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
"Saltwater fly-fishing in
still in it's infancy" KevinMcGarry, Principle Officer for
Moyle District Council told me.
"Here in Moyle we have a lot to offer both local and visiting
anglers, and just waiting to be discovered 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 before 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
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 theory to the test.
If you ask any angler in
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 Northern British
times you can't see the angler 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 top of each mountain swathed in a blanket of cloud, but as
we drove up the coast 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
at villageof Waterfoot . Red Bay Northern Irelandswhite
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 Mountai to Cloghastucan. This section of coastline is n
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 like 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
7/8 wt 10 ft. 5 piece Cortland
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 though, 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 maximum size of strength to be used in case of snagging;
it also allows for very fast 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 casting near the kelp beds that were close to the
shore. It wasn't long before 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 predominant 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
. The name of the port means White Park Bay
'port of the Salmon' and the Salmon Fishery still exists after 600 years.
The church dedicated to St. Gobbans is claimed to be the smallest 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
bywanting to cast as far out to sea as they can. What they are missing is the Scotland
wonderful deep gullies that the tide has carved over the centuries just the
place predatory fish lie in wait for their prey.
Casting using the north- easterly wind was easy for Larry, as he is
left-handed. He applied his 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 swung 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 test of time and had transferred easily to the sea.
The marks that Larry and Kevin fished included Ballintoy the rocks just
right of the harbour, Salmon Rock in the
, Torr Head all villageof Cushendun
be it a dangerous 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 Antrim coast and
. The area has 42 miles of Scotland
breathtaking north Antrim coastline that rivals the best internationally,
natural beauty, towering 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 Glens of Antrim and
lying 7 miles of Rathlin Island
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 with smaller flies rather than the bigger.
Sand Eels, Lefty's Deceiver'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 that 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 pleasant 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 current 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 salmon 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 causeway. During that trip we only managed to scratch the
surface of hot spots in Moyle, we didn't have time to try Larrybane &
Carraick-A-Rede or fish the surf in
and White Park . We didn't Murlough Bays
get the opportunity to try below
or explore the gullies at Kinbane Castle
Fair Head but we did fill up our senses and caught plenty of fish.
By. Phil Boyd
Moyle District Council;
7 Mary Street
Ballycastle, bt54 6qh
ph. 00 44 (0) 28 2076 2024
Photography; Arthur Ward www.northantrim.com