Back to Basics – Worm Fishing for early season trout

So about ten days ago the trout fishing season re opened in this part of the world. Naturally, I feel the obligation to re lubricate the finger joints and de rust this blog once again in anticipation for what I can only hope will be another successful year. As I sat munching my cornflakes this morning and admiring the view of both loughs Conn and Cullin from my kitchen window, both of which have taken on an unforgivingly cold shade of grey and reflect the bleak colourless winter landscape that now rules, a number of things crossed my mind.

To begin, I don’t think I can ever remember a winter that failed to raise the loughs’ water levels by more than a foot. There are old rocks that I usually watch in November and December as the water rises, darkens and cools that have stayed dry for the entirity of this winter. There is one particular stone in 6 arch bay that sits in about a foot of water during the height of summer. Above the water stands 7 feet of weathered granite, home only to resting cormorants and seagulls from time to time who paint it’s mossy faces white. During the usual blankets of thick rain and raging floods that we experience in November, this rock submerges beneath Conn’s menacing wintery waves. This year nought has changed since August, and seven feet of rock still stand where it has stood for the last 6 months.

As an angler, I don’t like change. The traditions that I have built up over the past few years now stand for nothing as I am presented with a brand new set of challenges. The old high water haunts are quite literally high and dry, while I am not sure if the fish will have moved into the areas that usually dont see dry daylight until April. Slightly warmer water temperatures, much lower water levels and much confusion reigns. The lack of salmon this year hasn’t gone unnoticed by my watchful eye either!

I know it’s all very pessimistic lingo, but I suppose it is simply my way of talking down the bubbly anticipation that I have for wetting a few lines again! The week just past has seen a subtle change in weather patterns. Storm Doris and a few of her smaller relatives visited our shores over the course of a few days and raised what had been a desperately low water table to a closer to normal height.

 

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Waiting for a bite….

 

The first early season forays usually see me employ a less delicate approach to trout fishing than that of a daitnty fly rod and elegantly dressed flies. No, at this time of year the fish are deep, the water is cold, the air even colder. The lake bed holds a slightly warmer environment than the surface during the winter months, and bottom dwelling food sources such as hoglice, shrimps and snails keep the fish away from what little fly life can emerge. Tackling up with surface gear is all but a futile excercise to de grease the casting skills. The humble worm fished on the bottom offers a much varied, yet effective approach to getting a look at a few finned characters.

Wednesday night, amidst the drenching rain and howling wind, I braved the darkness and begun my preparation. As tempting as it is to collapse comfortably into a fireside armchair, rainy nights offer us an insight into a world that we rarely ever glimpse. All of the worms and slugs and damp loving creatures that are usually hidden from sight emerge to make the most of the moisture. I took with me a torch and a small worm box and took a stroll around outside, keeping near the gardens and bare soil as I went. Collecting worms in the wet is nearly as exciting as using them to catch trout! Some can be picked off the path where they have come out of the ground and are travelling in search of new soil. Others, usually the bigger worms will just poke their tails out of the soil, and if you’re not quick they’re gone as soon as the light hits them. Twenty minutes in the right places will see a good 40 or 50 decent worms, possibly even more. It certainly saves some backbreaking shovel work!

With a good stock of ‘ammunition’, I strolled down to one of my favourite shore spots this morning. The mist that still lay on the hills was stubbornly, but slowy lifting and the drizzly squalls looked to be following suit. A typical ledger setup suffices for worming. I like to fish 8lb mainline with a 4-6lb breaking strain hook length and keep about a foot and a half between the lead and the hook. Two worms on a size 8 completes the business end of the setup, and then it is just a case of punching it out as far away from the shore as possible.

This morning I fished 2 rods to maximise my chances as bites are usually few and far between. There is no need really for bite alarms and quiver tips (even though I use one myself) as the takes are usually solid and furious as the trout moves off with the bait, pulling strongly on the rod tip. Every so often a wave or a gust of wind will catch the line and give a lurch to the stomach, keeping the interest only to be replaced by bitter disappointment as it slacks off again. After an hour or so, I spotted the line tighten properly on the right hand rod. Could it be? Tension, excitement as I paused with one hand on the handle, the other on the reel. Three seconds…..four…. then definitive jerk of the rod tip as the line moved off once again. Lifting strongly I hooked my fish. It came quite easily and for a moment I thought it had come off, before a small swirl and a splash just as the lead weight rose out of the water, and a wee brownie of 7 or 8 inches careered into the net without much ado.

