Good to know before you go…

Boats:

When fishing in Connemara you will undoubtedly end up fishing from a boat. Life jackets are legally required for all going afloat. Western lake boats are built of either fiberglass, or wood. They are between 16 and 18 feet long and heavily built to withstand the worst conditions which might be experienced on Lough Corrib.

If you carry more than one rod (e.g.: fly, dapping and spinning) assemble them all before embarking. It is difficult and dangerous to set up a rod while in the boat. Lay them along the seats, keeping the butt ends close to you.

Eight very important don’ts while afloat:

  • Don’t drink (alcohol) and drown.
  • Don’t stand up in the boat for either casting or playing a fish; in fact don’t stand up unless you really have too.
  • Don’t put rods on the bottom of the boat – they will get stepped on and that will ruin your day!
  • Don’t store a battery with the fuel container in a locker or other confined space. Keep them well apart.
  • Don’t assume that because there is a watery gap between two pieces of land that the boat will make it through. Connemara’s lakes, particularly Corrib and Mask, are relatively shallow throughout, with many reefs, rocks, etc. which can open a boat with ease. Worse still you may think you are in the middle of the lake with no land for hundreds of yards, not necessarily so, it may be 6 inches below you!
  • Don’t go out without at least a six horse power engine and tie it securely to the boat. Connemara’s big lakes get nasty in stormy weather and you will need the extra power. If you are unsure, head for the lee side of the nearest island. Keep either the bow or stern of the boat into the waves, don’t allow the boat to go broadside, it may be flipped over by the waves. If the engine breaks down, keep the bow or stern into the waves using the oars and drift to the nearest lee side of an island or the shore.
  • Don’t leave shore without a set of working oars, preferably three.
  • Which leads us to the last one – don’t take to any water without enquiring locally about it. Better still get a guide or gillie to show you around first before venturing out by yourself.

Boat hire:

Connemara Wild Escapes will be happy to arrange for a boat to be at your disposal along with all the necessary equipment. Fuel will be charged separately. Kindly complete the pre launch inspection sheet before setting sail paying particular attention to the propeller and skeg of the engine. Report all damage to the supplier before setting out. Damaged boats and engines will be charged for.

Note: No alcohol is permitted on boats provided by Connemara Wild Escapes and/or their agents.

Guides, Gillies and Boatmen:

If you are a new comer to the fisheries or are about to embark on discovering a new fishery it is always wise to consider utilizing local knowledge. Connemara Wild Escapes will organize this expertise should you require it.

Tackle and clothing:

Tackle in the form of rod type and recommended flies are dealt with more specially under the fishery descriptions of the target species.

Going fishing somewhere new can sometimes bring doubts to the surface! Will I have the right gear? What happens if I forget something essential? With this in mind we have included a short run down on gear for the main types of fishing in Connemara. It could never be fully comprehensive but will hopefully point you in the right direction. Don’t forget Connemara Wild Escapes will assist whatever the requirements. Alternatively, if you are a beginner, you could book some instruction through Connemara Wild Escapes before you decide to buy any tackle or gear.

Salmon:

The size of rod you use normally depends on the size of river you are fishing. The rivers of Connemara are generally small so a 9 to 14 foot rod weighted 8 or 9 will cover most requirements. Bring a variety of lines: floating, intermediate and sinking as a minimum regardless of the time of year.

It is also worth bringing an 8 – 10 foot 5/6 weight rod which can be used for low water, trout or boat fishing. Leaders should be from 8lb to 15lbs breaking strain. Barbless hooks are preferred and it is important to have scissor pliers or similar implement for carefully unhooking and releasing the fish.

Classic salmon flies sizes ranging from 8 – 12 will cover most situations but there are local fishery favorites and these are listed under the fisheries section of this web site. Tube flies are a handy variation when water levels are high. Connemara Wild Escapes will advise you according to the fishery, species and time of year as to what flies are most effective.

As a rule of thumb Irish weather is particularly wet, so a good all over heavy duty water proofs are essential. Chest or thigh waders are a good way to keep legs dry while river fishing but impractical for boats where Wellingtons are best.

Wetness brings cold so warm clothes layered under your waterproofs are important. A hat is recommended, one with a chin strap to avoid it being blown into the water by a sudden gust. A wading stick is a must on rivers such as The Weir at Galway Fishery, but not really required for the other fisheries. Bring a life jacket for both wading and boating.

