32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32, episode 7, County Longford

Thursday, 1st October 2020

Longford posed some difficult questions for me. There is a lot of fishing in the county but from what I could see most of it was going to be very challenging. The Shannon forms the western border but I have been shying away from this river simply due to its size. The fish could be anywhere and me fishing one spot on the bank seems to be inviting disaster. So instead I found a lake in the north of the county which appeared to be a more likely spot to actually hook something. Lough Sallagh. This body of water straddles the Longford/Leitrim border so I would have to be careful not to stray across the county line as I have caught fish in Leitrim before. The IFI website said the lake contained bream, perch and roach, in other words the usual suspects. Parking was very, very limited as the road on the side of the lake was single track. It also said the lake was very shallow and very weedy so there could be some issues with that. In the event that Sallagh was unfishable or I could not find a parking spot I would pluck up my courage and drive down to Lanesborough and try the mighty Shannon. Was the famous hot water section there still fishing now that the ESB flusher is not working? Did the huge Tench of yesteryear still haunt the area? What about the vast shoals of specimen sized Bream – did they still move up the river from lough Ree? Or maybe there would be shoals of silvery roach cruising around in the deep waters. I had no idea but it seemed to be worth a shot if Sallagh was out of ply.

Once again, the most direct route for me coming from Mayo would be to drive to Longford then strike north but I required fresh bait and that would mean a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon. This would add some time to the drive but nothing too disastrous. My plan was to leave Castlebar around 8.30am which should, if the traffic gods were on my side, get me to the side of the lough around 11 o’clock.

I had spent some time since my last trip tidying out the tackle box and cleaning the coarse rods and reels so everything tackle wise was in reasonably good order. I really could do with buying a couple of boxes for all the smaller items of tackle though. Just now there are too many individual tins, each holding one or more bits. Hooks are in an old tobacco tine for example, swimfeeders in a disused washing powder box. In particular I would like to invest in a rig box so that I could have hook lengths made up and ready to go. I reckon that would save me a fair bit of time and hassle. I could also use up the spade end hooks which I seem to have accumulated and are too much trouble to tie when actually fishing. My hope was that the shallow water would lend itself to float fishing and I would be blessed with fine, calm weather so I could spent the day watching the tip of my float and hopefully see it slide beneath the surface a few times. It is hard to know which form of fishing for coarse species I like best, both float and leger have their attractions. I simply adore using my light leger rod and seeing the quiver tip rattle when there is a bite. Then again, focusing on that little speck of red or orange as it sits there in the surface is hypnotic too.

I checked the weather forecast before going to bed – ‘a mix of sunny spells and widespread showers. Some of the showers will be heavy with hail and possibly thundery too. Any mist, fog and frost will clear during the morning but the day will be rather cool with highs of just 10 or 11 Celsius in light southeast or variable breezes’. I threw an extra fleece into the bag.

Even though I wasn’t leaving until 8.30 I rose early on Thursday morning. It’s cool now and I put on the gas to warm the house up a little. Cats fed, I set about loading the tackle in the car. For some reason my thoughts wandered back to the days of my youth and how I would set off every Saturday armed with one fly rod and a small bag containing my only fly box and my sandwiches. Now I go fishing with half-a-dozen rods and enough gear to fill the back of the car yet I don’t catch any more fish than I did as a lad. Maybe that will be the next challenge for me once I have completed the 32 counties – fish all year with only one rod. That could be interesting!

I stowed the ABU 234 heavy leger rod in the car this time, just in case I found myself down in Lanesborough. It is capable of casting up to 40gms which would be useful on the Shannon. A lovely rod to fish with, I planned to pair it up with an old silver Daiwa Regal reel filled with 8 pound line. That should be man enough to handle the strong currents and heavy fish there. Ferreting around in the tackle room I had unearthed some 40gm feeders to bring along too. The big guns were out. I admit to feeling a lot of trepidation about this trip, Longford felt like a big challenge. Lough Sallagh would shallow and weedy with poor access and the alternative of the Shannon at Lanesborough looked to be huge and daunting.

That well-travelled road east along the N5 was not overly busy but thick banks of fog required a lot of concentration. At Frenchpark I cut off and drove north by east to the now familiar town of Carrick where I parked up beside the river. Carrick Angling Centre is conveniently located near the bridge. Unfortunately it was closed and I fear it may be for good. So I hit the road again, down the N4 then off through Mohill and on to Carrigallen where I got some worms before retracing my journey to the junction at the Cloone GAA pitch on that terrible bend. The minor roads to the lake were not signposted but I managed to guess correctly and peeled off first to the left and then down a boreen to the right. The trees were turning red and gold, making the last stages of the drive very pleasant. At last the lake hove into view on the right.

To say there was a shortage of parking spots would be a gross understatement. First appearances were of a potentially productive water but access is appalling, especially considering the road runs right alongside the lake. A couple of days work with a digger to clear parking places and a few shots of concrete to make some fishing stands would create a lovely facility for visiting and local anglers. Instead, I located only two possible fishing spots. Both were very shallow but one seemed to be a little deeper so I set up there.

By now the sun was out and it felt like a summer’s day. I waded out to see if there was any deeper water but even 30 yards from the shore I was only in 18 inches of water. The combination of shallows and bright light did not inspire confidence but I tackled up and fished for an hour without a bite. Time for some drastic action. I packed up and hit the road again, bound for Lanesborough.

For those who have never heard of it let me explain what the flusher at Lanesborough is all about. The surrounding flat bogland was for years stripped by huge machines and the peat which was extracted used to fuel a number of power stations. The one at Lanesborough sits right on the banks of the Shannon. Excess hot water was pumped directly into the river and this attracted the fish to the area immediately downstream of the flusher. For many years this was possibly the main spot in the whole country for visiting coarse anglers to congregate. Now the power station is closing down meaning no hot water is being pumped. The question for me was are there still some fish hanging around?

A fine carpark is situated right next to the fishing stands on the Shannon in the town. I opted to start just below the road bridge with a swimfeeder on the heavy rod and touch legering on the light rod. It had clouded over by the time I was set up and fishing and a breeze was beginning to build from the south so conditions were at least a improving for me. The river was very low and the anticipated heavy flow was just a sedate one instead. A thick bed of reeds splits the river here and I was fishing on the Longford side, the Roscommon side is the one used by the boat traffic (not that there was much of that). Small hooks and a single worm failed to get any response so I scaled up on the heavy rod and ended up with a size 10 and a bunch of worms. With no bites on the leger rod I decided to change over and set up a float on it (being too lazy to go back to the car for a float rod). I trotted the 17 foot deep water with the float for another hour or more before at last it pulled under and I landed a small perch. Soon after that the heavens opened and a heavy squall hit, making it very uncomfortable for a while. In the middle of the downpour I had another take and I lifted into a nice roach. With one last twist he shed the hook as I was about to swing him in. A murder of crows wheeled in the air above me, mocking my misfortune with loud cawing.

All the while I had been steadily moving downstream to cover as much water as I could. I’d cast in the swimfeeder and leave it where I could see it, then trot the float down and come back to the heavy rod every few minutes. I came back to the swimfeeder just in time to see the smallest of twitches which I struck firmly. Fish on and this one held down deep. The net was soon under him though and I gazed upon my first Hybrid! I was unfeasibly happy with this fish as I was not expecting to bump into a Hybrid here at all. A couple of quick snaps and the fish swam off strongly.

I fished on for a while longer but more heavy rain made the job unpleasant so I called it a day just after 4pm and made my way back to the car. Everything was sopping wet as I broke down the rods and loaded up all the gear. Time to reflect on what had been a difficult day.

Firstly, I had caught fish in county Longford. I have now caught fish from the mighty Shannon and I had landed my first Hybrid. Lough Sallagh was way too shallow in my opinion and I am sure I would have blanked had I stayed there. So the move to a different venue was a wise one. Lanesborough is but a shadow of what it used to be now the power station in no longer pumping millions of gallons of hot water into the river. The vast shoals of dustbin lid sized bream and enormous tench have found another billet. Still, it is a nice section to fish and it might be better earlier in the year, say around May or June. I really enjoyed fishing there, it was comfortable and a constant stream of (socially distancing) passers-by and dog walkers provided bits of chit-chat throughout the afternoon.

‘Bridies’, the tackle shop in Lanesborough has closed down and it looks like the tackle shop in Carrick-on-Shannon has also closed. The shop in Mohill shutdown some time ago. It must be incredibly hard to keep a small tackle shop open during these hard times. Finding bait is becoming increasingly difficult for me and it remains to be seen just how many tackle shops are still open next spring. The last time I spoke to Frank here in Castlebar he seemed to be doing OK, long may that continue.

The bait question is so serious I am now thinking about breeding my own maggots next year. It seems to be a simple enough process, if a bit smelly. Apparently the quality of home reared maggots is much superior to shop bought ones which could be another plus. Obviously Helen must never know about this particular project!

