Ballynahinch Castle – Fly-fishing and a visit to Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland
Our accommodations at the property were one of the new suites built connected to the original castle. It was a beautifully appointed room overlooking the rapidly flowing Ballynahinch River. The first evening, we decided on a casual dinner and drinks in the Fisherman’s Pub where two musicians (Peter Carey and Aiden Curran) were singing Irish songs while playing their guitar and accordion. It didn’t take long before our feet were tapping and hands clapping to the traditional, and sometimes contemporary, Irish folk songs. For those familiar with American folk music, you will recognize many of the tunes as folk music of the 60s as they are rooted in Irish folk songs. Much of the music was bright and uplifting, while other songs tell a tale of separation, poverty, and sorrow of generations past.
Fishing on the Ballynahinch River
The following morning, after breakfast in the elegant Owenmore Restaurant in the original castle building, we joined up with our ghillie and headed to the private fishing reserve.
After driving 10 minutes from the castle, we arrived alongside the river and walked over the moss bogs to make our way to a small building that provided shelter from the elements. The weather that day was typical of Ireland where they say you can experience all four seasons in one day. And you can. Our early morning was cold and wet, but as the day progressed, the sun beat down warm in the afternoon. Dressing in layers and always carrying a waterproof outer cover is essential in Ireland.
Rock piers had been built into the river to provide casting points for visiting fishermen. Spaced far enough apart to assure adequate space for the cast, these piers jut into the fast moving river where many trout and salmon tend to stay in this highly oxygenated water. Your ghillie knows what’s best, so go with the local knowledge in selecting your rod and fly. Besides, he has cases and cases of dry and wet flies in his pocket so you can change as often as needed.
There is something almost spiritual about fly-fishing. From the art of tying the fly, the skill of the angler, the cadence of the cast, the dance of the fly on the water, the orchestration of the retrieve, the anticipation of a strike, and hopefully the impact of the fish hitting the lure, to the ensuing battle, and finally, the release to freedom. The thrill and adrenaline rush is just a flash away from the peace and serenity of being on the river surrounded by the beauty of the region.
We headed back to the castle and spent much of the remainder of the day on the river outside our hotel room. We watched as otter played in the swirling waters and fish jumped to tease us into chasing after them with our lures. I got back into cadence casting through the wind and challenged a trophy salmon to engage in a battle that has been fought on this river for centuries, but it wasn’t my day to win.
We enjoyed a late lunch in the pub surrounded by the many trophy fish taken from these waters over the years. The food was beautifully presented and prepared with many local ingredients, such as Connemara crab caught in nearby coastal waters. Relaxing and enjoying lunch with a pint of Guinness, I couldn’t stop thinking about the prospect of hooking into one of these huge salmon or trout. And I realized, there’s always tomorrow.
That evening we made our way into town to listen to more Irish music. We found a pub where the musicians from the prior night were playing. The pub was full of people settled in for the show and enjoying a Guinness or Harp as Peter Carey and his group played the old familiar songs of drinking, sorrow, lost love, and the grace of times gone by.
We returned to the Ballynahinch Castle Hotel & Estate where we enjoyed one more round in the bar before retiring to our room. Thinking back on our visit, Ballynahinch provided the perfect setting to experience the Connemara region and was another memorable and spectacular adventure in Ireland.
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