White (Sea) trout:

For fishing either lough (a longer rod is recommended for lough fishing) or river normal fly fishing tackle will do fine. An 8 – 10 foot 5/6 weight rod would be ideal all rounder and a floating line will cover most occasions. Bring intermediate and sinking lines to be on the safe side.

Classic white (sea) trout flies ranging in size from 8 -14 will cover most requirements. Barbless hooks would ease catch and release as the taking of white (sea) trout is now prohibited by government bye-law. Tube flies are also known to be effective but please try and use with a barbless single or double hook. Trebles damage the fish, so just clip off one hook with a pliers and file the barbs. The leader requires 4lb to 8lb breaking strain.

Life jackets are mandatory on all loughs and many anglers are wearing them river fishing particularly at night time. If night fishing is on your agenda don’t forget a torch, preferably on a lanyard attached to your person or bag! A whistle may be a handy item should you need to attract attention in an emergency.

Brown trout:

An 8 – 10 foot 5 or 6 weight fly rod will cover all situations in Connemara. Longer rods are definitely an advantage when lough fishing. Floating line and an intermediate line are advisable. Perhaps some floss if you want to try “dapping”. A leader around 3lb to 4lb will do the job.

Lighter tackle can be used on the smaller loughs and streams of Connemara so if space isn’t an issue bring the zero weight rod and accessories and have fun with the three to a pound loughs. A good selection of all the standard favorite nymphs is recommended together with, wet and dry flies ranging in size from 10 – 16.

General:

Casts/Leaders – as a rule of thumb the cast should be usually the length of the rod you are using. Droppers vary between 1 and 2 in number and should stand out at least 3 to 4 inches from the main cast.

Landing nets – again depending on the type of fishing; the size of the mouth net and the length of the handle are important. So if you are river salmon fishing a wide mouth with a long handle would work better with suitable strength netting. Please try and use knotless nets as these are easier on the fish when practicing catch and release. A net with a telescopic handle is ideal as it can be shortened for carrying.

Drogue – an old plastic bucket and a fifty foot length of rope. This is attached to a drifting boat while lough fishing to slow down the drifting boat and give fishermen more time to work flies.

Folding anchor - a small folding anchor with 50 feet of rope to secure a stationary boat over a particular “hot” spot is advantageous. Beware of the limestone lakes, particularly Corrib and Mask which are notorious for their craggy bottoms and anchors have sometimes been lost!

Cushion – the most important piece of lough fishing equipment is a good cushion. Preferably water proof with a seat attachment, Velcro strap or the like, to stop it blowing away into the lough.

Wellington boots – waders are needed for rivers and knee boots for boats. Leather or studded soles are not good for use in boats as, the former slips and the latter can damage the inside surfaces of the boat.

Waterproofs – in Ireland good waterproofs are absolutely essential. Jackets should have one piece hoods to stop the rain dribbling down your neck. Jackets should be long enough to go well over leggings, particularly when sitting in a boat. Remember not to tuck your leggings into your boots!

Ball of string - is good for “U” shaped rowlocks to tie the oar to for drifting. It has endless uses for both boats and fishing in the wilds of Connemara.

Knives - a good Leatherman or Swiss army utility knife is invaluable! One of the reasons why we became fishermen, wasn’t it? Also a good sturdy strong and sharp bladed knife will come in handy in the boat. Fillet knife.

Scissors – always handy. Forceps are also handy for releasing caught fish quickly and can be purchased from Connemara Wild Escapes or your local pharmacy.

Priest - a proper lead weighted Priest will allow you to avoid using the boat or large stone to dispatch your latest prize.

Spare oar – this is not the easiest item to lug about, but if you have a boat, put one in. When you need it, you will need it urgently.

Bailer – most boats will be equipped with a suitable bailing bucket but if you find none is provided use an old paint tin, cut a soft drinks bottle in half or bring a plastic bucket. Some of the boats will be full of water when you arrive for your days fishing. Don’t waste valuable fishing time by scrambling around looking for a suitable bailing container.

Hat- this keeps the heat in and the sun and wet out. Bring one with a chin strap so it doesn’t get blown off into the water.

Sun glasses (Polaroid) & sun cream – good sun glasses help you to see the fish and keeps the glare out when lough fishing. Be sure to cover exposed skin with sun cream to avoid sun burn, particularly when fishing from a boat.

Food and drink – if you are walking to some remote little Connemara brownie lough or spending a day on Corrib or Mask unforeseen circumstances could mean that you are out for longer than expected so always be prepared for such an event marooned for a day or so if you hit bad weather. Be prepared!

