Archive for March, 2011

Wild Trout Rambles in Co. Wicklow.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

There is nothing better than to find a new stream, lake, or section of a familiar river that you have never visited and unlock its secrets. Co Wicklow has an abundance of little fished waters ready to surprise the intrepid fly fisher who is prepared to don the chesties, carry the few bits of necessary tackle, and prospect. Hill Loughs and the upper reaches of river catchments such as the Liffey, Avoca, and Slaney come to mind defined by images of  moss covered rocks, sandy gravelly bottoms, deep tea coloured pools, rocky cascades, sedge banks, moorland, and forestry.

Prospecting a Co. Wicklow stream.

A trip to a new stream proved very interesting in terms of a few fish landed and the discovery of fresh water pearl mussels, an indicator of pristine water quality. Parking up at a bridge around 10.30am, I proceeded to walk the bank downstream and fish likely runs. Although March the river was running clear and at summer levels, the water was cold and with a stiff north east breeze there was no fly life. Putting up a team of spiders with a leaded hares ear on the point I proceeded to fish a gut below a small island where two channels met. Running into a large pool there was sure to be trout along the seams.

Kill Devil Spider and Partridge and Orange.

Fishing downstream with a long line and keeping low, as the flies swept around I set the hook into a spirited 30cm trout. A good start which was quickly followed by a slightly smaller colleague, both nicely spotted they scooted away upstream on release. Casting along another couple of runs which bordered a water meadow, I encountered five more fish of which two in the 25 -30cm bracket were landed. With a midday sun now heating newly blossoming gorse so filling the air with a coconut scent, I walked back to the car and drove half a mile upstream.

Freshwater Pearl Mussel, Co. Wicklow.

Here the channel meandered through fields hard won from the surrounding moorland, looking down into the valley I knew that come late spring with a fresh running this section would come into its own. Long flats, riffles, and tumbling cascades there had to be fish here. Slipping in above a riffle I looked down to see an oval shape resting on the sand. A pearl mussel at least six inches long, its foot slowly retreating into the shell upon my touch. Probably 50+ years old and a positive indicator of water quality, a real find.

Upland trout stream, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Spotting a few fish but no takers I decided to end the session early. In a few weeks time when there are leaves on the trees and some insects are moving, this stream will come alive for certain. With a mile of varying water to choose from a fly fisher could spend a day here and not see it going. Likewise the evening fishing could be very good too. Definitely worth another visit.

Exploring the Derreen.

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The River Derreen flows off the Wicklow Mountains in a south westerly direction, passing close to Hacketstown and Tullow, Co. Carlow before it joins the Slaney upstream of Aghade bridge. Running through tillage and pastureland in its lower reaches, the Derreen with its sandy, gravelly bottom is a prime salmon spawning tributary of the Slaney. One April morning above Rathglass bridge, with the river clearing after a flood I connected with a fresh run fish, only to be broken a short while later. I can still hear the slap of its broad tail and the hiss of line as 10.lbs of salmo salar took off down stream.

Downstream wet fly on the River Derreen, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

Today with a big high pressure sitting over Ireland creating clear blue skies, but still cold due to a north east breeze, I drove across country past Shillelagh and Clonegal to park up beside the old mill at Aghade bridge. Heading upstream I cast a team of spiders into various runs, eventually crossing the Slaney above a weir to fish the left hand bank due to the strong breeze in my face.

River Derreen, Co. Carlow, Ireland, trout tempted by a partridge and orange.

An odd fish showed along with a few parr. Reaching the Derreen confluence I proceeded to fish upstream for about three hundred metres. Again stepped weirs are in evidence, a legacy of the great salmon runs which hopefully will pick up in the future. Another trout and that was that. The water is still cold and fly life was minimal, give it a couple of weeks and it will be perfect for fishing dry.

Slaney Brownies.

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

The Slaney below Tullow is a beautiful river to fish. Flowing through rich pastureland and narrow valleys, flanked by the Wicklow mountains to the north and the Blackstairs mountains with Mount Leinster standing sentinel to the south. Aghade bridge, Clonegal and the Derry river, Kildavin, Bunclody, Ballycarney, Scarawalsh and the River Bann, all stretches synonymous with spring salmon, they equally hold a stock of brown trout. Maybe small, averaging half a pound, but good sport on a light rod. I tend to fish the seams and guts below the salmon weirs common to the river, these being artificially created to step the river so producing holding pools and lies.

