H2O Magazine

Black Rivers. Fishing in Ireland

"Let's put on some warm clothes, we are going salmon fishing ": Sim, the gillie who took us fishing in the Finn, welcomed us with these words.

Fishing in Donegal

Carlo Rizzini’s phone call from Mullingar in Ireland came at the right moment: “next year a stretch which has been closed up to now on the Finn river, in Donegal, will be opened to salmon fishing. The question he asked me was: “there is a 38 km stretch of river which has always been closed to fishing and I was asked to manage it for Italy, would you like to come and see it and go fishing there next month?”

The team was quickly put together: Carlo, teacher of two-handed fly fishing rods; Stefano, who had fished for many years in Scotland, Dante and I that would take turns with the fishing rod and the camera. Orazio should have joined us too, but he had come down with pneumonia the week before in Russia and this prevented him from coming.

In Mullingar we met Alberto Rizzini, who was to accompany us on the 4 day fishing expedition and in 4 hours we reached Donegal, an area situated north-west of Dublin. Sim was expecting us, he was the gillie and administrator of the various beats who accompanied us into the splendid lodge on the Finn shores. I have a pleasant recollection of this lodge, of the small house where equipment and boots could be put, with its pictures from the middle of the 19th century and the library full of old fishing books. I promised myself that I would visit again taking all the necessary time.

Fishing in Finn river

You fish in the Finn, in many kilometres of private waters which are ideal for two-handed rods and stretches for just one hand. The management of the river established that from 2009 it would be only for fly-fishing and strictly no-kill as for Atlantic salmon and with rising percentages increasing a lot thanks to a firm policy of closure to fishing with industrial nets. Numbers are as follows: 7500 salmons swam upstream in 2006 in the water system we are speaking of.

Moreover, there is a big reserve in the river Moorne and its tributaries, it is private too. There are about 8 rods a day available in total. I am not very adept at casting the rod with two hands, but with Stefano and Carlo’s help I managed to get along, the gillies are very professional and have got the flies needed, besides the fact that they take you to the areas they judge to be the best ones in that moment. Atlantic salmon fishing is a creed, the gillie that accompanied me seemed to have come out of a Barberry catalogue.

We fished not only in the Finn, but also in a stretch of the splendid Moorne, which was once a hunting and fishing reserve that belonged to the queen, with small wooden houses along the beats. This is a property of Lord Hamilton, who kindly accompanied us along his stretch of river. We caught some fish, a lot of them swam upstream and we saw them jump in the little waterfalls.


The Donegal area offers a lot of attractions which go beyond fishing. Donegal, far from the large tourist resorts, is still a place that needs discovering. Some people consider it the most beautiful county in Ireland for the variety of its landscapes, the extent of its coastline, which offers the greatest number of beaches in the country, and the importance of its historical past.
Its territories had been occupied since the 5th century by the  O’Neill dynasty, in the north, and by the more southern families  Conaill (Cenel Conaill) and Eoghain (Cenel Eoghain), which gave their names to the two main regions: mis Eoghain (Eoghain peninsula) and Tir Chonaill (Conaill country).
Donegal, looking out upon the wide Doneg Bay, is situated at the mouth of the river Eske and the county town is a small charming and lovely town at the junction of three big roads leading to the west, Derry and Sligo. Founded by the Vikings, Dùn na nGall (foreigners’ fort) only developed when it became the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan.


This cosmopolitan city where more than one third of the population lives is nevertheless a man-sized young city, with 50% of the population under 27. Recently Dublin has also become the capital of Information Technology in Europe.

Dublin is split in two by the river Liffey.
The area to the south of the river Liffey is the oldest area in the city, with the church of St. Patrick (dating back to 1190), the cathedral of the Church of Ireland. This is also the fun zone, with Temple Bar, the quarter of pubs and artists, Grafton Street and shopping, and Saint Stephen’s Park, with its lake (one of the places where you can enjoy summer concerts). Here you can also find Trinity College, the most prestigious university in Ireland, founded in 1592, the parliament, and the most important museums in the city: the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Library, the National Museum of Ireland.

To the north of the river Liffey there is O’Connell Street, examples of Georgian architecture (red bricks and coloured doors) and George Bernard Shaw’s Abbey Theatre. This is the least interesting part from an artistic point of view and for entertainment, but it is more closely linked to the recent history of the city.

In the centre of Dublin you must go around on foot.

What to visit in Dublin

Just outside the city centre there is Phoenix Park, which with its 700 hectares is one of the largest urban parks in the world. The park is the best place for picnics, it comprises a zoo and the president’s residence. In Dublin there is also the Guinness factory: the Guinness Storehouse is one of the “top” tourist attractions in Dublin (and one pint of beer is included with the entrance ticket).

The Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the most prestigious university on the island. It is very famous for the Old Library, which houses a big collection of manuscripts. The most important one among them is the Book of Kells, an illuminated gospel dating back to the 9th century. The Book of Kells and other treasures are exhibited in the Long Room. To see the Book of Kells you have to pay, but to visit the Trinity College and its courtyards it is free.

Irish Museum of Modern Art: free entrance.

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