 

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First of the season

 

I gave a chuckle when I saw the two lobworms stuffed into its tiny mouth, but the hook sat nicely in the scissors and I had him on his way back to the watery depths that he came from in no time. For the second time today I turned to my tin of worms which sat on the bank to my left, only to spot the left hand rod bouncing merrily about. I whipped it up fairly fast and straight away felt the pulsing of a slightly better trout. After a short fight I landed the second fish, no more than an inch or 2 bigger than the first but still nice to see on this chilly morning.

 

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And another!

 

I left soon after, content with my catch. Undoubtedly a nice way to open up the fishing season at this early point in the year. Although I had nothing for the frying pan, I managed to enjoy a return to the water with reasonable success. After such a dry winter, we are due a big fall of rain and I would expect it to come sooner rather than later based on the most recent weather patterns. That being the case, I may just return to hibernating for another month or two until things start to warm up properly!

 

 

 

The Great Western Greenway – A gateway to some of the best game fishing in the world?

Cycling is not one of my favourite sports by any stretch of the imagination. As a means of transport, it has been my only means of independent movement for the last 18 years. Occasionally, I have attempted to rig up my bicycle for short exploratory fishing trips, only to discover the discomfort of cycling with a fishing rod under my arm as I try awkwardly to dodge passing cars on the main road. With a little investment, I eased the discomfort with a 4 piece rod and a travel case though I never actually put it to the test. But away from all of the sweat, muscle aches and water breaks, there is something sweet and relaxing about soaking in views of mountains and Ireland’s western scenery from a simple two wheeled transporter.

 

 

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The Greenway near Nwport

 

 

As the last days of the summer drew quickly to a close and the next chapter in my life entered it’s dramatic opening, my fishing days became significantly numbered. I was hoping to get a good long session on Conn before departing for my first year in college, and on the last weekend, it was suddenly decided that we were to make the trek up to Newport, hire out a couple of bikes and cycle the greenway to Achill Island. You can imagine my dismay. I knew it wasn’t going to aspire to be much of fishing day anyway, what with temperatures of over 23 degrees and bright sunshine, but still I exercised my right to protest vehemently. It wasn’t going to change any minds I knew and so off I went – the last Saturday of my summer, unfortunately hiring out a few bikes instead of boats as I would have liked.

As I said, I wouldn’t have been missing out on much with the scorcher of a day that was in it. As we set off from Newport, it suddenly dawned on me that this would have been an excellent opportunity of test out my 4 piece rod. Just a shame that these useful thoughts always come that bit too late. Perhaps it was time to turn my mind off fishing and simply enjoy the day that was in it. That was when another thought crossed my mind. On looking at the ordinance survey map, I soon realised that there were actually quite a few little and rather large lough and river systems that cross the cycle path. A little scouting wouldn’t  hurt a fly and so my day had indeed a little purpose to it.

THE GREENWAY:

Westport to Achill island by bike. That was the goal when the plans for this cycle way commenced. A little bit of funding later and now a world famous, scenic cycling path exists. It is built along the remains of the old railway line that ran the same length many years ago. Even as someone who is not particularly amused by biking, this path really and truly opened my eyes to what Ireland has to offer. The scenery overlooking Clew bay is just fantastic. The path itself is for bike and foot use only, and it crosses the main road on just a handful of occasions, making cycling it as safe as any path in the country. Bicycles can be hired from each of the towns on the path – Westport, Newport, Malranny, and Achill, and a return bus service is operated by each bike hire shop. While cycling is the obvious intention of this wild track, I thought it would do no harm to look a little into the fishing that it’s depths has to offer.

The trip from Westport to Newport is pretty much barren of fish. We began our trip in Newport and so I didn’t actually see this part of the cycleway. From looking at the map, I guess that if you veer slightly from the course, you’ll find yourself at Ballin Lough which is stocked by IFI with Rainbows. The fishing is by boat only and so it wouldn’t be a great idea to travel by bike.

I’m going to properly start just after Newport, travelling towards Malranny. A twenty minute cycle will bring you to the very southern tip of the Burishoole fishery at Furnace Lough. This is one of the most important salmon fisheries in the west. A salmon research centre is operated on the shore of Furnace. The lough itself contains brackish water, a mix of fresh and salt water which seems to stimulate the salmon to take flies that bit better as they are fresh. There is a good run of salmon into the system, and lough Feeagh which is a larger, though purely freshwater lough situated to the north contains a resident stock of brownies. I believe Feeagh is closed for fishing as a conservation measure. I could only look on from the shore today at what is a wonderful wild lough set amidst the most stunning of backdrops. A thin layer of blanket bog hugs the mountains around it giving a stunning golden brown colour to the world in the afternoon sun.

