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24 Dec 2012

Nomads 2013 - a glimp ahead

First, warm good wishes to all those who've read these pages in 2012 and all the best for the year's turning.

Second, apologies for having posted little of late: we've been busy preparing text for the book and website and have this morning - following heroic work by Ken and James - sent both texts (book and website) and book images to the publishers, Medlar Press. We expect to see hard copy of the text in mid-2013 and hope to have the website up by February 2013, though we shall trickle out text and images onto the new website leading up to publication of the book. In 2013, therefore, the present site - the Nomads blog - will remain in its current state, though we'll of course include a link to these pages on the new site, which eventually will include audio files (interviews), short films and whatnot.

Third, readers will have long ago realised that my own aptitude (if it can be called an aptitude) is for words and more words. Compel me to do something visual and I'm entirely and hopelessly lost. Ask me to imagine, say, a potato and I shall imagine a swede...or perhaps the Swedish Ladies Beach Volleyball team, avid readers of this site all (he lied). Anyway, yes: when the going gets tough, (i) run away and (ii) ask James. James it was who has designed what we hope will be the Nomads logo, and most wondrous it is.

Ken and I will be giving a presentation about Nomads at the Dublin angling show in February 2013 (16-17th February, see where we hope to be able to unveil at least the cover image, logo and initial pages/structure of the Nomads website as well as talk about what we've learned concerning white-trout and white-trout fishing over the past years.

Thanks, one and all - and may the angling gods bless us, every one.

28 Nov 2012

Effective flies: dry Daddy

A dry Daddy-long-legs pattern (sizes 10-12) is useful throughout the Irish sea-trout season but is particularly effective on freshwater when natural daddies are around in August and September. I fish this one singly during evenings on the river or again singly during flat calms on the lough, though sometimes I'll fish two dry Daddies (or a Daddy and some kind of Hopper) on a flat-calm lough just for the hell of it. Many writers have noted that sea-trout take dry-flies such as the Daddy far better when they're 'dragging', but I prefer the metaphor of 'skimming': the object of moving a dry-fly in the surface, when fishing for sea-trout, isn't to drag the thing about with a potentially fish-scaring wake but simply to twitch it so that it momentarily skims up and then skims to a halt on its hackle tips. Delicacy and subtlety are the watchwords.

Effective flies: Watson's Fancy

Wonderful fly for Irish sea-trout and one that I've used since the mid-1970s. It's up there with the Teal, Blue and Silver and the Claret Bumble as one of my own most successful freshwater patterns. I favour sizes 10-12 (Kamasan B175) and also prefer a fairly fully-dressed version, with both GP tippet and topping at the tail. Wing is a rolled pad of rook fibres and the prominent jungle-cock cheeks stand out well against the black of the (fore) body and the wing. With this combination of colours the pattern stands out well laterally (as the fish might see it) or in silhouette. I find this one fishes best on the point of the leader...though that's because I almost invariably put it there.

Effective flies: small doubles

I tend to use small doubles at night on the river. They're useful in the small hours but really come into their own in the hours around dawn, when sea-trout may move briefly into the cheeks of the streams or (continue to) hang in the pool-tails. I favour combinations of blue/black/silver and black/yellow/silver (shown on the right in the image). Hook size is 12-14 (Partridge salmon double). I try to ensure the wing isn't too long and often rib the body with red wire for a touch of extra weight: the usual idea is to swing the fly across the noses of resting sea-trout a foot or two down on an intermediate line.

Effective flies: the Teal, Blue and Silver

I know. Almost every writer about sea-trout - Irish , Scottish, Welsh - rates the Teal, Blue and Silver. But they rate it with justice: it's a wonderful getter of sea-trout and works particularly well on fresh-run (or estuary) fish. Finnock take it well when the fly's tied on small irons (10-12); larger versions (sizes 6-8) are good at night in freshwater. Shown above is a size 12. These days I tend to prefer tying with holographic silver tinsel; I make sure the GP tippets are well-marked; the hackle is a light (teal) blue. Hook is that supreme wet-fly model, the Kamasan B175.

