About the river
The River Foyle flows from the confluence of the rivers Finn and Mourne at the towns of Lifford in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, and Strabane in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. From here it continues to the City of Derry, where it discharges into Lough Foyle and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean. The River Foyle and its tributaries have a drainage catchment area of some 1,130 square miles.
The River Foyle is also notable for the physical diversity and natural condition of the banks and channels, especially in the upper reaches, and the richness of its plant and animal communities.
Fishing on the the River Foyle
The river is primarily renowned as a salmon and sea trout river and the fishing season runs from 1st April to 20th October. There is a variety of ownerships wherein some waters are in public ownership, some are private and others are leased to clubs.
The River Foyle is one of the top salmon producing rivers in Ireland. Salmon fishing is most effective when the tide is out and with low water conditions upstream in the tributaries. River levels can directly affect the fishing, for example a rise of six inches in the River Finn can put the River Foyle out of order.
The River Foyle has the largest population of Atlantic salmon in Northern Ireland, with around 15% of the estimated spawning numbers. The majority of the salmon returning are grilse (single wintering salmon), with a smaller but important number of spring salmon (multi-wintering salmon) also occurring. Research has indicated that individual sub-catchments within the system support genetically distinct salmon populations.
The River Mourne rises to the north west of Newtownstewart at the confluence of the Derg and Strule.
Above this junction it is called the River Strule, one of the myriad of tributaries which comprise the Mourne. From the confluence with the River Derg, the River Mourne continues to flow northwestward to join the River Foyle at Strabane, a total journey of about 13km. Although it is a short river the River Mourne is a big fast flowing river, over 20 metres wide for it's entire length. As far as reputations go the River Mourne can rightly be compared to the other great Irish salmon rivers such as the Blackwater, the Lower Bann, the Moy and it's sister river, the River Finn. It is estimated that over 9,000 salmon annually enter the Mourne.
The River Mourne, unlike it's nearest rivers, is not a spate river but in keeping with other salmon rivers fishes best as the water drops and fines down after a flood. Given the size of the river and the catchment it usually takes 3 to 4 days for the river to become fishable again after such a flood.
The fishing on the River Mourne starts in earnest from late May, peaking through June and July, although there are the occasional spring fish may be encountered in April and early May. The River Mourne also has a strong run of back end autumnal fish and this can make good sport in September and October.
Like other rivers in the Foyle system, the River Mourne gets a decent run of sea trout from June onwards. The average weigh of these sea trout is around the pound mark with the occasional bigger fish being caught.
The source of the River Finn is Lough Finn situated in County Donegal.
The River Finn and flows out from Lough Finn due East on its way towards Lifford and its confluence with the Mourne and the Foyle. The River Finn along with its main tributary, the Reelan, it is rightly believed to be one of the most prolific salmon systems in Ireland. In total there are over 25 miles of fishable water on the River Finn.
Once the River Finn leaves Lough Finn it passes through some of the most breathtaking scenery and the river flows through a deep gorge like valley. In these upper reaches the River Finn is a river comprised of fast flowing streams and long glides making for excellent fly water. The river up here is a true spate river and fishes best after rain.
The River Finn works its way down to meet its main tributary, the River Reelan near Ivy Bridge. Dedicated anglers would be foolhardy to overlook fishing on the River Reelan as this river can provide first class sport, agin after rain being very much a spate river.
As the River Finn reaches Ballybofey the deep valley begins to flatten out and take on a more pastoral look and with this the River Finn begins to deepen and slow and becomes much less of a spate river in nature, thought there is still some lovely fly water in this stretch.
The season on the River Finn begins on 01 March, and although the occasional fish is caught at that time of year the best of the early spring fishing is toe had from mid-April onwards. One feature of the River Finn is that the big Spring tides can back the river all the way up to Castlefinn, below which the river is much wider and continues to widen until it meets the Mourne near Lifford.
From late June there is a significant run of grilse in the River Finn and this continues through the peak in July until late July and early August.
In the summer there are also big runs of sea trout in the River Finn, these fish are distributed throughout the river and all the way through to Lough Finn.
A fine salmon
The River Faughan rises in the Northern Sperrins and from its source it then makes its way west passing Claudy and Ballyartan. When the River Faughan reaches Drumahoe it turns north west and moves from a rural country landscape into a more urban setting for a couple of miles. It then returns to flowing through rural countryside once again passing by Campsie before emptying into Lough Foyle about 3 miles north of Londonderry.
First and foremost the Faughan is a spate river. The first River Faughan fish start to arrive towards end June These early fish normally move quickly on, up and through the river once they have managed to pass Campsie Dam. The quality of the fishing on the River Faughan is wholly dependant on the size of the spates and then the best of the fishing is to be found at Campsie, Ardlough, Drumahoe, Ardmore, Brackfield and Claudy.
Most local anglers fish the River Faughan with single-handed rods of around 10-11'. The river can be fished right up the Killycor Bridge. The River Faughan is also the most prolific Sea Trout River in the Foyle system. Sea trout begin to show in the estuary around June and make their way quickly upstream. The sea trout run peaks towards end July.