Realistically I should switch from coarse fishing to the pike from now on. The weather is getting colder and getting bait is proving to be really difficult. I will tidy up the coarse gear and put it away for the winter. My next outing may well be to chase the toothy green fellas!

PS. The car decided to play up a bit. There was a discernible loss of power for some reason when I was driving home. It has gone off to my mate’s for some repairs now and I have asked him to fix the knocking rear suspension while he is at it. Always something……………..

PPS. Prognosis on the car is a failed air mass flowmeter, €350 for a replacement. Looking around for a secondhand one now.

End of October update: Good news – found a much cheaper new air mass flow meter. Bad news, a CV joint has failed and an ABS sensor has packed in along with a rear wheel bearing and a track rod end. Oh the joys of running an old banger! All being repaired now.

7th October: We are locked down again, initially for a period of three weeks but who knows what will happen after that. With no travel outside your own county the ’32 project’ is now firmly on hold with 7 counties successfully fished to date. Here is a summary of where I am as of this week:

 County venuefish caughtmethod
1Antrim    
2Armagh    
3Carlow    
4Cavan5Garty Lough, Arvagh6 x Roach, 4 x Perch5 on touch leger, 7 on waggler
5Clare4Cloondorney Lough, Tulla small Rudd, 1 x skimmerfloat,  fished shallow
6Cork    
7Derry    
8Donegal    
9Down    
10Dublin    
11Fermanagh    
12Galway    
13Kerry    
14Kildare    
15Kilkenny    
16Laois    
17Leitrim3Drumgorman Lakesome Roach and 2 x Perchfeeder and ledger
18Limerick    
19Longford7Shannon, Lanesborough1 x perch, 1 x hybridtrotted float and feeder
20Louth    
21Mayo    
22Meath    
23Monghan    
24Offaly6grand canal at Shannon Harbour3 x roach, 3 x perchtrotted maggot and leger worm
25Roscommon2Cloonahee lake1 pikefeeder
26Sligo1Lough Talta dozen Brown troutfly
27Tipperary    
28Tyrone    
29Waterford    
30Westmeath    
31Wexford    
32Wicklow    
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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32, episode 6, County Offaly

24th September 2020

Offaly sits in the very heart of Ireland, bounded by no less than 7 other counties. It is another one of those places which I have driven through so many times while commuting to jobs but have never stopped in, let along fished. In my mind Offaly was all bog which was being systematically stripped by the huge machines of Bord na Mona to feed the hungry power stations. I required a spot of re-education. The most obvious angling opportunities were on the river Shannon which formed the border between Offaly and Galway. The river is wide and strong here, it sounded like too much for a novice coarse angler like me to tackle with any degree of confidence. What I required somewhere more sedate and intimate. The river Brosna flows across the county but I could not find out too much on exactly where was best to fish so I discounted that river too. How about the canal? The Grand Canal could just be the place to try.

The Grand Canal links Dublin in the east to the river Shannon in the west. By the time it was fully open in 1804 it had taken nearly 50 years to build. After a brief period of success it fell into disrepair for many years. Nowadays, restored to its former glory, it is full of pleasure boats and is home to a good few coarse fish. I read the canal held Pike, Perch, Bream, Eels and some Roach. Pike ran to 5 or 6 pounds in weight but the perch were wee lads with a half-pounder being a good one. I began to hatch a plan to fish for perch on the canal and found a nice looking stretch at Shannon Harbour, right at the very western end of the canal. It looked like it would normally be extremely busy with boats but this year there are few people holidaying on the canal and anyway this is the end of the season. One of the big attractions for this spot was the abundance of parking places at the edge of the canal.

Looking at various maps it appeared there would be an interesting area to fish where the 36th lock (the last one on the canal), the river Brosna and the river Shannon all converged. Surely there would be some fish hanging around such a piece of water. If not, between the lock and the hump-backed bridge in the village there were moorings and some wide basins which would also be worth investigating. All in all, it looked as if there was going to be more than enough water to keep me busy.

The weather forecast was not great. The day was promised to be cool and windy with heavy showers, your typical autumn day in Ireland. I packed some rain gear in the car and a few spare clothes in case I got very wet.

This would be another first for me as I have never fished a canal before. From my very limited knowledge of canal fishing you need to find the fish first and this can be difficult. The advice was to look for places where the canal either narrows or widens as this seems to attract the perch. Under bridges are also good holding spots apparently. Perch are very accommodating little fish that can be caught on a wide variety of baits and lures so I figured on trying small jigs to start with. As there were small Pike also present there was a good chance one of them might grab a soft bait too. In addition to jigs I also packed some spinners too. Lacking the new fandangled drop-shotting gear I packed a couple of 6 foot baitcasting rods and reels. I planned to give some small jigs a whirl and see if the perch liked them. That would entail moving around a bit to cover as much water as possible and I would need to travel light. As a back-up plan I would bring along my coarse fishing tackle in case the perch were unresponsive and I could try for roach and bream on the maggot or worm. As usual, I would bring some bread and sweetcorn with me too in case of emergency.

My route there was straightforward, M17/M6/R357 then cut off for Shannon Harbour. There should be none of the twisty roads of my last couple of forays into Leitrim and Cavan, just good straight road and motorways. I reckoned that a bit more than a couple of hours should see me at my destination and as I wanted to be back at home for 5pm that would give me somewhat less than four hours actual fishing. Would that be long enough for me to catch something (anything!)? I stepped out into the garden to check the weather before I went to bed, a cold, clear night full of twinkling stars. What would the morrow hold?

Sure enough, the day broke amid squally showers driven by a wind which didn’t seem to know which direction it wanted to blow from. Whatever the direction it was strong! Eating my porridge I consulted the weather forecast again, they were now talking about gale force winds and heavy rain with possible spot flooding today. Looks like it is going to be a rough one!

The trip down to Offaly was uneventful and the roads were pretty quiet. The small bridge over the canal in the village was supposed to be closed so I diverted through Cloghans and came into the village from the south, a fair bit of a detour. On reaching the village it was obvious the bridge was in fact open so my detour had been for nothing. I bounced along the rough track on the south side of the canal and reached a parking spot next to the last lock on the canal. I quickly surveyed my surroundings and decided to try the jig first to try and temp some perch from the likely looking water above the lock. Problems immediately became obvious in the shape of weed, lots and lots of weed. It grew thickly on the bottom and maddeningly floated in great clumps on the surface too. Each cast resulted in a fouled hook. The weed on the bottom came away easily enough so I was not losing any gear but nor was I catching any fish. This wasn’t working at all so I needed a plan B.

The weather now degenerated and a troublesome wind sprang up closely followed by a very heavy shower. I got a good soaking but used this time to grab my coarse gear and leg it down to the end of the canal, only about 100 yards from the Shannon itself. There was a steady flow here as the river Brosna came in just up from where I was on the opposite side. Plumbing the depth I found there was about 12 feet of water in front of me. Given the weed situation above the lock I opted to try red maggots on the float tackle with the worm on my light leger rod close in to the reeds at my side.

I trotted the float through the run for an hour or so without success before the float ever so slowly slid under. I was equally slow in lifting the rod, thinking this was just a bit of weed again but no! A nice wee roach came to hand, sparkling silver flanks and red fins. I had photographed him and popped him back in the water before it struck me, I had done it, caught a fish in Offaly! I repeated the exercise again with another, slightly bigger roach on the float fished maggot about 20 minutes later but by then the weather had taken a turn for the worse. A veritable monsoon broke and driving rain penetrated every leak in my old waterproofs. Fishing was extremely difficult as you could hardly see or feel anything in the deluge. I packed up as quickly as I could and started to plod back to the car through the downpour.

Nearing the carpark it became clear the rain was easing off somewhat so I decided to try a few casts from a floating pontoon. I was soaked through anyway so a few more minutes in the rain wasn’t going to make a hell of a lot of difference. In normal days I am sure this spot was a hive of activity as boats queued there to ascend the lock. Today there was a solitary empty boat tied forlornly to the pontoon leaving tons of room for me to fish. This looked like the ideal spot for perch so I dropped a worm over the edge of the pontoon while I sorted out the float rod. I turned to see the tip of the leger rod rattle but when I picked it up and wound in the perch had scoffed my worm and got away scot free. The rain renewed it venomous downpour, horizontal now in a howling wind. I turned my back to it and kept on fishing but it was very tough to see any twitches on the rod tip. Thankfully, the torrents of rain eased off a bit and I was able to see and feel again. Soon the tip of the wee leger rod give a rattle and I set the hook in a small perch. I repeated this trick another couple of times with similar sized perch then added another nice roach, also on the worm, before the next belt of weather came rolling in.