22 Oct 2012

Words for website complete in draft

Another milestone reached today: words for what will be the new Nomads website are complete in draft and I've sorted out images for the relevant bits of text. That means that all the drafting is done: the book (173,299 words) and website (c.67,000 words) are now going to be subject to second readings and the images (296 for the book, 88+ for the website) double-checked. It feels rather like speeding along in the darkness...

10 Oct 2012

Nomads - faces

The short film celebrates the faces - and the hats - of some (though by no means all) of those who have engaged with this project for the past six years.


OK. This book is going to be around 173,299 words long, in six main sections and with over 300 illustrations. I'm spending huge amounts of time at present taking the final images (of fly-patterns) and cutting/editing the final draft text. (At the same time I'm constructing the website entries - in themselves, over 200 pages and another 200 or so images.) The finished book, which will appear next year, will be around 500 pages of text.

29 Sep 2012

T&S cover, October 2012

Well.... Either I'm getting better-looking or Gardiner (Mitchell, whom I blame for these photographic catastrophes) is doing ever more astute things with photoshop and the magic air-brush. This is the fourth T&S cover in the past two years, much to my embarrassment. Still, the image encodes wonderful memories of Beltra this past August and it was splendid to encounter salmon and sea-trout that were running in numbers in at least two different-year-classes. Thanks also to Eamonn - he's the good-looking one on the left - who gillied us with such kindliness and expertise and to Newport House (, who tolerated our vagaries with such hospitable and smiling equanimity.

25 Sep 2012

Ken's science chapter and drafting progress

The arrival of Ken's chapter on sea-trout biology was as keenly awaited as votre average Frenchperson awaits the arrival of this year's Beaujolais. And Ken's science chapter est duly
arrivé. Mon Dieu! It's sensational, nearly 20,000 words of it (Ken calls it 'the novel') and greatly reinforces one of the book's central themes: that the sea-trout is essentially a marine creature ('of the sea and from the sea,' as Ken puts it). As well as looking at sea-trout origins, morphology and biology, Ken also provides an overview of the early years of the Irish sea-trout stock collapse and has some challenging things to say about the vexed relationship that has existed (and still exists) between aquaculture and wild sea-trout stocks. In short, it's a key component of the book. One of my tasks now is to integrate Ken's science with the whole of the rest of the text - and with the website, whose construction continues apace. So far I've edited over 200,000 words and selected and captioned nearly 300 images, so we're entering the final phase.

The image, which makes me laugh out loud (please click to enlarge), was supplied by James, who was very free with his statistics but whose wonderful captions here and there contain grains of something close to the terrible truth...or as we say in Yorkshire, la verité.

31 Aug 2012

First rough draft

Those were the days, eh?

This morning I finished a draft article on Lough Inagh and at the same time completed what is essentially the first complete rough draft of the Nomads text. There is much still to do - cuts to make, website entries to paste from the current rough text, many images still to select and captions to include, over-writings and other redundancies to catch - but the completion of this first draft, however rough, was a significant moment. Two cheers, thus, for hacks everywhere...

17 Aug 2012

Journeys' end

Late last Wednesday I got back from the last trip which has gone into the operational phase (2007-12) of Nomads of the Tides. Below you'll find some words and images relating to our angling on Beltra, Inagh, Tawnyard and Screebe.

Nomads: infrastructure 2007-2012

Total number of trips: 17
Irish sea-trout waters visited, fished and researched: 70+
Air miles covered (34 separate flights): 24,440
Train journeys taken: 58
Driving mileages (approx.): 8,250
Cars hired: 18
Hotels/other accommodation stayed in: 38
emails exchanged: 1060
Blog entries written for Nomads website: 120
Words drafted to date: c.220,000
Feature articles published: 17 

...and I wouldn't have changed a second of it.

