Ken went through a PowerPoint presentation on the various important species likely to be living in the lake.

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We then headed down to the water to for a kick sampling session.  Everyone took part and Ken provided the required equipment for the session.

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It was great to see all the insect life collected and identified and it proved to be a real ‘eye opener’ for the participants who really enjoyed this aspect of the course, despite the very cold weather.

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Next it was time for lunch and we headed back to the bar (yes bar!) for soup and sandwiches.  The hot soup was very welcome and again Courtlough set the standard by providing additional sandwiches tea/coffee and biscuits.  With full tummies it was time for the afternoon session.  This was where I took over and showed everyone a series of imitative fly patterns designed to look and/or move like the insects we found in the lake.

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We headed back down to the water and I demonstrated a few fishing techniques for replicating the movement of the naturals.  The guys then had time to do some fishing themselves and try to put what they learned into practice.  I used two Mackenzie DTX single handed rods for my demo and the boys were keen to get their hands on them.  Ken had a go with the 10ft 7wt with a fast intermediate line and a damsel imitation.  Within the first few casts he was into a lovely rainbow.

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Everyone was very impressed with these rods. A few more fish were caught and as the sun and temperatures dropped it was time to call it a day.  The feedback afterwards was really positive and this was most satisfying for Ken and I.

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Our next Match the Hatch course will take place in Ratchon Fishery on March 1st.  In the meantime I am taking bookings for a Stillwater Tactics course at Ardaire Springs fishery in Mooncoin.  For more info click here.  As I have recently been appointed to the Mackenzie Pro Team for Ireland I will have a range of single handed rods with me for these courses.

1 Day Stillwater Fly Fishing Course

Building on the success of last years fly fishing courses I will be holding a stillwater fly fishing course at the purpose built fly fishing lake, fishing lodge and tackle room at Ardaire Springs Fishery, Mooncoin, Kilkenny on February 15th 2015.  This is an ideal course for those new to fly fishing and also for those wanting to improve upon their stillwater fishing techniques.  Based on very positive feedback from last year I have decided to maintain the same affordable price of just €60 (including lunch).

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The course covers all the standard fishing techniques (lures, wets, nymphs and dries).  There will be lots of helpful hints and tips relating to tackle set up and fly selection to help you catch that “big one”.

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There will also be time for participants to put some new methods to practice themselves before the day ends. This worked well last year with some participants catching their personal best trout on the day!

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In addition to being a Pro Guide and International Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor I have also completed a Child Welfare & Protection in Sport Awareness Training Course and have been Garda Vetted for coaching.

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Given the date of this course it would make an ideal Valentines gift for the angler in your life.  If you would like to book a place on this course just send me an e-mail at: gamefishingireland@gmail.com or phone: 087-2965712.