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27 Aug 2011

More from the Irish East coast 1

The Dargle has always been known as a 'big sea-trout' river. We fished a stretch of it one night at the very kind invitation of Hugh Duff, and although we released no giants, I did manage to conjure a 3lb-er from the darkness. The fish was expertly netted, unhooked and released by Hugh, whose work with the forceps you can see in the shot.

More from the Irish East coast 2

One of the most astonishing little sea-trout I've ever caught, taken late one night from a resolutely urban area in Co. Dublin. I got another finnock soon afterwards, and on the previous night, Ken had also released two finnock - when we'd also been surprised by an otter.

More from the Irish East coast 3

Three men - Ken Dodd, Stephen Byrne and one Ken Whelan - and a bridge on the Boro river, a tributary of the Slaney. The Boro was running desperately low, and we caught nothing except some complacent and fat little brownies. Oh well.

More from the Irish East coast 4

A surprise, this - a specimen dace (not less than 12oz., we estimated) from the Nore, taken on a Teal, Blue and Silver.

More from the Irish East coast 5

A sensible way of cooling off after a rugby match at Inistioge.

More from the Irish East coast 6

Big Silver Blue (size 6) on a low-water Wilson iron. This worked fairly well on the Boyne estuary, where there were millions of small sandeels present.

7 Aug 2011

Reflections on fly-rods for Irish sea-trout fishing

There was a time, somewhere between 1982 and 1996, when I felt I was probably using optimal sea-trout fly-fishing tackle. The rods I then favoured were Daiwa CF98 tools; the reels were Beaulites; the lines were generally DT floaters or intermediates; the waders and coats were made of tough plastic; and I used an old, sturdy, fixed-head landing-net which also doubled as a makeshift wading-staff. Since then, like the rest of us I have...upgraded. Breathable waders and clothing...weigh-nets....reels which are light, with cassette spools and no click-check....and fly-rods which are ever faster, ever lighter, ever 'better'.... Tackle development has been relentless, and I must say that there have been many, many improvements.

All the same, and rather wistfully, I've found myself of late wanting to fish with proper fly-fishing rods rather than with casting weapons. It's only occasionally, in the Irish sea-trout fishing context, that I need to cast more than 20 yards, and I do very much need a rod with a through action and a softish tip. Such a rod needs to be able to roll- and switch-cast, as well.

For the record, I've almost invariably used three fly-rods over the past three years, all of which I think are admirable. (I discount the occasion when I found myself using a 7-footer and a 3-weight line, throwing surface lures over big sea-trout on a diminutive East coast river.) They are a Zpey 10-foot Z1 switch rod for a #7; a Hardy Marksman Drifter (another 10-footer, for a #6); and a Bruce and Walker 10-foot 6" rod which I had to have specially made in 4 sections. Now, I'm not made of money - far from it - and these rods have been the product of sales and assiduous discount or second-hand shopping, or (in the case of the B&W rod) a big wedding anniversary. All of these rods, too, perform separate tasks: the Zpey is a revelation when teamed in high water with an #8 intermediate, and is a rod I cast cast with easily over both shoulders. It also copes with gale-force upstream winds admirably. The Drifter is I suppose my default Irish sea-trout rod, and typically I team it with a Rio Gold WF7 floater (a good line, very stable) to which I attach a 5-foot intermediate polyleader. The B&W excels as a boat rod on big loughs, and recently, on the Boyne estuary, I found myself casting relatively long distances with it in order to reach a tidal channel. Slow down the casting stroke a little and the line fairly flies out - and the loop can be as tight or open as you wish. Despite its fairly heavy line rating (#7-8) the rod's soft enough in the tip to handle finnock, and a through action copes admirably with larger fish - not that I catch too many of those in the course of a season. It's true that the B&W is heavier than its contemporary sisters, but I don't mind that at all: fished with, relaxed with, the rod comes alive.