By now even I had to admit defeat so I packed up and made tracks to the car and some welcome respite from the elements. A drop of hot coffee and a sandwich revived me a bit and I sat there watching the teeming rain on the windscreen. It was nearing three o’clock and I lacked the will to tackle up again so I called it a day. Once more I braved the rain to throw the rods and gear into the back of the car then I turned the key in the ignition and set a course for home, this time driving over the bridge and cutting a big chunk off the journey back north. Strangely, the bad weather abated as I neared Ballinasloe and I completed the rest of the journey home in sunshine and light showers. 

At home the sopping wet clothes were bundled up and fired into the washing machine. The left over bait was frozen for use as ground bait in future. The rest of the gear can wait until the next day to get cleaned/dried/sorted out. Reviewing the day’s events, I had found a really nice place to fish and it is clear that in better conditions and a bit earlier in the year the canal at Shannon Harbour could produce some great fishing. I was reasonably pleased to have managed to winkle out a few fish in truly horrendous conditions. I know they were small but I was far from disappointed. Once again I had fish to both float and leger tactics. The only real downside is my inability to catch anything other than roach and perch. I need to think out what to do when there is a lot of weed growth. I figured that the float was the answer but would a swimfeeder with a popped-up hook bait been a better option? It did cross my mind to change to that set up but the rain was so heavy the idea of making any changes was just too much effort. All I wanted to do was try to keep as little water as possible from getting through my jacket and trousers.

The next day I dried out all my gear and tidied up my tackle box. Items which were not being used were removed and a few small bits were added. Rods and reels were wiped down and checked over. The old Cardinal 444A was running a bit stiff so I opened it up and lubricated the innards. Groundbait is running low now so a visit to a good tackle shop is required. I need to look at new waterproofs, my old ones are past their best now and I got very wet in the heavy rain. I’m also going to start bringing my heavy leger rod with me when I go coarse fishing. It can handle heavier/larger swimfeeders and this might help me to add more groundbait into swims and thus attract and hold some bream.

Counties Dublin and Donegal are locked down again due to spikes in Covid-19 with other counties looking like they will go the same way. At least I have ticked off another county before it becomes out of bounds. After this burst of activity over that past month I will be slowing down a bit over the winter and, if the gods are good to me, I will go at it hell for leather from next spring. I am plotting some local pike fishing next month, watch this space…………………

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32, episode 5, County Cavan

21st September 2020

It started a couple of weeks ago. You had to listen hard to hear it to start with but it quickly increased in volume and frequency. Now it is a robust ‘clunk’ emanating from the region of the rear suspension whenever I drive over a bump in the road (not an infrequent occurrence here in Ireland). On good roads it disappears but as soon as the surface returns to the normal level of inconsistency it comes back. I strongly suspect that a bushing on the suspension has given up the ghost and it will need to be changed. I have added it to the list of jobs the car needs done. Until I get around to fixing it I just turn up the volume on the radio to drown out the disconcerting noise. I thought before setting off on the next leg of my odyssey that the car might be a problem for me but no, it ran faultlessly while all sorts of other disasters befell me on Monday.

The next target county on my quest to catch fish in every one was Cavan. While I have passed through bits of Cavan on lot of different occasions I have not spent any time there so it is all a bit of a mystery to me. Cavan is one of the border counties, its northern boundary forming part of the border with Northern Ireland. When driving to/from Scotland on my annual trips I pass through a tiny piece of Cavan at Blacklion and I have been in Cavan Town and Ballyconnell on business before now. It is another one of those counties blessed with endless opportunities for the coarse fishing enthusiast so I planned to try for Bream (again) on one of the smaller loughs. Cavan really has an awful lot of loughs to pick from.

While researching possible venues I hit on a daring plan. I found a lough which straddled the border between Cavan and Longford. With a bit of luck I could catch a fish on Cavan side of the lough then wander over to the other side and catch another fish on the Longford side, thus ticking off two counties in one day. The idea really appealed, so I laid plans to attempt just that.

The lough in question is called Guinikin and it lies close to the village of Arvagh. The village itself nestles in Cavan but three counties meet on the edge of the town. Leitrim and Longford are all a short walk from the middle of the village. Probably the most direct route for me would be to drive to Longford along the N5 then hang a left up go up the R198. Instead, I decided to go via Carrick-on-Shannon so I could pick up some maggots at the tackle shop there. That would entail driving through the other popular coarse fishing centres of Mohill and Carrigallen. It probably was much the same in terms of kilometres driven but the roads would be poorer and therefor slower.

The weather has been fine, warm and dry for the past few days, allowing water levels across the country to drop to something approaching normal for the time of year after a long wet spell. I was hoping that Guinikin was not too high as I wanted to be able to walk around a fair old chunk of the shoreline. In case of bad conditions I packed a pair of thigh waders. If nothing else the banks were likely to be muddy even if they were not under water. Information about the lake was sparse, there was a small carpark nearby which is always a big plus for me. On Google maps it looked like there was a lane which led to the edge of the lough. The IFI website stated there were stands to fish from which would be nice if they were there. In terms of fish the IFI said there were Bream, Roach, Tench, Hybrids, Pike and perch present. A nice spread of species to have a go at if the Bream failed to appear (as is normal for me). I planned around starting operations with one rod on feeder and the other on waggler. I’d bring a spinning rod with me in case I wanted to try for a Pike.

The previous day I spent some time sorting out the coarse fishing tackle which had degenerated into chaos after the last few outings. I find that I chop and change methods a lot when coarse fishing and that leads to a host of little bits of used tackle congregating in the box. Discarded hook lengths, floats still attached to bits of shotted line, empty bait boxes and other detritus all had to be gathered up, cleaned/sorted/discarded safely and necessities like clean towels and spare tins of sweetcorn replenished. I had read somewhere that Bream like sweet flavours in groundbait so I went ferreting around in the cupboards to see if I could find something suitable. Right at the back I came across a suspicious looking wee bottle which proved to be vanilla essence. The best before date suggested to me this was not going to fit for human consumption so I added it to my tackle box.

The tackle shop in Carrick opens and 9.30am so an 8.30 departure from Castlebar would put in the parish around the right time. Traffic in the town was heavy but once I was on the main road it eased off and the dry, dull weather made the journey pleasant enough. The knocking from the suspension came and went at intervals but there were no dramas with the car. I rolled into Carrick at twenty-to-ten and after parking strode manfully up to the tackle shop – it was closed! Bugger, there goes my plans to use maggots today. I was really unhappy about this as I continue to hold no faith in sweetcorn despite lugging a couple of tins along with me. Back in the car I pressed on, passing through Mohill and then to Carigallen. I was almost through the town when it occurred to me there was a small tackle shop attached to a B&B. Sure enough, there it was just as you are leaving on the left hand side so I pulled over and, clutching an empty bait box, strode up to the wee shop. ‘Closed due to Covid’ said the sign on the door. Before I could start cursing properly someone inside the house knocked on the window and signalled to me. Anne, the owner came out and said she happened to have some bait and after an exchange of coin a pint of bright red maggots were mine. I nearly skipped back to the car, my mood completely changed due to my good fortune. Not far now and I was in Arvagh, a bustling village with a one way system.

My chosen lough was on the other edge of the town and easily found. I parked up and got all my gear sorted but of a lane there was no sign. Instead, a deep and foul looking drain led from under the road to the lake and the ground was swampy all around it. Electric cattle fences barred my path and I could already see swathes of dense reed beds around the water. More cursing ensued as I battled my way to the nearest point of the water but there were still many yards of reeds between me and open water. I tried hacking some reeds down but it would have taken me hours to clear a spot to fish from. In the end I gave up and trudged through the muck and across the fences back to the car. I had wasted a good hour and had still not even set up a rod. I needed a new plan.

The gear was hastily bundled back into the car and I headed back into the town then found a sign for Rockfield lough. I followed the road and guessed the lake was a body of water in a hollow to the right. It was also surrounded by a thick belt of reeds so I beat a retreat, not fancying another battle with more vegetation. Back into the town again and I found a big lough which I later found out was called Garty Lough. There was space to park and even a pontoon to fish from. This would have to do.

Finally, I set up the gear. One feeder rod and one on the float, both baited with maggots. Plumbing the depth I found there was about eight feet of water three rod lengths out from the pontoon. Groundbait was made up and balls thrown in, then I settled down with some coffee to see what would transpire. An hour passed and I bent to pick up the feeder rod to check the bait. There was a muffle ‘crack’ and the old rod sagged just above the bottom joint. I had managed to strike a big cleat on the pontoon and snapped the rod. Let’s just say I was not having the best of days so far!

