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.

ned-flies

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.

img_2507

20160916_214631

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.

lures jim-c

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!!!!

fx

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.

NWANG Show 2

NWAngS Scott and Jason  3

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)!!!!

Advertisements

Stillwater Trout Fishing

The first of our 2017 beginners and improvers courses will take place this March.  Ken Whelan and I start everything off with a Stillwater Match the Hatch course at some Private Ponds in Wicklow on March 19th. This is a very comprehensive stillwater course covering an entomology of all the major insects and likely hatches during the fishing season.  Learn how to select and fish imitative flies successfully.   Fee €80

IMG_3927Featured Image -- 1140

Following on from the match the hatch course I am running my annual Stillwater Trout Fly Fishing Tactics course at Ardaire Springs, Mooncoin, Kilkenny on March 25th 2017.  This course focuses on the various techniques and tactics that can be used throughout the year and is an ideal follow up to the match the hatch course.  One of the most frequent questions I am asked at demos, shows and on the water is how to select the correct tackle for specific tactics.  Learn how to tackle up and fish wet flies, nymphs, lures, buzzers, dries, indicators, boobies, blobs, mops, bloodworms and more. Fee €65

IMG_20150313_175846

Screamer

Autumn Gold (and Silver!)

Guiding was really busy all summer and of course family time is very important too, especially when you have two young kids. Anyway, there was little time to sit down and write blogs about the fishing. To be fair, salmon fishing slowed down towards the end of summer this year. As always September is a mad hectic month for me as customers are keen to finish off the freshwater season with a salmon, trout or seatrout. Saltwater anglers know that some of the best bass tides of the year fall in September too. There was a lack of fresh salmon in most rivers and a few days on the lower Munster Blackwater with clients resulted in three salmon landed, two lost and a few seatrout in the mix. The water was very high then dropping nicely and clearing then rising fast all in the space of a few days! All but one of the fish the guys landed and lost were red. The high coloured water meant fishing from the bank rather than wading so we had to use the landing net and place the fish up on the grass for a quick photo before release.

received_10206834768049215

received_10206835482827084

My clients exercised their discretion to tag and keep a fresh salmon for the table. I rarely keep a fish anymore but at the end of the day it was up to them.
20160911_161205

For me the seabass is one of the best game fish in our waters.  I just love fishing for them.  The September tides always produce some crackers and with some settled weather things looked really promising.  I guided during the spring tides with Lee, Paul and Daire on alternate days and we had several superb fish with the best measuring 74cm.  Belter!!

20160916_214631

We had fish on soft plastics, surface lures and hard lures.  One of my favourite shallow divers is the Feed Shallow but this year I have really taken to the IMA Komomo and Komomo II.  These are excellent lures and fish well on a slow retrieve.

20160916_180335

As often happens you can get a day or two when the sea conditions make bass fishing a less than promising option.  However, the great thing about Dungarvan is that there are other good fishing options available, such as salmon or trout.  So when the water got really discoloured Paul agreed to do some fly fishing over at Ardaire Springs in Mooncoin.  I lost count of the amount of quality trout he landed on dries!

20160914_190315 20160914_190242

So we the rivers closing at the end of September there is still lots of opportunity to bass fish.  Keep an eye out for my next blog on some awesome fly and lure fishing for large bass along the copper coast!!!!!

 

 

 

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

ardaire flyer 2016

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.

IMG_3069

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.

From Tippet Rings to Onion Rings! – Irish Fly Fair 2015

I spent last weekend in Galway at the Irish Fly Fair.  I didn’t think this Fair could have improved much on last year but I was wrong, Stevie Munn and his team have made it even better!  I’m already looking forward to next years Fair.  It was great to meet up with so many fishing friends.  There were awesome fly dressers including my good pals Denis O’Toole and Bobby Bryans.

denis

I was really impressed by all the flies on display and the Irish salmon flies of Denny Brennan and Robert Gillespie were fantastic.  Dougie’s pike flies had some fellas drooling from across the aisle. Some of the imitative creations I saw on fly tiers row were so lifelike I’m surprised they didn’t fly away.

stuart hardy

There were plenty retailers present selling all sorts of fly tying materials and items of fishing tackle.  It was great to see the “shiny things” that Rodgers Tackle, Funky Fly tying, AM Angling, Foxy Tails, Premier Angling, and others had on display.  I was out in the next room on the Ballyduff Bridge/Mackenzie DTX stand with Scott Mackenzie and Maurice Cahill and we were right beside our pals from Ardaire Springs, Waterford Fly Fishing and Fortwilliam.

IMGP3129

It is a great tribute to the organising team to see so many fisheries stands at the show and all of the effort that also goes into promoting the sport of fly fishing and encouraging youth into fly fishing.

IMGP3130

Each day Scott did a casting demonstration.

Facebook-20151110-072123 Facebook-20151110-072150

Ken Whelan and I did talks on seatrout fishing.  I was amazed by the attendance we had at the talks.  A massive thanks to everyone who came along both days.

talk

I must also mention Brendan who helped out at the talks and was the first person over to me on Saturday asking if I knew of anyone selling tippet rings at the show.  It didn’t take long to solve that problem but we are ALL still trying to solve the puzzle of WHO ATE MAURICE’S ONION RINGS! Any information can be passed on by text, messenger or e-mail and we will forward it to the authorities ASAP!!

WELL DONE TO EVERYONE INVOLVED IN THE SHOW.

 

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.

wpid-wp-1418932636962.jpeg

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.