Please don’t drink (alcohol) and drown. Boats, water and alcohol are a deadly mix.

Matches or lighter & Kelly kettle – you have your string, food and drink so all you need now if marooned or on an island is a fire. Keep them dry. Also handy for making fresh lunch time island brew: if you are planning this bring a kettle, preferably a Kelly kettle if you can lay tyour hands on one!

Float tubes - rarely used in these parts, but advisable for fishing the smaller Connemarian loughs which do not have boats. You will reach places on these waters that in all likelihood have never been fished by the shore anglers!

Catch and release:

The majority of fisheries have a daily bag limit. These details are outlined under the fishery descriptions. In the interests of conservation, we at Connemara Wild Escapes would like you to practice catch and release – “a trout is far too valuable to be caught only once!” Catch and release is practiced in many countries where anglers wish to play a direct role in the conservation of fish stocks. White (sea) trout have been particularly severely hit on the West coast of Ireland for a number of reasons and now anglers are obliged to release them unharmed.

The catch and release system employed here in Ireland has a number of obvious benefits if practiced correctly. If fish are handled according to the guidelines suggested, then most of them will survive. Carefully releasing the fish, as opposed to retaining or mishandling them, can have a positive impact on stock levels. In turn this improves the fishing experience and enjoyment of the sport for future generations.

Type of tackle – fish caught on artificial flies are usually much easier to release, particularly if a barbless hook is used, than a fish caught on a lure or bait. Small barbless hooks, either doubles or singles, are most suitable since they do less damage, are easier to remove and ultimately reduce the handling time. This is very important for the survival of the fish. Trebles should NOT be used if the fish are intended for release. The use of baits is prohibited on most fisheries where a fly-only byelaw operates.

Playing the fish – fish should be played as quickly as possible – a fish which is tired and has been “played out” for a lengthy period of time stands less chance of survival. Accordingly the tackle should be strong enough to allow you to land the fish as soon as possible.

Landing the fish - strongly recommended that a large, knotless mesh landing net is used to land the fish. Handling the fish should be kept to a minimum and the net should be kept in the shallow rock free water margins by the lough or river whilst removing the hook. If you must handle the fish, ensure that your hands are wet before doing so. The weight of the fish can be estimated from its length so as to avoid removing it from the water see table

If the hook cannot be removed, the leader should be cut close to the eye of the hook prior to release. Better still use a pliers to cut the hook in two and reverse out.

Releasing the fish – the fish should be gently supported from underneath but must not be squeezed or held by the gills or tail. Where possible, hold the fish so that it is facing up stream into the current. If in a boat hold the fish in the water parallel to the boat, facing towards the bow and let the forward motion of the boat force water through its gills. Once the fish has recovered its strength it should then kick and swim away!

Biting insects:

Connemara does not have dangerous animals but it has a tiny ferocious biting insect called a “midge”. One midge bite will go relatively unnoticed by the excited fisher folk but unfortunately when the wind dies swarms of midges descend upon any person close to the water, biting as they go and getting in ones ears, eyes and nose. No piece of exposed skin is safe! They are a serious nuisance and will eventually drive fisher folk back to the relative safety of their cars where they will start to erupt in itchy lumps wherever they have been bitten. After a few very itchy days the bite marks disappear. Please bring insect repellent and, if possible, try out its effectiveness because not all of them are a deterrent. Connemara Wild Escapes will be able to recommend the more effective brands. Netting is not a satisfactory solution as sometimes the mesh is too big and the sides cannot be sealed sufficiently.

The law and fishing:

Game fish are usually protected by certain laws and regulations, to which the angler himself is subject. Almost everywhere, in some form or other, salmon and trout fishing is preserved. A salmon license is required by law everywhere in Ireland. A license does not throw open privately owned and/or managed waters. Additional Permits are required on these. In all instances permission to fish must be granted prior to the angler taking their first cast. Most waters have local rules such as fly fishing only or bait fishing and spinning being restricted to certain set periods or localities. If in doubt ask!

Etiquette:

All Anglers should be aware of the strict etiquette which governs game fishing, particularly salmon fishing. Some elementary principles are as follows:

  • Never, when fishing amongst others, be accused of “poaching” – always give the next man plenty of water.
  • Never step in close ahead of someone in possession of the water (be it river or lough) or spin or bait fish immediately in front or behind the fly fisherman.
  • Never fish across the man on the opposite bank or wade in ahead of him into water he will presently want to cover.
  • If the arrangement or custom is to change-over beats at a certain hour then do so at that specified time – not five minutes or half an hour later.