I packed away the broken rod and set up my wonderful old light leger rod and mulled over the day’s events. My plans were in tatters as was one of my rods. It was 1pm and I had not even had a bite yet. Things were looking bleak. On the plus side I was settled into a nice swim and I had confidence in my tactics and bait. I would add some more groundbait for a start and this time a mixed in some of the prehistoric vanilla essence. Mushing it into the mix I could smell the vanilla, very appealing to me if not the fish. Balls of the sweet-smelling goo were chucked into the swim, each laced with some maggots for good measure. I re-cast and very soon the float dipped. I struck – nothing. I re-baited and cast again. Once again, the float dipped and I struck into thin air. This was repeated a few more times. I needed to make a change. I was fishing a single maggot on a size 18 hook on the float rod so I changed the leger rod to a bigger size 14 tipped with 3 maggots. First cast with the leger brought a strong bite and a fish on the end. A nice roach of about 8 ounces came to hand and I’m sure I smiled.  The float was now being ignored but the leger produced three roach and a perch over the next hour, none big but all welcome. The last swallows of summer hawked flies above me in the gentlest of breezes, life was good.

It went quiet again so I took the opportunity to change the hook on the float rod to a 14 and put 3 maggots on it. From then on the leger rod was ignored by the fish but I landed another 3 roach and 3 more perch on the float. That was 10 fish for the session, not too bad for a day which had started so unpromisingly. The fish went quiet again about 3.30pm so I packed up and hit the road home.

A post mortem of the day revealed a number of mistakes on my part. I should have checked the bait shop in Carrick was open on Mondays (it appears it is not). Guinikin Lough was a disaster because I was overly optimistic there would be somewhere relatively easy to fish there. I need to be certain about venues before hiking half way across the country to fish them. Maybe a younger man, equipped with a heavy rake, might have cleared a swim there but it was torture for me just getting across those 7 electric cattle fences. Not managing to tick off two counties in one day was a shame but that was always going to be a big ask. Breaking the rod was pure carelessness on my part. It was an old rod that I had bought second-hand for a pound or two so it was not great loss. I won’t rush to replace it, I have enough rods to see me through the winter and I can think about a new dedicated feeder rod next spring. Bream continue to elude me but I am getting used to that by now. I understand that not pre-baiting is a major drawback but there is nothing I can do about it.

On the plus side I caught fish in County Cavan! That is a big success for me and I am pretty happy about that. I’ve discovered a huge affection for roach, they are such a pretty fish and I’m enjoying learning how to catch them. Did adding the vanilla essence to the groundbait make a difference? I honestly don’t know but it sure smelled good to me so I will definitely try it again. Getting fish on both float and leger was fun and I am feeling more confident with the coarse gear with each outing.

I saw a few heavy splashes out in the lake today which I could not identify as they were too far away. Then a large, silver fish jumped clear of the water not 30 yards from me. Later, another large, silver fish rose at my feet and I saw both very clearly. They were salmon. How salmon got into this lake in the heart of Cavan I do not know. The stream exiting the lake is little more than a drain. I can only imagine this drain links to Lough Gowna which is close by and is part of the massive Erne system.

I now need to think about which county to target next. 5 down, 27 still to go. For obvious reasons I have been fishing those counties closest to me, so from now on the journeys are going to get longer and more arduous. The more distant counties are 4 hours drive or more from home, so at least eight hours will be spent getting there and back. Fishing time will be at a premium and these long range trips will require much more careful planning than I have put into my jaunts so far. With the winter fast approaching and some counties being in lockdown it makes sense to keep my powder dry for next year once September is past. A fine spell of weather in October/November might tempt me out to fish for Pike but other than that I will hunker down and make preparations for 2021 once September is over.

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32, coarse fishing

32, episode 4, County Clare

Monday, 14th September 2020

The next county I would target in my project the catch fish in every Irish county would be Clare. Once again I was busy online researching possible venues and plumped for this one, Cloondorney Lough. This lake, near the town of Tulla in the east of the county seemed to be the best option to me. It sounded like the fishing was easily accessible and the lough held Bream (my target species), Roach, some Hybrids and lots of Rudd. The Rudd apparently run up to about a pound in weight, a great size for the species. Tench, Eels and Perch also inhabited this water but in small numbers.

My plan was to use two rods, setting one up with a feeder to search for Bream and the other with a waggler set high in the water to try for Rudd. In case that didn’t work out I took along plenty of other rods, reels and gear so I could switch around if desired. For bait I had some worms, dead maggots, sweetcorn and bread. So really I was armed to the teeth and ready for anything.

Monday and the alarm goes off in the cool darkness of the early morning. The car had been packed the night before so all I had to do was eat my breakfast and sort out some food to bring with me. It would be a long day so I needed sustenance. Six-thirty saw me pulling out of the driveway and off into the darkness. Light was just creeping into the eastern sky as I motored through the villages of south Mayo, crossing into Galway at Ballindine on-route for Tuam. There the new motorway bypasses the town and led me ever southwards. Traffic built up approaching Galway city but it eased again once passed the M6 junction. In two hours I was passing through Tulla and looking for the brown signpost for the lake. The narrow road was under some sort of repair by the looks of it, consisting of untarred gravel but I found the lough and reversed into a neat little space by a small concrete stand.

I inspected my new surroundings and was a bit taken aback by the colour of the water – it was like strong tea. I can only presume this was due to heavy rain but it did not inspire me to see such a filthy lough. As I was contemplating the water two locals arrived and occupied the swim next to me. We had a brief chat and it was clear they knew the lough well and fished it often. What should have been a peaceful spot was ruined by a heavy digger which decided to work right behind my swim all morning. It looked like he was clearing a site for a new house and the clanking of the 360 went on for most of the day.

Following my plan the feeder rod was set up with the Cardinal 444A and 6 pound line. A cage feeder and a hook link of 4 pound b/s completed the set up. A lively worm was my bait on this rod. For ground bait I mixed brown crumb and added a few dead red maggots. The float rod with the Daiwa Harrier reel and 2 pound running line was set up with a small float and a foot of 1.5 pound hook length to a size 18 carrying a single red maggot. Lots of balls of ground bait were hurled into the swim in an effort to attract some fish nearer. Right from the start the float dipped every cast but hooking the Rudd was proving to be difficult. Eventually I hit one and swung in a typical tiny Rudd. Another couple followed but I was missing 90% of the bites. In between the action on the float I was continually winding in the swimfeeder and refilling the cage.

Time for a cuppa. I had brought along a flask of hot water and a plastic box full of tea bags of indeterminate age. All I know is that they had nestled peacefully in that box of a long, long time. I pulled out the first one that came to hand, dropped it into the cup and filled up with the hot water. Then I had a rough sandwich with a tomato I had brought and let the tea brew. The first sip of the tea was a surprise, it was impossible to tell what tea I had just brewed. It tasted of pepperminty/cranberryish/orangy with a hint of ginger (or maybe lemon). Obviously all the different flavours of tea had intermingled over the time the tea bags were in the box and now the all tasted the same. Ah well, at least it was drinkable.

The float dipped again and I struck into another small silvery fish but this time it was a wee skimmer. Growing tired of the small stuff I changed the float rod for my light leger rod and tried worms in the margins as close to the reeds as I dare. Starting with a single worm (nothing), I moved to two worms (nothing) then put on a bigger hook and tried a bunch of worms (yes, you have guessed it, nothing).

Since bait had failed to produce any fish I broke down the leger rod and set up a pike rod. Half-an-hour of flinging a large spoon proved to be unsuccessful. The rain which had started about midday grew heavier as the afternoon advanced, warm but never-the-less wetting mist. With little happening I decided to call it a day at 3pm and packed the soggy gear away in the car. The trusty VW engine burst into life at the first turn of the key and I bounced down the gravel road, retracing my outward journey to Tulla. Unfortunately the junction of the lakeside road with the main road was blocked and I had to reverse back a hundred yards then carry out a 29 point turn to go off in the opposite direct down some more minor roads to get back to Tulla. It rained the whole way home.

So what did I learn from today? I caught some (tiny) Rudd, a species new to me so I was happy about that. The skimmer was very welcome too but it would have been nice to catch something a bit more substantial. The colour of the water looked odd to me and when I mentioned it to the other fishermen they said the lake was never normally that colour. Was it due to the heavy rains we have had of late? Or maybe all those road works had allowed silt to enter the lough. Either way, I am sure the fish were upset by the change and this did not help my cause any today. It was a long way to travel for a few tiddlers but that is fishing for you! I didn’t catch anything on the swimfeeders, all the small stuff were caught on the float. Maybe if I had stuck with the float some bigger Rudd may have showed up, who knows?

Bream continue to elude me. OK, I had a skimmer today but catching the full grown lads is still beyond my ken. I have read that pre-baiting is the secret to catching Bream but that is not practical for me. To drive for at least an hour or two just to chuck a load of groundbait into a lake then drive home is not an option for me. Instead I need to find smaller waters which hold bream, small enough that I can cover them all in a day. That way I know the fish will be seeing my bait at some point and I can try to hold them in the swim by chucking in groundbait and loose feed. I am also tempted to try a flavoured ground bait and I’ll do some more research on this before I venture out again.