 

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Looking North over Furnace Lough

 

 

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The short channel that links Furnace lough to the Atlantic Ocean

 

Slightly to the west of Furnace lies what I really came to look at. There are a series of small loughs trapped amongst the hills north of the trail. The only lough that lies pretty much on the path is lough fadda (not to be confused with another lough fadda that I have written previously about). It is named appropriately for it’s elongated shape. The shore by the outflow near the path is heavily enclosed with sedge and weed but further up along both shores there are some fishable areas. It’s scenic backdrop is made all the more wild by it’s steepened, bare banks. I believe this lough holds a small stock of trout. There is plenty of food for them in any case – daddies, olives and sedges lined the grasses by the waters edge. If there was a fishing rod in a case on my back, it would certainly have come out from hibernation. On the Newport side of lough fadda, there is another turn that will take you up through a narrow byroad which runs along the shore of Furnace. I didn’t take it unfortunately but I believe that there are a few small loughs tucked in steep bog covered dips in the hill on your left. They both flow into Furnace and I think that I am safe in assuming that if the Burishoole system contains trout then these loughs must have their own small populations. These loughs would be perfect for a small travel fly rod. There proximity to each other would indicate plenty of varied sport for the day.

 

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Lough Fadda – It seemed quite heavily weeded at this end but there looked to be some clearer areas further away from the path.

 

A little further west along the trail and we came to the Carrowsallagh River. This jolly little mountain stream flows south into Clew Bay. It certainly looks trouty. I would safely assume there to be a small head of brown trout in it’s pools. It almost looks large enough to receive a run of sea trout and possibly salmon? It is quite overgrown with bushes and trees where the path crosses it and so casting may be slightly awkward.

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Further west as we near Malranny, a larger river – The Owengarve flows south under the track towards Clew Bay. I was quite saddened to see  viciously steep, undercut banks and slack, slow moving water that bore all the signs of arterial drainage. It seems like a very viable pathway for large migratory fish otherwise, even though I cannot find much solid information on it. In what was now a bakingly hot mid afternoon sun, I could have sworn I saw the gentle swirl of a small brownie in close to the left hand bank below the bridge.

Once through Malranny, the track runs tightly sandwiched between the main road and the ocean for most of the journey towards achill. About 15 minutes of pedaling after Malranny, I came across a rather large bog lake marked as lough Gall on the Ordinance Survey Map. It seems entirely possible that this small lough holds a head of small trout. I didn’t stop to examine it closely but I have seen similar, some even smaller loughs to hold a stock of trout so it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

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So what did I learn? For one I found out that cycling long distances is backbreaking work for a person of average fitness like myself. Having said that, the enjoyment that I took from being in such a glorious part of the world on such a glorious day was quite pleasing. As much of an enthusiast for fishing as I am, I think it’s fair to say that the greenway is best enjoyed from a bike. As for the potential for angling that it holds? Certainly worth a day, but maybe it should be kept seperate from the cycling.

Trout on Daddies

It has been quite some time since my last venture on lough Conn. About three weeks to be exact. At that time the lough had shrunken and settled to almost it’s peak summer low for the year. The frequent showers and broken weather was simply not enough to raise the water levels, and the last stragglers of this years mayfly could be seen, though only on occasion fluttering haplessly into shelter. It was becoming an increasingly futile venture chucking my standard team of summer wets – a mayfly on the bob, a peter on the middle and a dabbler on the point. When 24 hours of non-stop rain came last Wednesday, I thought nothing of it. I had it in the back of my mind that I may chuck the fluff at some point over the weekend, although that would depend on several things on an increasingly hectic agenda.

After a quick drive around the Pontoon road on Friday evening and I rounded the bend towards the milestone at Healy’s bay where the boat moorings are, it was clear that the height of the loughs has indeed come up significantly, for the first time this summer. The 5 remaining boats that are left there have been lifted askew, side on to the shore and if left untended some serious damage could be done. On the off chance that any of you reading this have a boat there, or anywhere else on either of the loughs you should check on it immediately.

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Healy’s Bay. Apologies for the poor photo (it was taken from a moving car). Nevertheless, these boats need to be checked if not done so already. Some serious damage could be done.

