Monday, April 23, 2007

Undiscovered Moyle: A Giant Test.
My love of fly-fishing in Moyle and the Glens of Antrim has never been a
secret. These areas
are a natural unspoilt environment- an Irish heritage
carved by the hand of Mother Nature. Romantic, rugged, dramatic yet
welcoming but to my embarrassment I have never ventured to the coast - why?
I really don't know because having experienced it, I will definitely fish
there again.

"Saltwater fly-fishing in Northern Ireland is
still in it's infancy" KevinMcGarry, Principle Offic
er for
Moyle District Council told me.
"Here in Moy
le we have a lot to offer both local and visiting
anglers, and just waiting to be discover
ed are coastal venues
just stuffed with fish" many specimens taken by boat anglers in
recent years. After talking to Kevin it's wasn't long befo
re his
enthusiasm had grabbed me and I was starting to plan a trip
and discover if indeed the coast that boarders Moyle would make for one of the new hot spots for
saltwater fly-fishing in Ireland. But the more I pondered the trip, a question kept reoccurring in my mind - how would anglers from
differing disciplines be able to transfer their skills and experiences and use them to any effect in this new aspect of our sport? So the first thing I had to do was find two willing Guinea Pigs
with enough experience to put the th
eory to the test.

If you ask any angler in Northern Ireland about fly-fishing it won't be long before most will mention the name of Larry Gibb. Ask Larry Gibb what he doe's and he'll tell you he is a 'piscatorial engineer' - that¹s a full time angler to you and me. Larry's area of expertise is still water trout fishing. Most of his time is spent fishing and guiding on Lough Mask, Melvin and Erne, that's when he's not writing, winning competitions or organising angling breaks.

But before
Larry took up a fly rod seriously he had bait fished the ebb and flow of our coastal waters for a number of years. With this in mind I took my courage in both hands, gave him a ring outlining my theories and inviting him for a day exploring the opportunities along the Moyle coast.

One down and one to go - but who?

If my theory was to be fully realised I was going to need someone who had years of experience in a different discipline than that of Larry's and still be able to bring some sort of skill that could be transferred to the task I was setting them. A good place to start looking was Moyle, as everyone in Moyle has an opinion on fishing and who better than a local person who has local knowledge. Most of the local anglers will direct you to the tourist office in Ballycastle for help and advice - so I started there, it's easy found it's just around the corner from the Glenshesk river at Ballycastle. I contacted Kevin and a shaft of inspiration illumined my mind once again -
off course Kevin. Who better than Kevin McGarry a fine angler in his own right. The same person who annually makes his pilgrimage to Nort
hern British Columbia, to fish the world famous Skeena and Kitiman rivers for Salmon. The same 'species hunter' who has caught every type of salmon except for Sockeye, the same person who caught a 57lb Chinook on a barbless hook. I don't know why I hadn't thought of Kevin before except for saying, 'some

times you can't see the an
gler for the tide'.

A few days of high pressure and a north westerly wind was the forecast on

Tuesday but this was Wednesday and it hadn't stopped raining with a north

easterly head wind of 16mph from early morning. The Glens looked magnificent

though, with the to
p of each mountain swathed in a blanket of cloud, but as

we drove up the coas
t there didn't seem to be any sign of the rain lifting.

Conditions for 'rock hopping
' as Larry christened this type of fishing were

looking very doubtful but filled with the spirit of adventure we decide to

start slowly fishing at Garron Point.

Garron Point is situated on the coastal road at Glenariff and the
village of Waterfoot at Red Bay. Northern Irelands white
limestone, is extensively developed around this area. There are fourteen
named members in this formation and can all be seen between Garron Point at
the base of
Garron Mountain to Cloghastucan. This section of coastline is
littered with loose and tumbling boulders with a nodular flint formation
making a plateau just at the Garron Point. The council with great foresight
and vision have made
a car park and picnic facility there, with a path that
leads the angler directly to the three deep pools, just the place where Coal
Fish, Pollock and Bass lik
e to hide in the kelp.

