Join the club

On a windy day last weekend I tried fishing lough Aclaureen near Tuam. I failed to register even a single bite there and so headed off to try my luck elsewhere, eventually spending a couple of desperately cold and windswept hours on one of the Castlereagh lakes near Irishtown. On the way there I checked out Cloondroon lough and was surprised to find that lake was under new management. A sturdy locked gate barred entry and some signs proclaimed the Milltown Angling Club now ran the fishing. I could see the car park had been upgraded and the area around it tidied up. I drove off vowing to find out more……………

At home I quickly established that the Milltown Angling Club was still accepting membership and for a reasonable sum I could apply to join their numbers. Emails were exchanged with a committee member and I arranged to meet him this week in Milltown. Annual fee for an adult is a reasonable €40 which was duly paid and I filled in an application form. We chatted briefly about the fishing and the improvement works the club had carried out. He showed me some photos of splendid new stands at Cloondroon which I admit really whetted my appetite. With over 60 members in the club I am also hoping to meet at least some of them and learn some of their tips and tricks.

So what do I get for my forty bucks? Obviously the initial attraction was Cloondroon lough. It holds pike to impressive sizes, some roach, perch and a few bream. The club also has rights to the fishing on parts of the Clare river near the village. I’ve never fished that part of the Clare before but it looks like excellent trout water. I can’t say I have heard of any fishing down that way for a few years. Although not that terribly far away the Clare system is not fished by any of the lads I know so it could be useless or brilliant!

The Clare river in Milltown

Just by way of background, the Clare river has been systematically ravaged by the OPW for many, many years. Long stretches have been straightened and the channel deepened. In some places they even changed the course of the river completely. It was not just the main stem which was mangled in this way, the feeder rivers were also butchered in the name of drainage. The result was the total destruction of the ecology of large parts of this extensive system. While much of this vandalism was carried out during the 1950’s and ’60’s it still goes on today. What is left are fragments of the old river which, although altered, can still hold a few trout. This whole area is limestone, meaning the rivers can support good populations of invertebrates when left alone. Trout and other fish feed on the insects and crustaceans and can reach a good size, if you know where to look. The Clare eventually empties into Lough Corrib, the lower reaches being very slow and deep. I hear there are shoals of bream swimming about in there so that will need to be investigated some time too.

A 13 inch trout is a very good fish. Since I return virtually all trout this limit is of little interest to me but it is good that all small fish are returned.

Salmon run the Clare, indeed pre-drainage it was considered an excellent salmon river. It’s now a shadow of its former glory, with a scant few springers risking heading upstream every year followed by a run of grilse if there is a summer spate. Despite the low numbers of salmon in the system it still attracts hundreds of salmon anglers every season with every conceivable method employed. The slow, deep stretches are ideal for bait fishers and both worm and prawn can be seen in use. Suitable fly water is less common but there are spots where it can be practiced.

It has been many years since I joined a new fishing club. I guess I am just one of those odd sorts who enjoys simply wandering off on my own with a rod for the day. Apart from the fishing itself it will be good for me to be less detached. The club rules appear to be perfectly sensible and not overly restrictive (which has put me off joining other clubs in the past). For any visitors in the area the club does day tickets too.

So I now have somewhere new to fish for both trout and coarse fish. I know what you are thinking – doesn’t he have enough places already!!!! I accept I am spoiled rotten but every angler loves the challenge of new venues. I’m really looking forward to trying out the river and lough and will report back with news of how I get on.

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