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Last time I posted, we had really low water before the season started. What an unbelievably wet start to the season it turned out to be! I love a good drop of water for fishing but the Yo-yo floods we have had throughout much of March and April have made it difficult for everyone to get started into the new fishing season.

My first outing on the 1st of March was cut short as I was feeling really ill. I crawled a few kilometers back to the car and that evening realised I had the dreaded virus yet again. I managed a couple of days out trying for a Springer but water and weather conditions were never right. In early April my lovely mum Máire died and it has made for a difficult time. While my mum was still well, she asked to come fishing with me and although the fishing was poor on the day, we had and amazing day out together and she really understood how much fishing and the natural world means to me. 

Fishing with my Mum

Hope springs eternal and Ciaran O’Kelly and I decided to venture further afield from our usual starting points in search of new water, the aim in recent years has been very much to find some spring dry fly fishing for bigger trout. We have been a small bit jealous of the early season dry fly fishing that is available on a couple of rivers in the north of England and Scotland each season that appears to taper off into summer while our dry fly fishing in Ireland is at its peak in summer.

In the world of “information at your finger tips” and instant communication, it would be really easy to just rely on published information and conclude that we don’t have good river dry fly fishing for large trout in spring here in Ireland. I’m happy to say our recent forays prove otherwise. I think this post demonstrates that our little Island has lots to offer if you are prepared go out and look for it. We know there are larger than average trout in our rivers but most of the time we see and expect a fairly small average size. 

A likely spot for the streamer when the water warms up

In the last week or so water levels have begun to stabilise and it gave us a bit of hope. Then the dreaded cold east winds were that next problem and we waited, watched the weather forecasts and hoped for things to change in our favour.

 I booked a day to escape when it looked like the wind would swing to the west but it didn’t happen. Luckily my wife was understanding about the pent-up need to go fishing and I could adjust plans accordingly. When the wind eventually changed direction, the temperature rose and the soft warm day arrived. I was up at the crack to be at the river in plenty of time. In April that best time to be on the river is around midday to early afternoon.

Ciaran prospecting for gold

I arrived at a small limestone river and Ciaran had made it an hour or so before me. Apart from a little too much wind, conditions were really good. I walked up a small ditch off the main river that would dry up in summer and to my amazement there was a nice trout rising vigorously. I lay down on the ground and rolled under an electric fence, slid  down the steep bank into the stream and sunk up to my waist in the soft mucky ditch. We all like to portray fly fishing as a graceful pursuit but it doesn’t always go to plan. It took me a few minutes to get myself out of bother while keeping my eyes locked on the fish. In that time the fish had taken a hawthorn fly, a large dark olive, an iron blue dun, a midge, an alder and what looked like a medium olive. I made the first cast with my favourite panacea Klinkhammer and the fish took it beautifully. A quick picture and the 1.5lbs trout was back in the ditch hopefully a small bit wiser and non the worse for her encounter. That made my day and if nothing else had happened I would have been thrilled.

A beauty from the smallest piece of ditch that I've ever caught a trout in

I moved up to the river and met Ciaran who was sitting watching a couple of rising fish. I got the first go at them and made a mess of each cast due to my spring rustiness and breeze that repeatedly knocked my fly off course. I left those fish and after a short stroll I found another target 200m upstream. The fish was moving around alot searching and I knew there was a good chance. On the third cast my fly landed in the right place and the fish sucked down the klink and gave me a hard time running downstream into the undercut bank and weeds before I got my net under her. I took a quick pic in the net and called Ciaran as this one was worthy of a photo. This lovely hen fish weighed 3lbs in the net and was probably slightly under weight.

3lber in the net
My favourite Klinkhammer. The panacea Klinkhammer inspired by a fly in Martin Cairncross and John Dawsons book

Ciaran had kindly left a rising fish to take pictures and we agreed that unless I got a bigger one I wouldn’t disturb him.

Great to have a good photographer to capture this one

The fish went back without a bother and Ciaran told me he had released a nice fish in order to come and take a picture for me. I owe him one. Ciaran then wrapped up the day with a beautiful 2lber. After that the fish had stopped rising and I went home more than happy with my thoughts of an April 3lbs trout on the dry fly. 

Ciaran and 2lbs beauty

The following morning the weather was even better than the previous day and just by chance my son had a football match about 15 minutes from the river. I landed on the river after the match and walked up for some time before I spotted a fish feeding well and ducked into position for a cast. I was slightly under prepared and had no floatant with me but the fish didn’t mind and on my first cast I had yet another big fish in the net on the by this stage on the well chewed Klinkhammer. This one in perfect condition.

How cool is the reflection of the pectoral fin?
Fat as a barrel

I grabbed a couple of quick pictures and sent her on her way. Could this day get any better? Yep it could…A short stroll and I found a fish feeding really well. I popped my fly over it and all hell broke loose!

Look at the haloed spots on the gill plate
He hung over the hoop of my big McLean net
I'd say he will have another 1lb on him later in the season

After a good row, there he was in the net. A big wild Irish spring trout that I will not forget in a hurry. The unknown and what’s around the next bend of the river makes fly fishing so much fun. I hope this post will encourage others to get out and look at some new water. It’s not all doom and gloom. We have a serious resource that is relatively untapped. I plan to spend the mayfly season searching out some more new rivers to try, if conditions will allow. We will also have a new range of really cool dry flies available by mid summer, including the exceptional little klink above.

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