The rain was now no more than a missal. After tackling up we made our way
down the pebble path but just before we climbed the wooden style Kevin
stopped us in our tracks.
" Don't you see it" he said " can't you see it?"
It was only when we all turned round we did, we saw what he saw, that the
break in the clouds had
allowed beams of sun light to pierce the mist and
bath the mountain in heavenly glory. "Go on breath it in boy's, fill your
lungs and your sense's". He was right I filled my lungs with the heavy scent
of sea salt and felt my spirit rise. I'm privileged to live on this
beautiful island and sometimes its good to stop and enjoy it.
Larry was fishing his usual trout set up a Cortland 7/8 wt 10 ft. 5 piece
travel rod, a 6th sense
Airflo fast sinking line and an orange 'Fritz dog
nobler' fly he had tied the previous night. His leader was around five to
six-foot in length, 15
lb. of fluorocarbon
with a little spinning snap
swivel attached. A 15lb
. leader may seem a bit excessive for fish averaging
around 1lb. - 4lb. But it's necessary when turning over bigger flys and for
fishing close to weed beds and over rocky shores. Be careful with your
choice of fly line th
ough, some lines have a negative reaction against the
cold temperature and consistency of salt water, by stiffening up. This
stiffening action is translated to the fly and in turn the natural swimming
like motion that the angler is trying to achieve is lost. A swivel is the
answer allowing the m
aximum size of strength to be used in case of snagging;
it also allows for very fas
t changes and keeps the fly swimming as naturally
as possible. Kevin opted for his Ron Thompson double-handed salmon rod but
with a similar type of set up with a blue sand eel imitation.
Larry and Kevin positioned themselves close to the drop off points on the
rocks and started by ca
sting near the kelp beds that were close to the
shore. It wasn't long bef
ore both anglers were getting bites although it was
Larry who hooked into our first fish, a nice CoalFish of 2lb. He followed
that up with another about 20 minutes later as Kevin struggled to break his
duck. Hot orange was the predomi
nant colour in Larry's fly so Kevin opted to
follows his example and within a few minutes was playing a lively Mackerel.
 'Short and sweet' or 'hit and run' was the order of this trip as we headed
north towards the little sheltered hamlet of Port Bradden, which nestles at
the western end of beautiful
White Park Bay. The name of the port means
'port of the Salmon' and the Salmon Fishery still exists after 600 years.
The church dedicated to St. Gobbans is claimed to be the sm
allest in
, but the remains of an even smaller one (St. Lasseraghs) stands on
the cliff above. Access to the Giants Causeway coastal path is to the right
of the church and this leads through the mountain by way of an ancient
natural archway. The rocks are down and to the left. This area is tended to
be over looked by the bait and spinning anglers, not because they don't hold
fish but because a lot of these anglers seem to be trying to hit
Scotland bywanting to cast as far out to sea as they can. What they are missing is the
wonderful deep gullies that the tide has carved over the centuries just the
place predatory fish lie in wa
it for their prey.

Casting using the north- easterly wind was easy for Larry, as he is
left-handed. He applied hi
s traditional method of fishing the wet fly on a
river by casting at a 90degree angle and letting the tide wash his fly
around all the time
mending his line towards the horizon and away from the
weed. When the fly s
wung below the waves he started his retrieve, using as
he called it the" FTA" or roughly translated as the 'fool them around'
tactic. He would strip line
back like lightning, then suddenly pause or
perhaps he would use
a slow figure of eight any thing that would attract
fish. Kevin was
using a similar tactic and both were getting pulls even when
fishing blind. One large Pollock even followed Larry's lure right up towards
the surface but alas
didn't take. Both anglers had success again with
Mackerel, CoalFish and
Pollock all being played and landed. All in all it
was an adaptable method they choose to use, which has stood both Trout and
Salmon anglers the tes
t of time and had transferred easily to the sea.

The marks that Larry a
nd Kevin fished included Ballintoy the rocks just
right of the harbo
ur, Salmon Rock in the village of Cushendun, Torr Head all
be it a dange
rous mark to get to and Pans Rock in Ballycastle. Larry and I
had to rely on Kevin for advise on where was safe to try and where was not.
Some parts of the coast have blow holes where rollers with there strong under current create a vortex of whirlpools and unless you know the area are
very dangerous- so employ a guide and never fish alone as getting cut off is
a real danger.

Moyle derives its name from the 'straits of moyle' which is the North
Channel between the Ant
rim coast and Scotland. The area has 42 miles of
breathtaking north An
trim coastline that rivals the best internationally,
natural beauty, towe
ring peaks, rugged coastline and fishing to challenge
any angler from any discipline. This area is very popular with tourists and
includes three best known natural tourist attractions in Northern Ireland;
the Giants Causeway, the G
lens of Antrim and Rathlin Island lying 7 miles of
the coast. But the best way to enjoy the fishing and see the area is to keep
moving and try to cover any hot spot for no longer than 30 minutes. Another
good piece of advice is to either buy a tide timetable or check on lineBBC.CO.UK for tide times and weather.

