Fly fishing on the Cashla River, Connemara
|Ally fishes on Beat 4 of the Cashla River.
Next morning mist greeted the sun which soon burned through to provide a mostly clear and bright sky, perfect for photographs but maybe not ideal for fishing in a small open moorland river. The River Cashla marshals the water out of Costello & Fermoyle and conduits it to the sea, its last leg between Glenicmurrin Lough and the tide is about 31/2 miles long and for fishing it is split into four beats numbered from the lowest upwards. Fishing such places requires a feel for the river and local knowledge is a considerable advantage. Fortunately my companion for the day was Geoffrey Fitzjohn, a local man with a lifetime of fly fishing knowledge several decades of which have been spent on the banks of the Cashla gaining the hard earned reputation of being the most successful salmon angler there. Apart from ourselves the river was untenanted that day and we had the privilege and permission to fish all four beats of it from Glenicmurrin Lough to the road bridge by the Fishery Office and leaving my car conveniently at the end point of our planned trek we hitched a lift to within a short walk of its emergence from Glenicmurrin. One of the wettest summers on record filled the bogs and raised the loch and consequently the river was at a good level, its waters looked dark and mysterious partly due to its tannin tinge but mostly caused by its usually dark unreflective peat bed which at times sank to significant depths. Mostly the banks are steep and wading is not only unnecessary but would be quite unwise. Geoffrey’s choice of wellington height boots proved to be much more suitable for the ensuing hike than my chest waders. I’ll put that one down to experience! Equipped with 10ft trout rods and floating lines, fairly short leaders and just one fly attached we set off exploring and what Geoffrey called “cherry picking” to fish the most promising lies. Kindly he gave me a “special” #12 double Black Shrimp fly from the Helmsdale Tackle Company, saying laughingly that he hoped Ron Sutherland would give him discount next time he ordered if I mentioned that! Geoffrey has huge faith in this pattern and confided that he uses little else, today he chose a #14 to give the fish a smaller alternative to my fly. Larger flies are seldom required on small rivers like this one, except in high water conditions.
Geoffrey’s recommendations for this fishery in his order of preference based on 40 years plus of fishing Cashla are:
Salmon: Black Shrimp, Silver Stoats Tail, Bibio, Watsons Fancy, Allys Shrimp (Spring), Stoats Tail, Connemara Black and Hairy Mary.
Sea Trout: Bibio, Watsons Fancy, various Bumbles including Magenta, Black Pennell, Red Arsed Green Peter, Peter Ross, Delphi Silver, Daddy Long Legs and Dunkeld.
Rods 10ft to 11ft, AFTM 6 or 7 with floating or intermediate line and Seagaur fluorocarbon leaders of 6 to 8lb BS for sea trout and 12 to 15lb for salmon.
|Geoffrey fishes Angle Glide on the Cashla River
Cashla river has worn its way through peat and rock for centuries its channel sunken deep and its steep usually overhanging banks are mostly clad with reeds, grasses, heather, wind cropped gorse and a plethora of wild flowers sufficient in variety to keep a botanist busy with a reference book for quite some time I expect. Flat moorland gives the angler little chance of easy concealment and a stealthy and wary approach must be made. Bold outlines against the sky and shadows cast over pools are anathema, salmon that sense your presence are unlikely to be caught so success can sometimes be attributed to crawling on hands and knees and failure caused by a less cautious approach that frightens everything in sight. We took every care to cause as little disturbance as possible, keeping away from the fish’s view against the skyline, no splashy casts, softly, softly we fished each likely pool, riffle or lie. Sometimes a cloud approached the sun and we waited for it to provide some covering shade and contrast. Salmon don’t like looking into strong light any more than we do and waiting for an opportune cloud to cast its shadow can be a wise decision. Long distance casting is redundant here but landing the fly on a sixpence under the far bank or behind a rock are essential skills, attributes of accuracy more usually associated with dry fly fishing now employed for effective salmon fishing. Geoffrey with his practiced hand overhead cast with his #6 line cleanly and accurately best described as “melting” his line into the surface and the plop of his fly like a raindrop was barely visible. This really is scaled down, salmon fishing in Lilliput and like fishing small rivers anywhere attention to detail is far more important that it might be on some of the big waters. Streamy runs were fished by swinging the fly, hand-lining was the usual tactic for the slower parts.
Occasionally a grilse would reveal its presence with a quiet head and tail rise, hardly disturbing the surface, another might swirl boldly in the mirror like surface causing circling ripples to dance across the narrow pools. If the fish looked like it might be in a taking place our flies would be sent on an interceptory mission and attempt to deceive it. Sadly all of our missions were unsuccessful. I even risked Geoffrey’s wrath by trying a small Ally’s Shrimp and later a tiny Cascade but I suspect that the real problem here in common with many other rivers this season (2012) was the disappointing runs of grilse on the Cashla. Any fish that we saw looked distinctly coloured and despite what I’m assured was perfect water conditions there was little evidence of fresh fish about. Mid September can produce good fishing but July and August are the prime months here. On the plus side we enjoyed a wonderful stroll down the river amidst beautiful scenery and thanks to the sun and wind the day was free from horrific midges. As we progressed I couldn’t help wondering about the immense effort that has been expended over the past millennia making paths, stepping stones and rock bridges to facilitate the angler’s progress. Hundreds if not thousands of stones set into the peat to provide safe footing along much of the way the path being carefully planned to avoid disturbing pools. Dry stone pillars that must have withstood the ravages of floods for decades or longer to carry simple timber bridge planks or sometimes huge rock slabs. And such a colossal amount of effort expended before employment of the internal combustion engine means lots of sweat by man and horse. How many fly fishers have trod these stones? T C Kingsmill Moore for sure, probably Mrs Laing, who Grimble mentioned took nine salmon of average weight 8lbs in a day and also the man who caught 200 sea trout on another day from the River Cashla. I felt a sense of privilege as I followed the flagstones in their footsteps downstream and gazed upon the meandering river that looked comfortable flowing within its peaty banks and I don’t ever recall seeing so many dragonflies as I did that day a source of frequent amusement as they darted and hawked their way presumably looking for smaller insects to prey upon. A sign no doubt of a healthy ecosystem. During my short two-day visit it was impossible to do justice to such a large system of loughs and river, my experience amounted to exploring the tip of the iceberg but I saw enough of it to appreciate its beauty, charm and extraordinary extent of its fly fishing opportunities.
Page 1 - Costello and Fermoyle Fishery
Page 2 - Glenicmurrin Lough
Page 4 - Costello Flies, credits and contact