In these days of increasing anglers and overcrowded waters it is vital that courtesies should be observed and the highest traditions of good sportsmanship and good manners maintained. Angling is such a delightful pastime and relaxation – not a struggle to get to the water first or catch the most fish … however tempting!

Safety:

Fishing like other water sports requires continual awareness of the hazards of being in or close to a potentially dangerous environment. The consequences of an error of judgment, accident or the thoughtlessness of others can result in drowning. Whether you can swim or not, a properly fitting life jacket or buoyancy aid should always be worn whilst in a boat, wading or close to water. This is particularly important for children.

If while wearing waders you fall into the water, get your feet up to the surface as quickly as possible. This will achieve two positive, possibly life saving results; first it will stop the waders filling up with more water, with obvious consequence. Secondly, the trapped air in the waders will help you float. Now calmly make your way to the shore. Remember gear is replaceable, you are not, and in this instance, it doesn’t matter how much the rod cost you.

Alcohol contributes to more boating accidents than all other causes – don’t drink and drown! Standing up and/or moving about within a boat is a major cause of man over board and capsize accidents. Remain seated at all times particularly when moving under power.

Anglers are the great watch dogs of the waterways and its surrounding environs. If you see any signs of pollution, distressed fish or other wildlife, then please report this to Connemara Wild Escapes and we shall relay your sightings to the appropriate authorities. Your prompt action could prevent a minor incident from turning into a major crisis.

Reports should include “what” has been observed, “Where” the occurrence took place, “when” the event was noticed and “the extent” of the issue, be it pollution or other problem. Positive occurrences are equally important, so let us know about them too!

As always, anglers should take care to avoid damage to the waterside or unnecessary disturbance to wildlife. Special care should be taken during the bird nesting season. More pertinent is the fact that fish caught late in the season will be ripe with spawn or milt so please return them with as little stress as possible. Close gates as access to rivers is often over private property of third parties.

No tackle must be left in the boat or on the banks and all litter must be taken home with you to be disposed of properly, particularly monofilament nylon fishing line. This causes great harm and suffering to any unfortunate creature that gets entangled resulting in a slow and agonizing death.

Anglers rules of thumb:

  • Don’t forget you need a license to fish for salmon and white trout. Connemara Wild Escapes will advise you and organize the required document.
  • Always make sure you have a fishery permit before you start fishing, if required. Connemara Wild Escapes will sort this out for you.
  • Always obey the fishery rules.
  • Show consideration for other anglers and water users, leave plenty of room and enjoy your time without being obtrusive to others.
  • Make sure you know what is a takeable and non-takeable fish. On Loughs Corrib and Mask a 13 inch minimum length size limit applies. Most boats have a ruler attached to a seat for ease of reference.
  • Follow the country code
  • Make sure your vehicle is parked sensibly and not blocking entrances or right of ways.
  • Never introduce fish from one water to another
  • Never leave litter behind particularly hooks and line.
  • If you are entering a new area or locality please ensure your gear has been properly disinfected. Boats and engines are particularly good at transporting alien species from one fishery to another.

Alien species:

A number of alien species have been introduced either willfully by discarding live bait or unintentionally by launching a watercraft infected by the previous waterway e.g.: Zebra mussel to the fisheries of Connemara. The consequences of these actions are as yet unknown but to keep our fisheries pristine we need to make a conscious effort to minimize the risks.

Contaminations in other parts of the world have revealed devastating consequences to the indigenous flora and fauna. Connemara is unique and as such it needs our protection in this regard.

Gyrodactylus Salaris is a parasite which infects salmon, trout and several other freshwater fish. The parasite is barely visible to the naked eye but, despite this, can cause serious damage to Atlantic salmon stocks.

The effects of the parasite are extremely serious. In Norway the entire salmon stock of 20 rivers has now been completely lost due to the disease. Particular races of salmon in the rivers affected have been lost forever and we don’t want this to happen to our Connemara wild salmon stocks. They already have enough to worry them!!

It does not occur in our waters. It originated in the Baltic rivers of Finland, Russia and possibly eastern Sweden. Fish in these areas are tolerant of this disease, but ours are not and have no immunity. The parasite is very hardy and is capable of surviving several days in damp conditions, just like the ones provided by fishing gear – waders, nets, bags, etc. So please sterilize your kit thoroughly upon returning from your fishing adventures. The consequences of carelessness could be very serious indeed.