Both anglers found that 4-5 feet of choppy breakers swelling into the
gullies were the most productive wi
th smaller flies rather than the bigger.
Sand Eels, Lefty's Deceiv
er's and hot orange lure's worked very well, but
experiment, this style of fly fishing isn't an exact science - not yet. A
line tray is also worth
investing in as is learning to double haul for a
single handed rod although Kevin
was able to put out as much line with a
simple over head cast with his Salmon rod.
Time is another factor t
hat anglers should consider when fly-fishing the
sea. For an hour or so each side of the high or low tide the water tends to
stand about. It's not the most plea
sant of times to be fishing, the sea
seems like a mirror undisturbed and unproductive. But as the flood moved in,
it wasn't long before deep in the c
urrent we could make out the unmistakable
flashes of pure brilliant silver Pollock and Mackerel chasing sand eels. The
Mullet too were there, in a shoal but grazing on seaweed, but nothing we
tried to tempt them with took their interest.

Moyle has a lot to offer the angler so why not make a point of trying your
skill in the sea, it's
not as if our trout season last's for a long time and
sorry to say the salmo
n aren't as plentiful as they used to be. But this
might just be a new and
exciting challenge your looking for, because it has
been a challenge and lets face it where else could you fish in a place where
a Giant built a causewa
y. During that trip we only managed to scratch the
surface of hot spots i
n Moyle, we didn't have time to try Larrybane &
Carraick-A-Rede or fish the surf in
White Park and Murlough Bays. We didn't
get the opportunity to try below
Kinbane Castle or explore the gullies at
Fair Head but we did fill up our senses and caught plenty of fish.

By. Phil Boyd
Useful contacts  
Moyle District Council;
                                       7 Mary Street
Ballycastle, bt54 6qh
ph. 00 44 (0) 28 2076 2024
Photography; Arthur Ward

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cape Cod saltwater fishery

Austen Goldsmith takes a look at a bass fishery in New England. Could this be a
template for the UK?
Saltwater fly fishing in the UK has apparently seen an upsurge over the last few years. More and more fly fishermen are swapping the bankside for the beach perhaps rediscovering the freedom that fly fishing has to offer. Fishing for wild fish, in wild places and all for free. It sounds great and trust me it is but it’s a mere shadow of what could be. If you hop on a plane and head West for six hours you will arrive at Boston Airport in Massachusetts. Add a couple of hours by car and you are on the Cape, home to a great location. And a fine example of what a well-managed Coastal fishery can achieve.
During the early eighties, bass stocks were at an all time low on the East Coast due to over fishing by the commercial sector. Desperate action was required to save the fishery from destruction. The 1984 Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act was passed bringing in new rules which were strictly enforced. Today, the sport fishing industry totally eclipses the combined 1984 revenues from both commercial and recreational sectors. Today, fly fishermen flock from all over the world to enjoy these rich waters.
Chatham is a picturesque and very well kept town. The architecture has a classic New England feel with some fine timber buildings that date back to the 18th century. It is a wonderful place to visit. It also makes a great base for a visiting fisherman and is central to many fishing locations.
The Fishery
The Cape Cod area has a strong saltwater, fly fishing culture and is very accessible to the visitor. Migrating stripers arrive at the Cape from around mid May, not long after the bluefish arrive. Both species will be around until the fall. Early season is a great time, as the fish are hungry after the rigours of spawning. Later in the year, the false albacore arrive and provide great sport on the fly. The Cape has plenty of options for visiting fly fishermen. Fishing the flats, the rips, Oceanside surf beaches, salt ponds and the creeks. Fishing from shore or afloat there are plenty of guides and the American anglers are a pretty friendly bunch, willing to share a few secrets once they get to know you!

Fishing the rips, drop offs and channelsBe prepared to work hard if fishing these locations, this is not for the faint hearted fisherman. But then is any shore based saltwater fly fishing? Fishing the rips, channels and drop offs can be tough going. Next year, I will take the double-handed rod to eliminate the fatigue of double hauling all day. We were casting 350 grain sinking lines into the face of a breeze. Forget those short casts: the best cast would only just cover the edges of the channel where the fish were passing through .We walked reasonable distances to access likely spots, but the aches and pains of a yomp across the dunes soon vanished with the first hook up of the day.
Swinging while stripping a large Olive Superhair Clouser was the proven method. This occasionally started to feel like a chore but then a pod of marauding bass would push through. Five rods would bend over and the atmosphere would change. Five happy guys all attached to fish that fight hard in the fast flowing water. And don’t forget this is the States and like all things American the bass can be huge!

Flats fishing for bass
The Monomoy Island is a magnet for fly fishermen and given that you could be sight fishing for thirty pound striped bass it’s hardly surprising. Patience, perseverance and nerves are fully tested on the flats. I was lucky enough to be with Jim Simms when he landed his personal best. I could see Jim was into a decent fish and made my way up towards him as he beached her. A fine fish of 38 inches. A bass of those proportions will be a shock to a UK bass fisherman the first time.
I had more success that day, blind fishing the drop offs, with a great bluefish to show for my efforts. However, I did have one sight fishing moment of glory. The image of a shoal of 50 bass entering the flat and following the subtle contours of a sand bar will stay with me always. Even more so, the memory of those 50 stripers changing direction to intercept my DNA clouser. Suffice to say, I managed to get a hook up – not a monster just a five or six pound schoolie.
The waters I have described so far are on the sheltered side of the Cape. You can also fish the many ocean facing beaches. We managed to catch stripers in the surf, though not huge fish. It was, however, a welcome change of technique and scenery. Take your UK saltwater watercraft with you and you will do just fine. These fish behave in much the same manner as their European counterparts.

