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16 Jul 2011

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 1

I returned last week from a trip to the Bandon, Ilen and Argideen in Co. Cork with James Sadler. We were lucky enough to catch sea-trout on all three rivers, and enjoyed a wonderful week-long trip full of incident. And rain. What follows is a short photographic tour of those adventures. We caught nothing big - the best of our sea-trout was a Bandon fish of around one-and-three-quarter pounds - but we had some good evenings and nights, and while in that lovely region of Ireland, also caught rainbow trout and bass for good measure.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 2

The Bandon has a good stock of sea-trout. The lower reaches seem perhaps the best for those wishing to catch these nomads, and the stretches of water below Bandon weir (much of it controlled by Bandon AA) or below Inishannon Bridge (free to holders of a national salmon licence) can yield good catches. We fished a couple of late nights, catching fish both below Inishannon Bridge and (pictured) below Bandon. The image is of a finnock James took around midnight; I caught and returned a slightly heftier sea-trout soon afterwards on what was a night teeming with rain.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 3

The Bandon also has a prolific stock of brown trout running to well over the pound. They're readily caught on dry flies in the evening, and I noticed some phenomenal hatches of both blue-winged olives and various sedges. Here's James casting a dry-fly upstream of Bandon weir.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 4

The River Ilen, near Skibbereen, has a national reputation as a salmon river, but also has a good local reputation as a sea-trout stream. Fishing is offered by the local club ( Access for the fly-rod can be difficult - there is much greenery - but it's worthwhile doing some extended reconnaisance, since the results can be very worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed fishing the river, and was surprised one night with a small bag of modest sea-trout which took standard patterns readily (Teal, Blue and Silver and/or Black/yellow Muddler, on 10 or 12 hooks).

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 5

Just how quickly the Ilen can rise was demonstrated by the fact that (a) we had a look at the river at 0830, when the flow was at a normal level; (b) went to buy our tickets at the West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen; (c) were back on the river at 1000....only to find it roaring down in a dirty spate. Here's James fishing in thick water.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 6

After the quick and dirty Ilen flood had abated I enjoyed a splendid evening on the Ilen upstream of Ballyhilty Bridge. The sea-trout I encountered were all finnock, but a good run was going through - and to my delight, I was also surprised by an otter, which was fishing the top of the same pool. At one point in the small hours, the creature swam downstream, took its head out of the water, caught sight of me, and gave a weary, resigned sort of watery sigh before vanishing again upstream. A lovely moment. I wondered in fact whether the activities of the otter would have disconcerted the sea-trout. Not a bit of it, apparently: I got two more finnock moments after the otter-encounter.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 7

The Argideen runs into its estuary at Timoleague, and fly-fishing is available from the local club, who offer tickets (the clubhouse is located at Inchy Bridge, and you should turn up there at the stipulated time to buy your ticket). All anglers must be in possession of a valid Irish salmon licence. Most of the fishing, in normal flows, occurs after dark, and the Argideen is something of a sea-trout specialist's river . It's also small, intimate and challenging. I loved it.

The image shows Inchy Bridge, at the top of the tidal water.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 8

Argideen sea-trout can run large, and every season fish of 4lb. and heavier (sometimes, much heavier) run the river. Our catches were far more modest, and came after dark on standard artificials (Teal, Blue and Silver or Kingfisher Butcher or small doubles). Local angler Peter Wolstenholme swears by gold-head variants of standard patterns, though stressed to me that small doubles and Surface Lures may also be worth a try depending on the mood and activity of the fish.

Bandon, Ilen, Argideen 9

The Argideen also has an interesting estuary, fishable at low water (the hours around the ebb) at both Timoleague and at Courtmacsherry. The last is also a reputed bass mark. Here's James fishing at Courtmacsherry. We didn't get any sea-trout, though we saw one or two good fish leaping, and meanwhile, locals were catching school bass on soft plastics. Lovely spot.