I've been living in the west of Ireland for 3 months now. It is hard
to describe the place without using the same cliches and flowery language
that you find in all the tourist brochures. Suffice to say that it certainly
has a soft and gentle charm of its own. For some reason it looks its most
beautiful and haunting under a grey, cloud filled sky. Probably why it
is so consistently engaging, blue skies being a bit of a rarity around
The cloud filled skies bring rain. The rain feeds the lakes and rivers,
which in turn provide a smorgasbord of fishing opportunities. The majority
of freshwater fishing here is for either trout or salmon. While the salmon
fishing can be superb it was the promise of fishing for wild brown trout
that lured me to the green, green fields of County Mayo.
The west of Ireland is made up of two counties - County Mayo, where I
work and reside, and County Galway. There are a myriad of lakes, rivers
and streams in both counties and almost all of them contain wild brown
trout. If it is big trout you chase your best opportunities exist in fishing
one of the four big loughs which run north to south through the counties.
The southern most lake is Lough Corrib, a massive expanse of water. It
has an excellent reputation as a trout water and produces monster trout
every year, sometimes as large as 20 pounds. The next north is Lough Mask
another large body of water with a good head of trout. After that is Lough
Carra, the smallest of the great loughs. It has gin clear water and is
famous for its great hatches of insect and silver-flanked brownies. The
most northerly of the four is Lough Conn, my home base and the location
of the fishing hotel where I work.
Like everywhere there is one time during the season when the fishing
is at its best. This peak in activity occurs during Mayfly time. At this
time, usually during late May or June the mayfly insects hatch in there
millions. The various stages of the hatch provide a feast for the trout.
The mayfly has a bit of a tragic life cycle. They spend up to 2 years
as a nymph crawling around in the sludge at the bottom of the lough. After
this they ascend to the surface and hatch into a beautiful olive green,
up-winged dun. Unfortunately the insect's life as a dun is short lived,
they mate within 24 hours of hatching and then the male dies. The female
on the other hand under goes another transformation into a dull grey gnat.
She then returns to the water to lay her eggs, after which she collapses
on the surface of the lough and dies as well. A brief moment in the limelight
that lasts a day and a half at the most.
The trout feed on all stages of the mayfly lifecycle - the nymph, the
hatching dun and the spent gnat. After the long winter period the trout
are looking to increase in condition and stuff themselves to the gills
on mayfly. During this feeding frenzy the fish throw caution to the wind
and it is at this time of year that the greatest number of large trout
are taken on fly.
Mayfly time is a magic time to live around the big loughs. It heralds
the start of summer and many of the businesses rely on it to be the busiest
time of the year. The small towns surrounding the loughs are usually bustling
with fishermen. If you were to walk into the local supermarket dressed
in waders and fly vest with rod in hand you would scarcely raise an eyebrow.
It is a fishing festival of sorts, although totally unorchestrated. Every
year those in the know return for three weeks of magic.