Dry Fly Fishing the River Liffey, Lessons from Liam

The River Liffey is a prolific trout fishery its source high up in the Wicklow Mountains above Sally Gap, it flows down youthful past the Coronation Forest and Manor Kilbride whence it meets the vast expanse of Blessington Reservoir, before re-emerging as a young adult and entering the rich agricultural plains of Kildare, where she sweeps in a great arc through villages and towns such as Ballymore Eustace, Kilcullen, Newbridge, and Clane, then in her maturity pushes on for suburbia, Dublin city, and the sea. Providing a wealth of fly fishing opportunities from rushing mountain stream to glassy flats, north country spiders to a delicately placed dry black gnat, Co. Kildare holds the cream and June is a great month to taste it.

Liam Stenson lives for fly fishing and his home patch is the river Liffey, however his passion takes him to various waters around the country from the River Suir to the great western lakes and numerous fisheries in between. This love of fly fishing is documented in a fantastic website www.irishflyfisher.ie, which Liam updates regularly. June bank holiday Monday was shaping up to be a belter of a day and with the river calling I gave Liam a quick tinkle and we arranged to meet around eleven. On arrival the Liffey looked in superb condition running clear with that peaty tinge, the bank side vegetation now in full summer bloom. The sun shone down from a blue sky and although a light warm north westerly breeze kept temperatures down a notch, it was still shirt sleeve weather.

Liam Stenson, Irish Fly Fisher, on the River Liffey, Co. Kildare.

On the water clouds of black gnat danced and resident trout were making hay, not everywhere but certainly in pockets right along the stretch that we intended to fish. Alongside the gnats were various olives and an occasional mayfly, but it was the little black fellas that were to provide the key to a wonderful afternoons fishing or should I say fishing lesson. They say that opportunity comes from adversity, and when you leave your dry fly fishing clobber behind when making a trip to the Liffey you are most definitely on the back foot. However being in the company of not only a top notch fly angler but a gentleman to boot, I not only got to cast a fly or two but came away a wiser angler courtesy of a true craftsman.

Liam Stenson playing a lively River Liffey brownie which came to a dry black gnat.

Using flies of his own creation Liam worked the runs and flats predominantly with a polystyrene foam based black gnat design. Casting upstream with an eight foot four weight set up, using a relatively short line and a longish leader to a two pound tippet, Liam controlled the fly beautifully as it drifted back towards him regularly connecting with hard fighting black and red spotted brownies in the 6 – 8 ounce bracket. They weren’t giving themselves up and being lightening fast many got one up on Mr. Irish Fly Fisher himself, but even so at days end Liam had a tally of eleven up to well over a pound in weight.

A beautifully spotted River Liffey brownie.

Having fished wets with not much success in the faster runs and contented myself with taking photos and learning, in the mid afternoon Liam set me up with a light leader and a black gnat which enabled me to fish the back end of the hatch whereupon I tempted two trout and rose another before everything went quite. Walking back to the cars we reflected on what a great fishery the Liffey is and also the wonderful afternoon we shared. A trout rose close to the bank and we marked its spot, next time Mr trout as dinner calls and I’ve a long drive home, thank you Liam again for a great day……

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