Small River, Big Trout.
May has been a difficult month this year here in Ireland with weather conditions largely not suiting streamer fishing or dry fly fishing. We have had very little rain this spring and a lot of rivers are low and need fresh water. Anglers as a whole have put significant effort into mayfly fishing, hoping and praying for the textbook conditions needed to help meet the trout of their dreams. The month has generally been very bright with little cloud cover and mostly north and easterly winds have prevailed. Many at this point are disappointed. Each year brings something different and wild trout fishing is heavily dependent on conditions.
Myself and my friend Ciaran O’Kelly had been exploring a small river recently, just to do something different and we found a clear fast flowing little river that we felt had the potential to produce some good fishing. I had briefly prospected with a large size 10 dry fly and met some better than average trout. Like most rivers in Ireland this one has suffered much abuse. It has been drained as a result of government facilitated dredging with large excavating machines to prevent farm land from being flooded. We had previously ignored this river because of this and figured that it was probably beyond repair. However, when we looked at it in low clear water we saw good numbers of trout and decent fly life.
Yesterday was the beginning of the June bank holiday weekend and I had to get out for some fishing regardless of conditions and just enjoy an evening on the river in peace. Checking the weather it looked like east winds and bright sky were in order once again. I left Dublin in the late afternoon, expecting that it might take a little longer to make what would ordinarily be a 50 minute journey to this little river I planned to try. After an hour in the car I was still on the M50! The combination of the bank holiday weekend traffic and a bad accident on the motorway had made it impossible to move. I’m sure most people would consider me certifiably nuts, but I had resigned myself to the fact that if I turned around at any point for home, I would still have been trapped by the traffic. I switched on fishing podcast after fishing podcast and belly laughed away to myself in the car listening to Ceri Jones and Colin Folan who had recorded themselves having lunch on an Island on Lough Corrib. Eventually arrived at my little river 3 hours after setting out! I got out of the car and took a deep breath, the river was chuckling and the wood pigeons in the trees were calling, I immediately relaxed and went for the necessary look off the bridge. The river was low, clear and ruffled by the breeze, far from ideal for an evenings dry fly fishing but I was happy to be out and thought that I would just potter about slowly and enjoy the evening.
reverse deer and cdc nymph Experiment
I walked up the meandering stream with my polaroids on hoping to spot some fish but the glare of the bright sun made it difficult. After an hour I approached a faster section of water and decided to do a little prospecting purely to pass the time until the sun dropped a little and the light conditions became more favourable.
Recently, some of my pals in the Game Angling Instructors Association had been discussing and exchanging photos of a reversed style nymph and I gave a couple a go myself to put some ideas across using ostrich herl, cdc dubbing and deer hair.
I put on a klinkhammer with my latest effort, a deer hair and cdc nymph, hanging off the bend. I slid under an electric fence and into the river. I would very rarely approach fishing like this, preferring to walk and stalk rising fish but was happy to get into a rhythm of covering the water with klink, dink and repeat, enjoying watching the fly line roll out and making some mends to counter the converging currents. There were a couple of yellow mays coming down but the river felt a bit sleepy and I was only half expecting a take. After about 10 minutes of this, I saw a fish rise enthusiastically about 100m meters ahead. His whole body came out of the water but it was clear that he had taken a fly off the surface. It’s unusual to see trout behave like that in such conditions and I thought to myself “that looks a nice pounder, I’ll remove the klink n’ dink and put on a smaller dry and move up to cover him”
Yellow May Dun
I chose my favourite klinkhammer which is based around a pattern called the Panacea which I found many years ago in Martin Cairncross and John Dawson’s excellent book “Trout Fly Fishing: An Expert Approach” An equal mix of black, olive and fiery brown seals fur gives the most beautiful body. I don’t worry at all about colour in dry flies but it is a fly I would not be without. Incidentally this fly has taken many large trout over the years including a 13lbs wild brown for Ciaran in Iceland.
The Panacea Klinkhammer
I took a visual reference from a stone on the bank that was adjacent to where the fish had risen. I moved in tight to the bank so that I was only ankle deep and moved slowly up into position. I waited but the fish didn’t rise again. My enthusiasm waned a little but I decided to cast as the surface was broken by two converging currents and I could probably put in a couple of prospecting casts without being detected. It was the fourth cast when a giant beak came slowly out of the water with the fish facing downstream towards me. i could see the fly in his mouth as he turned down. I knew immediately it was no ordinary sized fish. I waited and hit him sharply and the couple of feet of line below my trigger finger were pulled tight to the reel in a split second. The fish lit up the reel and ran for the nearest weed bed. I ran across the river after him and regained a length of slimey heavy washing line of greenery. I thought to myself that it wasn’t looking great for landing this fish as the river was covered in a bed of thick weed and I had 4lb tippet and a size 16 klinkhammer attached to this big resident who would know every place to find freedom. The fish ripped line off my reel and headed down stream. I knew if that continued it would end in favour of the fish so I ran as fast as I could downstream and the fish changed tack and ran back up. I stood in the middle of the river to discourage him from trying that again and he ran into the fast water of the head of the pool. I gained control at this point and got the net ready. He ran across a shallow bar and I put a huge amount of pressure on him to get him within range.
small bamboo net with big net bag..did the job but not great!
Earlier in the day I had taken a small broken bamboo scoop net and dismantled it and put a net bag from a boat net on it as I had determined that my regular big mclean seatrout net was too much for this little river!
In the Net!
The fish tired and I managed to scoop it tail first into my new stupidly narrow long net. I let out a victory roar and looked down at the amazing creature in the bottom of the net. Huge pectoral fins, a giant adipose fin and the most beautiful rich orange colouring with blue and green iridescent gill covers. I grabbed a few pictures and sent him on his way.
Worthy of a Quick Picture
As I sit here writing this the following evening I am still in disbelief. We are so lucky to have fish in our rivers like this and we really need to take better care of them. Apart from the wonderful creatures that live in them, they ultimately provide us with our lifeline.