Nature of the Moy

I find myself fishing the River Moy regularly each season and we anglers are lucky to witness some amazing wildlife while stalking the elusive salmon.
Salmon and are the most obvious species you expect to hear about when you think of the Moy but I
wanted to share a few experiences of close encounters I have had and wildlife to look out for while
on the banks.
Kingfishers are abundant throughout the Moy. While fishing the Wood Pool one day as a young
teenage, my father said to me, look over there, and there it was, my first ever kingfisher. I watched
the bird for several minutes hunting from an overhanging branch as it preyed upon sticklebacks. I
now regularly spot the quick flash of electric blue as I walk the river.
The banks of the Moy are lined with traditional hay meadows, something that has become very rare
with the move to silage. The colours along the banks will brighten up any fishless day. Not only are
the meadows full of all kinds of insects like dragonflies, bumblebees, and butterflies, they are also
ideal nesting and feeding habitats for skylarks. The sound of the skylark is like no others and it’s
uncommon when you aren’t serenaded by a few while you fish.
Scarce throughout Ireland, the Moy banks have a strong population of pine martins. My last
encounter was the last day of the 2019 season at the East Mayo carpark lower carpark. The little
fella spotted me long before I spotted him, but he continued to watch me as I made my way down
the path. It is encounters like this why I love fishing. The Moy also have an abundant supply of
otters/ I’ve witnessed them on most fisheries and even a not so shy one eating a carcase on the
small island below the Ballina boxes on the weir pool for all to see.
Each spring, I hear the cuckoo, usually from the pontoon area although I I’ve heard one at Oldcastle
on the upper Moy too. This fascinating bird has travelled thousands of miles from Africa back to its
breeding grounds in Mayo. Some fishermen traditionally don’t go fishing until the cuckoo is heard.
Unfortunately, the species isn’t as widespread as it used to be, and some people would never get
fishing going on this tradition! Another migrant visitor the Moy are sand martins. Some of the Moy
valley’s sandy banks are home to these birds. Some banks have so many nests the banks look like
woodworm. Watching these birds scoop insects of the water surface is a sight to behold.
One of my favourite animals, the Irish hare is widespread through the Moy valley. I remember a few
things fishing at a young age with my dad but the most memorable was driving down the lanes to
fish while looking out for “harry”.
The River Moy is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats directives. This
means that this protected site is internationally recognised as an important place for nature
There are some many peatlands along the valley. These can be alive with rare birds and plants. There
is currently less peatland in the world than rainforest and we need to cherish and protect these.
As I write this in lock down, I look forward to traveling back to Mayo to witness the fantastic wildlife
and fishing on display. Just remember, fishing is only one of the many benefits of the mighty Moy.