The River Slaney below Kildavin bridge.

Opening on a catch and release basis for salmon and sea trout from the 11th May the warm spell of weather signaled that a few brownies might be stirring. It was good to see white thorn and cherry blossom as I drove the narrow lanes towards Bunclody. On stepping out of the car, although the sun was splitting the stones there was still a chill in the air carried by a north east breeze. Putting up a five weight rod and a team of spiders I proceeded to fish various runs from Kildavin upstream towards Aghade.

Small River Slaney Brownie tempted by a Partridge and Orange.

Sport was steady with slashing rises and pulls being the order of the day. A good trout had a go in a run below Kilcavan Bridge giving a good tug in tandem with a big splash,  other than that the fish averaged 6.oz. Driving back along the Derry I promised to cast a line over the stretch upstream of Clonegal, maybe tomorrow?

St Patricks Day on the Avonmore

Friday, March 18th, 2011

I tend to usually start trout fishing after it warms up in April, however given the day that was in it I decided to buck the trend. Cold but sunny with a steady breeze from the north west, I hit the Avonmore a few miles above Clara Vale and worked my way down stream. The height, flow, and colour  of water were perfect but the temperature was way down, which was very apparent when wading.

River Avonmore, Co. Wicklow, on St Patricks Day 2011.

Fly life was limited to a few smuts and there was certainly no fish showing. Working a cast consisting of a leaded hares ear on the point coupled with two spider patterns, a killdevil and a partridge and orange, I worked the runs. A couple of tentative pulls and a splashy rise indicated life after winter, however the first hour remained fishless. Around midday it warmed up a bit, and fishing down a long run towards the tail I connected with three small trout in three casts. Perfectly spotted but lean after the winter, they will not take long to fatten up.

A spring day on the Avonmore, Co. Wicklow.

I met a couple of anglers through the day who related similar tales of how the fishing was going. One such was Ken Gray a regular on the river, Ken had tempted a few small fish on a Black Pennell. Changing to a floating set up for the afternoon as an experiment I blanked. No matter, the sunk flies did the business before lunch which is what I would have expected. More of the same next time out.

Avonmore Beauties

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Avonmore River, Co. Wicklow is noted for its wild brown trout fishing. In its upper reaches it is not an easy river to fish being untamed, characterised by rapids, rocky deep pools and overgrown banks. For the trout angler who perseveres though the rewards can be quite surprising as those dark tea coloured pools are home to some serious fish. Inaccessibility coupled with natural selection allows special fish to buck the trend and become truly giant. Adjusting their diet to feed on minnow and smaller trout they put on the pounds.

A 6.oz wild brown trout from the Avonmore River, caught by Christopher Stacey around 1993.

Christopher Stacey, who along with his wife Teresa runs Footfalls Walking Holidays likes to fish, we established this when we first met a couple of weeks ago. Discussing the Avonmore we reminisced about our experiences on the river. “I got a beauty out of it one evening in the early 1990′s”, Christopher told me. “Six pound six ounces, I have it mounted at home in the hall”. Well that was that I had to see this fish, so arrangements were made and I popped over to Trooperstown, a town land high up above Laragh.

There it was, easily two foot long and judging by the fins and overall proportions of head to body in excellent condition when caught. Christopher related the story of its capture. Fishing a particular deep, wide, pool with drop minnow just as it was getting dark he got an immediate run. On striking the fish proceeded to stay deep and bore up and down the pool always trying to gain the shelter of a sunken tree to his left. Eventually after fifteen heart stopping moments the great trout was on the bank, a fish of a lifetime preserved for posterity.

Two and a half pounds of Avonmore River, Co. Wicklow, wild trout.

Incredibly above the monster trout was another mounted fish, smaller but equally special this trout weighed 8.oz. Caught by Christopher’s son Phillip from the same pool on worm, again in the 1990′s, what a double. Yes there have been big fish extracted over the years from the Avonmore, but they are few and far between. For one family to get two of them is really special, like winning the lotto. “Let’s take a shot of the fish down by where your son caught it”, I said, and we did. With the trout season opening today I know what I will be doing tomorrow weather permitting. A marker has been set for the coming season. Belated congratulations to Christopher and Phillip on those superb fish.

Click: Fishing Information on the Avonmore and Aughrim Rivers.

