To Ireland for Salmon: An Angler’s Guide

Top trips for visitors from the Moy to the Blackwater.
Atlantic salmon
A close up look at the Atlantic salmon. Courtesy Christin Breuker

Ireland offers wild opportunities for traveling anglers, from big-city river fishing in Galway to sight fishing in isolated, rural streams to trolling lakes (loughs) for sea-run fish. The country has some of the best Atlantic salmon runs in Western Europe and over 80 rivers open to fishing this year, and most locations can be reached within a few hours’ drive from Dublin or Shannon airport. Two Irish angling pros, Munster Blackwater River guide Conor Arnold and Myles Kelly of Inland Fisheries Ireland, gave their top salmon fishing destinations for visitors to Ireland.

Irish Salmon Pro Picks

Myles Kelly is the Angling Advisor at Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), the state agency responsible for protecting, managing, and conserving Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources. IFI runs a valuable online resource, basically a one-stop shop for Irish angling, including lists of tackle stores, guides, charter boats and more.

River Moy, County Mayo

Moy Fishery grilse
Christin Breuker, from Germany, with her fine Moy Fishery grilse. Courtesy Inland Fisheries Ireland

“The Moy is Ireland’s most productive salmon river,” Myles says. “There are lots of fisheries with plenty of water to suit everything from fly to worm. Best of all there is good availability of permits. You can buy these online (East Mayo Anglers and Ballina Salmon Anglers). The river runs peak when the smaller grilse arrive in June and July. If you book early you can get on the Moy Fishery in Ballina where the pints of Guinness are within casting distance of the salmon pools.”

Munster Blackwater, Counties Waterford and Cork

Fly fishing on the Munster Blackwater
Fly fishing on the Munster Blackwater. Courtesy Ben Etridge

“There have been years when this mighty river surpassed the Moy in numbers of salmon caught. The majority of the fisheries are between Fermoy and Lismore. Depending on floods, this river can get going earlier in the year and fishes well through to September, as long as there’s rain to get levels up.”

Galway Fishery, Galway

Salmon fishing at the Galway Weir
Salmon fishing at the Galway Weir. Courtesy Jim Klug

“The Galway Fishery is part of the Corrib system. Lough Corrib is Ireland’s biggest lake and famous for its brown trout, but its productive rivers crank out a lot of salmon smolts. It is in the heart of Galway city and probably the single most productive fishery in the country. Booking early is essential. The evening sessions are often overlooked and can be wonderfully productive.”

River Laune, County Kerry

“This system consistently features in the top five fisheries for salmon angling catch year in, year out. A good number of salmon are taken on the troll in the lake, but there is also plenty of fishing in the Laune (outflowing) and Flesk (inflowing) rivers. Permits are easy to get and there is a good network of guides.”

Smaller Irish Waters

“I get great satisfaction fishing smaller waters in wilder places. Some are parts of Ireland’s angling heritage and can be fancy enough, while others are just plain wild and rugged. My wild card list is as follows – Carrowmore Lake in Mayo, Erriff Fishery and nearby Delphi Fishery in Connemara (or Inagh, Ballinahinch, Screebe, Costello – any fishery in Connemara!), Lough Beagh in Donegal, Caragh system in Kerry (spring salmon), or Dingle’s Owenmore fishery (summer salmon and sea run trout).”

Top Spots for Salmon in Ireland

Conor Arnold has fished for salmon throughout the Western hemisphere. He owns the Arnold Angling Centre on the Blackwater River in southern Ireland where he guides, teaches, and runs his day ticket salmon fishery, along with his work for Loop Tackle, a flyfishing company. For any locations in Ireland, Conor can give detailed fly tackle and fly selection advice.

Delphi Lodge Fishery, Connemara County, Galway 

Fly fishing on the Delphi Fishery
Fly fishing on the Delphi Fishery. Courtesy Jim Klug

“The Delphi Lodge fishery, located in the heart of Connemara in the west of Ireland, consists of the Bundorragha River and two lakes, Finn Lough and Doo Lough. The fishing is completely private and nestled in stunning countryside. There is also a hatchery program where 50,000 smolts are released into the river each year. These fish are fin-clipped and may be harvested on being caught. The accommodation, also on the estate, is a beautiful Georgian house.”

Cloghan Lodge in Donegal, Northwest of Ireland

“Cloghan Lodge is located mid-river on the River Finn. It has the spectacular salmon leap falls toward the lower end of the fishery. Just above the falls, the river splits into the Finn and its major tributary, the Realan. Both rivers meander through farmland and open moorland and mountains. Cloghan Lodge has fishing on both rivers. Peak season would be from mid-May until mid-August. The Finn is catch and release so single barbless hooks only are permitted.”

River Owenmore, Bangor Erris, County Mayo

“The River Owenmore is only about 10 miles in length but the angling club in Bangor Erris has approximately four miles and sells day tickets from the pub in the village. The river is catch and release and has some of the nicest fly water an angler could wish to cast a line in. Salmon arrive late March with peak time from May to the end of the season.”

River Owenmore, Castlegregory, County Kerry

“The river is situated in the west of County Kerry, right underneath the Conor Pass with stunning mountain and sea views. Even though the season opens on the first of April, the main runs don’t enter the river until around the end of May. The fishery has two lakes which are both equipped with boats for salmon and sea trout fishing. The whole system is quite intimate and will stay with you long after the trip is over.”

Upper Bridgetown Salmon, River Blackwater, County Cork

“My own fishery, based mid-river on the famous Munster Blackwater, is basically two fisheries managed together. It comprises four beats in total, spread over approximately six miles. One of its most endearing aspects is that it restricts the number of anglers to three rods per beat. This allows the visiting angler to have the freedom to fish at their own pace and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the countryside. The fishery operates on a catch-and-release basis. Some of the largest fish are caught from mid-May until the end of June. July and August see predominantly grilse entering the river. The Blackwater is very user-friendly and has mostly a gravel bed with easy wading. Accommodation is available on site in Ballyhooly Castle or any number of B&Bs or hotels locally.”

Irish Rules and Regulations

Salmon release
The majority of salmon fishing is catch and release, but limited harvest is available. Courtesy Christin Breuker

“In terms of keeping a salmon,” Myles says, “we advocate 100% catch and release. But our science supports the limited harvest of fish where a surplus allows. This means we can have a sustainable fishery and if an angler wants to keep a fish or two across the season, they can do so knowing that they will not be having a negative impact on stocks.”

On most rivers, the season runs through September. Access to fishing is very open. Anglers do need licenses, and most fisheries are controlled by private owners or clubs but have day tickets available. For licensing details, check out