A good day’s fishing on the Glenamoy River

Outdoor Living

RICH PICKINGS A sea trout caught by John Shelley while fishing on the Glenamoy River.

Country Sights and Sounds
John Shelley

I thought I’d timed it right, but when I got as far as the Glenamoy River bridge I could see the best of the flood had run off. The day before would have been perfect. What was left was peat-stained and nearly black, so that six inches of water made it impossible to see the stones on the river bed.
I had come to look for sea trout. A salmon wouldn’t be amiss either, but it was the lure of sea trout, or white trout, and the prospect of taking one for dinner that drew me. With the water so very dark many might be deterred from wetting a line. Those in the know wouldn’t hesitate.
First stop was The Angler’s Rest, where Bernie was happy to give me details about the fishery. While the fishing rights on the Glenamoy River are owned by the State they are leased to the Glenamoy Angling Club, which provides day tickets at a very reasonable cost. The river needs rain if it is to fish well, and although anything near a flood looks completely unfishable, the salmon and sea trout making their way upstream can see far more than we imagine and will rise eagerly to a well presented fly.
Traditionally, this is one of those rivers where fish run far in high water and drop back to the few deeper pools to wait for the next rise in water levels. In recent years a good deal of improvement work has been carried out by club members, overseen by Inland Fisheries Ireland.
I was here on a regular basis 20 odd years ago, leaping over ditches and dykes and fighting my way through a forest of undergrowth to get to my favourite pools. Now there are stiles and footbridges. The dense growth along the banks has been cut back just enough, so while it is possible to fish some fine water in relative comfort there remains enough of a challenge to make the day interesting.
One superb development has been the addition of a wheelchair friendly pool to the fishery, which I especially wanted to visit. I imagined it a cold concrete stand at an unproductive corner, difficult to get in and out of with brambles at the angler’s back and fish both up and downstream but none right there.
How wrong I was. Not only is the wheelchair pool perfectly accessible, it looks decidedly fishy. On the day I went, there happened to be nobody else around, so I snuck a few casts. To begin with an army of small resident brown trout queued up to take my fly until halfway down the pool the first sea trout of the day attached itself to my hook, and after a short and mostly aerial fight was brought to the bank. Two casts later I hooked another that came unstuck after a couple of leaps.
The wheelchair pool could easily accommodate two or even three anglers. It is perfectly situated above a short stretch of faster water, so that fish running through are likely to stop and rest in this slower stretch before moving on once more. I could see fish being caught here at every stage of a flood.
With only a few hours before dark I wanted to see what density of fish might be present, so fished a few more of the 16 named pools along the river. Poll an Tobar, Poll a Bhalla, Poll na Muinge, all showed me sea trout. In fact, I rose fish in almost every fast run between the pools as well, although not one of them stuck.
I wanted to look at the lower river too, which I remember with fondness. More sea trout splashed at the fly. One fish, either a salmon or a large trout, leaped vigorously and ran far downstream in the heavy current where it gained its freedom. In one 20-minute spell I cast through a blinding cloud of midges to hook and land half a dozen white trout at the head of the tide, yet they were all too small to keep. One, I wanted, just one right one.
It came just before dark, just as the midges were driving me off. I saw a bulge in the water, put my fly over it and connected to a fishy missile. That was the one I was looking for. I could go home.
Before I left I took one last look at the scenery. The fading light accentuated the rich colour of forest and moor. The silver river slipped seaward. Rain fell, steady and warm. I was wet through, with mud up to my knees and a face like a washboard, thanks to those insect hordes.
But I had my trout. I also had that last view of the Glenamoy River imprinted on my mind. It was so very, very pretty, I don’t believe I can stay away.