Author: - David Downie
Location: - Lough Corrib Ireland 2003
April 2003 I managed to get over to Ireland and fish Lough Corrib at the invite of a good friend of mine Campbell Baird. As I had never been to Ireland before I jumped at the chance, which had nothing to do with Campbell constantly reminding me that the Guinness tasted like ice cream. Flight was booked the boats were ready and all I had to do was wait until April. Chomping at the bit I asked Campbell what flies should I be tying up, the reply was "none at all I have all the flies you will need for the Lough, Oh but could you bring some of those Shuggies you tied for Grafham" no problems was my reply. (Shuggies my name for Humungus)
We were set I got the wife to drop me off at the airport and once I had boarded the plane I was in N.Ireland (Belfast International) in 25 minutes and all for the cost of a £23 for a return. Picked up by Campbell and his nephew Clinton who would be joining us on the 4 hr trip down to Head ford southern Ireland where we would be staying right on the shore's of Lough Corrib. Back to Campbell's home to meet the rest of the guys and gals going down for the weeks fishing. Campbell's young son wee Campbell was going, Yvonne his lovely wife, Clinton the nephew, Harvey the boat master and last but not least Ross the crazy guy.
Loaded up we were ready to go, 2 Jeeps and 2 boats all kitted out. I could not wait to get there. Fours hours of driving and we had arrived, we met Frank the owner of the jetty and the Self Catering Cottage we would spending the next week in. 10 am in the morning and he was offering us a drink and well its pretty ignorant to not take him upon his offer, the only problem being the time in the morning and the amount of whiskey poured into our glasses. Well I was very warm and toasty that morning.
Gear unpacked, rooms and room mates picked and we were getting the fishing rods set-up for some fishing. As the weather was pretty rough we had decided not to move out beyond the causeway. This still left us with a lot of water to fish, in fact a huge amount of water as the place is 65 square miles. After putting the boats in the water and such a large whiskey, Campbell had a little mishap when he tried to get into the boat from the Jetty, well one foot on the boat and it pushed off and he was straddling the boat and jetty until his legs could go no further, in he went soaked and we had not even wet a line yet. No one laughed honestly.
Off we set for an afternoon's fishing, me and Campbell and Harvey and Ross with Clinton going off the bank on the causeway. To say it was rough was an understatement but hey these guys knew what they were doing and knew the water like the backs of their hands. Campbell and I started off just off the causeway moving in behind an island with Campbell maneuvering the boat in and out the skerries like a true champion. These Limestone rocks were very sharp as Harvey would find out later when we shared a boat. Campbell took the first fish pulling like hell on a wet-fly, think it was a Watson's Fancy Variant. I was messing around with the wet fly's and had no joy so up went the Shuggies in 2 ft of water on a DI3, I did fish them loch style by short lining and dibbling them across the waves. I pulled three cracking browns and hooked one of around 2 lbs, but it managed to get off.
No more fish that day as Campbell had also pulled more fish up and lost them. So it was back to the cottage for some food and then off to the pub for some Guinness I thought, well it was the other way around Pub first 3 o 4 pints of Guinness and then back for food and I'll tell you the Guinness does taste like ice cream. Clinton had managed one fish off the causeway and Ross and Harvey had not caught any. Dinner finished and Harvey asks me if I want to go back out for an hour to try the Shuggies in the deeper water as the wind had eased off. OK here we go again, well we only fished for 30 mins and I managed one fish of around 1 lb 4 ozs and lost another one not too bad, but on the DI6 this time around and in the channel that runs up and down Lough Corrib. Back to the pub for more of the black stuff. Happy Days as Ross would say.