With the addition of some fresh water to the loughs, a new hand of cards is dealt and more particularly as we enter the back end of the season, things begin to change on our waters. There is a rather large terrestrial fly that we are all to familiar with. It makes it’s way into our homes unwillingly throughout the month of August, dancing with a stumble of sorts. With such a vulnerable stance, and being a rather large insect, it is quite easy to see how such a fly would be considered a delicacy of sorts to a hungry trout should it cross it. This fly of course, is the daddy long legs.

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The daddy long legs alongside a rather large artificial

 

Now when it comes to fishing daddies, there are three approaches that one can take – dapping, wet flies and dry flies. Of course this could be the case for any substantial insect hatch. I have only dapped with daddies for one drift about mid way through August of last year. To collect them, a damp drizzly night, a torch and your back lawn are required. Leave the torch on the grass so that it’s beam illuminates a section of lawn and wait. You should have plenty of daddies in a few minutes. Any lunch box or plastic container will do for storage but just be sure to add some stalks of grass for them to cling to. Once you have your daddies collected, a standard dapping set up – 13-15ft rod, a length of floss and a size eight hook will do the rest. There is something rather awkward about projecting such a long pole in front of your boat, and as I neared the end of the drift despite having raised one fish (and struck too quickly, it is advised that you leave them a few seconds when dapping before striking), I returned to the gentle roll and wave of the fly rod.

I am a wet fly man through and through. So I could not tell you much about fishing a dry daddy except when it is the top dropper of a wet fly cast creating a wake through the surface ripples. What I can tell you is that the daddy long legs is by nature a terrestrial insect. By definition, it should never come into contact with water at all, but wind being the creature it is carries these insects from the shore out onto our loughs and rivers, where they are at the mercy of the water and oftentimes drown. Their large bodies draw trout from far and wide as they are easy pickings. Because they are blown from the shore, I like to concentrate my efforts on the sheltered shoreline where the insects are blowing from(ie. fish the south shore in a south wind), drifting from the calm out into the lake, or otherwise parallel to a shoreline. It helps if there is a shallow or a few islands where trout often congregate and this is where one should concentrate efforts. Of course the required chop to fish wet flies at their deadliest may be absent but wets will still work in even the slightest whimper of a breeze, although the results may not be as great. This is perhaps where a dry fly could be more effective.

 

So yesterday morning, after a brief glance at the met eireann rainfall radar and seeing that there was heavy rain inbound for the afternoon, I set about some preparations for a quick morning’s session. I had a bit of a cold, but the south breeze was rather warm. I had it on my mind to head straight back to Coleman’s Shallow. It is a 15-20 minute journey at best from where I’m based and I have not fished it yet this year. Coleman’s Shallow a rather large reef that extends a couple of hundered metres out from the shore in a south-north direction and there are 2 islands, one of which is quite sizeable and the other is really just a bit of lake bed that protruded over the surface when the Moy was dredged. The last time I was here was during the mayfly last year (2015) and experienced some positive fishing. Conditions were almost identical to that day – a soft warm breeze blowing from the south, good overcast conditions and of course the incoming rain for the afternoon. The only difference being that today, there was no hatch of mayfly. I tied up with a team of 3, consisting of a Claret Bumble Muddler, a Fiery Brown Bumble, and a sunken Daddy on the point. Five or six casts later amidst my usual dreamy gazing about for insects, I heard a slurp and then my rod bent into a nice brownie rather instinctively. About the 10 inch mark and on the Fiery Brown Bumble. Not a bad start. After a short period of disinterest, I seemed to hit a small shoal. In the space of about 4 casts I rose one, lost another and boated a third. This time on the Sunken Daddy Longlegs. I fished another couple of drifts around the shallow and picked up 3 more trout, the best going in at 13 inches, again on the daddy long legs.

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While the sunken daddy took it’s fair share of the fish for the day without a doubt, it does help particularly at this point in the year to keep a variety of flies on your cast as there is such a wide menu of sedges, fry, olives and even one or two straggling mayfly available to the trout. All three flies on the cast took fish.  As the mist and rain closed in and a strengthening chest cold, I reached the moorings at 3, having tried and failed to catch a few more trout on my way back. As I sat myself down by the fire this evening, now coughing my lungs out as a result of my daytime ventures and asking myself was it worth it, a little voice in my head called out ‘every second you can be sure!’.

