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I’m not a huge fan of the Mayfly season. I know that might sound strange as there is no doubt that I’m obsessed with trout. Fishing is about peace and quiet for me and most of the well known lough fisheries can be very busy at this time. Having said that, I do enjoy spent gnat fishing as it can bring up the kind of trout that are unlikely to be seen surface feeding for the rest of the year. I much prefer to have a stretch of river to myself to walk and anticipate what the fly and fish are going to do. There is something magical about walking a piece of water on a warm evening and waiting to see how it unfolds. When you move slowly and have patience it is amazing what you can see. You can go through a full range of emotions in a short space of time, from elation to despair.

The McGnat- a good spent pattern.

Ciarán and I have put some time into finding some fishing on a river that we suspected held some big mayfly feeders. We had put in a lot of blank days prospecting with streamers, walking, studying maps and homing in on locations that might hold a good fish. After a number of seasons of scouting without any significant result, it has begun to pay off.

Serious Smiles for a great result

After at least 4kms of walking along the river, Ciarán spotted a fish feeding well. He slid down the bank into position and made an upstream cast. He did it perfectly in a tricky spot and the fly landed to the right of the fish who quickly came to inspect and the fish was on. Ciarán had lost a couple of big fish already on dry fly this year and combined with the leg work he has put in to learn about this river, this was a really significant victory. I was glad to be there to capture the moment and the fish was released after we admired its fantastic condition. 

returning a great trout
The Paraglider-A good Fly for both duns and spent
Nettle Weevils- looks like damascus steel! Photo by Ciarán

Ciarán spent his downtime taking pictures and captured this incredible picture of Nettle Weevils mating. The natural world really is wonderful in Ireland in the month of May.

Regular readers of the blog will recall that one of the better April dry fly trout coughed up his breakfast and I thought at the time that the large beetle he’d ejected was a two banded long horn beetle. I spotted him on one of the many long walks and took a quick pic. It confirmed my initial id, the insect is almost an inch long and demonstrates that river dry flies don’t always need to be small. I’ll expand on this in another piece.

Two banded long horn Beetle

We were so pleased that we had finally turned our deliberations into a fish. 

The spent mayfly were dancing in abundance by now and the evening was shaping up to be perfect. We made the decision to go to another location on the river where we had seen “oncers” and figured they would most likely be rising by now. 

Once we moved we knew we had made a mistake. There were very few mayfly dancing and no sign of any trout. We made a very last minute decision to look at another spot. We knew that the spot had some of the hallmarks for trout to lie in but it was a complete gamble.

On arrival we walked upstream and initially saw very little fly. They weren’t dancing or out on the water. Feeling totally beaten, we began to walk back for home. A good fish rose in a narrow deep section of river. The fish took a few naturals one after the other and I took my time creeping into position. My heart was racing and I took care to make the first landing count. The fly dropped where I’d intended, just to the right of the fish. The fish swam over and sucked in my fly with no hesitation and turned down. My fear turned to delight at having hooked the fish and then I thought about all of the jagged trees and weed below me and fear set in again. The fish put up a great scrap and I put as much pressure as possible on the downstream side to keep the fish above me. A few moments later Ciarán put the net under a beautiful hen trout. 

hen trout on the spent

I can assure you that I was far happier than I look. Both of us were now full of confidence on a river that up until that evening had been particularly difficult.

Carefully Released

I had to lie on my belly to rest the fish and she swam away strongly. We went home full of confidence that we had just scored a fish each on our mystery river.

The following day we were back to the river in the early afternoon. Having looked at the forecast, we expected some light rain in the evening and hoped for an early shot. By late afternoon that forecast had become heavy rain and we began to loose hope with a dark stormy sky approaching. We stood on a bridge willing the spent, the weather and trout to cut us some slack. I had resigned myself to going home early but when the band of rain arrived it was far lighter than expected. The fly came out and began to dance and the rings of a rise appeared on the flat pool we were watching. We went walking again with legs aching at this stage from covering rough ground. My wrist watch congratulated me on doing 20,000 steps for the second day in a row. There were good numbers of fly laying eggs and falling onto the water. I found a flat pool and the owner was home. The fish was cruising and I had a good idea where the top of his beat was. I ran into position this time and made a shot. The fly drifted a foot and a large beak broke the surface. I waited for what seemed like an age for the fish to turn down and my heart began to race when I felt the weight of the fish pull a bend into the rod. After turning the fish from a submerged tree I got the fish in the net and as luck would have it, Ciarán was walking back towards me and took this cool picture.

One of the most perfect trout I've ever seen
Admiration in the net
still taking spent in the rain

The weather only got worse and Ciarán went walking yet again. I eventually caught up with him. I could see from 100 meters away he was in stealth mode and had spotted a fish. I could see him running towards his target and he made one quick and accurate cast. By the time I arrived, he was doing battle with a stunning fat trout that we could see in the clear water. The fish ran him in and out of the weeds. Thankfully he remained attached and I assisted with the net job and a quick photo. We admired the fish underwater before letting him off. 

We walked for a couple more evenings but the fly petered out and we cast to less enthusiastic trout before drawing a line under it. Those couple of magic days won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

So the moral of the story is put the time in, follow your notions and try new places because there are really cool things out there to be found and enjoyed. Now I really really need a flood to get some streamer fish 🙂

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