Fishing the tidal creeks
The Cape has a network of tidal creeks and these can be very productive. Some spots were teeming with school bass. This was a total change of environment, far more akin to fishing a medium-sized river for trout. The creeks twist and wind through wonderful scenery. A couple of hours on the riverbank would provide a gentle wind-down after a hard day’s fishing elsewhere. It was also great sport catching fierce- fighting schoolies at dusk. Double hook ups were constant at times. Rods were 7 # and the top fly was a gurgler.
What to take
A 7 # is ideal for the creeks and a 9 # would be the main workhorse for the rips, beaches and drop offs. A range of different density lines and 20 lb fluorocarbon line for tippets should be packed. Don’t overlook the line tray or the head torch. It is worth noting that a compass is regarded as standard issue when shore- fishing the flats of Cape Cod. The fog can come out of nowhere and envelop the landscape within minutes.
Flies were either size 1/0 super hair clousers or size 4 and 2 # DNA or bucktail clousers, and don’t forget the poppers and gurgler. You may want to consider packing a few super-large flies to try to match the shad. We witnessed a blitz one morning: the bass and blues were ripping these large baitfish to shreds. On the subject of bluefish don’t forget to pack bite-proof leaders or trace material. I use a 4 inch ‘Pro leader’ bite tippet. Be prepared for a long fight - these fish are the thugs of the Cape!
We fished the Cape for ten days and had somewhere between 400 and 500 bass and a handful of blues. This is great fishing and worthy of the travel. The problem with fishing of this quality is that you have to come home sometime. In the UK we fish for the leftovers that the fishing fleet has missed. The UK tackle manufacturers love to promote the charismatic image of saltwater fly fishing in the UK. Unfortunately, their vision and commitment goes no further than the next photo shoot or range of dedicated ‘must have’ tackle and accessories. They have all been approached with regard to lending support to various proposals and consultation proceedings and most have failed to lift a finger. There are some who have the vision but only a few.
In the USA in 1995, the Striped Bass Marine Fisheries Commission declared the bass stocks fully recovered. One can only imagine the potential within the UK if we achieved the same goal. Fishermen, the angling trade and the tax man could share a sustainable and rich harvest. In the meantime, I know where I am going to be next June!
Austen Goldsmith
Austen Goldsmith is based in Cornwall and runs a specialist saltwater fly fishing business - working with a loyal customer base looking for guided bass fishing and saltwater fly tying. See for further details.
Reproduced with the kind permission of For additional articles, please visit their site here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Spring Water Trout

Linen Country Trout

As a child I can recall the winding back roads of west Down lined with big stone walls, mature beech and chestnut trees, reminders of the once great estates that made this area prosperous. The Lisburn countryside is still crisscrossed with sparkling rivers and lakes even today, with the same whinstone bridges marking each tributary of the rivers Bann and Lagan. Angling in this region has developed greatly from when I was a child and they proudly boast that here in Linen Country "there's no day unsuitable for fishing".

Fashion comes and goes and our sport isn't exempt from this phenomena. Hungry anglers are keen to get their hands on the next best thing, the next thing that will have them catching fish from dawn to dusk is a must have. Companies are increasingly marketing new products with the aim of helping us cast further, catch more or see more.

I started to fish at a very tender age under the watchful eye of my Grandfather. He didn't have the ability to buy what tackle he wanted nor was there the same variety available. A retired man then, whose working life, had been spent digging roads around Belfast to feed my Mother and my three Uncles. After the war he made his own tackle and still had some old pieces in use years later; I can recall seeing him catch fish with a rod that was made from a 2nd World War tank aerial with rod rings fashioned from the brass eyelets of old leather boots. Many times as a child I sat on his knee as he patiently tied his own flies and tried to explain what he was doing. They say necessity is the mother of invention and perhaps it was back then but he caught plenty of trout.

Don't get me wrong I believe that anglers need to be flexible to change and should adapt, by adopting new or improved methods if it's to their benefit. True innovators are few and far between in the angling world so when Larry Gibb told me that he had developed a flie that was a sure thing to catch when everything hadn't I was unimpressed.

