The River Slaney rises on the slopes of Lugnaquilla, the highest mountain in County Wicklow, flows westward down through the saucer shaped Glen of Imaal before breaking out and heading south to eventually meet the tide at Wexford harbour. Primarily a salmon river, the headwaters down to Aghade bridge below Tullow can produce some quality wild brown trout fishing. Although not big running six to eight ounces, fish to over a pound+ show up from time to time.
The Glen of Imaal although close to Dublin is a place apart. Home to 1798 rebel hero Michael Dwyer, the cottage where he outwitted the redcoats still stands today, the Glen is also of great importance to the military, a large section of moorland being utilised as a firing range and training area. Flat and wide the central area is quite fertile, with the Slaney meandering over a sandy soil past villages with names like Seskin, Knockanarrigan, and Davidstown. Enclosed by willow, mountain ash, and sycamore along certain sections there are enough open areas to make fly fishing interesting.
Driving past the shop at Knockanarrigan I took a right turn into a lane about a mile past the village. Continuing on for a few hundred meters eventually the youthful Slaney came into view as it flowed under a hump backed bridge. Putting up a team of spider patterns to include a kill devil on the point, a partridge and orange on the middle dropper, and a greenwells spider on the top dropper, I hopped over a dry stone wall and headed up stream. The sun was shining and apart from an occasional south westerly breeze the air was still.
Fishing the tale of a run which flowed into a wide pool dominated by a large willow, small trout and parr came to the flies. Increasing the line and staying low I let the team sweep around into the shade under the low branches, a solid take gave hint of a larger fish. Played carefully due to the strong current a beautifully spotted brownie, taken on the kill devil, was soon on the bank. Continuing downstream towards the bridge other than parr no more fish showed.
Although peat tinged the water was crystal clear with the gravel bottom clearly visible. Salmon spawn here in the winter high up in the Wicklow mountains, having swam upstream easily eighty miles from the sea. Working my way down below the bridge a long straight run ends in a dog leg left, undercutting the bank so creating a back eddy. Working the flies along the seam a flash/splash take results in a spirited fight. Moving on I fish where two channels divided by a gravel bar meet. With a long line out the surface bulges simultaneous with the pull. I strike, feel the fish and see the broad tail break the surface as it turns, then nothing. The best fish of the day, I cover the lie for five minutes to no avail. Another time.
And so the day progressed, a spot of lunch and a pint of stout in a local pub, then out again for a few more casts. As the afternoon wore on the air got warm and still, small trout rose to the flies but nothing more substantial. However there is no doubt that most pools hold a good fish as angling pressure is light. Hidden away, the River Slaney as it flows through the Glen of Imaal is a little gem. For the angler who likes to search out new wild waters this is the place, combining moor and farmland and totally under fished. In the shadow of Wicklow’s highest mountain, the upper Slaney brownies offer great sport in a very picturesque location. Practice catch and release.