Dollaghan Trout - A Fly Fishing Love Affair
By Stevie Munn
Davy's Dollaghan (Courtesy Stevie Munn)
The name Dollaghan comes from the Gaelic word dulach that means swift running and the translation of Dollaghan equates to 'run of fish' or 'running fish'. Within the Dollaghan family there are a number of different trout that scientific studies have shown spawn separately and thus maintain a genetic isolation. Local names for these fish include Buddagh or Breddach which translate to big fat fellow and are very similar to Ferox. There is also the Salmon Trout, a silver fish giving them a sea trout appearance. This is not the only similarity they have with their sea run relations, as like sea trout they are very light sensitive and shy. Also Lough Neagh, where they spend most of there life is although freshwater, like a sea. The Lough itself is massive: the largest lake in the British Isles covering a vast 153 sq miles 400 sq km. I have been afloat on Neagh on Lough Neagh Fishing Tours boat and at times had to pinch myself; you can forget you are not at sea as you can not see land on the horizon.
Dollaghan achieve growth rates similar to Atlantic salmon while they feed in the Lough and on their return to their native rivers can weigh from around two to well into the teens of pounds, and there are stories of bigger.
My personal heaviest was a large cock fish of around 10lb, but I have hooked larger and I know anglers who have been lucky enough to land some very big fish. Holding on to these big fish while you have just hooked them is very hard; you need a large helping of luck to keep them on. They have a hard mouth for a trout, and they shake there head while falling back. This is normally how you can tell you have just hooked something substantial and is the crunch time when they either stay on or are lost and to be honest most of the very big fish are lost, but in a seasons fishing I normally catch quite a few fish over five pounds, big trout in anyone's book and there's always some lucky angler that will get a brute.
Tactics for Dollaghan seem to vary slightly from river to river. You can have good sport during the day, if the conditions are right, but the most successful time seems to be evening and night fishing. However if it is a moonlit night, it is often very slow (but strangely that's often a good night for a salmon). The best conditions are thick cloud a day or two after a fresh, when the water has cleared and if you know where they are the fishing can be great.
Dollaghan Brown Trout(Courtesy Stevie Munn)
While fishing at night, don't shine a torch (flashlight) on the water as it spooks the fish. You should turn your back to the water when tying on a fly, its also good manners as there maybe other anglers around.
Dollaghan Fly Fishing TackleFly tackle is very much a matter of personal preference. You could use heavy trout gear, I prefer a very stiff 9 to 10 foot rod that throws 8-9 wt. lines. Last year I used the Hardy 9' # 8 Zane which was perfect for night fishing.
Dollaghan are powerful fish and I like a rod that can put a bit of pressure on them, otherwise you can lose them in the rocks and snags, especially at night.
Dollaghan Fly PatternsAs for flies, basically they are fairly standard patterns. During the day, small traditional trout flies like the Back Pennell, Dunkeld and the Gold Head Hares Ear take there share of fish. Then in the evenings I change to hair wing salmon flies or Irish shrimp flies as these seem to work best at night, fished on an intermediate line and a short leader.
They will also take a floating lure stripped across the surface - again similar to sea trout. Whether Dollaghan feed on their return to the river is a point of conjecture and now I generally practice catch and release so, there are not too many stomach contents to inspect. However in those that I have looked at there is no evidence to suggest that these trout are gorging themselves. Perhaps like sea trout they do take the odd invertebrate. Certainly the Dollaghan do not eat lots when they are in the river and they take like the salmon at times probably due to pure aggression. Dollaghan have certain lies you will find them throughout the river system, but like any large trout they like a bit of cover - overhanging trees, undercut banks and so on. They will also lie around rocks and in deep runs and pools.
Nowadays, Dollaghan fishing is a lot more popular, and I think the attraction of these wonderful and unique brown trout is their size and that they are truly wild. While fishing in the dusk and into the darkness the excitement you feel if you get a take, not knowing if it's going to be a 1lb or 10lb fish, or even a salmon (which happens quite often), this just keeps bringing me back night after night. In fact, the last few months of the season when the Dollaghan fishing is at its peak, is almost like being on the night shift. When my wife comes home from work at around six, I put the rod in the car and in 10 minutes I'm tackling up on one of my favourite beats watching the sunset.
In my job I have been lucky to fish in many places in the world, on many rivers and lakes which great and I hope to continue doing it. However, it has also made me realize that what we have on our door step in the north of Ireland is wonderful and unique. Growing up on these local rivers I may have taken them and the fish for granted and I think a lot of local anglers still do, we just don't realise what we have, but to be honest we are simply blessed.
Now it's not all rosie, we do have
Six main inflowing rivers to Lough Neagh which, going anti-clockwise from the northern most river are the river, Maine and tributaries, Moyola, Ballinderry, Blackwater, Upper Bann and my local Six-Mile-Water.
The right time can be from the end of July, after a spate, through to the end of the season on the 31st of October
The Best Night Flies Last Year:
Black & Blue Jam (S. Munn)
Hook Samurai double 8-12
Body Gold or Silver holographic tinsel
Hackle Orange cock
Wing Blue Arctic fox with black squirrel or bucktail with a couple of strands of pearl twinkle.
The Fox Fly (R. Bryans)
Hook Double 8-12
Body Silver or pearl flat tinsel
Rib Silver wire
Hackle Guinea Fowl
Wing Golden Pheasant red breast feather, black squirrel, Temple dog or buck tail, golden pheasant topping and a couple of strands of pearl twinkle (optional)
This Bobby Bryans pattern has been taking both dollaghan and salmon on the Lough Neagh system for years. A great pattern.
- A very good fly for both salmon and dollaghan especially when used as a dropper.
The Bann Special Shrimp
- The Bann Special Shrimp is a must have pattern to include in your fly box and without doubt one of the greatest Irish shrimp patterns that has ever been invented. It originated in the Lower Bann as the name suggests but is now widely used throughout Ireland and the U.K. It is a very good fly to try when fish have been in the river a while and may be hard to take, this is where it can work exceedingly well as it can provoke a stale fish into a taking one. The original body in the pattern was floss but more people now use seals fur, though recently have even seen it dressed with Lite Brite in the body and it makes a very nice fly. The Bann Special like most Irish shrimp patterns also work on dollaghan and is great for these fish at dusk. Make sure you give this one a swim.
Angling Guides for Dollaghan
Stevie Munn 07717460131 e-mail: email@example.com; wwww.anglingclassics.co.uk. www.hardygreys.com & www.sixmilewater.co.uk
Stevie Munn is from County Antrim in Northern Ireland. He is a Hardy Greys Academy Instructor and an Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor Casting in (APGAI), an Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor In Fly Tying in Ireland (APGAI-Ire) and a member of The Professional Angling Guides & Instructors Network. (PAGIN)
Fly Fishing With Stevie Munn On The Six Mile Water River