"Larry’s Caterpillar" as it is known was turning out to be one of those niggley things that I needed to scratch. I invited Larry to Springwater Trout Fishery just outside the City of Lisburn to put his "sure thing to the test".

Springwater regulars have a pretty good idea of where the fish will be feeding given a particular direction of wind or time of the season, but for those of us who have never fished there before, fishery owner Colin Thomas is always on hand for up to date information. Colin has a broad bank of knowledge on which to draw, yet the manner in which he helps is attentive but unobtrusive. Colin, himself accomplished angler did let me into a secret though; he also fishes with a Larry's Caterpillar quite often. Well I was waiting to be converted but as the good book says "the truth shall set you free" or "the proof of the pudding is the catching".

The name of the fishery: Springwater comes from the fact that the lake is fed by a natural spring some 17 meters below the lake bed. The water is absolutely crystal clear and, if your eyes are sharp enough, fish can be easily targeted at great distance. Springwater's clarity makes for a pleasant change from some landlocked waters in which trout live. Such places are filled with minute plant and animal life reducing visual clarity and unless you put a big gaudy lure on your quarry's nose, they will have very little chance of seeing it at any distance. Trout living in this type of water rely more on sensory means to locate their prey and thus stripping back lures at high speed will account for fish. No need for this tactic in Springwater.

The clay base combined with an average depth of 9ft to 18ft provides a rich source of aquatic insects and other fauna that the trout feed on. Two major sources for the Springwater trout are the larvae and pupae of the Caddis flies and Midges (Chironomids). Colin assured me that during late summer evenings the water literally boils with rising trout either feeding on emerging Caddis or Midge pupae trapped in the film. A variety of small green snail is common and easily spotted floating just below the surface film. Trout tend to take these snails with a head to tail rise not unlike the way they take Midge pupae so many anglers are easily fooled.

Upon inspecting the water I found a significant amount of sedge larva present along with frog spawn and sticklebacks almost all among the weed beds. The sedge that I picked up had constructed a case from heavy materials such as vegetable debris, tiny sticks, discarded shells and small stones. This variety of sedge is to be found close to the lake bed, crawling rather than swimming, and provided can be reasonably and accurately copied and off course presented in a life like manner, I have no doubt would be readily accepted by the trout in Springwater.

Trout are strongly predatory creatures and will feed avidly on sticklebacks, fry or other smaller fish given half the chance. The best time of year for stickle back feeding is now late spring to early summer and Springwater seemed stuffed with them. Spurred on by this, I tied on a single Sinfoils Bronze Fry on a floating line and after an hour or so was into my first fish. A strong 3lb of silver and red Rainbow eventually came to hand, these Rainbows winter well in Springwater.

Larry had by this time twice that and when I reached him in the bay next to me, he was into his third. I could hardly believe it Larry's Caterpillar really was doing damage. It seemed to me that every third or fourth cast hooked fish, there were others catching as well and none of them were on Larry's Caterpillar, not to my knowledge anyway. Sam Armstrong a regular and club member of Springwater had just landed a nice 5lb fish. Gareth our photographer asked Sam's permission to take his picture and as they were chatting I went over to investigate. Sam was using an olive coloured damsel nymph on the dropper and a pheasant tail nymph on the point: just as I thought no Caterpillar to be seen. Mean while Larry had moved closer to the centre island and was changing his fly, over I went as my curiosity was getting the better of me.

"So what's the secret" I asked him and off course I was waiting on the smug "I told you so" but no, that's not his style, very calmly he popped a little green and black spotted torpedo shaped fly with a marabou tail into my hand. "That's it, that's what all the fuss is about" I said "Yep" and off he went and caught more fish.

I tied on the fly he gave me and sure enough it wasn't very long before I was into my second albeit slightly smaller fish of the day. My son Reuben came over "I've had three Dad" and off course he was on a variation that Larry had given him earlier with a "Don't let the old man see it' whispered in his ear.

I must admit the "Larry's Caterpillar" was deadly that day it accounted for a lot of fish and I have used it on various places with excellent results. I asked him how he came by the design of the "Larry’s Caterpillar" did he receive some sort of divine inspiration or had he found an undiscovered caterpillar that trout loved to eat? But again the answer was quite simple "no my daughter had some old tee-shirt paints that she was throwing out and I thought that I should like to try some over a marabou tail". He went on to explain that he had read an article on trout's vision by some American Professor, who had state that trout could see spots easier than strips. "So I added the green tee-shirt paint and added her black nail polish for the spots" and the rest as they say is history.