Billberry Lough

I have tried my best this year to keep the posts on this blog as varied as possible. There is always fascination for me in exploring new waters, discovering new tactics and catching different trout. This June past, I sat the Leaving Cert exams, which are the exams set by the state prior to the student’s progression to third level education and in a couple of days time, I will soon know whether or not I will be moving to Galway for the next four years. It is tough to finally have to turn my back on the home that I have known and loved so dearly for the past 18 years and of course the wonderful Lough Conn and it’s magnificent trout. I chose Galway as my destination for next year over the other cities partly because of it’s proximity to the Corrib and Connemara, so who knows – perhaps I’ll be afloat on some new waters next season! I have never fished the Corrib and so it would be particularly nice to do so.

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Billberry/ Islandeady Lough

 

Anyway, back to the present. There are a series of very scenic, lowland lakes immediately to the south of Castlebar. These being Lough Lannagh, The Castlebar Lough and Billberry or Islandeady lough. They are set in an area of low, rolling hills called drumlins, carved out by glaciers at the end of the last ice age as they melted. These loughs discharge through the Castlebar river which flows north into the bottom end of lough Cullin. They are not particularly deep loughs, but interestingly, Castlebar Lough once held a population of char. Of course like most of our other char populations these are now extinct as a result of environmental ignorance by humankind. These loughs were also once home to good populations of wild brown trout, but like the char, these fish have all but disappeared from their waters. They are now the victims of ignorant coarse fish introductions and are stocked with brown trout each year by the local angling club.

With the planned closure of IFI’s trout farms and the possibility of not catching a trout from their waters at all, I decided that it was time to investigate what these loughs held. We had a few errands to run in Castlebar in the morning but by lunch time, I had picked up the keys from Mrs McGrath at Windermere house for the boat hire and was now standing at the shore of Billberry lough. It is really and truly a sprawl of a lake, with plenty of shallows and good trout looking  areas. There were a couple of pike anglers at the shore near the jetty who managed to net a small jack on a deadbait before we launched. We began to drift straight away, as the wind suited it. August being the month that it is has left this lough choked to the brim with weeds and so, the shallows that had previously looked so promising unfishable.

We followed the drift down across some open water and over towards a rocky shoreline. It was here I noticed a rather large boil form behind my dropper, though unfortunately no pull. That was to be the only rise for the day. No matter what we tried – different drifts covering new water, faster retrieves, even emptying the contents of my fly box ( I gave almost every fly a swim), there was no other response. We did see a couple of large stocked fish belly – slamming out over the deeper water, I could not figure out what they were taking. There was next to no fly life on the lough at all. I didn’t even see the usual few sedges or terrestrials that would be present on Conn normally. Just a lone murrough in the evening scuttled across the water.

I have no doubt in my mind that August is definitely not the time to fish this lough for trout. I would think that earlier in the season – perhaps during the mayfly hatches, there would be some enjoyable sport to be had or after a stocking. I found out after the fact that the lake hadn’t been stocked in quite some time and so that certainly has to have played it’s part. The survival expectancy of fish that have been spoon fed pellets all their juvenile lives cannot be much more that a few weeks as they have not developed a sense of foraging or natural feeding. Perhaps I am simply not acquainted with stocked fisheries. I am used to trying to imitate what natural insects are on the water rather than fishing brightly coloured attractors, even though I did try both tactics. I could come up with a thousand excuses for not catching any fish, but then maybe that is just fishing. It wouldn’t be fun if I didn’t have some empty days. With the last drift of the day, I managed a tiny perch of my top dropper, so technically I didn’t blank!

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The only fish of the day! – Couldn’t go home without a photo of this little bugger

 

 

In all, I have to say it was a relaxing day even if there were no trout on the pan in the end. The scenery in the area is fabulous and it is well worth a visit purely for that.

Recent forays on Lough Conn

The month of July has never been a very popular month with trout anglers. Something that is very noticeable on our big loughs in particular. Perhaps there is a common belief that the all too well known ‘post-mayfly lull’ extends right through the months of high summer. There is undoubtedly a point in the year where the trout seem to have eaten all they can possibly devour and blatantly neglect all forms of fly that are thrown before them. The heat of the summer sun, coupled with an ennervating spurt in weed growth and of course the now more picky trout deter most from the vast waters of our western loughs. It doesn’t take an expert to see the diminished force of boats tackling the water each day, the seemingly forgotton hulls thrown carelessly upon the shore, forsaken to the constant vigours of Atlantic rain bearing clouds, full to the gunnells with all of the water that has fallen since May. It is a shame to see such murky green contents slowly warping these elegant shapes, fragments of a time when anglers aplenty flocked to the shores of lough Conn.

