About an hour north of Galway, the old luxury country house from the 19th century is nestled to a bleak wind and rainswept mountain range braving the elements after their long way across the Atlantic Ocean. Set up by the Marquis of Sligo as a hunting and fishing lodge at the foothills of the Mweelreah, Co. Mayo’s highest mountain, Delphi Lodge resembles a green oasis with its big rhododendrons and beautiful garden standing out against the treeless mountain ridge. The lodge, allegedly named after the home of the Oracle in Greece because of its dramatic sunset light, has kept up the Marquis’ tradition and today is one of Ireland’s finest spots to fish for Atlantic Salmon.
The fish come up to Delphi Lodge’s water system through the Bundoragha River that flows into Killary Fjord, the only fjord in Ireland. The Bundoragha has all features of a great small salmon river with a number of very productive pools that can be fished from both banks. A small double-handed rod of 12’ to 13’ and 7/8/9 wt will do the job just as well as a single-handed of about 10’ to 11’ 6/7/8 wt.
Depending on the water level the way of fishing can vary significantly requiring the whole range of lines from a floating to a sink tip and even full sinking line. With the water high and running, fish hold and can be caught in places that would not produce any fish in low water. The lower the level gets, the harder it becomes to convince a salmon of taking one of the classics at Delphi Lodge such as a Willie Gunn, a Cascade or a Collie Dog.
The fish that avoid the flies run up the river that is about two miles long and get into Finlough, a small lake. From there a number of them migrate even further up the water system all the way into Doolough and Glenullin Lough. Finlough is the most productive of the lakes where fishing is traditionally done from the boat with an experienced gillie. Doolough and Glenullin are wild, untouched waters, flanked by impressive mountains, that offer a good chance for a sea trout. The common method to fish for salmon is classic drift fishing using up to three flies with a point fly and two dropper flies.
Fresh spring salmon start moving up the Bundorragha river as early as February 1st, when the season starts at Delphi Lodge. A good springer is possible from day one. They often take the fly only hours after entering the river system and are hence frequently sea-liced. They average between 6 and 15 lbs with the 20 lbs barrier having been broken on a few occasions. The grilse, that make up the summer run at Delphi Lodge, start running from the month of July and are smaller in size, weighing in between around 5 to 8 pounds, however larger in number.
Salmon fishing on the Western coast of Ireland can be a wearisome matter but to catch an Atlantic salmon after many hours on the water remains one of the best experiences for many anglers. Luckily the old country house is the perfect place to relax and recharge after a lot of hours on the water. A drink in front of the lodge overlooking Finlough or in front of the fireplace when the weather is bad makes you feel at home rather than in a hotel – a fact that the team at Delphi Lodge takes great pride in. At night, all guests of the house sit down for dinner together at one big table that can accommodate up to 40 people. Fishermen and non-fishermen from countries around the world share stories over excellent food that has a strong local focus with Irish lamb and a wide range of seafood being some of the classics. After dinner the day at Delphi Lodge ends with chocolate pralines in front of the fireplace and a good night’s sleep in one of the cosy rooms overlooking Finlough brings back the energy you will need for another day of salmon fishing.
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