After a hearty breakfast prepared by Campbell and Harvey we were off in search of some Duck fly activity. Same boat pairings as the day before and we headed down the water as the wind had eased quite a lot and was more comfortable to fish in. We darted about various places looking for the famous duck fly hatches but never really found any that were big enough to interest the trout. We ended up stopping in a small bay and found some rising fish which were taking some duck-fly. We fished and fished and had the odd offer then Campbell came up trump's once more with a nice fish just short of the 2 lb mark and in cracking condition, he caught it on a buzzer fished in the duck hole on a floating line. I messed around with the dries and eventually caught a fish on the Bibio dry on a size 16, a fish of about 12 ozs but a very welcome fish indeed. We fished for the rest of the afternoon but the fish were not interested even the small ones so I was time to go back for some food and get ready for the evening rise.
We had our food and headed back out onto the water for some dry fly action, we headed through the causeway and up through a string of small islands, Oh I forgot to mention these boats that they have over there are like speed boats 20Hp engines on them and they are very fast. We set-up on a cracking drift and as there were no fish rising Campbell suggested we try the Shuggies to start with so he began setting his second rod up with them but as I already had a rod set-up I was in full swing. All of a sudden Campbell spots a good fish cruising up the slick and changes his mind "I'm sticking with the dries he says" and I'll not tell you what he told me to do with the Shuggies. A well placed size 18 Black Buzzer cul-de-cunard and the fish was on and he was running and running about 35 yds, but Campbell got him back and eventually into the awaiting net. What a cracking fish beautiful big spots and in fin perfect condition about 2 lb 8 ozs, back he went to fight another day.
Well the drift was not yet over and as we approached an island and in 10 ft of water which was becoming 6 ft of water rapidly my rod banged over and I had a fish on, he was scrapping well and had mangled the Gold Shuggie on the bob. After a very spirited fight he was in the net all 3 lb 8 ozs of him a cracker, big big tail and full of muscle back he went. Well after such a great start things went downhill from there, the fish began to rise and rise and rise, millions of them and could we get one single fish to take our dries, wets or lures nope not one single fish looked at us so it was time to get back to the pub and hear all the stories which turned out that all the locals were having the same problems on this particular evening.
Day three was much like day 2, except that Campbell entrusted his boat to me (wee Campbell his son was not too well) with strict instruction to take it easy and not to venture too far, no problems as I had seen some of these rocks out in open water and they were the size of small houses, awesome sight when you see how clear the water is and how large these boulders are. So off Ross and I went on our own, that was enough excitement on it's own for me never mind the fact that there were thousands of fish rising. We fished hard and Ross was the only one to catch a fish in our boat and it was a MONSTER check the picture below. We went through the causeway and headed up the water a wee bit but still the same, loads of fish rising none taking and it was the same all over.
Back in for lunch and after a hearty lunch Campbell and I headed back out for our last trip together, back to the same little bay that we had ventured into the day before, but this time it was I who caught a fish on a buzzer a fish of about a 1 lb and Campbell was the one to catch a fish on the dry about the same size, well a wee bit bigger than mine. Back to the pub and then get some more wonderful grub always prepared to perfection by Campbell and sometimes Yvonne as well. The discussion that night was what we were going to do the next day as I was out with Harvey, Harvey and Clinton were having the same sort of day's we were having, one fish each was the order of the day. It was decided that Harvey and myself would spend the day in Balanutly bay which was a bay about 15 minutes boat ride from where we were staying. Excellent stuff I could not wait till the next day to see what the Shuggies would do in the right kind of water.
Off we set early in the morning, well 9 am which is early by Irish standards and we arrived in the Bay at around 9.15 am. Are you sure this was a bay I said to Harvey "yes" he replied, it was about three times the size of Loch Leven in Kinross maybe bigger. The reason for coming here is that it has a good head of fish and has an average depth of 10 ft ideal for the DI-6 and Shuggies. Kitted out I asked Harvey if he was going to try them and he replied "nope I'm going to stick with my buzzers" no problems there. We set the boat up to drift along the right hand shore drifting down into the bay, the anticipation was high. I could sense Harvey really wanted these flies to work, as he had been having pretty poor results all week like the rest of us. My second cast and bingo I was into a fish of around 2 lb 8 ozs what a scrap it fought all the way to the net and was photographed then released. Harvey was starting to get itchy for some Shuggie action but he was still not convinced, three more cast and bang another fish of around the same size but with completely different markings, another fish another photo this was looking to be a slightly better day.