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Lunch Time!

 

If truth be told, the fishing though incomparable to the peak hatches of greenfly, has been exciting over the last month, and continues to impress me. Fish have been actively feeding on mayfly hatches that have occured every day for almost the past month. I have only managed weekend sessions as of late due to other commitments, but each trip seems to improve upon the last. This extended hatch of the green drakes which are now two months late has been encouraged by a number of factors. The wet summer that we have had so far has seen day time air temperatures average around 17 or 18 degrees celsius or so, a little below normal. As well as this, our summer has been notably wet in comparison to previous years, and the constant addition of fresh water keeps the lough’s water temperature lower than what would usually be attained. This combined with East winds, bright sunshine and poor hatches during what should have been our typical mayfly season seems to have had the knock on effect of prolonging the hatch of Mayfly.

Above the daily mayfly hatches, the sedges have been hatching in large numbers over the past few weeks, and large summer hatches of lake olives add to the temptation for surface feeding trout.

The moist, heavy air around me quickly filled with the flutter and dance of lake olives

I recall from a recent voyage through the waves which must now be two weeks ago already, a particularly humid day with low clouds and a fragment of mist. In my books, I consider clouds to be low in the sky when the top of Nephin (the large mountain visible to the west of Conn) is obscured. On this particular day, there was very little of the mountain visible at all. Just it’s base ascending into greyness. The wind, which had torn rather briskly all morning from the west seemed to dissapate into nothingness by the time I reached the lough that afternoon. There was a swell with no ripple, that was slowly reducing with each rise and fall of the waves as what little wind was left seemed to vanish. If only to make the trek down to the boat worthwhile, I pushed out and threw a few oddly hopeless casts into the water. The moist, heavy air around me quickly filled with the flutter and dance of lake olives. An astoundingly large hatch. Amongst their ranks, there interposed the occasional mayfly. In the calming waves, I took two trout, both to an octopus and in quick succession. Not of a takeable size by any means, maybe 10 inches each, but good scrappers.

As the wind found it’s pace again, the olives were abruptly shunted back to the shelter of the land and the trees, but that didn’t stop more mayfly from hatching and fish from feeding. I boated three more trout in the next hour, all on the same yellow octopus, but missed a double figure number of rises. I will remember this day for quite some time, not for the fish or their respective sizes, but for the intensity of the fly hatches. The muggy, moisture laden air seemed to suit every insect in the lough, and as evening drew in and the takes slowed up, out came the Welshman’s Buttons. These are a small, common variety of sedge that you will see fluttering haplessly about. They, like the olives swarmed the boat. On went a small dark sedge pattern and I found the fish once again. It is the situation that every trout angler dreams of. An effective match for the hatch and good results to show for it.

An easing pull on the line as the bigger fish so often achieve

This weekend past I ventured out on Conn once again. This time the humidity had lessened, and I was also unsure of what to expect having passed the hottest day of the year during the week. I was not disappointed. Several mayfly had blown past and up onto the road as I pondered my chances, and so I set up a drift into schoolhouse bay. This is not one of the noted trout bays on the lough and I rarely bat an eyelid towards it, but the rolling wave ripping along it’s rocky, tree lined shore enticed me to give it a try. After maybe an hour, I finally managed to winkle two fish out of it, one  on a mayfly and the other on a small wet olive imitation. Again possibly 10 inches or so, but from such an unreputed location, I was quite chuffed with myself. Onwards to better drifts and I found a couple of better fish. One of which was well over the pound mark and to my great surprise, it managed to take my top dropper without even breaking the surface. Just an easing pull on the line as the bigger fish so often achieve and the fly buried itself deep in it’s jaw. As the hatch of greendrakes eased, I replaced my point and middle droppers with sedges, in expectation of the same hatch of sedge. Unfortunately this time there was no such occurance and I left the lake rather disappointed with nothing to show for the last hour.

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And back he goes!

 

I had the lough to myself on both days or so it seemed. I passed no other boats on my travels, adding peace to the wonder of this big lough. With such little angling pressure and competition, the likelihood of hitting a fish on any given drift is much higher indeed. In any case, the spell of unsettled weather that we are experincing of late looks set to continue into the near future. Give it a week or two and the hoppers and daddies will get going hopefully and the string of surface activity will quite possibly continue right up to the end of the season.