Beltra and the Newport River

Lough Beltra and the Newport river drain into Clew Bay, an area which has seen intensive salmon farming over the past decade(s). Certainly as it used to be practiced, salmon farming very often - often, as in almost invariably - had a degrading, even a catastrophic effect on stocks of wild sea-trout, and the returns of sea-trout to Beltra suffered accordingly throughout the 1990s. I was delighted and astonished, therefore, to fish Beltra together with Markus, Gardiner and Eamonn Kennedy (who has known Beltra and the Newport system all his life) and to encounter numbers of pristine sea-trout...and even to catch a grilse. We also enjoyed warm hospitality from Newport House ( and would like to thank Kieran Thompson, his family and the staff at the hotel for their gracious welcome and their concern for our welfare. For the record, earlier this week we shared a catch of 35 sea-trout and 1 grilse (5lb.) between the four of us over two days' fishing. The best of the sea-trout were around 2lb.
 Returning a 5lb. grilse to Beltra (size 8 Red-Arsed Green Peter...on only the second cast of the day)
 Eamonn Kennedy
 Travels with a volcano: lunchtime on Beltra
 Beltra sea-trout
Left-to-right: Gardiner, Chris, Markus.


The Screebe system, which lies in south Connemara and drains into Kilkieran Bay, once was a hugely important salmon and sea-trout fishery (and was also the place where some early salmon-ranching experiments were conducted in the mid-19th century, by an expatriate Yorkshireman called Ramsbottom). One piece of good news is that this year, for the first time for many years, a small run of white-trout appeared to get into the system on the high waters of July. At the time of our visit, 93 sea-trout had been released together with some salmon. While we caught only one sea-trout on our visit, which coincided with light winds and high temperatures, we caught some stunning brown trout in the tidal teaches of the Screebe system and enjoyed tremendous hospitality from Trevor Downs, Neil Seales and the staff at Screebe House, whom we thank most warmly ( It's worth recording here that on the day before our visit, Neil had released a magnificent 7lb. brown trout from the lower of Screebe's tidal loughs.
 Kevin Crowley walking on the waters.
 Screebe sea-trout - we thought - on a dry Ant pattern.
Screebe brown trout. Angler: Neil Seales.

16 Aug 2012

Lough Inagh

If the angling gods wanted to design a larger Irish salmon and sea-trout lough they'd probably design something like Lough Beltra or Lough Inagh. Last week we were privileged to fish both, although on Inagh we were faced with two days of flat calms and tropical temperatures. At one point the thermometer reached 29C. Fiddling about with dry flies or carefully-presented small wet-flies we caught a handful of finnock...and that was it. It was frustrating, because a good run of fish had got up to the lough through the wet weather of July and the early part of August. Nevertheless, the hospitality, kindness and angling expertise which surrounded us were wonderful, and I'm more than glad we went.  See also and

 Gardiner and Colin Folan selecting likely flies - the angler's equivalent of bedtime reading.

 Lough Inagh Lodge - warmly recommended as a place to stay, fish...and to eat.

 Kevin Crowley fishing Inagh under the Twelve Pins.

Likely Inagh sea-trout patterns. Note the red Diawl Bach (top). There had been a fall of red ants just before our visit and the sea-trout were apparently taking them avidly.

Tawnyard Lough

Tawnyard lough, at the top of the Erriff in Mayo, has always been a water I've wanted to fish, largely because it once had the reputation of holding some of the biggest sea-trout on the Erriff system. In the event, at the time of our visit last week we were plagued by high temperatures and flukey, light or non-existent winds. We - that is, Kevin Crowley, Markus Muller and I - did manage to catch half-a-dozen sea-trout, however, the best a goodish one around the 1.5lb. mark, together with an absolutely staggering number of wild brown trout, some of which were jewels running to 12oz. and maybe just a touch more. Tawnyard is also one of the loveliest loughs I've ever fished, and is well worth a visit (

