Fly Fishing Ireland – River Fishing in County Wexford

It was that time of year again for a family holiday. My destination this summer was the Republic of Ireland, a thatched cottage near Ballyedmond in rural County Wexford to be precise. Naturally I had to scope out the fishing opportunities in the area!

I began researching the region online. It turned out County Wexford has no Loughs or stillwater’s of any note, so the options would have to be river angling. As it happens it looked like we were practically on the banks of a tributary of the Ounavarragh (or Owenavorragh) river, an 18 mile long trout, salmon and sea trout fishery flowing through verdant Irish country side. There was scant information available online about this river, but I did manage to locate a blog style website for the local fishing club, detailing where to get permits.

The Owenavorragh County Wexford

The Owenavorragh County Wexford.

Next thing was to ensure the trout fishing river gear was organised and packed. A tip for doing this is to create a ‘favourites’ fly box and really strip down your tackle. I managed to compact everything into a TF Gear F8 chest pack. My chosen rod was a 7’6 #3/4 weight Streamtec rod, in 4 sections so easily stowable.

Once in Ireland (after the obligatory first pint of Guinness!) The mission to find a permit began. The ice cream parlor was closed, I went to the wrong Jewellers store, but eventually the right place was located, only to find the usual mild confusion when requesting a ticket. All was sorted when Pascal, the proprietor at Whitmores Jewellers emerged at the counter. A lovely chap, he gave me a few tips on where to head. For just 25 Euro for the week I was all set.

Unfortunately you don’t get a map with your ticket, so it was a case of working it out yourself by doing a bit of driving about and looking over bridges for likely spots – all part of the fun.

After enjoying a nice family day out, I was set to hit the river for the first time, snatching a few hours in the late afternoon on quite a warm day. The spot I found was near where we were staying on the upper reaches of the river. It wasn’t really a river here, more a brook to be fair. Slow to moderate flow, weedbeds and nice undercut banks all looked very fishy.

Rising Trout on the first bend

Rising Trout on the first bend.

Ducking under a bridge, I spotted a riser on the first bend which came to hand on a  dry ant pattern. A small jewel like fish, pretty as a picture. Working upriver, overhead trees and undergrowth made for challenging fishing, but it’s what I am used to on the Wye and Usk streams at home. A few more beautiful little trout came to hand – mainly on dries and the duo, even streamers worked in some very slow still segments.

Small but perfectly formed - victim of the duo

Small but perfectly formed – victim of the duo.

What stuck me immediately was the sheer quantity of fish – each and every pool was literally swarming with them. Now this isn’t usually a problem (quite the opposite for most places!) but in this case I have to say there are almost too many fish in this river! This created an issue, because as soon as I moved into a new pool numerous ‘sentries’ at the tail end bolted upriver, altering every fish in the area. Once this happened, the small gin clear pools were literally churned up with dozens of stampeding spooked brownies; many were small 6 – 8 inch fish but with a few bigger ones thrown into the mix. Most of my fish therefore came to longer range casts than normal for a small stream.

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river.

Next outing I tried a few miles further down river. Here the river was a little bigger, with nice meadow pools going into a wooded section above a bridge. The issue remained with the sheer numbers of small spooky fish, making it tough. Still, I winkled out quite a few; beauties each one – small but perfectly formed. The duo method worked best, casting into any pool head or crease, closer to the bank the better.  Some of the sections were deepish slow water with little flow making the duo hard to fish. A solution was to pitch a streamer upriver, into the edges on a longer line. A sink and draw retrieve got me plenty of hits, and lured a few better fish from under bankside cover.

Streamers can be very effective on small streams

Streamers can be surprising effective on small rivers.

As holiday time is precious, particularly with the weather being exceptionally good I took to visiting the Owenavorragh early mornings, for just a few hours before breakfast. 6.30 am starts are worth it – stunning sunrises, misty banks and jewel like trout were the reward. I also observed a large shoal of sea trout in one crystal clear pool, quite a sight.

Irish stream trout - worth getting up early for

Stunning Irish stream trout – worth getting up early for!

My favourite part of the fishing (and the holiday overall) was taking my two girls aged 5 and 7 fishing on the small tributary just a minutes walk down the road from our cottage. This was just a tiny brook, but with one big pool which was teeming with trout. Fishing one at a time, part of the adventure was us clambering down to the water, wading ankle deep under a bridge and then creeping up on the trout through thick undergrowth.

I attached a Fulling Mill  mini pimp indicator to the leader with a small nymph and instructed the girls to watch it – any movement and we would strike! As it happened, we had over a dozen fine Irish trout from that spot, plus spotted an eel and other stream-life. The girls were thrilled to be involved and carefully returned all the fish to the water after taking a look at them – hopefully giving them the angling bug for life. I’m proud to say It was their highlight of the holiday as well as mine.

Successful stream angling in Ireland

Successful stream angling in Ireland.

The River Owenavorragh isn’t a ‘big fish’ river, but it is one of the prettiest I have ever fished, with wild trout to match. A lovely location and well worth wetting a line in if you are in that part of Ireland.

This entry was posted in Destination fly fishing, Fly Fishing, River fly fishing by Ceri Thomas. Bookmark the permalink.
Ceri Thomas

About Ceri Thomas

Ceri Thomas is the online marketing manager at Airflo and Fishtec. An accomplished fly-fisher and predator angler with over two decades of experience, he can be found casting fly lines across Wales and beyond. Ceri also lends his expertise to several publications including Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine, Fulling Mill blog, Today’s Flyfisher, Eat Sleep Fish and more. A member of Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association, he is active in the public discourse surrounding environmental conservation. You can keep up with his fishing adventures on his Fly Fishing Wales blog and twitter account.