The River Clydagh

The Clydagh is one of the larger tributaries of the Conn/Cullin/Moy system. It has it’s roots in the easternmost reaches of the Nephin Beg Range, flowing east from Croaghmoyle, meandering across bog and rugged terrain, before it’s confluence with the Castlebar and Manulla rivers. From here it travels North for 5 kilometers or so to join Lough Cullin.

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Owing to the acidic nature of the land that it crosses, The Clydagh is quite nutrient poor. It flows through a large plain of bog that lies south of lough Cullin, and is fed by several mountain burns near it’s source. Its lower reaches extend through some agricultural land, particularly close to it’s confluence. As a result, it lies still very much in a relatively natural state, particularly it’s upper and middle reaches, which unlike the majority of rivers in this country, have escaped the scourge of arterial drainage, leaving many captivating riffles and pools that fulfill the criteria for native fish habitat.

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For much of it’s course, the Clydagh follows a very attractive ‘Riffle-Pool’ sequence.

The river and the many mountain streams that join it serve as important spawning facilities for our native salmonoids – Brown Trout and Salmon. It is an important nursery habitat for young lake dwelling trout destined for Lough Cullin whose parents ‘run’ it’s currents to spawn over the winter months. It gets a run of salmon and a small proportion of the fish that run the Moy are destined for the Clydagh’s gravel beds, but many do not reach the river until late in the season. During the November floods, salmon can be seen jumping the falls near Carrowkeel in numbers. The Clydagh is very much a spate river and can rise and fall rapidly after heavy rainfall.

The river holds a large head of juvenile trout, these are young fish that have not yet migrated downstream to the lakes. It is encouraging to know that such trout are plentiful, though they rarely exceed 20cms or 8inches. After a good spate, some of the larger fish from Cullin will move up, offering the chance of a sizeable trout. I visited the river not too long ago. With all the rain we’ve had this summer, it held  some colour and was moving at a steady charge. I found a few small brownies and salmon parr willing to lodge themselves upon my flies, but nothing of any real size.

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A little salmon parr from the Clydagh. Maybe one day it will return as a large spring fish!

 

THE LAKES:

As with most rivers, The Clydagh drains some small loughs throughout it’s course. Most of these are acidic, and hold small trout.

Tuckers lough near Castlebar and another smaller lough to the east drain through a small stream into The Clydagh. I believe Tucker’s lough holds small trout. A fellow blogger – claretbumbler, wrote about this lake and a few other small loughs in the area some time ago – https://claretbumbler.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/the-small-loughs/ .  This lake tends to weed heavily and is surrounded by reeds on most sides. There are some fishable points on the south side and the main road runs close to it.

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Lough Naspleenagh. Though it is difficult to see from the photo, the far shore is in fact covered with reeds and weeds.

Lough Naspleenagh – I can only describe this lough as a bog hole. It is near situated north of Castlebar again, and found by taking a byroad opposite Tuckers lough and continuing through some forestry for about a mile. This is quite a frustrating lough to fish from the shore as I soon found out. It, like Tuckers lough is reed fringed and unfishable along the western shore. There are some clear areas along the eastern shore, but it is still difficult casting, as the wind is predominantly westerly in this country. This lake holds a small stock of trout, and gets hatches of olives and sedges. I suppose it would be best fished from a small floatable device such as a float tube or a kayak of you could launch one.

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Lough Fadda. This lough is nestled deep in the bog plain between Pontoon and Castlebar.

 

Lough Fadda – This lake is also situated the Pontoon side of Castlebar. It is a long and gruelling hike across bog, marsh and forestry debris from the main road. I visited it not too long ago. I was unsure whether or not it held trout up until this visit, but I can now say that it does, having hooked and lost a wee fellow. They are bottom feeders and difficult to tempt to a fly. The lough is not reed fringed, but there are alot of lily pads along it’s shores, making for difficult casting.

Lough Anaffrin – This is another small bog lake, about 2 miles north of lough Naspleenagh. I have never heard any reports of trout from here, but it may well hold a few.

As it nears lough Cullin, The Clydagh joins with the Castlebar and Manulla Rivers. The lower reaches have been dredged to reduce flooding problems on agricultural land. Some local anglers fish the lower stretches with prawns for salmon. For fly fishermen, in around the bridge where it crosses the R310 is the easiest access point but all stretches of river will always offter the chance of a few trout. Like I say, these trout are small juveniles, but they are plentiful so debarb your hooks. The river gets all the usual olive and sedge hatches and this can bring exciting sport on small dry flies.

