Although it was my good self at the age of six who persuaded my Father to go fishing, my Father developed into a very keen game fisherman. The last time I visited Althnahinch Reservoir I was fourteen years old and I can remember it like yesterday even though that was twenty eight years ago! My Father owned a large camper van and my younger Brother and Uncle were also in attendance. I remember it’s peat stained water and a lovely deep channel close to a sheltered shore where the River Bush ran into the large expanse of water.
For those of you who are not aware of Altnahinch, it is a large dam with the River Bush as its source. It is situated in the middle of the beautiful Antrim Plateau close to the town of Cloughmills, Co. Antrim. It is a DAERA water covering an area of 17.8 hectres which, is allegedly stocked with both Brown and Rainbow Trout. I remember many years ago of stories regarding land locked Salmon because of it’s connection with the River Bush but I think this is more myth than truth.
Roll on twenty eight years later and on Tuesday 30th August 2016 I decided to make the journey to Altnahinch alone. As I entered the car park, I feasted my eyes on that beautiful expanse of water which was the colour of tea! Out came my trusty 9’6″ Orvis 6 weight outfit with a full floating line. I had checked the DAERA website and noted it had been stocked with a few thousand Rainbow Trout to date throughout the season. So with Rainbow Trout in mind, I set up a tapered leader. My tapered leader is made up as follows;
Butt – 2 feet of 18lb Maxima
2 feet of 15lb Maxima
2 feet of 12lb Maxima
2 feet of 8lb Maxima
6 feet of Orvis Fluorocarbon (which is 0.17mm dia and approx 7lb bs)
As there were no fish showing I decided on the following flies to search the water. On the point I put on a black marabou lure with a glo brite green floss head on a size 10 longshank hook. 6 feet up on the dropper I tied on a cocktail blob on a size 10 as an attractor pattern, the theory being if the fish refused the blob it would then hopefully take the drabber looking black and green lure.
On my arrival there were four other anglers already there fishing with worm. On speaking with them they hadn’t had any luck yet. It was warm with sunny spells and the wind was quite strong blowing between 20-25 mph in a west south west direction towards the far left corner of the dam so I set off to my right, to a point that can be seen jutting out from the car park as this area would suit my right handed casting with the wind blowing diagonally over my left shoulder. The other theory is that all points are great fish holding spots.
The ground around Altnahinch is very, very boggy! As I intended to do a lot of walking and no wading, a decent pair of waterproof walking boots were essential. As I crept up to the edge of the bank on the point I could see several fish moving and topping however, they did not look very big at all! Well, at least not the usual stocking size of the DEARA. I cast out my lure and blob but every retrieve style resulted in nothing, not even a follow or nip! I sat down, poured a cup of tea from my flask and watched. What I witnessed was a totally black small land bourne midge falling onto the water with every stronger gust of wind. There was then a flurry of activity as they were quickly eaten off the surface. Some rises looked like slightly better fish too!
Executive decision made, off came the lure and blob, on went a middle dropper too. On the point went a size 14 black parachute midge to match the real flies, a size 16 CDC generic nymph on the middle and a size 16 CDC emerger on the top dropper. All flies 3 feet apart. As these fish were literally two to three rod lengths out, a short cast on my knees was made……..Bang….the water exploded and I missed the fish! It really took me by surprise! Back to the same place and once again, bang, take and fish on! An initial first burst of energy also took me by surprise but I soon discovered I had landed the most beautiful little wild brownie about 8 inches long.
I went on to hook and land another 12 from this mark before moving further along towards the area were the River Bush (a very small brook at this stage) flows into the reservoir. I could see a lot of fish activity in the area and decided the best place to approach was by crossing the river. Once again, along came a flurry of gorgeous little wild Brown Trout. Their markings were truly amazing and each fish was very dark, presumably a result of their peaty environment. You had to be very quick on the strike with these little fish. I also noticed quite a few taking a liking for the little CDC nymph on the middle dropper too. With lunchtime approaching, I decided to move further along the far bank towards the far side of the dam. I was aware of a lovely channel there that should be sheltered from the wind.
The wind was very strong in the windward corner of the dam but the channel I talked about was perfect. It is hard to describe unless you have been there but it is a long narrow channel a full fly line width and you have the dam on one side with a peninsula of land on the other. The channel is approximately 40 metres long with the most amazing pine forest backdrop! I located a lovely spot where I could observe the channel, poured some soup and got the sandwiches out. What a place for a wild picnic. It wasn’t long before the fish started to show. Once again they appeared to be the same wild brownies. The water was very deep close to the bank and there was an overhanging tree to my right. I noticed one fish who appeared to be slightly larger and rising in regular intervals right under the tree three feet from the bank. I just had to lower the fly into position…..Bang! Straight away, a lovely confident rise and fish on! This proved to be the largest fish of the day weighing about 10-12 ozs.
With the wind increasing, I decided to walk back via the rear of the huge dam. This is an amazing sight with the River Bush continuing downstream. This a sight I would encourage any person visiting to see as photographs cannot do this view justice. On speaking to the other anglers on the bank adjacent to the car park there had been one Rainbow Trout of about 2lbs caught between them. When they asked how I got on and I replied I lost count around my 30th fish, they looked flabbergasted! I never did tell them none were over 10 ozs and all were lovely little wild fish. However, smiling to myself on the drive home, I was sure I had a much better day catching those amazingly unique and wild Brownies.
The Wandering Fisherman.