Good morning from a damp and cool Foxford, winter is setting in. Water levels are high and its difficult yet to say what sort of numbers of fish are running the smaller spawning streams. There’s still Salmon splashing about at the back of the town. In this weeks blog I have tried to explain a little about water levels, conditions and suitable methods. In the coming weeks I will go into more detail on the actual methods, worm,spin, bubble and fly and so on. This weekend we will be putting a fly rod we have designed through its paces, we are already happy with it but it will be nice to get feed back from a few experts 🙂 Will report in due course.
Water Levels and conditions
Something we need to consider when talking about water levels is that “water level” is just one part of the equation in the overall state of the river. Location, Clarity and Weather are all equally important. Most experienced anglers instinctively group all these and probably a few more factors under the heading of water level and when they ask what the water level is, what they really mean is how is the overall state of the river. Salmon have been taken in all conditions and by all methods. On one occasion in July of this year I advised an elderly German visitor to go sightseeing for the day as the river was totally out of order. It was rising fast in Foxford, already at 3m at Ballylahan Bridge with full trees floating downstream. His reply was “I am here to fish” and he went fishing on Bakers fishery just upstream of Foxford. In less than an hour he walked back into the shop punched the air and said “I have success, 3 salmons”. This man was 87 years old and it was his first time ever Salmon fishing!. This man was Lucky, by accident or fortune he found a place where a few fish were holding up. In most cases this does not happen and the constantly successful Salmon angler will read the conditions, choose first of all whether to fish or not and then where and how to fish.
Water levels: Throughout the season you will have noticed we used the water level at Ballylahn Bridge as a guide to how levels on the Moy are. The reason we use this gauge is that it is the closest gauge to Foxofrd and anglers have used this gauge and viewing spot for many years, so most of the regulars to the Moy are familiar with it and can judge conditions based on the level on a particular day or time. Using the Ballylahan gauge this is a rough guide at various levels. From 1m up it is worm fishing water, once the water is at 0.8m we are into spinning and from 0.7 down it is ideal for fly fishing. As in all angling situations this is not an exact science and there are a lot of variables. For example the gauge at Ballylahan may be reading 0.9m and the water coloured because of a flood in the River Gweestion (a tributary 3 miles further upstream) while above the confluence of the Gweestion the water may be perfect for fly fishing. This is why we use other gauges and some local knowledge to judge overall conditions.
Once you have an idea of the state of the river at various levels, Ballylahan is a good reference. Further downstream form Ballylahan on the Cloongee fishery the river is influenced by the Loughs. A short stretch of river known locally as the Lake River drains Loughs Conn and Cullin into the Moy. When assessing conditions or predicting future conditions from then Joining’s (Confluence of Lake river and Moy) downstream we must take the Loughs into consideration. High water levels in the Loughs can hold the levels downstream up. On windy days when the Loughs get churned up silty water flowing out can colour the water downstream. On such a day it may be better to fish upstream of the Joining’s. A simple way to look at the system is to consider the River upstream of the Joining’s as a spate river which will rise and fall pretty fast and from the Joining’s downstream we have the reservoir of the Loughs which “hold” the levels up for longer.
Conditions and methods:
Before I go on to talk about actual conditions and methods for success I need to clarify what I’m referring to when I use the term “success”. It is my belief that we as Anglers all go through different phases and desires. At some point we all want to catch our first Salmon, we all want to catch loads of salmon, we all want to catch a Springer, we all want to a huge salmon, A fish on a spinner, a fish on the fly, a fish on a fly we have tied our self, We all want to bring a fish home to enjoy a meal with family or friends, We all want to watch a fish swim free when released and the list goes on. For anglers at various parts of their angling journey “success” has different meanings. For the purpose of this exercise I’m writing about conditions and the method most likely to result in catching a Salmon as “success”. Something that may be useful to a visiting angler is if we talk through conditions from flood down to low water level.
Although not a big flood we will start with a level of 1.2m on the gauge at Ballylahan Bridge. The first thing I would say is to check is the river finished rising or not. I have never found fishing to be very good when the river is rising i.e. with the exception of the first 30cm or so of a rise during which fish can become very active. Assuming the flood has peaked and the water is still dirty but starting to clear the first bait I would advise is the worm. This bait can be fished either with a float or without a float (both methods I will explain at a later date). After some hours and perhaps up to a day the water will have dropped and cleared enough for the spinner to work (Approx. 0.9m on the gauge subject to other factors). I would say that as a rule of thumb when the spinner is dropped in the water it should be visible down to 20cm. Generally for the first while brighter coloured spinners work best and Silver is very good for fresh run fish. The spinner will continue to work well for a few days. Once the water gets to about 0.7m and has cleared out well the fly will work. An intermediate tip and a slightly larger fly or a tube fly will normally work best. As the water continues to drop and as levels get low it is best to try different tactics. Bubble and fly is a very successful method and on the right day is an excellent and interesting method. Prawn and shrimp work well in low water conditions, again this is an interesting method to try and to be consistently good with it takes a lot of river craft and skill. This is a very rough guide and as I said it is subject to many factors and preferences. I am confident though that if it was your first time fishing the Moy and you follow this, your chance of success will be well above average. Next Friday I will explain a little about Worm Fishing.