 

 

Lough Conn still producing the goods

Trout on mayfly in July!

It is now July the thirteenth. There is a mixed atlantic airflow pushing up over the country, feeding through showers and fresh winds. Our ‘summer’ appears to have been and gone, now long ago. Hot, humid days and T-shirt conditions coincided with the transition between May and June. Water temperatures soared, and Mayfly hatches seemed to stop abruptly. Trout foraged deep, along the bottom for their food when they would normally feast on an abundance of fly. Now however, with these changeable, cooler conditions that we have now been experiencing over the past month, mayfly have been hatching in a steady trickle every day over the shallows. More importantly for the angler is that there are trout on them. The sport may not be as hectic as in May, but it is still very much worthwhile to pass an afternoon on the lough.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have managed a few ‘hit and run’ afternoon sessions just covering my local haunts. A number of fish have rolled purposefully over my top dropper – an octopus with a muddler head, while the other members of the team have remained relatively untouched, despite frequent change. I have tried sedges, hoppers, dabblers and olives but it appears that the fish are in fact preoccupied with the few mayfly that are still hatching. It seems that the average size of fish from Conn this year is larger than previous years. I have had a considerable number of fish above 13 inches in the last couple of weeks alone.

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Yesterday again I freed up a couple of hours in the afternoon. There was a good northwest wind blowing and occassional showers, interspersed by short spells of sunshine. Perfect for the wetfly. On went the old Johnson engine and I was away, charging confidently into the wind with the intention of at least meeting a few fish. I fished 2 long drifts over what had been a productive area recently but without a pull at the flies. Another showery squall blew over and brought with it a surge in wind speed and wave height. As I rounded the Pontoon end of Glass island and faced head on into the full force of the wave blowing across the lough, I soon realised that conditions were now bordering on dangerous. Having no other weight in the boat but myself, the front is quite liable to catch the wind and was thrown almost violently about by the waves. I had no choice but to seek the shelter of the land and wait for the wind to die down a little.

A mechanical whip of the arm lodged the bob fly firmly

Almost as quickly as it had gotten up, the wind steadily calmed itself, and in fact as I began to drift once again, I was almost becalmed completely. It was quite a perplexing scenario. In no more than an hour, conditions had completely reversed and I was now facing a rippleless wave. In disbelief, I gazed wildly about, it would surely blow up again wouldn’t it? It is always in my moments of wonder and lack of concentration that the familiar, yet strangely distant boil appears, complimented by a smattering of spots at it’s centre. If I had left it another millisecond, it would have been gone but instinct kicked in and a mechanical whip of the arm lodged the bob fly firmly. I have seen 12 inch fish take a fly on countless occasions and this one seemed no different, that is untill it began to run of course. As I was pulled onto the reel and further, it was clear I was into a good fish. By the time I managed to turn is head after it’s third run, I was positively shaking. It was no monster, but by Conn’s standards, a two pounder is a good fish. As I prepared to release it, what wind was left was now but a whisp. Quite an amazing fight for such a fish and even more exciting that it took in the calming waters and not in the wave.

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A fine golden brown trout in the net!

 

As inevitably happens when you hook a fish on the top dropper, the rest of your cast lands into the boat in a big tangle. In the peace of my room, give me a chance and I’d have it as good as new in a jiffy but aboard a boat that is bobbing steadily in what was now an increasing northwesterly, it is much easier to cut and re-tie a new cast. As I finished up with the last knot, the wave was just building nicely. I ran a few more drifts around the island and the nearby shallows and brought up the odd spotted head, though nothing to beat the first, larger fish. There was quite a sporadic hatch of greed drakes ongoing throughout, but it was  obviously enough to have the trout feeding close to the surface.

In my opinion, we had a rather abrupt end to the ‘duffers fortnight’ this year on account of the balmy weather. When the fly will usually hatch in steadily dwindling numbers for the month of June before petering out on most Irish loughs, it seems to have returned to hatch in good numbers over the last 3 weeks on Conn after a lull during the first couple of weeks in June. This is not necessarily an odd occurance and Conn in particular is known for it’s late ‘second’ hatch of green flies, which keeps the sport in good order. If conditions remain suitable, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t continue to hatch for another couple of weeks at least. Above this, we still have the sport that the terrestrial legged flies bring usually in August, as well as a steady hatch of sedges that will be ongoing for the rest of the year.