Cheshire Home Hunt, Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

The Shillelagh and District Hunt held the 50th annual Cheshire Home Hunt last Saturday. The final meet of the season and one which is always looked forward too, staff and residents of the Ardeen Cheshire Home in Shillelagh, Co Wicklow, enjoyed the buzz and spectacle as the hunt members gathered before setting out. Celebratory stirrup cups were handed around, banter was exchanged, and a group photograph was taken. Then to the sound of a hunting horn and the baying of hounds the large contingent literally headed for the hills.

Ready for the off, Shillelagh and District Hunt members gather outside the Ardeen Cheshire Home.

A real family day out, there was as much interest from those not taking part as those in the saddle. Even the damp weather didn’t put the followers off as they headed to their favourite vantage points above Shillelagh village.

Andy and Tara Kinsella enjoy the annual Cheshire Home Hunt.

Me, I headed to a place called, “The Birney”, I think that is the way you spell it, out the Parkbridge Road and turn right at the first crossroads, then on up the hill to where the lane bisects a forestry. Damp but not cold, it was not long before I heard the hunting horn and the sound of galloping hooves carried by the mist.

Huntsman David Nolan clears a forestry barrier above Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

In a flash of reds, blacks, and browns, snorting, steaming, horses, ponies and hounds, shod hooves ringing on tarmac, quips, laughs, and smiles they were gone, off into the forest. What I like about the Shillelagh’s is the sense of community, encompassed in the young riders who are encouraged to take part. They start them young in these parts, and there is no shortage of enthusiasm either, epitomised by father and son team Jasper and Jed Kelly.

Community spirit epitomised by the Shillelagh Hunt, Co. Wicklow.

I enjoyed following the hunt this year. It acts as a focal point for social interaction, gets people out in the air, and grounds one to nature and conservation of the rural landscape and way of life. I even get up on a horse myself now, but whisper it, “you won’t catch me going hunting”, I value my legs and arms too much. An armchair horseman, that’s me.

Huntsman David Nolan leading the hounds, Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow.

River Slaney Salmon and Sea Trout Seminar

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

The Slaney River Trust held a seminar on Saturday 5th March 2011 to discuss various aspects of this great spring salmon and sea trout fishery, with respect to its current health and future management. Notable speakers included Dr.Paul Johnston, a fisheries consultant who has produced a comprehensive report on the conservation and recovery of the River Slaney salmon fishery, and Dr. Willie Roche, a senior fisheries scientist with Inland Fisheries Ireland.

Celtic Sea Trout Project Logo.

Over a very informative day the life cycle of both salmon and sea trout were explained in context with the River Slaney based on current data. What became very clear are the large holes that need to be filled before we come up with a true understanding of what is happening on the ground, and the protracted timeline involved before any pertinent information unveiled is acted upon. That said, a presentation by Dr. Willie Roche on the Celtic Sea Trout Project ,a multi agency partnership between Ireland and Wales, afforded great hope for the future of this much loved but poorly understood species.

A colony of seals off the Raven Point, Wexford harbour mouth, Ireland.

A topic which exposed a key flaw in the multi agency approach to environmental and natural resource management was predator control. Misinformation abounds and wagons are circled relative to the various vested interests,  seals and cormorants receiving particular attention, most of which was negative. Yes 210 seals minimum live on the Raven Point at the mouth of Wexford harbour, I took the ariel photo’s and have counted them. Yes, an individual seal eats between 5 – 10.kgs of fish per day which means that the Raven colony consumes up to two tonne of food per day. Is this having an effect on migratory fish stocks? We do not know, but it is very likely.

Wexford Harbour, Ireland, from the air.

Equally cormorants pose a problem in particular as they predate on smolts (juvenile salmon and sea trout) heading out to sea. In both cases the seals and cormorants are innocent victims to man’s exploitation of the marine environment. Over fishing within the Irish sea where stocks are critically low, certainly upwards of an 80% reduction in white fish such as cod, has forced seals and cormorants to change their feeding habits. Catch returns and observations of salmon from rivers north and south of the Slaney show signs of improvement since the drift nets were bought out in 2006, however the Slaney has stuttered, why? It’s hard not to consider that predation is a factor. Only a full ecosystem approach based on marine conservation will provide the answers and radically change the present status quo, unfortunately under present EU legislation and work practices I cannot see that happening.