With the Irish loughs closed for another year, Tom ‘Doc’ Sullivan heads to Adaire Springs, one of just a few stocked small-water trout fisheries in the Irish Republic.
Over the last couple of years I became aware of a fishery that was beginning to make waves and be talked about in fly fishing circles here in Ireland. Word was that we had a top-quality small stillwater that catered for the big-fish hunter. The pictures doing the rounds on social media confirmed this; big rainbows and big browns were popping up in various posts. Unlike the rest of the UK, we don’t have a large amount of these fisheries, particularly in the Republic, so naturally I was very interested in paying it a visit.
At last year’s International Fly Fair in Galway I bumped into Ned Maher, who owns and runs Adaire Springs. A chat in the bar with him only whetted my appetite even more. I told him how hard it was for me to get away during the fishing season, seeing that I am quite busy on the Western loughs. He told me they are open all year around and some of their best fishing is to be had when the big loughs are closed. A lot of double-figure fish are caught then. My fishing bucket list has long ago exceeded one page, so Adaire Springs was added to it.
You won't go far wrong with small nymphs, with Diawl Bachs catching their fair share of fish!
So it was in early September this year that my fishing buddy, Mike Shanks, bit the bullet and gave it a try and off we set for Kilkenny on a grey misty morning. The fishery is located outside the village of Mooncoin and from thence is well signposted, so we had no problem getting there.
On arrival, as we got out of the car in the heavy damp drizzle, a completely becalmed Adaire Springs looked back at us. The telltale rings of large fish breaking the surface gave us that lovely feeling of anticipation that all us anglers enjoy when arriving at a new piece of water!
Ned developed this fishery from a green-field site five years ago. You can see pictures at the lodge of what he started with and what was done in the excavating and making of the lake. There has been a lot of work undertaken. The fishing lodge is a timber structure that blends in really well in the countryside environment of the rich farmland.
The well-equipped lodge looks out over the lake. The perfect place to tackle up with a brew!
We walked into the lodge and there was Ned to greet us with the best greeting you can get: “Howye lads,” he said. “I’ll put the kettle on.” So we had a welcome cup of tea. The lodge is very impressive, spacious with good seating, a well-kitted tackle shop and, importantly, a fine selection of flies for sale. The walls bear testament to the quality of the fish on offer, with pictures of beaming anglers cradling impressive trout, both rainbows and browns! Outside the lodge, there is a covered veranda complete with decking, tables and also a barbecue, which gets good use in the fine weather. This is a perfect spot to tackle up, as long as the sight of rising fish doesn’t cause you to rush and make a mess of things.
So after our welcome cuppa, Mike and I kitted up. We got advice from Ned as to what to use. Diawl Bachs had been fishing well, he said, but with the amount of fish moving, the dries would have to be considered. I set up my 9ft 5-wt with a single dry and set up a 10ft 6-wt for the nymphs. Mike set up two rods as well. ‘English Jim’ joined us in the lodge. Originally from London, he has made his home in the southeast of Ireland and is an Adaire regular. He was setting up with nymphs because that had been the killing method for him over the last week or so. We were like coiled springs, loaded and ready to go, especially with the fish moving.
So Mike and I went over to a corner of the lake where we had seen quite a number of fish moving on the calm surface. We had our minds made up that dries were to be the opening armoury. We covered a couple of fish with size 12 Klinkhamers but to no avail; we had a couple of swirls but no definite takes. A closer look around us and we could see that the only fly hatching was quite a small buzzer, size 16, not many but enough. So I switched to a Crippled Midge pattern and bingo! The first fish I presented it to took it with the certainty that it was just another natural. This was a real eye-opener because I was convinced beforehand that it was just a case of chucking anything over these trout and they would take them with gusto; that certainly wasn’t the case. The fish had locked into a definite size and that’s what they wanted!
I picked up a couple more fish with the dry but at this stage the mist began to lift and there was a change in the weather and with this came a change with the trout.
Ned had joined Jim on the far shore and with both of them fishing the nymphs they suddenly started to have action; interestingly it was the browns.