The lough itself was a nice place to fish and it was an example of how so many other lakes could be opened up for coarse angling in Ireland. The concrete stands were very simple affairs which would have cost very little and been easy to make. The two biggest issues for anglers here are car parking and access. There are literally thousands of lakes in the Republic which are full of coarse fish but anglers can’t get near them. Narrow roads with nowhere to park is the norm. Having to cross fields, often full of stock, is a problem (have you tried hopping a few barbed wire or electric fences with all your coarse gear?) only to be confronted with 20 or 30 yards of reeds before open water. Over the years IFI has carried out some excellent work to try and open up more waters but so much more could be done if there was real government will to do so. This being Ireland, nothing is simple or straight forward. Land ownership is a huge issue here and it is often very complicated with multiple owners of small parcels of land. These would all need to be dealt with and compensation for the loss of small bits of land on lake shores or to create access paths will work out to be very expensive. With ever dwindling game and sea fish stocks I can see an upswing in coarse anglers over the coming years in Ireland. It would be great if IFI could find the funds to increase safe access to more loughs and rivers for coarse fishers.

So anyway, I have now caught fish in county Clare, not big ones I grant you but fish never-the-less. I knew at the outset of this project that there would be many days when settling for one or two tiddlers will constitute success. That was very much the case today in the Banner County.

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32, episode 3, Leitrim

It is the 10th September 2020 and yesterday I decided to tackle another county, this time our near neighbour Leitrim. In one sense this should be a very easy place to catch a few fish as Leitrim is full of lakes brimming with fish. My issues are around exactly what kind of fish. You see Leitrim is a coarse fishers paradise but I am no expert at coarse angling, hence my reticence. An awful lot of online study had gone into today’s trip, venues abound but finding the right one was hard work. It had to hold plenty of fish (obviously) be easy to find, have adequate parking nearby and some structures to fish from. Irish banks tend to be wild and overgrown and as a novice I want to be standing on something stable. Those criteria narrowed down the choice considerably as many of the loughs in the area are pretty wild and poorly served with infrastructure.

I eventually hatched a plan to fish a small lough called Drumgorman Lake, about 3 km to the south of Drumshanbo. According to the IFI website it held Bream, Roach, Perch and Pike. There were some stands to fish from and a carpark right next to the water. The main road from Carrick-on-Shannon to Drumshanbo ran next to the shoreline. It sounded perfect.

Thursday morning was dry and the winds were light but forecast to pick up through the day. All the relevant gear was chucked in the back of the motor and I hit the road, bound for lovely Leitrim. For a change the N5 was pretty quiet and I trundled happily on, heading east and listening to the usual gloom on the radio. Brexit this, Covid that, the latest depressing updates on the total mismanagement of global issues. At least the fishing would take my mind off all of this crap for a while. Somewhere between Frenchpark and Carrick the road had been dug up and I had to divert through Boyle, a town I had never been in before. Negotiating the strange one-way system in the town, I emerged on the N4 road and turned towards Carrick. There is a canal only a few yards along the road which looked pretty fishy to me (one for another day). The green and pleasant scenery rushed by as I ploughed on eastwards.

If you have been following my early exploits in coarse fishing you will recall that I have lost faith in sweetcorn as bait. This time I was determined to get some maggots so I stopped off at the Carrick Angling Centre to pick up a pint. I opted for red ones and invested in some brown crumb for ground bait while I was at it. Next, some brown bread from the local Gala store on the corner of Bridge Street (for me to make myself a sandwich) and I was off on the final, short leg of the journey up the R280 and through Leitrim Village. I very nearly drove past the small carpark at the side of the lake as it is not signposted! Gear was hastily unpacked, rods pushed together and I set up on a fine new-ish looking disabled stand. With nobody else around I elected to fish from the stand. A handful of maggots were tossed in while I set up two rods, the 12 foot Shakespeare with a Daiwa Harrier and my lovely little ABU Legerlite with the old Cardinal 444A. Both had 6 pound nylon on them. I put a small swimfeeder on the 12 footer, loaded it with maggots and put 3 maggots on a size 12 then cast it out. A couple of swan shot is all the weight the Legerlite needs and I added a link of pound and a half nylon to a size 14 crystal bend, tipped with a pair of maggots. This rod was cast to the left.

I started mixing up some ground bait and fired a few balls of it into the coloured water but almost right away I started to get bites. The steady wind blowing from left to right was making bite detection a bit hit and miss but soon enough I connected with a fish on the Legerlite. Winding in, I found what has to be the smallest Perch in the world hanging on to my hook. Ah well, at least it was a start.

More ground bait mixing and throwing and more small bites followed but I wasn’t connecting with them. Changing the swimfeeder size 12 for a size 14 seemed to help and when I struck a solid bite there was some weight on the end. A lovely Roach of about 8 ounces came to hand, was photographed and quickly released. Happy days!

More missed bites followed and I changed down in hook size again, this time to an 18 and a single maggot. Bites promptly stopped altogether on that rod but I picked up another good Roach on the Legerlite. Clouds had been building and sure enough the rain started and the wind picked up, making conditions less than favourable. Hunkering down I surveyed my swim and thought the tree roots next to me looked like the perfect spot for a Perch to set up home. Re-baiting, I literally lowered my rig down at my feet into the roots and waited. I didn’t have long to wait as a lively bite resulted in a firm hook up and a nice perch as soon in my hand.

All the time a somewhat scruffy Robin kept me company, darting down to grab any stray maggots that had crawled out of the bait box. He was obviously well used to this trick.

Time flew by as the rain first eased off then returned with a vengeance. Bites dried up so I tried to liven things up with even more ground bait. Trying some casts to my right brought a flurry of bites and a few small Roach but I was soaked through by now so I decided to call it a day. Sheltering under the trees, I broke down the rods and tucked all the bits and pieces away before turning the key in the ignition and heading off homeward. Everything was sopping wet and will need to be dried out thoroughly before I venture out again. Note to self – must buy a new waterproof ¾ length jacket. The one I am using belonged to my father and is worn out.

So, what to make of the day and what lessons were learned? Firstly, and probably most importantly, I caught some fish in County Leitrim. I has set out to try and catch Bream, Roach or Perch and had landed 2 out of the 3. Shame I didn’t connect with any Bream but I was absolutely delighted to catch the Roach. The first couple were really pretty fish and I now get why some anglers fish so hard for this species. My choice of bait was vindicated and I will make a lot of effort to get maggots when I am going coarse fishing. Not wasting time trying to float fish in the wind was a good move (I think). Dropping the bait into the tree roots looking for Perch was a success too.

On the negative side I failed to catch a Bream (again) and I badly want to land a few of these fish. I read that they should be easy to catch but they are eluding me right now. OK so they are slimy and don’t really fight but I still want to catch some! I will persevere and read up some more on the species, then target them specifically on my next outing. I also need to figure out my choice of hooks because I missed a large percentage of the bites I got. Dropping down in size reduced bite numbers but increased hook ups until I went to a size 18, then all action on that rod ceased. Why? And my hooking ratio was terrible so maybe I need to think about different styles of hook? My ground baiting was a bit haphazard and I need to think about the quantity and frequency of groundbait. I could not hold the shoal of roach in front of me and this means I was doing something wrong. I don’t know did I over feed or not put enough in. I need to look into hair rigs as they could help me to convert bites into solid hook ups. I’ll do some research first before buying the bits and bobs.

Swimfeeders break! I started by tying on a nice little maggot feeder but after a few casts I noticed there was something wrong with it and a little crack had turned into chunks of the plastic body falling off. I changed it for a sturdier one but I will buy some new feeders so I have a good stock. On the subject of tackle, my tackle box badly needs to better organised. I seemed to be constantly rummaging around for hooks/line and could never just put my hand on what I wanted. The list of potential improvements goes on and on but today was a step in the right direction for me. Will I ever give up my game and sea fishing to concentrate on coarse? Not a chance! Having said that, I am fascinated by this branch of the sport and can’t wait to get back out there chasing Bream and Roach again.

So that is Leitrim ticked off the list, making it the third county out of the 32. It is a largely unspoilt county with a huge amount of coarse fishing. If I was a visiting angler the idea of holidaying in Carrick-on-Shannon would be very appealing. It is a nice wee town with lots of accommodation options, plenty of bars and restaurants. The river Shannon flows through the town and there are dozens of good fishing lakes within easy reach. For me, it is just over an hour’s drive from home so I will be coming back to the area from now on.

