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There are presently ten fisheries on the river which let fishing, extending from Bartragh Island in the estuary upstream to a point about 2 miles above the confluence of the Gweestion River, near Swinford. The rest of the river, together with its tributaries and loughs, is free fishing.
The main channel is 62 miles long and enters the sea at Ballina. With its tributaries, it drains a catchment of 806 square miles, stretching from the Ox Mountains in the east to Castlebar in the south and Loughs Conn, Cullin and the Nephin Beg range of mountains in north Mayo.
The Department of the Marine purchased the former Moy Fishery Company and operates draft nets in the tidal waters and salmon traps at the top of the tide in Ballina.
The Moy is probably the most prolific salmon river in the country. It would be impossible to obtain exact figures for rod catches, but the following figures of reported rod-caught fish gives some idea of how many fish the river produces.
Reported River Moy Catch
A major arterial drainage scheme was carried out on the river between 1960 and 1970. The drainage works had a devastating effect on the natural character of the river and most of the famous old pools and famous fishing sites were destroyed. It is remarkable that the drainage works did not appear to have a long-term detrimental effect on the potential of the river to produce salmon. This has remained as good as ever. Regretably, the fish have to be fished for in aesthetically less pleasing surroundings. The banks are high and difficult, much of the river is wide, canal-like and featureless and the natural pool – stream sequence is missing. Nevertheless, it still holds enormous numbers o salmon and gives joy to thousands of anglers every season.
It is said the fresh salmon run the Moy every month of the year. Certainly, if conditions are right – mild weather and the water not too high – salmon can be taken from opening day, 1 February, at Ballina (behind the fish traps), Mount Falcon (Coolcronan), Cloongee (the Cross River), Armstrong’s Fishery, at Pontoon Bridge (between Lough Conn and Lough Cullin and probably one of the best lies of all), on the Clydagh River and the Manulla (Ballyvary) River. If conditions are not suitable, the fishing picks up as soon as they improve. A run of small spring fish, known as ‘Black Backs’ runs in April and the peak of the spring fishing is between 1 and 20 April. The grilse begin running in early May, with the peak of the run being from about 20 May to 20 July.
Low water tends to prevent fish from running past the traps in Ballina
in August, with the result that there is a big build-up of fish in the
estuary. The first good flood in late August or September brings more
fish up river and can give excellent back end fishing with plenty of
fish of 7-9 lb.
All fishing methods are allowed on most of the fisheries, except natural shrimp. The latter bait is not allowed on a number of fisheries by popular demand, but there are others that still permit its use.
Popular artificial baits include the Stucki spoon, Swinford spoon, Devons and the Flying ‘C’.
Most of the fisheries have stretches suitable for fly fishing. A wide range of flies is used, including some local patterns. The most popular are Silver Doctor, Black Doctor, Hairy Mary, Blue Charm, Blue Badger, Foxford Shrimp, Munro Killer, Thunder and Lightning, Logie, Dunkeld, Claret Shrimp, the Goat and the Moy Garry Dog.
The sea trout fishing is mainly confined to the estuary, where it can be very good from April to September. Boats are available for hire. Up river, there is limited night fishing in July in the vicinity of Foxford.
Mount Falcon Salmon Fisheries controls extensive fishing right over approximately 7 miles of river, extending upstream from the Corroy River to near Foxford on the right bank and a substantial part of the left bank. It includes such well-known fisheries as Mount Falcon Castle Water, Scott’s Fishery and Baker’s Fishery.
The company has two private beat (six rods per beat) which are let with a gillie. It also lets day and weekly permits on its association water. A season ticket to the association water is also available.
The fishery has several good pools with plenty of streams and nice fly water. Worm fishing and spinning are practised but shrimp and prawn are allowed only at certain times and never on the private beats.