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On The Lough: Mask And The Welshman’s Button

Tom Doc Sullivan shares his flies and tactics for catching sedge feeding trout as the ‘Welshman’s Button’ take to the wing on the mighty Lough Mask…

Summertime, over the months of July and August can offer some tremendous action for the trout angler here in the west of Ireland. One of the reasons for this is that as a fly fisher there are a number of different options open to you for targeting your fish; fishing the deep water for the daphnia feeders, the possibility of a summer mayfly hatch and fry feeders, but one option which can reap rewards is the hatch of the fly the Welshman’s Button. Lough Mask gets hatches of this fly from July onwards so it is always on the agenda once summer comes round.

The ‘daytime’ sedge. The Welshman’s Button start to appear in June and can go on well into September.
The ‘daytime’ sedge. The Welshman’s Button start to appear in June and can go on well into September.

Welshman’s Button

The Welshman’s Button is a type of sedge or caddis fly with a dark brown coloration (more of this later). Unlike it’s more illustrious cousin the Green Peter – one of the most well-known sedges in Ireland – it differs on a couple of areas. Firstly, it is smaller; the normal size of the Welshman’s is around a size 12. Secondly it is much more of a daytime creature and will hatch continually during the day and this is what lends its appeal to the fly angler. I don’t know how it received its name but it’s one you won’t forget easily.

On Mask this fly tends to concentrate in the shallower water. The whole eastern shoreline of the lake is a prime area, from the Rocky Shore on the northern tip right down to Rosshill. This rugged, jagged shoreline, a minefield of limestone outcrops, shallows and reefs is ideal water for this fly.

July generally sees the hatch reaching full swing. It will be around from early June but it increases steadily from then on and can go right on until the end of August and while September can see numbers of it around, it is on the wane at this stage.

Trout can often be seen on a hot calm day taking surface flies just as you head out in the boats in the mornings.

Methods

Conditions dictate what tactics I will use for them. There are two methods to concentrate on: wet fly or dry fly. I have had only limited success with sedge pupae and nymph patterns so therefore I tend to stick to the former two.

The mantra is if it is calm or with relatively light winds then go with the dries, conversely if there is a good wind about then revert to the wet flies. I stick to this in the main but there is a caveat. If you follow any rule or guideline blindly you might be missing something so sometimes don’t be afraid to go against the grain. I have had great sport in a heavy wind and rough conditions on Mask fishing dries, even in conditions where it is hard to spot your flies and on occasions not even seeing the rise. Sometimes you just tighten into a fish as the line gets drawn from your hand so be prepared. Also with barely a pin ripple on the surface I have witnessed a slowly drawn wet fly team outfish the dries in conditions where you would swear were for dries only. These are exceptions but they do happen and you should always keep this in mind.

Lough Mask is home to good hatches of the Welshman’s Button, where either pulling wets or fishing dries will account for the sedge feeders.
Lough Mask is home to good hatches of the Welshman’s Button, where either pulling wets or fishing dries will account for the sedge feeders.
The Welshman’s Button will see some good daytime dry fly action this summer.
The Welshman’s Button will see some good daytime dry fly action this summer.

Wets

A team of three, sometimes four flies does me for the wets. Too much or too little wind will see me use three. The crucial thing here is line choice, in my own experience I go for a slow Intermediate or a slow Ghost Tip as I like to be just sub-surface, but be prepared to shuffle and change as sometimes even a Di3 Sweep can score. On the other end of the scale the full floater can’t be discounted particularly in the calm conditions I mentioned earlier.

Some guys like to retrieve like they’re in the Isle of Man TT. While this speed has its place, daphnia feeders being one of them, I prefer a steadier retrieve for the sedges. By all means experiment and vary the speed rate but in my experience a softer approach can ‘catchee monkey’!

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Fact File

Lough Mask

Lough Mask is a limestone lough of 20,500 acres in Counties Galway and Mayo, Ireland, north of Lough Corrib. Lough Mask is the middle of the three lakes, which empty into the Corrib River.

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