With the fish vacating the surface it was apparent that we had to change tactics too. Mike switched to his nymph rod and within a matter of minutes he was buckled into one of the bigger fish. After a hectic battle, a quick snap and release he was fishing again and within two casts was buckled into another.
“Same fly again,” he said.
One of his Diawl Bachs, which he kindly passed my way to try. I put it up on my nymph rod and gave it a throw. After 15 minutes with no response, and Mike landing another trout, I asked him: “How are they taking the nymph?”
Before he could answer I felt the tap, tap, lunge as my rod went heavy in my hand and I connected into a fish. I then had good sport on nymphs for the rest of the morning, picking up another four fish on Mike’s Diawl Bach.
The day had brightened up considerably and at 1pm we called a halt and had our lunch in the lodge.
English Jim with a quality Ardaire brownie!
Enticing The Big Boys
Ned joined us and we discussed the chances of getting into one of the double-figure fish. He said it was worth giving the snakes a go on a sinking line because this tactic can very often entice the bigger boys. He gave us a couple of patterns from his impressive selection of flies on sale. Initially I was apprehensive about using snakes for catch-and-release purposes until I saw these. The top hook is clipped and the rear hook is barbless.
So after lunch we decided to give them a rattle. The main body of the lake has depths to 15 feet, so Ned told us we could use any array of sinking lines. I switched to a Di5 Sweep and set forth. I varied my approach at first to see how the fish wanted it and it became apparent that the best way was to cast the full line and bring the fly back with a medium figure-of-eight retrieve. The response was fantastic and the fish wanted it at two stages, initially when the fly was diving and then when it was lifting towards the bank. The Sweep line did the trick here.
The takes were amazing, with the fly getting repeatedly hit, and you could witness this in the really clear water. I picked up about half a dozen fish on this method but none of the big ones. I also found that the snake nearly always came out of the fish’s mouth in the net, allowing for a quick release and allaying my earlier fears.
Something that almost pulled the rod from my hand and into the lake did hit me; it was something very big! I never saw it, though, and it left me wondering. Mike had adopted the same tactics and also had success. He was unlucky, though, because he did hook one of the big boys. He brought it to the surface, where it thrashed around and then was gone. In his estimation it was a double-figure fish.
A Date With A Double
After a while, the takes dried up on this method and I reverted to dries. I picked up a couple of fish on a beetle that Ned had recommended. Some very big fish started to move on the surface and I got to cover a couple of them. One turned on my fly and boiled underit but didn’t take it. I thought it was going to be my first double-figure Irish rainbow, but not this time!
While the doubles didn't want to play there were plenty of great looking stock fish to be caught on a range of methods.
We wrapped it up at 5pm because we had a long drive ahead of us. We’d had a fantastic day and had experienced sport on quite a number of methods, from matching the hatch with small dries in the morning, to tweaking nymphs back and having great fun pulling with lures. Between us, we reckoned we had more than 24 trout up to 6lb.
So I’ve found one of my destination spots for this winter; Mike and I will be back when the Corrib closes. I have a date with one of Adaire’s doubles and don’t want to stand her up! I look forward to returning to fish one of the best small fisheries in Ireland!
Flies For Adaire
Hook: Medium-gauge, size 12
Thread: Glo-Brite No5
Tail: Red game fibres
Butt: Red tying thread
Body: Peacock herl
Rib: Gold wire
Throat hackle: Red game fibres
Head: Red tying thread
Hook: Light-gauge, size 12-14
Body: Peacock Glister
Back: Strip of black foam
Sighter post: Pink Antron
Crippled Midge (Fulling Mill)
Hook: Light-gauge, size 14-16
Tail: Stub pearl holographic
Body: Black seal’s fur sub
Rib: Fine pearl Lurex
Hackle: Black hen
Okay, so this is a bit of a beast! However, it does work. It is dressed tandem style with front hook clipped at the end of the shank.
Hook: Wet fly, size 10
Tandem Line: 12lb mono
Body: Blue Glister
Zonker Strip: Rabbit dyed chartreuse. Attached to both shanks. It is marginally shorter than the mono link.
Ardaire Springs Angling Centre
Arderra, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
Tel: 086 812 8937
Tom 'Doc' Sullivan offers a guiding service on loughs Corrib, Mask and Carra