5 Aug 2012

Nomads: the farewell tour

I'm just about to embark on the last trip which will go into the making of Nomads of the Tides. The project began uncertainly in Connemara, in 2007, and gathered pace in the succeeding years. It seems appropriate, somehow, that next week's trip will take me back to Connemara, where the book (and indeed my own white-trout fishing) began, and continue into Mayo. For the record, the waters we've fished (or otherwise researched) and which will be represented in the book, may be found in the following list, which is pasted here from the Nomads index:

Argideen, river (Cork)
Aughrim, river (Wicklow)
Avoca, river (Wicklow)
Avonbeg, river (Wicklow – see Avoca)
Avonmore, river (Wicklow, see Avoca)
Ballisadare, estuary (Sligo)
Ballynahinch, river and system (Galway)
Ballyness Bay (Donegal)
Ballyveeny, river (Mayo)
Bandon, river (Cork)
Bann, river (estuary – Co. Coleraine)
Bann, river (Wexford) – see Slaney
Beagh, Lough (Donegal)
Bellanaboy, river (Mayo)
Beltra, Lough (Mayo)
Boro, river (Wexford) – see Slaney
Boyne, river and estuary (Meath)
Bundorragha, river – see Delphi
Burn Dennett, river (Co. Down)
Burrishoole (Mayo)
Carlingford Lough (Louth/ Co. Newry and Mourne)
Carrowmore Lake (Mayo)
Cashla, river (Galway)
Castletown, river (Louth)
Cloonaghlin, Lough (Kerry – and see Currane, system)
Costello, system (Galway)
Crana, river and estuary (Donegal)
Currane, Lough and system (Kerry)
Dargle, river (Wicklow)
Dawros, river (Galway)
Delphi (Mayo)
Derriana, Lough (Kerry – and see Currane, system)
Dodder, river (Dublin)
Doohulla, system (Galway)
Doolough (Mayo) – see Delphi
Drumcliff, river (Sligo)
Erne, estuary (Donegal)
Erriff, river (Mayo)
Eske, Lough (Donegal)
Feale, river (north Kerry)
Feeagh, Lough – see Burrishoole
Fermoyle, strand (Kerry) – see Owenmore (Kerry)
Finlough (Mayo) – see Delphi
Furnace, Lough – see Burrishoole
Glenamoy, river (Mayo)
Glencar Lough (Sligo)
Glencullin, Lough – see Delphi
Glencullin, river (Mayo)
Gowla, river and system (Galway)
Gweebarra, estuary (Donegal)
Ilen, river (Cork)
Inagh, Lough (Galway)
Inny, river (Kerry)
Inver, system (Invermor and Inverbeg, Galway)
Kylemore, system (Galway)
Lackagh, estuary (Donegal)
Moneycarragh, estuary (Co. Down)
Moy Estuary (Mayo)
Namona, Lough (Kerry – and see Currane, system)
Newport, river (Mayo)
Nore, river (Kilkenny)
Owenduff, river (Mayo)
Owengarve, river (Mayo)
Owenmore, river (Mayo)
Owenmore, system (Kerry)
Roe, river (Co. Londonderry/Derry)
Screebe, system (Galway)
Shimna, river (Co. Down)
Slaney, river (Carlow and Wexford)
Strangford, Lough (N. Ireland)
Tarsaghaunmore, river (Mayo)
Tawnyard, Lough (Mayo)
Urrin, river (Wexford) – see Slaney
Vartry, river (Wicklow)

 I have strangely mixed feelings on this eve of departure, but I'll spare you those here - and will only add that among the mixed feelings are very deep and real promptings of gratitude for the company, hospitality and expertise Ken, James and I have enjoyed and which have been so readily shared with us. And so, to paraphrase the late, great Douglas Adams - Farewell, then, and thanks for all the fish.

Illustration from Maxwell, Wild Sports of the West (1832)

3 Aug 2012

The Crana

We hadn't expected to fish the Crana, in Donegal, on our last Irish trip - yet I'm very glad we did. The fishing is offered by Buncrana Anglers ( and tickets are readily available. Fishing the last of the ebb on the estuary, and then fishing the lower river in flood conditions, we enjoyed a good catch of finnock and smaller sea-trout (to around 1.5lb.) including one fish (pictured) which had a strangely deformed mouth.

