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Salmon has a special place in Irish mythology. Fionn MacCumhaill, the leader of an ancient band of warriors, the Fianna, was told by his wise teacher, Finnegas that a very special fish, the Salmon of Knowledge lived in the nearby river and whosoever ate the fish would gain all the knowledge of the world.
Finnegas lived by the river for many years in the hope of catching the salmon. When he finally caught it, he set Fionn the task of cooking it, but instructed him not, at any cost to eat it, but to wait for Finnegas to return from gathering firewood. While cooking on an open fire Fionn burned his thumb and as soon as he put his thumb in his mouth for relief, the deed was done: Fionn was the one to whom all the knowledge of the world passed through the salmon. Finnegas, recognising that his work as a teacher was complete, sent Fionn out into the world to fulfil his destiny as a wise man, poet and leader of the Fianna.
Considered the King of Fish, Salmon draws anglers, dreamers and poets alike to the many shores of lakes and rivers in Mayo annually. Mayo’s wide network of rivers and lakes offer some of the most majestic settings and pristine waters to be found anywhere.
The River Moy is internationally renowned as the pinnacle for salmon-seekers in Ireland. With over 60 miles of waterway system, the Moy originates in the Ox Mountains to the east and incorporates Castlebar to the south and the Nephin Beg range of mountains in North Mayo, as well as Lough Conn and Lough Cullin.
Among the favourite beats for anglers is the Moy Fishery, renowned across Europe for its plentiful supplies. Also, the Ridge Pool on the Moy is known for its high quality salmon stock. It is 300 yards in length and two sessions are available daily, from sunrise to 2pm and 2pm to sunset.
Among the angling clubs which are dotted about the county is Bangor Erris Angling club whose waters extend from the Owenmore River which flows through Bangor Erris town to Carrowmore Lake, beyond the town. The most productive salmon and sea trout fishery in the country, it offers fishing to non-club members on a daily or weekly basis. Choose your experience according to your ability with beginner to advanced waters to choose from. Fly fishing for salmon is the most popular, as it offers the best shot at catching salmon at any time during the season in both river and lake. Spinning for Salmon is permitted on Carrowmore Lake until the end of March and some great-sized salmon up to 16 pounds in weight have been landed there.
Other excellent salmon-fishing waters include Owenduff River in Ballycroy; Delphi River in Delphi, Burrishoole and Beltra Lakes and The Black Oak River in Newport; Erriff River and Glenamoy River.
Whether taking a boat out on a lake with a ghillie or donning waders by the river shore, ancient stories about the salmon of knowledge enhance the hours wiled away in contemplation of nature and self, but nothing surpasses the moment when the glistening salmon catches your fly.