All these rods, though, have one thing in common: they're fishing rods, as opposed to things you cast 30m with or merely pose with. They remind me in some ways of those 'optimal' rods I imagined I was fishing with twenty years ago...and again for the record, I've just bought myself a splendid heavy-duty plastic coat for boat fishing, too, as well as exhuming that old, fixed-head landing-net. You'll probably think this is mere nostalgia (it'll happen to you, too, I hazard), but I prefer to claim that it's sheer practicality. In Irish sea-trout fishing, reliability and simplicity seem to me to be two very desirable attributes. But of course, you may disagree with that - and indeed with any or all of the above.

The Boyne - and a 3lb. sea-trout

As part of our recent visit to Ireland to attampt to catch sea-trout and construct some features for Trout and Salmon we visited several east coast fisheries, among them the Boyne, the Castletown and the Slaney. By dint of luck and local knowledge we managed to catch sea-trout on all the streams we visited, and the Boyne offered particularly difficult and interesting sea-trout fishing in its lower reaches. At the time of our visit, Bernard Halpenny, treasurer of Rossin and Slane Anglers, caught and released a magnificent sea-trout whose weight we estimated at around 3lb. Scales were taken from this fish prior to release and they are currently being studied by the Celtic Sea Trout Project ( For further information on the Boyne and its sea-trout fishing, please see below.

The Boyne at Mornington

The Boyne flows through Drogheda and then to the sea via a strongly tidal channel at Mornington. This is hard-fished public water, free to holders of a National Salmon Licence. We managed to take a couple of finnock to the fly here, best 1lb., and I thoroughly enjoyed it though the fishing wasn't easy.

Boyne at Oldbridge

The reach of the Boyne at Oldbridge is situated exactly on the site of the famous battle of 1690. The river's tidal in these lower reaches, but at low water offers an exciting succession of stream, pool and glide. The fishing is controlled by Rossin and Slane Anglers - see

The Slaney: Kingsmill Moore's cottage

I first encountered the Slaney as a photograph in the pages of Kingsmill Moore. Since the great man had written of the Slaney's spring salmon fishing I'd somehow - and with nothing but ignorance - overlooked its potential as a sea-trout water. I was quite wrong. The river holds a good head of sea-trout, which typically run, given water, from the second half of June. There is fishing available freely to holders of a National Salmon Licence in the tidal water below Enniscorthy. Pictured is a photo of Kingsmill Moore's house on the Slaney as this is today (near Clonegal, Co. Carlow). For other angling information on the Slaney, check out

I'm most grateful to Ashley Hayden for supplying this image (

The Slaney: Ash Tree

Here's an example of a fine Slaney sea-trout pool below Bunclody. Known as the Ash Tree pool, at the time of our visit the pool held a great head of fish from three-quarters of a pound to over 2lb. We fished at night and then again from 0400-0600 and managed to catch sea-trout both at dusk and dawn. For fishing on the Slaney (and its tributaries) for sea-trout, click on

6 Aug 2011

Castletown 1: Dundalk

The Castletown flows into the Irish Sea just north of Dundalk. It's a hard-fished water, much cared for by the local club, Dundalk and Distict Brown Trout Anglers ( We were delighted and privileged to fish for two days as their guests, and enjoyed some fine sea-trout fishing in very low water. We learned a very great deal from these local experts. Mostly we fished at night, but we also tried conclusions with sea-trout during the daytime. Typically, Mark Corps (pictured here to the left of the shot) was into a fish first cast on a tidal reach of the river.

Castletown 2: Celtic Sea Trout Project scale sampling

We took scale samples from some of our fish, irrespective of their size. The samples will in turn be submitted to the Celtic Sea Trout Project ( and will yield invaluable data not only about the Castletown but about many rivers along the Irish south and east coasts (and about some English and Border rivers which run into the Irish Sea).

Castletown 3: Finnock

The finnock were relatively abundant. Pictured is a fish of around 12oz. in fine condition. On our last night, Brian McShane - stalwart of the club - caught two fine sea-trout of a pound and a half and upwards, and I surprised a further good fish on a Muddler fished dragging across the surface in the pitch black.