The Lisburn west Down area has a lot to offer the angler, course or game but that day in Linen Country had a profound effect on me. I had fished various Stillwater venues Brooke Hall, Stoneyford and the neighbouring Lough Beg. I regularly fish the Lagan from Dromore to Waringstown stretch, the Ravernet River at Moore's Bridge and was a devotee to the "match the hatch" school of angling and still am, but I learnt this lesson. Sometimes it worth while trying somewhere and something new, so when you book your next angling trip make sure it's Northern Ireland and get a couple of the "Tried and Tested", "Larry's Caterpillar" it will certainly be worth the effort.

Springwater Fishery
Take the Dublin Road from Sprucefield Shopping Centre, Follow the signs to the Maze Racecourse and the fishery is located on 17a Cockhill Road, Lisburn Road

Permits & Licences
Advice on licences/permits can be obtained from "Guns and Tackle" Smithfield, Lisburn.
Phone: United Kingdom +44 (0)28 92 677 975

Season starts 1st March – 31st October.

Information on:
Still waters
Stoneyford & Leathemstown Reservoir's are both regularly stocked with 10,000 takeable Rainbows & Browns and information can be obtained from phone. UK +44 (0)2890 258 873
Brookhall Fishery a privately owned fishery that has recently doubled in size and is well known for its double figure Rainbows, 2 Horsepark Road, Magheragall, Lisburn
Hillsborough Lake is situated in the Forest Park in the village of Hillsborough and regularly stocked with Rainbows
Lough Erne, Ballykeel stocked with Brown Trout
Lough Neagh the largest freshwater lake in the UK, famed for its various types of course and game fish and indigenous yet elusive Dolloghan (Lough Neagh Trout)

River's Lagan & Ravernet can be obtained from either the DCLA "Angling Guide"
Inland Fisheries Board
20-24 York Street
Northern Ireland

Tourist information:
The Irish Linen Centre, Market Square, Lisburn ph. 02892 266 0038

How to tie a Larry's Caterpillar:
Hook, size 2-10
Head, fix and glue bead
Thread, black
Body, tie on Marabou tail of the colour preferred, squeeze on Tee-shirt paint (Tulip is the make Larry uses), leave to dry.
Add spots with black nail varnish, leave to dry and then coat the body with clear yacht varnish.

Local Anglers
Local angler and regular at Springwater Sam Armstrong has only been fishing for three years. "My son started fishing and after some persuasion I eventually went with him and love it", Sam told me. The angling bug has certainly caught hold and Sam can be seen several times a week at Springwater.

Stuart Wylie who had several nice fish on a brown buzzer fished on the bung, comes from East Belfast. When I asked him why he made the journey to Springwater when there are other venues closer to him, his reply was simple. "I find it one of the best places to fish, and the crystal water is ideal for targeting fish".

Saturday, January 20, 2007

First Fish off the Helmsdale 2007

Head water bailiff Peter Quail hands over the Bridge Hotel trophy to Helmsdale Tackle Shop owner Ronald Sutherland captor of the first fish this season on the river Helmsdale. The pristine 3sw fish weighed 13lbs but had no sea-lice and probably entered the river before opening day due to the unseasonal spell of mild weather recently. It fell to Ron's favourite Willie Gunn Special fished on a fast sinking line. In Ron's opinion this fly is quite simply on another level when it comes to sniffing out Scottish springers " I have landed so many early season fish on this weighted tube that i have simply lost count! it will give me great pleasure in making this super fly available to all in my new flyshop venture with WWMF to go live soon "- Another extended lunch break took Ron up to beat 6 where he quickly covered the hot spots below the falls of Kildonan with a few casts in each. The tail of the Little Rock pool was the last port of call before having to rush back to open up again. The river had been dropping steadily for the last 4 days and fishing off the North bank, the Boil below the rock was the last real chance of the day at 1ft 3 and that's exactly where the fish was lying. A 15 minute battle ended half way down the Manse pool and Ron made it back to the shop for 2pm. A great way to spend a lunch break, he'll be doing it more often - all future salmon caught by Ron this season will be photographed and returned carefully to river.

The set up used for those of you who might be interested, Rod - Guideline 14ft 9" AWM 10/11, Reel - Loop Evotec 9/13, Line - Ian Gordon Spey medium head 10/11 fast sink, Leader - 8ft Seaguar Fluorocarbon 25lbs, Fly - 2" medium weight Willie Gunn Special + Salar gold treble size 7.

Low water salmon fishing techniques on the Kola and elsewhere

Many fishers approach the idea of low water with something less than enthusiasm in the belief that intolerable difficulties await and fish become fiendishly difficult to catch. Nothing could be further from the truth and within the environment of the Northern Rivers low water is something to be looked forward to as a rewarding and fascinating time. The reason for this is simple, none of the rivers are spate dependant and all are lake fed with the consequence that they are never too low for fish to run. As the rivers naturally drop back to summer levels more and more water opens up for fishing and every lie can be accessed with relative ease. The swift drop and naturally highly oxygenated nature of the water means that active and aggressive fish are lying wherever conditions appeal to them and many a monster has materialized from the front of a rock or in the middle of a little pot or run. To successfully capitalize on low water anglers need an open-minded approach and an understanding of the methods outlined below as well as a willingness to use stealth and guile in getting up close and personal. Remember salmon are no more or less wary than the most highly tuned chalk stream or spring creek trout and approaching them in the same way will reap great benefits for the careful angler.


