The River Bann
Portna is considered the best ford for Salmon and Trout fishing on this
noble stream. At this place, which is merely an inn, kept by a Mr.
Moore, for the accommodation of anglers, the river, which is a large
one, falls over ledges of rock, large stones, broad fords of gravel,
deep gorges in places, rushing down inclined plains, which spread into
currents five and six feet deep, dimpling as it flows along, where large
out may be seen taking down the natural insects, and making the
surface boil. These places might be swarming, were it not for the
"cruives," with the largest salmon in Britain.
During the summer months you may take a good many salmon here, but on
some days you cannot see a fish, as they are mostly stopped at the
"cuts." These salmon traps are called "cuts," in Ireland, and "cruives,"
in Scotland. I need not explain their formation, as they are too well
known to the fly fishers. Notwithstanding all this, the generous renter
of the fishery at the Leap of Coleraine, gives liberty to all anglers
visiting the Bann, from March to August, and the courtesy and politeness
which he evinces towards gentlemen, causes him to take no notice of
their fishing with the salmon fly till September. I have been informed
by Mr. Moore, the inn-keeper, at Portna, that there is now a "Queen's
Gap" made in the "cuts," on Sundays, to allow some of the salmon to
escape. This is a great boon to the angler.
The town of Kilrea is a mile from Portna, where there is a good inn,
kept by an Englishman, a Mr. Adcock. At the bridge, which is half a mile
from the town, there is a famous throw for a salmon; you let off the
line, while standing on the bridge, to where the fish lie, a little
lower down. There are capital streams for salmon near "Moor Lodge," a
delightful spot, down as far as "Bevanaher" ford. The boatmen take you
through the gorges in racehorse style. The man brings the bow of the
boat to the very edge of the rapid, steadies her by making you sit down
with himself, and in a minute or two she shoots down the gorge in a
very pleasant manner into the broad ford below; when he returns with the
boat, he pulls her up the side of the stream. The Bann boatmen, I must
say, are very civil fellows, and charge moderately for their labour and
boats--half-a-crown a day, pot luck, and a smoke of tobacco--"an ould
fly, and a gut casting line, if it's no use to your honor."
THE FLIES to suit the Bann are as follows:--
No. 1. Body claret pig hair, ribbed with gold tinsel, orange tag, a
topping, and a little wood-duck for tail; a dark claret hackle rolled up
to the shoulder, and a blue jay above it; mallard wings, mixed with
bustard--the dark small spotted bustard feather is best for this river,
the light coloured for Scotland and Wales--golden pheasant tail and
neck, peacock wing, wood-duck feelers of blue and yellow macaw, and a
black head. Hook No. 8 or 9. This is a great favourite.
No. 2. Scarlet body, scarlet hackle, and mallard wing, gold over body,
topping for tail, and one in the centre of the wings, jay at the
shoulder, and a black head. Hook No. 8. Large for the Spring, and B, BB
for June and July.
No. 3. Fiery brown body, brown-red hackle, gold tinsel, mallard wings
with a little wood-duck and golden pheasant neck feather mixed with it,
macaw feelers, and a small topping for tail mixed with wood-duck. Hook
BB or G. Grouse hackle round the shoulder, and a black head.
No. 4. Body yellow pig hair, half way up from the tail, the remainder
wine purple or dark blue, a purple hackle over it, and a claret one at
the shoulder; blue head picked out the colour of the sky; two toppings
in the centre of wings of mallard and brown turkey mixed, and macaw
feeler. Hook No. 9. Silver tinsel over the body.
No. 5. Orange body, broad gold tinsel, dark brown-red hackle over it;
strips of wood-duck and neck feather for tail; strips of spotted Argus
pheasant; a dark full mallard wing with two neck feathers in the centre,
and a black head. Hook No. 9, BB, or 8. Large for high water or deep
No. 6. A puce body, ribbed with silver tinsel and gold twist, topping in
the tail mixed with wood-duck fibres; puce hackle struck full up to the
head, blue jay here, and kingfisher each side of the wings, which are
of a very nice mixture of Argus pheasant small spotted feather, peacock
wings, mallard, teal, guinea hen, kite tail, pheasant tail, blue and
orange macaw, scarlet macaw, green parrot tails, Ibis, and silver
pheasant tail (the hen); feelers of macaw, a topping over all, with the
crest feather of the Hymalean pheasant, and a bronze head. Hook, Nos. 9
and 8. These, with the eleven flies in the Plates, and No. 12, early in
the Spring, with the five Shannon flies, are all "first-rate killers,"
indeed, the fourteen painted flies are all capital ones for this river.
THE TROUT FLIES are generally the same as those in the catalogue of
flies for the season. In the spring they run rather large, but in the
summer months they are used very small. Olive flies of various hues are
very much used, and a fly with a green body and the feather off the root
of the landrail's wing; another with orange body, black-red hackle, and
woodcock wings. Hooks No. 8, in spring, Nos. 10 and 12, in summer. The
various browns are capital in the early season, and the green olive,
sooty olive, hare's ear and olive, brown and olive flies made full in
the wings, and to be longer than the body. There are no hackles used in
the spring, till a little further on in the season, then hackle flies
are used; the wren tails of different sorts are very much prized, and
the light red-brown grouse hackle, and yellow body; a blue body fly,
black hackle, and wings of the starling; a gosling green olive fly, with
mallard wings, mixed with landrail, and a hook No. 8 or 10; a fly with a
yellow body of silk, red hackle dyed yellow, starling wing mixed with
mallard, and a little partridge tail; the golden wren is good; a very
small black gnat is good; and the never-failing "blue blow." The body of
this little fly, as used on the Bann, is mole's fur mixed with golden
olive, picked out at the shoulder, and a black bird's wing, to be fished
with on warm sultry days. These flies are killers, and the trout are
fond of them, which will be found excellent and plentiful at Portna.
On the shores of Lough Neagh, towards the Bridge of Toome, where the
river issues out of the lake, there is good angling in the Drake season
in June. There is a small inn at Toome Bridge, where the angler can
procure a boat. It is but four miles north of "Randalstown," on the
Belfast and Ballymena Railway. I have spent many a day on these waters,
when a young man.
From Shane's Castle, the Earl O'Neil's, to the bridge, and from the town
of Antrim to Shane's Castle, there are large trout taken with the fly;
at the end of May, and throughout June, the whole surface of the lake
along the shore is covered with the natural fly. The Drake, in the
Plate, would be a good one made on a large size hook, to throw amongst
them. Earl O'Neil grants permission to gentlemen to fly-fish in the
demesne of Shane's Castle, by sending a note from the inn at
Randalstown, to the Steward.
There are numerous rivers running into Lough Neagh, from five different
counties, which it borders. The Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains, in
the County of Down, and passing through the Lough, issues out of it at
the Bridge of Toome, forming a stupendous body of fresh water. The Lough
is twenty-three miles long, and twelve in width.
To get at the various small trout rivers running into all these great
lakes in the north of Ireland, I would recommend, to gain information
of the cross-roads, Leigh's Road Book of Ireland and Dublin Railway
The angler will now take his departure from the north and proceed to
Dublin, via Belfast and Draugheda, at this place he comes to the river
Boyne, where he may spend a few pleasant days at "Old Bridge," a place
about three miles up the river at the "weirs." There is good Salmon
fishing at this place when the tide is out, and on the flow of the tide
he will take capital Grilse and Sea-Trout.
For the Boyne, the best flies are claret, brown, olive, green, orange,
and black, with brown mallard wings, and turkey tail feathers. Plain
ones in general are best.