The Western Loughs opened their doors for us on Thursday, February 15th and let’s get this straight; it is not fishing for the faint-hearted! I am looking at the long-range forecast as I write and with a few sessions booked in for the boats, the weather is looking Baltic! Because of conditions like this, February and early March is not every fly angler’s cup of tea and most prefer to wait until after Paddy’s Day to make their first foray. However, for those of us who are chomping at the bit and can’t wait another second (that’s me), there can be some good fishing to be had. If the water remains very cold it will be a struggle but not as big a struggle as been stuck indoors on a cold November’s night!
The mainstay of wild Brown Trout fishing is simple; get a handle on what the fish are eating and then you are halfway there. There is not an abundance of food available at this time of year but there is still stuff there that the fish will survive and gorge on. Freshwater Shrimp and Hog Louse are the main invertebrates that are on the menu in February and March, the former is found in amongst the rocks and stones in shallow water. Hog Louse too frequent the shallow water but you will get them in areas that are slightly deeper alongside features and straddling reed beds. If the water temperature is not too cold over the preceding months, trout will also target smaller fish. These can be anything from Stickleback, Minnows or Coarse fish fry from the previous year (0+). These can be found in most part of the shallower areas of the lake but concentrating around promontories and bays where they are not too far from shelter, a nearby shallow will give them sanctuary.
Two methods to target early season trout in Ireland
My first method would be plain and simple Wet-Fly fishing with a team of traditional wets. A slow or fast intermediate are the lines of choice, I generally opt for the fast intermediate if the wind is a bit stronger and moving the boat at a faster pace, the Di3 sweep is also an option. The X-factor for early season is location! You want to be able to present your flies to fish in the area where their food source is so, in the case of shrimp, you need to be in shallow water where there are rocks and stones.
My maxim is, if your flies are getting snagged on the bottom occasionally then you are fishing the right water. Ideally, you are looking at having your flies in water of a meter deep or less. Shrimp rarely venture too far from the protection and shelter of rocks and stones and the trout know that.
My most successful patterns are without a doubt, Dabblers in Claret, Olive, Fiery Brown, Golden Olive or Silver. Davy McPhail’s patterns with the legs and mylar butt are brilliant and good to see that Fulling Mill have them on offer for this year (available early March!)
My second go-to method is lure fishing and over the last number of years, I have done more and more of this finding it to be a really good way of scoring success. I fish only one fly and the length of my leader would only be a meter and a half, two meters maximum. I have fished a two-fly cast for lures and many anglers do but I found that the point fly was the most successful and I have more control with just one so I dispensed with the second.
There is a perception amongst some that you have to use fast sinking lines for this method but this is not the case! I have had tremendous sport fishing a Silver Hummungus or Snake (can’t wait to try the new 5cm version) on a Fast Intermediate, that said I am always prepared to try different lines. My general range is between Intermediate, Di3 to Di7. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are always getting down deep, if you are fishing with a good wind moving the boat along briskly and a fast retrieve the line will only get a chance to go down a meter at most. If you want to get down further then you have to countdown your line and slow down the retrieve, indeed there are times the slow retrieve on this method can be deadly but more difficult to execute in a big wind.
I have had some really good fishing in the past fishing these two methods around opening times, so hopefully this year I can get 2018 off to a great start. I can’t wait for the rest of the season!