He could not resist it any more and on went the Shuggies and out came his DI-7 that had never seen the light of day Harvey had never used it. It was like a coiled spring as Harvey had basically no backing on his reel at all but he stuck with it and fish hard all day hitting some fish and pulling some fish up much like myself. Harvey was getting his first lesson in Shuggie fishing. We finished the day with 7 fish for the boat with nothing under 2 lb and 3 fish over the 3 lb 8 ozs with one of those going to Harvey which I was well chuffed for him. Well when I arrived back in the harbor the news was already got widespread that I had caught 6 fish and none under 2 lb, a magical days fishing which going to get better. After a lot of celebrations and loads of Guinness it was off to bed for our last and final day, in my mind and in Harvey's we knew what we had to do the next day and where we would be heading.
Back to the same spot and with the same flies we were ready to go, but with something different! Campbell was coming in his own boat hot on our heels, he should be he had a bigger engine than us. It was early, the mist was just rising and we had slightly sore heads after the night we had. But nothing better for a sore head that up early for some fishing. The first 2 hours was pretty frustrating as we thought we were never going to catch any fish but Campbell managed 2 in those first hours on the Shuggies and then he headed back to get Clinton and go somewhere else in search of Duck fly.
The sun rose the wind dropped and the bay began to fill up with maybe 25 local boats all fishing away hard for some of those cracking Lough Corrib trout. A quick look around me and every other boat was fishing floating lines and we were the only boat fishing below the water, but it was ok cause we were the only boat catching and it was not just trout we were getting either Harvey had a cracking perch of about 1 lb 8 ozs and also we both hooked pike but I never managed to land mine getting broken off on 10 lb nylon. Next cast I hooked another one and the same thing broken, then Harvey hooks one and lands it.
On the last drift of the day we had 7 fish to the boat, 6 for me and 1 for Harvey (3 lb+ again) specimen hunter and I seen for the first time that week a couple of guys frying food on one of the islands with the Kelly kettle and open fire, superb. We drifted pretty close to them and as we were not fishing in a traditional Irish fashion we kind of got their attention, they were watching us and I was watching them until I hooked another trout all of 3 lb 8 ozs and landed it, 10 yds further on the drift I got another one of the same size maybe slightly larger and a further 10 yds I got another one nearer the 4 lb mark. Well I have never seen someone give up their lunch so quickly, they were over like a shot and watching what we were up to, all they had to do was ask but they would not have had the flies anyway and I was running out rapidly due to all those pesky pike.
The day was over I had managed a superb tally of 9 fish and Harvey had caught yet another beauty what a day, what a week I could have really got used to that way of life. Back to the jetty and tackled down we had once last hearty meal and headed off to the pub to tell all our stories.
I will certainly be back and maybe this time I will catch on the more traditional patterns but I will also go looking for those big fella's with the Shuggies as I'm pretty sure they are just waiting. On the way home I met with Patsy Deiry who was the Irish Captain at one of the Internationals I fished at Lynn Brenig in 2000 and he was telling me that they had 21 anglers out fishing in a club match the day we had 10 fish to the boat and they managed just 6 fish between them all and the biggest of around a 1 lb 8 ozs when I told him about our day he asked to see the flies well I only had 2 set of flies left and when I gave them to him he said, " Bl**dy Hell surely not on Corrib" but he never gave me the flies back and I have not spoken to him since and the Irish team knew all about my tactics at this year Spring International at Chew Valley. Happy Days
I have to thanks my good friends Campbell, Yvonne, wee Campbell, Harvey, Clinton and of course Ross for giving me such a pleasant and superb weeks fishing and I hope to do it again soon.