This method involves hitching a small fly behind the head so that it retrieves at an angle to the current creating a wake on the surface. The same effect can also be achieved by boring a hole in the side of a small tube fly. This method is at its best in glides and V's where a strong current begins or ends. Polaroid glasses often enable the angler to see fish following the fly and can lead to some highly intensive and emotional experiences! Successful fly patterns include anything small and dark such as the Black Bear Red/Green Butt, Stoats Tail, Jeannie or lighter flies like the Green Highlander, Hairy Mary and Blue Charm. Hitching a Bomber or Muddler Minnow can also be very productive albeit that many more fish will show to the Bomber than will actually grab hold however in these circumstances it then pays to skate a small fly over the same fish. Greasing the leader to within a few inches of the fly when skating can improve presentation and the use of fine diameter high b.s fluorocarbon means that large fish can be fought with confidence.


Big Bomber dry flies in sizes 2 -6 can be tremendous fish attractors with all sorts of antics being displayed from fish jumping out the water and grabbing the fly on re-entry to tail slapping and other attempts to drown the fly. The bomber can be fished dead drift, skating, dibbling or swinging in a regular manner and all methods have their day. Remember a fish moving to the Bomber is on the alert and as mentioned above a small fly pulled over the same fish will often result in a firm take. As the fly is so big and visible it can be used in any water although classic bomber water is the fast tail glides prevailing in our waterfall pools. Green, brown and white are favourite colours for the Bomber


This is probably the single most successful method on the Rynda and Zolotya and can also be used to great effect on the Kharlovka and Eastern Litza. A good dibbler will without doubt always out fish other rods. A key factor in dibbling is the ability to read and develop a feel for the water. It also demands an open mind to the fact that salmon will often lie in unlikely places and therefore concentration is a must as a salmon moving to the fly in fast broken water can be tough to see even if it moves several times. Dibbling is the method of dapping or skating a fly on a very short line and lends itself to extracting fish from small lies and otherwise impossible spots. The essence of dibbling is getting close to the fish whilst using background or cover and hanging a bouncing, bobbling fly over their nose. Takes are usually explosive and every fin can be seen as the fish slashes and lunges at the fly. To achieve maximum benefit a 12-13ft rod is usually the best with a 10ft level leader of 20lb fluorocarbon. The fly line is immaterial as one is very rarely utilizing more than a few yards and it is one of the few occasions where a double taper line with a nice feel has a place in modern salmon fishing. On the rivers of Sutherland where the method was developed a dropper is often used however experience in Russia shows that one is much better fishing with a single fly as otherwise a broken leader is the likely outcome. A good set up is a small light tube such as a Silver Stoat or Hairy Mary or alternatively a small 10/12 Muddler. There is no need to hitch the fly although it can help in some pools. It is better to use the currents to create tension with the fly and literally paint the pool moving a high rod around like a magician's wand. Keep a very close eye out as fish can move several times to the fly sometimes more than once on the same cast. Once located stick on them until they are hooked or touched never leave an interested fish to find fish as they say. Another factor about this type of fishing is that a strike is not misplaced particularly when a fish performs the classic head and tail rise over the fly and the angler lifts as the fish goes down dare I suggest one of the great moments in salmon fly fishing. Another method that appeals to certain of the cognoscenti is dibbling a big Sunray Shadow or Collie Dog in likely spots. This method is best described as "Shock and Awe " and can bring up huge fish particularly in August and September. It is not recommended for those with dickey hearts or less than full control of their faculties!

Clear Intermediate

The use of a slow sink clear intermediate (slime line) or sinking line can be deadly when fishing pools where a reasonable cast is required. A key to this method is fishing small and keeping the flies moving through judicious hand-lining dependent on the currents. Many of the largest fish on our rivers have been hooked and landed on flies as small as size 12 and on a bright day keeping the flies down a few inches can be very successful. Small flies with a bit of action in their dressing work well including conehead tube flies, small Collie Dogs and Sunrays as well as Ally Shrimps and similar patterns. Always let the fly fish right around to the dangle as this is where many fish will grab the fly having followed it around.

