A couple of people have asked me recently if I have given up on my attempt to catch a fish in all 32 counties on the island of Ireland. The answer is an unequivocal ‘NO’, my pet project is still very much alive. It has just on hold due to the current Covi-19 travel restrictions. To be honest, work has been hectic since the start of this year and left little room for fishing even if I had been allowed to. I tried to make good use of any free time though.
My spare time has been used to research possible venues and tackle shops, studying maps and making up flies and end tackle for when the shackles finally come off and I can travel around the country again. I have been haunting the backwaters of the internet, poking my nose into other anglers blogs and podcasts, downloading screen shots from Google Earth and figuring out the best roads to take me to different destinations. If I put half as much effort into the actual fishing as I have into the planning stage I should do OK.
I now have a spreadsheet (I do like a bit of Excel you know), filled with venues for each of the 24 counties I still have to visit. As much detail as I can muster has been added to this sheet, items like directions, where to buy a permit, back up venues close by in case I don’t catch, best baits, species to target and the even nearest tackle shops have all been meticulously logged by yours truly. This has taken me far longer than I thought it would but the sheet is now complete and so I have a detailed plan to follow.
While I accept that the fish care not a jot for all this feverish activity on my part it has still been a useful exercise for me. A lot of times I thought about fishing one spot only to change my mind once I had carried out the research. This is angling so there are no guarantees, but by looking at the options and making decisions on the best information available I hope to increase my chances of success.
I have been able move around my home county of Mayo since 12th April so it makes sense to target Mayo soon and tick that one of the list. Look out for that post very soon. I am hoping that by the end of June I will be allowed to travel between counties and at that point the full weight of my angling energies will be deployed. The only delay will be a trip to Scotland once travel there is given the all clear. A week in Alba should be about right. From then right through to the autumn will see me traversing the country, fishing, photographing and blogging as I go.
Investment in some permits and licences will be required but I will wait until I am sure that I can travel before doing that. I don’t want to shell out money for licences and then find myself locked down again and unable to make use of them. Talking about money, I have also made a rough guess at the total cost of the project. I won’t divulge the actual number (it is just too depressing), suffice to say that permits and bait are minor items but the cost fuel accounts for 85% of total. With so many long journeys it is hard to reduce this significantly but I will temper my driving style and see if I the old VW will return any better than my current average of 48mpg.
Of necessity, there will be a mix of different fishing methods and styles. Eleven fisheries on my list will be fly only, trying to catch salmon, brownies or rainbows. Then there are eight coarse fishing venues, mainly targeting roach and perch but with a couple of other species thrown in for good measure. Only five are salt water marks but I am really looking forward to them. I have not managed to get out sea fishing for many, many months and the idea of casting into the sea again holds a huge attraction. The saltwater angling around Ireland does not really begin until June when the water starts to warm properly and peaks in August/September so it will be later in the year before I tackle those 5 venues.
I have concerns about the availability of bait. With the tackle shops all being closed for so long during lockdown it is hard to know who will be opening up again and if they will be stocking worms and maggots. Some may never open again while others will not bother to order bait until they see anglers at their doors looking to fill their pint boxes. I can always scratch around in the compost heap at home to find a few worms but I rely heavily on maggots when chasing roach. I’ll need to make a few phone calls nearer the time to see who is open and selling the precious grubs. Other options such as bread for roach or prawns for perch may be required.
The recent rioting in the north is a bit of a worry. Brexit was always going to stir up trouble and we may yet face a summer lit up with petrol bombs. That the UK government made so little effort to work out answers to the complex issues around the border and trade between Ireland and Britain was, to say the least, a disappointment. The tinderbox that is Northern Ireland requires only the smallest spark to ignite the flames and Brexit was more akin to a blazing oil tanker than a spark!
I have yet to fish any of the 6 counties so I will be picking my time to stray north of the border very carefully. For me, the month of July is out of the question. That is marching season and I will be avoiding it like the plague. Don’t get me wrong, I am not on one side of the divide or the other, I have friends on both sides. I just don’t want to be anywhere near trouble, meaning the flashpoints of the marching bands during July will be a strong deterrent for me. So much depends on the date when travel begins; if possible I will hit the Northern Ireland venues by the end of June. If that does not work out it will be September/October before I hop across the border.
All my gear is ready to go now after a winter and lockdown of tinkering and repairing. When I visit Scotland I always nip in by the Glasgow Angling Centre and purchase more stuff that I don’t need! I will try really hard not to buy a new rod or reel but I can’t promise I will be successful with that endeavour. While I was working on ‘32’ spreadsheet I also logged all my rods and reels. Much of my old salmon fishing gear from my days casting on the Dee and Tweed is never used these days and I really should sell it off. Lovely Hardy reels are just sitting there gathering dust as they are too big for my fishing here in Ireland. I have more trout fly reels than I can ever use too, but I’ll hang on to them for now. None of this will prevent me from perusing the aisles of the GAC and no doubt parting with some hard earned cash for yet more expensive tackle. I cannot justify buying even a single hook, let alone a new reel, but we anglers are a marketing guru’s delight and I will surely be suckered into buying even more shiny winding mechanisms.
In summary, the ‘32’ project is ready to be resumed this summer. At work, I am between contracts after this week and barring any sudden requirement for me to rush off on an assignment, I will be fishing hard on the rivers and loughs of Mayo soon and then right across the island from late June onwards.