By Stevie Munn – Guideline Power Team Ireland
Is the fly up? Yes, the fly is up! This is the yearly call, that in Ireland brings almost every lough angler to arms. For the trout angler and perhaps the trout the mayfly is undoubtedly the high point of the game fishing season. This aquatic insect that has been the name of so many pubs, restaurants and hotels, and has also been the topic of legions of books and poems and is probably the one thing that stirs the lough trout angler into heading for, or at least wishing they were heading for one of Irelands great limestone loughs. Loughs like Corrib, Mask, Conn, Sheelin, Derg, Erne and Melvin to name just a few, Ireland is blessed with many wild loughs. These are big places some are massive which is also part of the splendor, when you drift one of these magical vast sheets of water.
I love all fly fishing and have always fished, and I have been lucky to fish and worked in fly fishing in many places in the world. I enjoy rivers fishing for trout, salmon, grayling, seatrout in fact if its wild I love fishing for it, and they all come with their own challenges. But I find Lough fishing at times the most challenging of all fly fishing , for anyone that has not witnessed a days wet fly fishing on a big lough in a wave it is hard to understand what it takes , as its constantly casting and working your flies and then recasting while stripping back the line at speed, 1000s of casts can be made in a day , it is extremely demanding fishing, not only on your body but on your equipment and it at times can be hard, if the conditions are not good and the fish are not looking up. This said when you hit it right with wild trout feeding on duns in a wave it can be amazing and extremely exciting, watching for fish feeding in a wave and targeting them can be superb and if your lucky to put a few great wild Irish brown trout in the boat , it can be well worth the effort as these fish are always a bit special.
When wet fly fishing from a drifting boat, most anglers would fish a rod normally 10’ to 11’ foot for a 6 line. This year I tried a 10’6” #6 prototype LPXe which proved excellent, one to look out for when it joins the range. Lines I like my flies fishing just subsurface when I am pulling flies and I have found over the years, sink tip lines and intermediates normally hook more fish than full floaters when fishing wets , though you may raise more on a floating line, but I find you will hook more on a sink tip . I use a Guideline 4 Cast Sink Tip line 1 or 3. I have used these lines a lot over the last few years, even before I joined GL, I also find it a great line on my rivers when fishing for Lough Run Trout brown trout, very similar to seatrout fishing , but for me it excels as a wet fly line for pulling flies on the loughs , on a fast retrieve you can search the top layers of the water and on a long leader and long rod you can still make your top dropper fly dance on the waves.
My leader is normally 17 to 20 feet long with a point fly and two droppers, evenly spaced, so a 3-fly cast, but I know traditionally some anglers that do fish 4 flies and others that fish two perhaps to get less tangles, but 3 patterns is the most common. I had a great day this year in my friends Gerry Teggarts boat on Sheelin pulling wets in a big wave, when we found trout smashing into the greens, Gerry had 4 fine trout and I had 3 the biggest being a wonderful fish of 5lb, but we also had 3 and 4lb fish, it was frantic and fantastic all at the same time, that’s a great way to sum up traditional wet fly fishing when it’s on . Hopefully we will have many more days before the season is over. Some of you reading this may think that’s not many trout, but be assured on these loughs if you put a couple of good fish into the boat it’s a good day, this sort of fishing it not about numbers , though we do have some red letter days, but remember our quarry is a wild animal that we don’t fool every day and that’s why we do it, it would become boring for a hunter if it was too easy.
The finest of the fishing on the loughs and for me the most enjoyable, is fishing the dry mayfly, it’s wonderful if conditions are right, with a light warm breeze and a cloudy sky, it can be simply glorious. This can be fishing the greens, as we in Ireland call the freshly hatched mayfly dun, during the day or fishing the spent spinner or spent gnat as we call it, normally into the evening, though spent fishing can happen at any time of the day. Most trout anglers consider this the cream of our fishing and something we look forward to every year. There is nothing better than finding fish feeding on spent as this can bring some of the biggest trout up to the surface. This fishing requires patience and stealth and can be the most exciting fishing of your life if you hit it right. There is nothing better watching big wild trout sucking down fly in a slick, on a lough as it comes feeding towards your fly. If your lucky it sucks down yours and all hell breaks loose as you set the hook with a well-timed lift. For this sort of fishing on the loughs I like a rod that casts a 5 or 6 line and is 9’6 to 10’. This year I found the new NT8 Fario 9’9” #6 a lovely rod for the dries on the lough. Sweet casting tool and light and accurate matched with a Evolve Floating Fly Line with a long leader and two dry flies or one in you prefer.
To me there is something truly magical about the mayfly, the freshly hatched dun has an almost fairy like quality, flitting and dancing on the waves it reminds me of Tinkerbelle from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, or watching the spinners doing their mating dance, above an island on a wild lough, sometimes there is so many it’s, like smoke rising from the trees, it is a truly fantastic and fascinating time. The mayfly is just loved by angler and trout alike, but the name mayfly, can be very misleading as the mayfly season can on some Irish loughs begin as early as the middle of April, but normally middle of May into the first or second week of June is the time, although I have seen and heard of hatches happening as late as September, so it’s always a good idea to have a few mayfly patterns with you no matter what time of year you go afloat, you just never know you might come across an unsuspected hatch with trout feeding on them.
There are a few things you should remember while fishing in Ireland on her wild loughs. Irish loughs can be very big and normally are very rocky; they can be hazardous places when swept by the strong winds. A boatman/guide is the best guarantor of safety, but even so each angler in a boat should always wear a lifejacket. Anglers who go afloat without the aid of a boatman/guide should only do so with great care after taking local advice.
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