Fast sinking line/Big Tube

On days of brassy sunlight when fish are reluctant to move close to the surface it can pay to run a big plastic tube fly on a fast sinking head through any pool with sufficient depth. When using this method hand-lining is again a pre-requisite and stripping the fly fast can also excite the predatory instinct of the fish. It is recommended that a minimum of 25lbs breaking strain is used for this technique as takes can be aggressive and at short range. The Willie Gunn is the undoubted king of flies for this method but a big Collie Dog and Sunray can also do very well.

Nymph Fishing

This method can be deadly in the waterfall and canyon sections of the rivers. It requires deep-water close in and optimally under the tip of the rod. We have developed a method of fishing a big stonefly nymph (size 6 long shank) on a long 16-18 ft leader. The essence of this method is keeping control of the fly and striking at any hesitation in its progress as it drifts along just above the bottom. In the waterfall pools look for a steady deep flow under your stance and pitch the heavy nymph upstream bringing it under control beneath your feet. Ideally you have a straight down connection with the fly and the tip of the fly line is just at the surface. You can then walk the fly down the pool for several yards feeling it's progress and striking hard if it hesitates. This can be a devastating method in hot weather and several fish over 30 pounds have been caught in this way. It is truly amazing to see this trout tactic producing salmon and many people are frozen in disbelief the first time the line draws away and a salmon hits the fly. In our experience the method is not suitable in the Foss (Whitewater) parts of the waterfall pools as one cannot control the fly and the only likely outcome is a foul hooked fish, which nobody wants.

Written by Gordon Sim - Director of

For more information, email Gordon directly at

Reproduced with the kind permission of For additional articles, please visit their site here.


Friday, December 1, 2006

Salmon farms kill wild fish, study shows

For the past several years I have followed the fight to save the Skeena River in British Columbia, Canada. There are a number of threats to this great river and its tributaries, but none more urgent then the pending Fish-Farms that are planned for the estuary and surrounding areas. The science available on the impact of these farms is nothing less then amazing, and I would guess that if you sat down and explained both the benefits and the negatives of these Fish-Farms to the average human being 95% of them would never consider them. But as we all know, money talks and even with mountains of evidence which basically tell us that if these Fish-Farms are put the mouth of the Skeena, the populations of wild salmon and steelhead are doomed and would likely be gone within a decade, they are still on the table. Are you amazed? I sure as hell am.

Tim Pask

Below is an excerpt of a recent study that was done. The findings? SALMON FARMS KILL WILD FISH

Salmon farms kill wild fish, study shows
New research confirms that sea lice from fish farms kill wild salmon. Up to 95 per cent of the wild juvenile salmon that migrate past fish farms die as a result of sea lice infestation from the farms. The results of the research have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America.

"We know that fish farms raise sea lice levels, and we know that sea lice kill fish," said the study's lead author Martin Krkosek, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta Centre for Mathematical Biology. "This is the first study to combine field surveys, experiments and mathematical modeling in one system to estimate the total impact of the farms."

The primary sea lice hosts are adult salmon. Under natural conditions, the adults are far offshore when the juveniles are migrating out to sea. Fish farms put adult salmon in net pens along the migration routes. The result is a cloud of sea lice through which the juveniles must migrate. "It takes only one or two sea lice to kill a juvenile pink or chum salmon," said Krkosek. "The juveniles are so vulnerable because they are so small ˆ only one to two inches long."

"We often worry about wildlife making humans sick, but here is a case where humans are making wildlife sick," said study co-author Dr. Mark Lewis, a mathematician and biologist at the University of Alberta.

The study found an increasing number of salmon were killed over the migration season, from 9 per cent in early spring when the sea lice population was low to 95 per cent in late spring when the sea lice population was higher.

See the rest here

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Helmsdale monster

The river Helmsdale will swing into action soon as the 2007 season gets ever closer. Chances of an opening day fish were boosted by the fact that World Spey casting champ Gordon Armstrong will be amongst the starting line up. The river will once again be open to the public for the first 3 days beginning on Thursday 11th January and if last year is anything to go by we will be celebrating the occasion with the first fresh Springers in Scotland. Hugh ( Shuggie ) Wilson grassed the all important first (9lbs) on the 13th on an Ally's shrimp in the Oasis pool Bt 3. The Atlantic salmon was fresh run and was the first of a record braking 6 fish taken in January. This might not seem much but it was a real talking point in the Highlands as sea-liced Springers are rare at this time, needless to say I got in on the act on the 17th Jan with my earliest fish ever at 8lbs - another small salmon but what size of fish is Mike Sheply holding up?? This was a true monster for the Helmsdale and at approx 48ins long i think we can safely put it in the 40lb bracket...The huge skeleton was discovered this season below the kildonan falls on beat 6. After spawning for probably the second time this cock fish had obviously run out of gas on the return journey to sea, hopefully its DNA contribution will help boost some bigger fish for future Spring runs "oh to have hooked that one in Jan!!".