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland, Pike

32, episode 2, County Roscommon

Friday 14th August 2020

The day dawned fine and fair as promised by the forecasters. An easterly breeze blew across the garden as I surveyed the flowers and pulled out the odd weed. Where shall I fish today?  The eternal question needed a swift answer and looking at the thin clouds I plumped for lough Conn. Out came the outboard engine and fuel tank, the fishing bag and rods to be stowed in the car. But wait! The thin cloud cover had broken already and blue sky was filling the heavens above me. That wind seemed to have dropped to a mere zephyr too. Conn would be terribly hard work in a flat calm and brilliant sunshine. Maybe I needed to re-think my plans. It was a few minutes work to empty the car again and fill it with coarse gear. I would go to County Roscommon for the day and try to chalk off another of the 32 counties.

In the townland of Creeve, some miles to the North of Strokestown, there is a lake with excellent access, Lough Cloonahee. It apparently is home to Bream, Rudd and Hybrids so it sounded like a good place for a novice like me. My local filling station provided a shot of diesel for the car and a couple of loaves of bread for bait then I hit the road. As always, actually finding the lough was harder than it should be. The brown signposts pointing out the fishing lakes were either missing or pointing in the wrong directions but I managed to figure it out and found the lough without too much hassle. In the small, rough carpark I got chatting to the local farmer about this and that, as you do. What with the Covid he had seen virtually no anglers this year so he had no idea how the lake was fishing. A quick look at the water revealed the good folks of Roscommon had seen a lot of rain recently as the fine wooden walkway which stretches for 30 metres along the shore was partially submerged. I tackled up and found a dry spot off to the right to commence operations.

Plumbing the depth I found 15 feet of water close in so I set up the float rod with 3 pound straight through and a size 14 hook adorned with a single ear of sweetcorn. My feeder rod and old Cardinal reel full of 6 pound mono was rigged with an open cage feeder and a size 10 hook tied to 9 inches of 3 pound. 3 ears of sweetcorn were pushed on to this hook and I lobbed it out a few yards. This process was repeated a few times so the feeder full of bread and corn could unload in the same area to try and attract the fish to me. I also loose fed corn into the swim as I fished.

Time flew by as I made small adjustments to the rigs and re-baited frequently. About an hour into the session I lifted the feeder rod to recast and felt a sharp tug. Striking, I met fierce resistance and I was into a good fish. What was this now? It felt heavy so it might be a bream and images of slab-sided bronze fish filled my head. Off on another run went the fish, so it definitely was not a bream! Still unseen she hugged the bottom shaking her head and making lunges in different directions. Maybe it was a huge Rudd, there were supposed to be some big ‘uns in here. No, Rudd would be higher up in the water column. What about a Hybrid? After all they are supposed to be great scrappers. I applied as much pressure as I dare with the 3 pound breaking strain tippet foremost in my thoughts. Up came the beast and she broke the surface – it was a blooming Pike! The battle raged for a while longer but I admit I could scarcely care less if the fish broke free. She didn’t and at the second attempt she slipped into the meshes and was lifted out. I thought it must surely be foul hooked but no, the pike had taken the sweetcorn fair and square with the hook nicely placed in the scissors.

Quickly unhooked, I slid her back into the water. It was only later when I had cleaned off the slime, changed the hook link, re-baited and got the rod back in the water that it dawned on me – I had managed to catch a fish in Roscommon!

watching that float

More groundbait, more waiting and re-casting, more nothing happening. I tried a bigger hook with numerous ears of corn on it but that didn’t work. I tried moving to the other end of the walkway and setting up there in a nice looking swim. That was a similar failure. In the end I gave up and packed away the gear. It was mid-afternoon so I would get back home in good time. If it hadn’t been for that suicidal pike I would have blanked. I know I caught a nice fish and I should be happy about that but it felt like cheating somehow. I was not fishing for pike and had set up to catch roach or bream. Beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

While the lake was very high it was not too coloured and I am not going to blame conditions for my lack of success. According to the IFI website Cloonahee holds Bream, Roach, Perch, Hybrids and even some Tench but none of them distained to take my bait. I am of the opinion that using sweetcorn was the problem. In future I will make sure I have a range of baits with me so I can swap as required. For now, I am just happy to have captured a fish in Roscommon.

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32, Fishing in Ireland, trout fishing

32, episode 1, county Sligo

Lough Talt

From my notes of 6th August 2020

Those of you who followed my blog will know that I have a madcap plan to catch a fish in every county in on the island of Ireland. Covid-19 blew a huge great hole in that venture but I made a start to this odyssey today by visiting Lough Talt in the neighbouring county Sligo.

Lough Talt sits in a glen amid the Ox Mountains just inside the Sligo border. Those of you unfamiliar with the west of Ireland will be amused to know the Ox Mountains are a range of low hills a few hundred feet high. There are no towering crags, steep slopes of loose scree or hanging corries, only mist shrouded rounded hills clad in heather and sheep nibbled grass. It may lack alpine grandeur but it is a very scenic area much loved by walkers and hikers. Indeed, today the path was busy with family groups and dog walkers out enjoying the fresh air. I had trout on my mind though!

Weather today was just about ideal for fishing this lake, a good strong south wind was whipping up the length of the lake and cloud cover was not too low, at least when I was fishing. I reached the lough after a quiet drive via Ballina and the little village of Buniconlon. The road twists and turns as it gains height then drops again as the lake comes into view. There is good parking at the south end of the lake with room for a dozen cars. Tackling up with a three fly cast of a Bibio on the bob, a Jungle Wickhams in the middle and a small claret Bumble on the tail I set off on the track around the lough. The stretch of shoreline near the car park was uninspiring so I plodded on in my thigh waders. I was not sure what the shore would be like so I had donned the waders to cope with any stream crossings or to get out past any weed beds. The waders proved to be a bit of overkill and my hiking boots would have been a better option as the banks were firm and the path along the shore was well maintained (I will know for the next time).

Eventually I reached a spot which looked fishy so I set about my business in the strong cross wind. Casting up to about 15 yards was fairly comfortable, after that the wind gave me some issues so I stuck to the medium length of line all day. No offers for the first while but then I lightly hooked a small trout which promptly fell off. Bugger! Only a few casts later I rose another trout but felt no contact. Was I going to have one of those days? I eyed the flies on the leader with some doubt, especially that Claret Bumble on the tail. Tied on a size 14, it might be a bit too small for today I pondered. What the hell, I will leave it there for now. I marched up the path a bit further and found another likely looking spot.

Out shot the line, steady retrieve back to about 5 yards out then lift off and cast again. I was getting into the rhythm now and concentrating hard so I was diligently covering the water. A splash followed by a tug and I was into a trout at last. Not the biggest fish I have ever hooked but he was very welcome indeed. Of course he had taken the wee Claret Bumble I had so little faith in! A quick pic then he was popped back into the water. Two cast later and the exercise was repeated with a slightly larger specimen. Then it went quiet again.

I moved once more and picked up another trout and lost one too. That pattern was repeated often with only one or two offers at any one place. The trout seemed to be spread out with nothing of any note to keep them in one spot. I did find a large sunken rock about ten yards out from the shore and by carefully placing my flies just in front of it I lured the best trout of the session. I had removed the Bibio which had unusually failed to register a single offer. In its place a tied on a Welsh Partridge, a fly that I have not used in many a long year. The Wickham also failed to attract any interest so I substituted it with a small Soldier Palmer. In the end, the Welsh Partridge, Claret Bumble and Soldier Palmer shared the honours with each of them catching about the same number of trout.

The water looked ‘fishier’ further towards the north end the lough. Occasional large rocks jutted out of the water and fish were to be found near to them. I ended up with about a dozen brownies ranging in size from tiddlers to respectable three-quarter pounders. I guess I fished for about three hours before turning and retracing my steps. I got to the car and stowed the gear way just minutes before the heavens opened and a heavy mist descended. Perfect timing for once!

I can heartily recommend Lough Talt to you for a few hours gentle fishing in lovely scenery. The trout may not be large but that to me is insignificant. Flies tied in small sizes seemed to do best and claret or red were the colours which got a reaction today. Anything small and dark should do the job though. There was a wind there today and that was a bonus both for the ripple on the water which is always a help and, probably more importantly, it kept the midges at bay. It looks like a place where you would be eaten alive on a calm day. Don’t expect solitude on this water, there were many walkers on the path all the time I was there. I can tick Sligo off my list of counties now. One down, thirty one to go!

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32, Fishing in Ireland, sea angling, shore fishing

32 – Introduction

Having decided that I will tackle trying to catch a fish in each of Ireland’s 32 counties I now need to sit down a begin planning the whole thing. This is going to be a large part of the fun, just researching various places to fish a figuring out what I need to use, how to get there etc. The good old internet is a wonderful tool for searching out potential fishing spots There may not be a huge amount of detail on most websites but there is often enough to whet the appetite and encourage some deeper inspection via phone calls or emails. Perhaps in pre-internet days it was more fun just turning up somewhere and hoping the fishing was going to be vaguely like what you expected. Nowadays we can be much better prepared and forearmed by a few quick taps on the keyboard.

