Where do you even begin with county Monaghan? Seriously, was there ever a place so well endowed with coarse fishing venues? A hell of a lot of head scratching went into deciding where to fish to tick this Ulster county off my list but in the end I made a decision, well sort of…….
Monaghan is in the Republic, another one of the border counties which butts up against the UK. Cavan, Meath and Louth encircle it from west to east and it pokes up into the UK like a big, jagged tooth. Characterised by the rolling drumlin landscape, this is a fertile farming area of small fields and hedgerows. There are no large centres of population here, Monaghan Town and Carrickmacross being the two main towns.
I scoured the internet for information about the angling opportunities in Monaghan and was not disappointed by the range of venues available to anglers. I know I am critical of the IFI (often justified) but they seem to be on top of things in this county and there is a wealth of information for anyone who wants to fish here. In addition, and slightly unusually for Ireland, there has been a lot of development work carried out to improve access for anglers. Car parks, footpaths and fishing stands are common on the lakes in this part of the country. This is hugely appreciated and the IFI should be congratulated for this excellent work.
I looked at Ballybay and around Clones, both very tempting centres with a lot of lakes to try. In the end though I opted for Carrickmacross. I liked the look of some of the surrounding lakes and felt I would have a good chance of landing some fish there. Truth be told I have actually caught fish in Monaghan before. Many years ago I worked in a papermill in Aberdeen and the product was sent to various plants in Britain and Ireland for further processing. One of those plants was in Kingscourt, co. Cavan. I got to know some of the lads in that plant and visited them in 1979 for a bit of fishing. I stayed with Pat at his house in Carrickmacross and we fished for trout in some of the local lakes. There were some great nights drinking porter till the wee hours after successful days with the rods. Happy days indeed. For the purposes of this ‘32’ project I would disregard those triumphs of long ago and pit my wits against the fishes of Monaghan once again.
My plan was a simple one. On the outskirts of Carrickmacross there are three lakes in particular which are grouped within a few miles of each other so if I was struggling on one water it would be easy to switch venue. Here is what the IFI have to say about all three lakes:
1. Monalty Lake is located approximately 3.25km S.E. of Carrickmacross on the R178 Dundalk road on the right hand side of the road. Turn right after approximately 3.25kms and this roadway runs right beside the lake. There are a number of swims on this eastern shoreline and parking and access is also located in this area. Some local fishermen fish from small punts moored to platforms in the lake and boat fishing can produce the best results as the mobility allows the angler to locate the feeding shoals. This lake covers an area of 16 hectares with depths to 6m. This lake holds good stocks of fish including roach, rudd, bream, hybrids, tench, pike and eels. Bream, hybrids and tench to specimen size are to be found in this water and annually it records many specimen bream over 9 and 10 lbs in weight and the Specimen Fish Committee certifies these fish. Maggots, sweetcorn and bread are all effective baits. Anglers fishing in the early months of March and April and the later months of August, September and October produce best results.
2. Lisanisk is located on the R178 Dundalk road on the outskirts of Carrickmacross and is well developed. A spacious off road car park is provided and there are a number of angling stands on the road side of the lake. This 5-hectare lake has a maximum depth of 2.5m and produces great tench fishing. A number of large carp have also been taken in recent times. As well as tench and carp this lake holds good stocks of bream, roach, hybrids perch and some pike. This lake has a very weedy bottom as is best fished by float or pole.
3. Capragh Lake is located on the Crossmaglen road 4.5km N.E. of Carrickmacross. This lake has a good off road car park beside the lakeshore and there are many fishing stands around the lake. This lake which covers an area of approximately 12 hectares has depths ranging from 3m to 12m. This lake contains bream to specimen size and good stocks of roach, rudd, tench, perch and pike. Pike anglers will also find it possible to launch a boat on this lake’.
I think you will agree these are good, concise appraisals of all three lakes. I planned to start on Lisanisk and if that was no good make a move to Monalty with Capragh as a final back up should I still be fishless by mid-afternoon. I like having back up plans on these trips, it gives me a way out if one venue is not fishing well. I guess there is an argument that I dilute my attention to one venue by holding one or more in reserve. That is certainly a possibility but I find the peace of mind knowing there is a ‘plan B’ more of a benefit than a hindrance. The drawback with all of this was with three water to fish it was turning in to a very long day.
Another plus point for me in Carrickmacross was the tackle shop there. Anglers Choice have a huge range of gear and bait so I planned to hit the shop first when I arrived in the town. The guys there would also have up to date information about where the fish were being caught. https://anglerschoice.ie
It is the night before and it is Bank holiday Monday and so Helen and I go for a bite to eat for the first time in a year or so. We have to dine outside the restaurant but its a warm evening and we enjoy a lovely meal and some wine. Probably too much wine as we return home and sit outside in the garden talking till the wee hours. Eventually we retire for what is left of the night and at 5am my alarm sounds. Time to get up and go fishing but boy am I tired! As a youngster a scant 3 hours in my bed was more than sufficient but at my advanced age I need much longer to be able to function properly the next day. Bleary eyed, I shuffle around the house gathering up my gear. It takes me ages to load up the car and make something to eat.