All round angler, Ken Whelan, on the Crana estuary.

Crana sea-trout with a strangely deformed mouth.

The Lackagh estuary

The Lackagh estuary offers good fly-fishing around Doe Castle and Ards Friary, especially in the hours around low water, on the last of the ebb and first of the flood.

Doe Castle (angler: Leslie Holmes)

A little pollack with big ambitions

Ards Friary (angler: Lindsey Clarke)

A night on the Roe

Last week, Ken and I spent a most enjoyable night on the River Roe south of Limavady. We're both immensely grateful for the hospitality offered to us and the expertise that surrounded us on our chosen night, which saw a good catch of smaller sea-trout on biggish singles (Medicine, Teal, Blue and Silver and similar patterns on size 6-8 hooks). Interested visitors can find further information at; day and night tickets are readily available. Here are some relevant images of that memorable night.

Our kind and expert hosts: Jason, Keith and Constantine...and there's Ken, too: the all round angler.

A Roe finnock on a Teal, Blue and Silver.

2 Aug 2012

Return to Lough Beagh

Lough Beagh, in the wilds of northern Donegal, is one of the most majestic waters I've ever fished for white-trout. I fished it first in 2009 and enjoyed a grand day; two return visits last week provided good fishing, though on the second of the two return days the weather was unspeakable, the lough rising and the fishing accordingly tough. As well as sea-trout and occasional salmon, the lough also holds a staggering head of wild brown trout, the vast majority of them running two or three (or four) to the pound but with odd larger fish. Further information may be found on Below you'll find some images of the first of our return days.

Looking south on Lough Beagh.

A Lough Beagh finnock (angler: Lindsey Clarke).

The sandy bay at the head of the lough is a good mark, though it needs quiet, careful approach work and equally careful fishing. Beautiful spot - and a lovely place to take lunch.

Adventures on the Bann estuary

Ken and I spent part of last week together with Leslie Holmes, whose knowledge of 'his' estuary, the Bann, is outstanding and inspiring (see also Leslie's website at Ken was lucky - and skilled - enough to catch and release a really good sea-trout, a fish of 53cm, while Leslie caught a rake of white-trout up to 1lb. 10oz. Slightly overawed by the expertise around me, I nevertheless managed a wooden-spoony catch of sea-trout running to a touch under 1.5lb., and enjoyed every minute. Below are some images from the Bann parts of our latest Nomads trip.

Ken's big sea-trout - and a portrait of a happy man.

Slob trout (the term is a corruption of 'slab', meaning marl or ooze).

On one tide we found the sea-trout hitting mullet fry.

Leslie with a grand Bann sea-trout.

Ken releasing a sea-trout of around 1.5lb. Super fish, beautifully marked.

10 Jul 2012


As part of a week-long trip that took Ken and me to the Irish Fly Fair at Killyleagh and then to Carlingford lough (please see below), I also fished Strangford. I found it a remarkably tough week, though I did see fish and even saw two really good sea-trout one evening, leaping as dusk fell. (That is, the fish were leaping. I was sitting on a rock somewhere and turning into some weird creature from a Beckett play.) I fished for four straight days without moving anything significant, but eventually, after sheer mumbling insanity had set in, I did catch one - 18-and-a-half inches (probably around 2.5lb.) and in absolutely pristine condition. The fish disgorged what I think was a three-spined stickleback before being released, so why it took a shrimp-suggesting artificial pattern is beyond me. And yes, of course I tried baitfish-resembling fly patterns.... The sea-trout ignored those just as they ignored everything else. Below are some pertinent images.

Carlingford sea-trout

Ken Whelan and I fished Carlingford for two days last week. We concentrated on the shores around Greenore and Ballagan Points, where there are some good tide races and rocky beaches. (It's good bass ground, too.) Our catches were very modest but we did catch fish on both fly and spinner and moved others. Below are some relevant images, the topmost courtesy of Ken Whelan.