The salmon's significance to Connemara cannot be overestimated.
Neither can the thrill of hooking into one.
The Atlantic salmon population in Ireland has rebounded since the government banned offshore drift nets in 2007, and the runs in 2010 and 2011 were some of the best in recent memory, although 2012 was disappointing due to unusually low water in all of the region's fisheries. Salmon fishing begins in the early spring and runs through the summer, right up to the end of the season at the end of September. There are salmon fishing opportunities in Connemara that fit every budget, too, from booking a week at an elegant lodge or country house and fishing their exclusive water – or buying day permits from the local angling club that manages the fishing rights on the Owenglin river.
Most rivers and lake systems see their first run of large spring salmon in early April, with grilse arriving later in June and peaking in July. More salmon will enter the rivers in August and September whenever the rivers receive enough rain. The salmon fishing in Connemara is always best when the rivers are "in spate" following a heavy rain, which brings in fresh salmon and riles up those already in the river.
Salmon & Sea Trout Licenses
You do not need a fishing license to fish for native brown trout, but sea trout and salmon anglers must purchase a state license, which are available by the day ($30), 21-days ($65 - the best deal if you will be visiting/fishing more than one day) or full year ($85 for the Connemara region, $175 for the whole country). You can purchase your license online before you go.
Fishing Rights & Daily Fees
Most of the fishing rights to the lakes and rivers in Ireland are privately owned, but permits are easily purchased from the lodges, hotels, fishing clubs and syndicates that manage each fishery. This might rankle some Americans who are used to widespread public access at home, but the privately managed fisheries in Ireland provide a high-quality experience without crowds or competition.
Daily fees are reasonable, too, running from as little as $20 - $30 for a day of trout fishing to $150 or more for a beat on a top salmon river (although many lodges allow two rods to share a beat, which effectively cuts your cost by half when fishing with a friend). Many fisheries offer both full and half-day permits, making it economical for DIY fly anglers to sample plenty of water during a week's trip.
Guides (ghillies) charge between $125 and $160 a day, plus tip, and its customary to buy their lunch at a nearby pub when you break at noon. You can book guides through the many lodges and fisheries – or hire an independent (see "Ghillies" section).