With all this talk of big fish I pack my heavy leger rod and a reel with eight pound line on it. I have no plans to directly target the carp that were in Lisanisk but the heavy line would give me a fighting chance of landing one if it picked up my bait accidentally. I have tangled with carp before and they are doughty fighters but the old ABU rod would be a match for all but the biggest of the species. Lisanisk held tench apparently and they would be my target species if I fished on that lake but carp could very well snaffle a bait intended for Tinca Tinca. A look in the bait fridge reveals half a pint of red maggots which were still in good condition and also a few worms so I brought them along for the ride. I could add them to the groundbait if nothing else. One last check that I have everything with me then I switch on the engine and hit the road.
Monaghan is another one of those awkward journeys for me with a trek through the middle of Ireland. Three hours behind the wheel should see me there I figured but slow traffic, especially tractors, can stretch that out when on some of the lesser roads I would be travelling. I wanted to arrive in Carrickmacross at 9am but I am late in leaving.
Longford, Ballyjamesduff and Kingscourt were negotiated as I ploughed on ever eastwards. I am getting used to the roads in this neck of the woods now. With the old car and no sat nav. I rely on map reading and memory to find my way around the highways and byways of Ireland. There are occasional lapses but I possess and good sense of direction and generally manage to find my way around pretty easily. Road signs are much better than they were when I first came to Ireland but there are still many smaller roads which are unmarked. While the road was quiet for the first few miles the plague of summertime tractors soon slowed me down.
I arrived in Carrickmacross after rush hour and the streets were not too busy as I tried to find my way to the tackle shop. Angler’s choice is just to the north of the town centre, pretty easy to find. Once inside I buy some fresh maggots and a bag of groundbait. It would be easy to part with some serious cash here, it is a cornucopia of coarse angling tackle and I have to steel myself not to but some goodies. Back in the car I need to make a decision on where to start and I plump for Lisanisk. It is the closest and from what I have read it might be the easiest. I am low on energy this morning and not looking for any major challenges, Lisanisk will do to begin with. Back through the town and it is only a short journey to the small car park which serves the lake. Once I have got all the gear I need out of the back of the car I slowly make my way to the bank and find some fishing stands. With no local knowledge I simply pick one at random and proceed to tackle up.
I decide to leave the heavy leger rod in the car and instead bring the 13 foot float rod and the 12 foot swimfeeder. I tie on a helicopter rig and a maggot feeder on the 12 footer and bait up with a bunch of maggots on a size 10 hook. Groundbait is mixed and balls tossed in and then I cast out, just a couple of rod lengths out, hard up against the lily pads. I turn my attention to setting up the float rod but this takes me ages as the swimfeeder get bites right from the off. I miss the first couple before setting the hook in the third one. A small skimmer comes to hand, is snapped and quickly popped back into the green water.
More skimmers are lost and landed before I finally get the float rod into action. A size 12 baited with 4 maggots doesn’t even get time to settle on the bottom before the float dips and a tiny rudd is hooked. The water seems to be filled with rudd feeding close to the surface but every cast sees the float dip and the little rascals have either robbed the maggots or they are wound in. It is all action as both rods are constantly getting bites. In the end I give up with the float, the hook is sinking too slowly, giving the rudd the opportunity to nip the baited hook on every cast. I concentrate on the swimfeeder instead. This lake must support a huge head of fish because virtually every cast receives the attention of the rudd or skimmers.
After a couple of hours I consider a move but a combination of lethargy on my part (induced by last nights frivolities) and a belief that something bigger must come into the swim sooner or later due to the heavy feeding I am giving it means I sit tight in the same spot for the whole session. Of course nothing bigger does show up and instead I swing a steady flow of pewter coloured skimmers and tiny golden rudd to my hand. I tried chopped worm but the rudd found them easy to strip from the hook even as it was sinking quickly past them. By 2.30pm I have had enough and decide to call it a day. By then I have landed 31 skimmers and 17 rudd. The biggest of the skimmers would not even reach a pound in weight and everything is covered in snot. My rods and reels, the lines and end tackle are all caked in slime from the skimmers. My clothes and skin are liberally dosed with the stuff too so there will be a big clean up when I get home. Taking down the rods and the short trudge back to the car seem to sap the final vestiges of energy from me and the long road home feels like impending torture. Once I am moving though the journey back home passes quickly enough and I turn into the driveway before 6pm.
A postmortem of the day would reveal the previous nights revelries meant I was barely fit for an arduous journey and a lot of fishing. I should have moved after the first hour and tried to find better quality fish but I was just too tired. I know I am going to regret not fishing the other lakes as I had originally planned. There is a hell of a lot of coarse fishing around Carrickmacross and I will make plans to visit there again. Any coarse anglers contemplating a trip to fish in Ireland could do a lot worse than basing themselves in Carrickmacross. It’s a busy town with all the facilities you could want on a fishing holiday and there are plenty of lakes to pick from within a few miles.
Today was something of a milestone. I have now landed fish in 16 of the 32 Irish counties, exactly half way to my goal. While disappointed in my performance today I am pretty chuffed with progress to date.