While there are many fine lakes in Ireland, most people agree that Lough Corrib is the best wild brown trout lake in the country. On a good day you may land several fish each weighing two pounds or more (Anglers are old-fashioned; a pound, for young readers, is 454 grams). On another day you will blank. This guide will help the beginner.
The fishing season for trout on Lough Corrib runs from 15 February to 30 September. The manner of fishing depends on the habits of the trout. Trout habits are governed by several factors but the main one is the availability of food. If the angler knows where trout are feeding and what they are feeding on his or her chances of catching a fish are improved. Being in the right place at the right time is the key to success. We will return to this when we look at the different fishing seasons, but first, a word about techniques.
Almost all fishing on Corrib is done from an open boat. Shore points where one can fish comfortably and fruitfully are scarce. A boat allows you to choose your spot and to cover a wide area. All legal methods may be used. The use of live fish as bait is strictly forbidden and rightly so as too many trout lakes in the country have been permanently destroyed by the introduction of invasive and non-native fish species. The main fishing methods used are trolling, dapping and fly fishing.
Trolling means drawing a bait behind a boat which is moving at a slow pace. Trolling a brickeen was the traditional means used when people caught Corrib trout for sale. Bricín means a small trout but in fact the fish used is a minnow caught in the rivers that feed the lake. The dead brickeen is threaded on to a “brickeen mount” with a pair of wings that spin the bait in the water. Popular artificial lures for trolling are the Tasmanian Devil or “tassie” and the Rapala.
Dapping requires a long rod, 5 metres or so, a standard nylon fishing line, a length of floss and a hook with something interesting on it. The floss is tied to the end of the fishing line. At the end of the floss a short length of nylon is tied on with the hook at the end. When the long rod is raised the floss is blown forward by the wind. By adjusting the length of the line and angle of the rod the hook and bait can be kept moving on top of the water to tempt a trout. The classic dapping bait is a live mayfly or two. A grasshopper or a cranefly (daddy long-legs) may also be used. The unlucky insect is impaled on the hook and is hugely attractive to trout who are feeding on the fly. Artificial flies can also be dapped to good effect. Dapping is popular throughout the season.
Casting a fly
Casting an artificial fly is the most popular method for catching trout. The main techniques are wet fly, dry fly and buzzer.
Wet fly is the traditional method of fishing on Corrib. The flies are cast on the water and pulled back through the water to imitate an item in the trout diet. Flies are usually fished in a team of three tied on nylon to the end of the fly line, with a point fly furthest away and two flies hanging from the line on “droppers” a few inches long. The top dropper or bob fly is closest to the rod, and the middle dropper is called – wait for it – the middle dropper. When the three flies are cast out and pulled back trout are most likely to take in these first few pulls of the flies. The top dropper is usually a bushier fly that is designed to be touched along the surface of the water after the first few pulls of the retrieve as the rod is raised in preparation for the next cast. Trout can be stimulated to take by a full stop of the top dropper.
“A Simple Game” post on this website is an interview with Roundstone angler Joe Creane and is well worth reading for, among other things, more detail about how to fish wetflies.
While wetflies rely on movement to attract a trout, dry flies are designed to lie static, with the option of an occasional twitch, on the surface of the water. The fly is treated with a floatant to keep it on the surface and when cast out it is left on the surface, the angler just retrieving enough to keep the line straight. The fly is then lifted straight off and cast again to land on a fresh spot.
Buzzer fishing gets its name from the small chironomid flies called buzzers which are found in known “holes”. The main event is the Duckfly hatch in spring but buzzer fishing has a more widespread use. Anglers feel that buzzers are becoming more common and associate this spread with declining water quality on the lake. The larva dwelling in mud transforms to a pupa before emerging at the surface to push out its wings and fly off to breed. This pupa stage often floats for a few days in a dense concentration above the lake bottom and is a great attraction to trout. The technique can be used for various flies up to May including non-chironomid species such as lake olives and can be used for trout feeding at levels from near bottom to near surface. The flies used are very lightly or even minimally dressed. The favoured fishing technique is with three flies on a long line of nylon, fluorocarbon or similar clear, fine material which can sink into the feeding area and is kept static or very close to static. Line length, length of time allowed to sink, choice of fly can be varied to find the depth where trout are feeding.
