Ah, the sunny south east. Wexford both intrigued and vexed me in equal proportions for a long time. Not that there is anything wrong with Wexford, far from it, I think it sounds like a lovely place to live. It is one of the furthest away counties and one which I have never been in before, so I knew absolutely nothing about the angling there. This ’32’ project is making me fish outside of my comfort zone in many ways and I am getting used to setting off for distant places with only the merest knowledge of where I’m going and what I am doing. The only fishing I was even vaguely aware of was some beach fishing for bass that was in an old book I own. Oh, and the boats which head out to the marks around the Tusker rocks for pollack swimming around on the rough ground out there. Neither really appealed to me so I started tapping the keys to see what else was going on down in the sunny south east with rod and line.
What was there for a visiting angler then? Wexford harbour is a large expanse of salt water which appeared to be home to some flats and a few bass but this was all a bit too sketchy for me. The fish could be anywhere and with limited time and no local knowledge it could prove to be a frustrating and fishless journey. Sea angling seemed to be a bit of a dead end to me. Then I happened upon a commercial coarse fishery which looked altogether more promising. Oaklands Lake which is near to the town of New Ross sounded very well run and full of fish. I figured a day on a coarse lake would be interesting as I have never fished a commercial coarse lake before in my life.
I am used to turning up on the edge of a wild lough or canal and just doing my own thing but a commercial lake will have its own rules so this would be new to me. Their website stated that sessions lasted from 9am to 7pm, meaning this would be another very early start and late finish for me if I was to avail of a full day. You see it is a four-and-a-half hour drive from Castlebar to New Ross, not a trip to be undertaken lightly when I had a full day of fishing as well.
The road system in Ireland is none to helpful when driving from the north west to the south east as I would be doing. The motorways and main roads radiate out from Dublin on the east coast like the spokes of a wheel. That makes sense as it links the other cities like Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo but also means journeys across this flow require many diversions. Our Dublin-centric planning has a lot to answer for!
A 4.30 am rise is not something that worries me, for years that was my normal start to the working day and a long spell behind the wheel as I crossed the country was fairly common too. I have worked in Donegal, Belfast, Dublin and south Kildare at various times and all of these required early starts and long drives. While I set an alarm it is rare for me not to awake before it, I’m so used to getting up at that ungodly hour. Luckily I am a morning person, a fresh start to the day suits me down to the ground.
The poor old car was packed to bursting point with tackle. Quiver full of rods, tackle boxes, bags, net and a plethora of lesser gear were stuffed ignominiously into the back of the black Renault, the whole providing a vista of utter disorganisation to the uninitiated. Indeed, it didn’t look much better to me and it was I who had done the packing. Due to the small size of the boot in this car the tackle spills over on to the back seat. Even still, the chances of me remembering everything were not good. As soon as I turned the engine on I could hear there was a problem, a very noisy exhaust! It would have to last today so I set off with a throbbing rumble from the rear of the car. A job for this weekend no doubt.
As I drove south I mulled over the coming day. The lake was stocked with bream, rudd, roach, tench and carp. Yes, carp! It is unusual to see these fish here in Ireland so I pondered whether to set up one rod specifically to try and tempt one. For me, perhaps setting up a feeder rod set up for carp and the float rod for all other species was as much as I was prepared to try. I know very little about catching carp, to date it is a branch of the sport which has not appealed to me. Three days living in a tent waiting for a run does not sound to great to me but if one happened along today I would be damn glad to see it.
Weather wise it is normally much better in Wexford than we get in Mayo. Sheltered away from the Atlantic, they enjoy more sunshine and less battering in the wind and rain. It was breezy when I left Mayo with low clouds scudding across the sky and sudden downpours or rain. By Athlone the weather had dried up and as I pressed on south the sun came out and it got very warm despite the strong wind. Almost exactly four hours after pulling out of the driveway I turned into Oaklands and shut off the embarrassingly noisy engine.
Fees paid, net dipped in disinfectant, it was time to select a peg. With only a couple of other anglers there I had free range and decided on peg 7, would it be lucky for me? I fed a swim one-and-a-half rod lengths out with a scattering of maggots and a couple of small balls of groundbait then set up the feeder rod. As I was putting the float rod together I missed a hard knock on the feeder, a very encouraging sign indeed! Setting the green waggler at slightly over the nine feet I had plumbed, I baited up a size 12 barbless hook with four maggots then settled down. The wind was blowing right to left and a strong sun beat down from above.
If I was to detail all the fish I caught we would be here for a long time so I will just go over some of the highlights. Right from the off skimmers of up to a pound or so were constantly biting, coming to both float and feeder. Strong gusts of wind swept up the lake so I had the float shotted well down and bites were relatively easy to see.
These skimmers were in lovely condition and not nearly as slimy as most snotties are. About an hour in the float dipped and I lifted into a solid fish which ran off to my right and took a bit of battling to get back in front of me. The carp stayed deep and put up a dogged fight but I eventually slid it into the net, a beautiful fish of about six pounds. As near as I can recall this was my first carp since 2008 when I caught some in the UK. It was a bit of a tight fit getting the carp into my meager net so it might be time for me to think about investing in a larger model, it would be handy for my tench fishing too.
Some tiny rudd and perch kept the count ticking over then a shoal of roach camped in the swim, sitting in mid water so the bites were mainly seen as the float lying flat instead of cocking. A second carp, maybe a pound lighter than the first one came along and fought hard under the beaming sun. The cat, which had been sunning itself next to me, pounced on a small roach which came off the hook as I swung it in, a trick I am sure it has performed many times. All the time I was trickling in maggots and small balls of groundbait.
Next were three quick hybrids before a lovely rudd fell for the maggots. More skimmers then a bream made up the balance of the catch. I kept count and for less than three hours I landed 17 skimmers, 11 roach, 3 rudd, 3 hybrids, 2 carp, 1 bream and a perch (38 fish in total). I’ll confess I fished very lazily and with more effort I think I could have doubled that number. As it was I just enjoyed the fishing and the peace of the fishery. Oaklands is a lovely fishery with high stocks of quality fish in a well maintained setting. There is an impressive tackle shop on site and all the facilities you could possibly ask for.
Wexford can now be emphatically crossed off the list. The long drive had been worth it in the end. My first ever session on a commercial coarse fishery had been hugely enjoyable. I know that if this type of fishing was all that was available to me I would quickly tire of it but for a change it was a wonderful way to spend some time catching different species.
On the way down I had eaten most of my sandwiches but had saved one for lunch. Reaching down into the plastic box a movement caught my eye, a bloody spider was in there with my last egg sambo! Both were flung into the bushes and I went hungry for the remainder of the day.
All good things must end so at 1pm I packed up the gear and headed back to the car. I could have stayed and enjoyed a lovely afternoon at Oaklands but I had another plan. To be continued….