I started by listing all 32 counties so I could get a feel for where my travels are going to take me. I was a bit taken aback my my near complete lack of knowledge of so many of them! I honestly thought I knew more about Ireland than it appears I do. Here is how I summed each county up in one line:

County Province short description
Antrim Northern Ireland (Ulster) Far north, rocky coastline. Looks out on Scotland
Armagh Northern Ireland (Ulster) virtually landlocked
Carlow Leinster Small, landlocked
Cavan Ulster Hundreds of lakes, pike fishing paradise
Clare Munster Long coastline, Cliffs of Moher
Cork Munster Huge, famous for the sea angling
Derry Northern Ireland (Ulster) Unknown to me
Donegal Ulster Rugged
Down Northern Ireland (Ulster) Belfast, Mountains of Mourne
Dublin Leinster City, industrial, canals
Fermanagh Northern Ireland (Ulster) Rural, lots of lakes
Galway Connaught The Corrib, shallow coastal waters
Kerry Munster Sea angling
Kildare Leinster Landlocked, commuter towns
Kilkenny Leinster Known for its hurling not its fishing
Laois Leinster No coast, not much fishing as far as I know
Leitrim Connaught Coarse fishing around Carrick upon Shannon
Limerick Munster The Shannon
Longford Leinster Heart of the midlands, lots of coarse fishing
Louth Leinster Border county, river Fane
Mayo Connaught Western lakes, river Moy
Meath Leinster The grand canal
Monghan Ulster Rural, also lots of lakes
Offaly Leinster Central location, no salmon
Roscommon Connaught Mainly coarse fishing
Sligo Connaught Lough Arrow
Tipperary Munster Lough Derg
Tyrone Northern Ireland (Ulster) Lough Neagh
Waterford Munster Munster Blackwater
Westmeath Leinster Sheelin
Wexford Leinster Bass
Wicklow Leinster Mountains

Suddenly, the enormity of my task is laid out before me. Gaps in my understanding the size of the grand canyon have opened up before my eyes and completion of the 32 seems unattainable. Where do I even begin. My embarrassingly skimpy knowledge of some (most) parts of the island needed to be addressed if I was going to achieve my goal. I couldn’t set off for the far flung corners of the Ireland without some better understanding of the different places I hoped to visit. I have now given myself a target to read up about each county before I visit it.

West Cork landscape, I will save this for next year

Getting the first one under my belt is going to be tough. March is usually the beginning of my angling year but it would be nice to have bagged one or two counties before then to set the ball rolling. Some possibilities include trying for whiting and coalfish from Glassilleun beach in Co. Galway or maybe a pike from one of the lakes in Leitrim or Monaghan. There used to be great bass fishing in Kerry in January but I think that fishery has all but collapsed these days, so the huge journey there and back would be a very risky objective.

I’ve never fished Glassilleun beach despite its close proximity to the mark on Little Killery which I fish regularly. That’s because the beach itself is a very popular spot for tourists, walkers and others during the summer. The small car park is normally thronged and romantic couples, boisterous dogs while Japanese tourists roam the golden crescent of sand in all weathers. I don’t blame them, it is a lovely spot with grand views out to sea. Night time during the winter is the time to fish here, in biting winds with a sea running. Then the whiting come close to the shore looking for food which has been loosened from the sand. Importantly, it also the best time to avoid the holidaymakers and dog walkers.

Glassilleun beach, Co. Galway

So unless a better idea pops into my head I am planning on targeting Glassilleun beach in January next year to kick off the 32 project. In between now and then I’ll keep my ear to the ground in case I hear of anywhere else that happens to be fishing well.

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32, coarse fishing, Fishing in Ireland

32

Ideas churn around in my mind as if stirred in some kind of witch’s cauldron. Most are flights of fancy which never get off the ground but sometimes, just occasionally, an idea grows roots and turns into actions. 32 is one of those few notions which is becoming a reality. I want to take a bit of time to describe to you this bold new idea and how exactly I plan to turn the thoughts into actions. I am painfully aware that my blog has long ago degenerated into a litany of blank days and moans about the lack of fish, so I want to head off in a new direction and take readers on a bit of a voyage of discovery.

So what is 32? It is not the answer to all life’s questions nor is it indeed anything to do with maths or arithmetic. Those of you who are familiar with Ireland will instantly recognise it as the number of counties on the island of Ireland. A small history lesson may help to make things a bit clearer for those not well versed in the machinations of Irish history. When the Irish Free State was formed the English government wanted to hang on to the 6 counties which make up modern day Northern Ireland (please note this is not Ulster as it comprises of 9 counties, 6 in the North and 3 in the South). That left 26 counties in what would become the Republic of Ireland. So 26 counties in the south, 6 counties in the north makes a total of 32 counties. Are you with me so far? The 6 counties in Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom and the other 26 all form the Republic of Ireland.

My great idea is to set out to catch a fish in each of the 32 counties on the island of Ireland and document the highs and lows in my blog. Why bother you may well ask? Firstly, the last few seasons have been a disappointment for me on the angling front with repeated blanks and poor catches from my local waters. At the same time I can recall some brilliant fishing in other parts of the country from the past. Spinning for Bass in Kerry as the sun rose in the East, catching feisty little Brown Trout from a tiny lochan on a hillside Donegal, Rainbows leaping as they felt the hook on a put-and-take in Tyrone – the list goes on and on. It all seems in such sharp contrast to the endless blank days on Conn this past 2 seasons. Since the end of the 2019 season I have mulled over these past successes and recent failures and come to the conclusion that I need to spread my piscatorial wings somewhat and try new venues. From there, it was but a short hop to the need to give these wanderings some structure. That was when the concept of the 32 counties hit me.

the light fading over the hills of Donegal

Refining this structure has taken me a bit of time. Exactly what was I trying to achieve? What were the self-imposed rules of this venture going to be? My initial thoughts were to aim to catch a trout (any species of trout) in each of the counties but upon further examination this seemed to be a bit restrictive. This blog deliberately covers all legal forms of angling as I enjoy a wide variety of fishing experiences. Limiting myself to trout only felt like a betrayal of why I started to blog in the first place.

Then I thought about stretching it out and including salmon as well as trout but that would have meant leaving out sea angling. That didn’t appeal to me either so in the end I have settled on a rather broad based structure, ‘to catch at least one of any species of fish from each of the 32 counties in Ireland in a 24 month period’. Thus it shall remain and I now need to do some detailed planning and figure out where and when I shall tackle this herculean task.

My next hurdle was to negotiate the tricky question of C&R. I habitually return most of the fish I catch, keeping only a few for the pot. I decided that I would be pragmatic and judge each fish as they came to the net. Coarse fish will all go back and I don’t eat brown trout so they will be returned. Rainbows may be kept I suppose and sea fish such as Mackerel and Pollock will be probably retained too providing I am heading home immediately after the fishing. I abhor waste, especially wasting fish which could otherwise have been released.

What about my carbon footprint? All these miles trekking across the countryside in a diesel engine car cannot be good for the environment. I can’t say that I am a big fan of offsetting and instead am actively working to reduce my own personal carbon footprint by reducing power and fuel usage at home.

This little venture does throw up a whole series of challenges for me. The most obvious is going to be a lack of local knowledge for the vast majority of the venues I will be fishing. I know my own ‘patch’ around Mayo reasonably well but beyond that I am pretty much in the lap of the gods. Other variables include:

