For those of you who wish to come flyfishing in West Ireland, in West Cork, Connemara and Mayo counties, here are pieces of advice I hope will be of use for a successful fishing holiday.
Stout or ale?
Just as while in a pub you’ll have the choice between a stout (Guinness…) or and ale (Hop 13…), you’ll be able to choose between “stout” granitic river or “ale” limestone river. It will make quite the difference in the way you flyfish in Ireland.
Granitic “stout” rivers
Fishing in rivers and lakes in peat bogs offer many interesting aspects. Fish density is often quite high, due to the good state of mating grounds and lesser predation of other species, and fish activity is more regular.
Wind is playing an essential role, especially on lakes, for it bring oxygen (through the waves) ans starts off the food chain. A windless day often makes for tough fishing. Food brought by way of the wind reprensents a great deal of food, and invertebrates being scarce, trouts are often nose up in the air.
Those rivers are called “spate rivers” around here, for flash floods change their levels quite often depending on the rain, the peat bogs working as a sponge. Whenever that sponge is full, excess water will raise the river’s level. It is quite often that only a couple of hours after such a rise, the river will have a suitable level for fishing again.
For flyfishing purposes, you will thus encounter plenty of fish, quite active and prone to come up, so you should forget those heavy nymphs and streamers, and choose wet or dry flies. 9 to 10 feet rods with a 6 silk line with a 3 to 4 meters trace-line will get you more results than an Aglia nº2.
That is my favorite combination, whether you’re a beginner or an experiences flyfisherman.
You will be surprised to see that trouts quite often reach 40+ cm in such conditions. But let us be honest, if you are looking for 50+ or 1 m fish, book a holiday in the Dranses de Morzine area, or what’s left or Jura’s rivers in France, or head to Iceland !
Limestone “ale” rivers
Rivers and lakes of that category are often much more rich than their “stout” counterpart, for water levels are more stable, and plant and fish species more numerous, which allow fishes to grow faster.
This ecosystem is more complex, and weather condition slight variations can have a profoung effect, especially on invertebrates.
This makes things a little complicated for flyfishermen, for the abundance of food makes substantial peaks of activity of fishes, that can feed in any layer of water (bottom, midwater or surface).
If you want to make a successful session, be prepared to adapt with different techniques (dry, wet flies, nymphs…)
On the material side, you have to make a distinction between boat fishing on the great lakes (Corrib, Mask, Carra, Sheelin, Conn…) and river fishing.
Flyfishing from a boat is an Irish specialty, borrowed form the English. You have to know how to navigate huge and sometimes dangerous lakes while flyfishing from the boat’s bench, and not everyone will enjoy this. But after catching on good days 2 or 3 40+ to 60 cm fishes, you can only be pleased.
This type of fishing is done well with 9 to 11 feet rods with 7 silk lines.
A great specialist of this type of fishing is Patrick Molloy. He knows the Lough Corrib and Mask like the back of his hand, and spends 160 days a year on the water, need we say more ?
Find his website here: http://www.pmacfishing.com/
In a nutshell
In Ireland, if you fish rivers with a pH value <7, like in peat bogs and granitic areas, a surface fishing will yield the best results. Invertebrates being scarce makes for a more opportunistic fish that will look up for feeding. Most of the trut will be of similar size, with a couple of individuals being bigger.
Note that two peat bog lakes very close to each other might offer drastically different fish populations. I know of two mountain lakes separated by 150 meters where in the one lake you will catch 15 to 25 cm trouts one after the other, while in the second one you will catch 2 or 3 trouts, but 35 to 45 cm individuals.
Flyfishing in limestone rivers with a pH value >7 will depend on a lot of factors. Food isn’t a problem for trout, making their activity harder to interpret for the fisherman.
I will not go into details on the choice of flies, and eternal and controversial subject. Only piece of advice I will give is to choose black flies on peat bog lakes, or very dark grey if black doesn’t yield results. The rest is theory, and only practice makes perfect. Like Jean Gabin used to say : “I only know one never knows”.
Ireland is a great destination for flyfishermen with a variety of great fishing spots in different counties. A variety of rivers, lakes and streams to cast your flies is a must for any fishing trip, for what is the point of travelling thousands of miles not to be ables to fish beacause of weather conditions ?
Ireland offers a 100% wild fishing experience as well, without released fishes.
For other technical or cultural information on flyfishing in Ireland, I recommend the reading of the http://upstreampeche.com/ blog (French)
Trout fishing regulation in Ireland
Fishing rights are usually owned by landowners, but clubs and associations exists as well, so find out beforehand. Here is the official website of Irish fisheries: https://www.fishinginireland.info/
Watch out for rivers that are classified under the “Migratory fish” rivers and require a specific fishing licence and fishing rights.
In the “Fishing” section of this website, you will find a list of fishing stores that can help you with this.
On great lakes, minimum size is 33 cm for 4 fishes a day, but I strongly invite you to photograph your catch before releasing it. You can of course keep one or two fishes to enjoy back at the cottage. With either a stout or an ale, or a mix of both !
More information for a day fishing or a holiday to be found here