Since we have mentioned water quality, anyone with an interest in this (and any angler with sense should) can support the Carra Mask Corrib Water Protection Group. www.cmcwpg.ie
Change with the seasons
The habits of the trout vary with the availability of food which is governed by the season. A rough breakdown of the seasons follows.
Opening day to mid-March. Trout are feeding mainly on shrimp, caddis fly and water louse. Trolling brickeens is a favourite method at this time. Fly casters tend to head for shallow, rocky areas. Useful patterns include the Silver Dabbler, March Brown, Bibio and Fiery Brown.
Mid -March to early April. This is when the Duckfly emerge. These are small dark coloured chironomids that can be seen in clouds, almost like smoke, over bushes around the lake. Duckfly emerge from relatively small areas, “duckfly holes”, and trout may congregate there in large numbers. Buzzer patterns, emerger patterns with some orange perhaps, or imitations of the ready to fly stage are used. Epoxy buzzers, Duckfly Emerger, Blae and Black, Peter Ross, Connemara Black are examples of flies used.
Around Easter is when lake olives emerge. These are small olive-green flies and a good day on olives is a great day out. Favourite flies include the Cruncher, Cock Robin, Sooty Olive, Golden Olive Bumble. Buzzer patterns are also effective. Olives emerge in areas where there is a good covering of chara plant growth on the bottom. Feeding seagulls are a helpful indicator, as is the presence of more than one boat in an area.
In May the famous Mayfly emerges. This large green fly emerges from the water and takes off to the shore where it will breed in the vicinity of a whitethorn (also known as mayflower or hawthorn) bush, then return to the water to lay eggs and die. The couple of weeks of the Mayfly hatch is the peak of the fishing season on Corrib. A good day on Mayfly is a great day, but there are no guarantees on Corrib! Dapping is popular at this time. Favoured wetfly patterns include Gosling, Green Dabbler, French Partridge Mayfly. You could even chance a Green Peter. Try a Grey Wulff for a dry fly.
by mid-summer the best of the season may be over, but there are still fish to be caught and good days to be enjoyed. June is often considered a dead month. If you like salmon fishing, this is when the summer run of grilse hits most rivers and you may choose to bid the lake goodbye for a few weeks. In recent years, some hardy souls have taken to fishing in June using Caenis patterns. The caenis (“fisherman’s curse”) is a tiny fly. The best time to fish it is at dawn and shortly afterwards. It requires stealth, light equipment and fine technique. The sight of shoals of trout feeding early in the day is remarkable. A guide on Corrib should always be useful but is recommended for the beginner at this fishing.
“July is an abominable month of blue skies” said Kingsmill Moore. In summer the water temperature may rise and the fish become lethargic and lie deeper. Nevertheless, you might be in luck. The most often noticed fly is the sedge and patterns such as the Mallard and Claret, the Octopus and the Kate McClaren may be useful. The Green Peter and variants such as Red-arsed Green Peter and Green Peter Muddler are popular from now to season’s end. In fact Green Peter style flies are useful from April on and for some anglers the GP family is the go-to fly on Corrib.
Dry fly fishing using sedge patterns can be productive in late summer and into September.
In Summer some trout feed on Daphnia. These are tiny water-fleas that feed on algae and form clouds of food for trout. Daphnia are often found in deeper water. They are closer to the surface on a dull day. Colourful patterns with red, yellow, orange and a bit of flash or sparkle are favoured. International Dabbler, Gorgeous George or a colourful Mayfly pattern may bring results.
Things are starting to tail off in September. The trout are lining up to run into the rivers to spawn. There may be mackerel in Galway bay. Fishing on Corrib is generally slower. An old suggestion for the end of season is to return to the fly patterns used at the start of the year. For an enjoyable day adjust your expectations, experiment with your favourite flies, bring a good lunch and take in the beauty of the lake. A trout will be a bonus.