  • Time is going to be limited as I have recently started my own business and this is going to curtail my available free time.
  • As for the timescale I feel it is important to set a firm start and end date. The obvious choice is 1st January to 31st December 2020 but I won’t be able to commit to cramming all 32 into one calendar year. So, I am stretching the project over a two year time frame, starting on the first day of 2020 and aiming to complete by the last day of 2021.
  • Weather is always an issue in Ireland! A planned day on the shore can easily be blown off with high winds or a river trip washed out by a flood. To some degree this can be mitigated by having a back-up venue planned but realistically there will be days when it simply not safe to fish.
  • Access could be another issue for me as I may not always be able to fish exactly where I intended. When planning these forays I will carry out as much research as possible beforehand but there are bound to be a few hitches along the way. The internet is such a wonderful tool and I hope by doing thorough research I will avoid most of the pitfalls but I won’t always get it right and plans will need tweaking if access is denied to some spots.
  • My old VW lacks reliability shall we say. Breakdowns are a very real threat when the odometer already reads well over 300k miles. The car gets serviced regularly but who knows what bits will break or fall off on the road. For me it is part of the charm of the whole project, setting off in an old car with ancient gear to try and catch a few fish in far flung places. I am under no illusions that the car will give trouble and there will be breakdowns but I am not overly concerned about it.
  • Financial constraints. I need to be honest here, I’m not planning on spending a small fortune on this project. Cheap and cheerful is going to be my approach. Expensive beats on salmon rivers are out for a start. I will make do with day-ticket waters when chasing silver. In Ireland we are blessed with lots of inexpensive fishing so there should not be any need to overspend.
  • Family commitments need to be taken into consideration too of course. I am toying with the idea of dedicating some weekends away to the more distant counties and that will be a strain. Stretching the project out over two years will make the balance of family life and the fishing more manageable.
  • A lack of technical knowledge. I am OK when fly fishing, spinning or shore fishing from rocks but all forms of coarse fishing are black arts to me right now. Using feeders, the art of groundbaiting, float selection and shotting patterns, where and how to fish for the different species of coarse fish are all going to have to be learned and learned quickly. I don’t have the luxury of an extended apprenticeship in coarse angling. Beach fishing is something I have practiced only occasionally and distance casting is not my forte. I have a lot to learn!
  • Exhaustion, both mental and physical. There will be blanks and days when nothing seems to go as planned and I need to be able to get through the bad times and keep going. Plain old tiredness will come into it too as some parts of the country are 5 hours’ drive from Mayo. I am planning on combining some short fishing sessions with days I am working in far flung corners of the island which are bound to be exhausting.
  • On a similar note there is the question of health. I suffer from arthritis in my feet, ankles and knees which curtails much of my fishing. I also have vertigo and take medication to keep it under control. A flare up of either condition will be a big problem. The arthritis is there more or less constantly, giving me a lot of pain in my feet and ankles and reducing my mobility considerably. I have learned to live with it and put up with the pain. The Vertigo is a different beast and an attack in 2018 left my sense of balance severely compromised and the need for daily medication. There is always a niggling worry I will suffer another attack someday but my poor balance has curtailed much of my fishing. Until you lose your balance it is impossible to realise just how important it is to your everyday life. Tackling the 32 counties will have to be done without fishing some spectacular but difficult to access rock marks.
  • Recording it all on the blog. I know the scant few words you read here don’t look like much but time and effort is required to add content to any blog. I find that I need to write posts soon after the fact, certainly within the next 24 hours. I have never timed how long it takes me to write a post and publish it but I would guess an hour or more is about right. Finding an hour going spare after I have been fishing will be an interesting challenge.

the old car

Another aspect of recording it all is going to be my dodgy photographic skills. I have a reasonable camera but using it to full effect is something I am still wrestling with. I will try my best to conquer the intricacies of a DSLR but bear with me if some of my shots are not the best – we all have to learn! This learning new skills is going to be a challenge but at the same time part of the reason for undertaking the 32 counties in the first place. We all need to face up to new challenges and learning new skills, be they using a camera or learning to fish for Tench stretch us in ways we will benefit from. So photography is another area where my interest needs to be turned into knowledge. I’m looking forward to that too.

  • There is little serious angling between the end of October and the beginning of March in Ireland. Yes, I know about the early salmon rivers which open on the 1st January but to have a respectable chance of catching something I regard March as the starting point of my fishing year. That concentrates the opportunities to fish into only 8 months. That rather neatly translates into one county every two weeks. To me that is a heck of a lot of angling to fit in! I am avidly reading up on the forms of fishing and species of fish which are new to me and it seems there is some coarse fishing during the winter months which may just give me a few extra days fishing but I have a lot more research to do before committing to long drives on bad roads to try and extract an odd Roach or Perch. The jury is out on that one for now……..
  • As I write this we are still unclear what the actual effect on crossing the border between the Republic and UK is going to be like. With 6 counties to fish in Northern Ireland it looks like I will be gaining some first-hand experience.
  • Licences, permits etc. Permission will be required and angling licences purchased too. So there will be some expenses in addition to all the travel.
  • Tackle should not be an issue for the game and sea angling as I have a huge range of rods and reels in good condition. Apart for small bits and bobs of end gear I don’t anticipate buying any new tackle for those arms of the sport. Coarse fishing is a different story and I am shocked at the volume and expense of coarse angling equipment which the top anglers use on a regular basis. I am not going to go the whole hog on kitting myself out with poles, those fancy tackle boxes and the other paraphernalia. I own a pair of float rods, a couple of leger rods and an as yet unused feeder rod with some old reels to match. These will have to do for now. A selection of end gear and some new lines will need to be bought though as well as bait and ground bait. I’ll go into details of my gear later on as it is largely unconventional.

The range of different fish is equally extensive and I am excited to think about the new species I could encounter. I have never caught Bream, Tench, Rudd or Hybrids but they will definitely be target species for me when I fish in some counties. I have never caught a Roach of more than 6 inches long nor a perch of greater than a pound and a half, maybe I’ll break one or both of those PB’s. Hopefully there will be a few oddities along the way too, such as Shad which is a fish I will specifically target down in Carlow.

If you draw an imaginary line diagonally through Ireland from Belfast to Cork the lands to the North and west contain most of the game angling while to the South and East of the line is mainly coarse angling water. In saltwater there is a huge mix of different coastlines around this island. One of the great attractions of this venture is the sheer variety of locations out there for me to sample. Sleepy urban canals, fast flowing hillside torrents, heady clifftops and miles of salty, golden beaches all await me. I’ve always enjoyed the challenges of fishing new places and the mix of previously untried locations, methods of angling new to me and the backdrop of the Irish countryside seem like a heady brew to this tired and jaded angler.

Reaching the furthest corner of the Emerald Isle can be a bit of a trek from my base in Mayo. Antrim and Derry are 4 – 5 hours from home. The same goes for Wexford/Waterford area in the South-east which entail a 650 kilometre round trip. That is a ten hour journey without even wetting a line. Although traffic can be heavy in the cities, rural driving is largely a pleasurable experience once you have grown used to the Irish style of driving. Anyone using indicators is seen as an oddity, letting someone out in front of you at an opening is a sign of madness, reducing speed in poor conditions such as snow is unheard of – the list is lengthy. My pet hate is supermarket car parks which everyone seems to regard as their own private race track. Despite living in Ireland for all these year I still find it hard to accept the truly awful driving of my fellow road users but railing against the majority is a waste of time and emotional effort. I need to learn to just put up with it and hope I avoid contact with the worst of the drivers out there.

The car. So what does my transport consist of? For many years now I have been running round in a 2001 VW Golf estate car, so many years in fact that it now boasts over 300k miles (not kilometres mind you) on the clock. While there have been occasional temptations to upgrade to a new car the old gal keeps on chugging along so I stick with her. These days there are a few dents and scrapes in the bodywork which somehow adds to the warm fuzzy feeling I have towards this old automobile. Driving down narrow boreens inevitably adds further scars to the paintwork every season but it really does not matter at all with an old car like this. I guess it has been reasonably reliable over the years. The diesel engine still returns nearly 50 miles to the gallon on the open road and all the controls and switches (with the notable exception of the air conditioning) are still working. In short, for this type of project it should fit the bill nicely. Repairs, when required are effected by a good mate who is a wizard when it comes to good old fashioned automobile repairs. He would rather fix something rather than chuck it out and buy a new replacement. Without him the old VW would have long ago been consigned to a scrapyard.

Let me explain a little bit about the gear I propose to use for doing the 32 counties. After a lifetime of angling I have amassed a huge amount of tackle but none of it is your ‘top end’ expensive rods and reels. I take particular pleasure in using old tackle and in particular I am a huge fan of vintage ABU kit. Growing up in the sixties and seventies I lived through the age when ABU were producing the finest tackle available and I still believe some of their reels are the best ever produced. When I started working in the mid-seventies I immediately began to purchase ABU rods and reels and that habit, though it has waned at times, has persisted with me right up to the present day. In common with most others of a like mind I believe that the quality of ABU products diminished greatly when production was switched to the Far East so I buy up only the gear which was made in Sweden. A lot of this is still available on the second-hand market at reasonable prices and the quality of the engineering is such that these old reels (and to a certain extent the rods) is still better than modern equivalents.

I won’t bore you with a long list of my rods and reels, suffice to say I have a pretty extensive collection running to well over 30 rods and about 50 reels. I only buy tackle I intend to use so none of this lot is in pristine showroom condition, rather they are well maintained everyday rods and reels for use on the water. I love the silky smooth feel of the Ambassadeur multipliers and Cardinal fixed spool reels. Using them really adds another dimension to a day’s fishing for me. A good glass fibre rod, although heavy, is a joy to use and I can’t help thinking it is the best material for some types of rod. So if you see an old bloke on a riverbank in Ireland chucking out lures or bait on some ancient ABU gear there is a good chance it is yours truly.

I especially enjoy using the heavier ABU rods such as the Atlantic 423 spinning rod and the Legerlite 234. These are beautiful rods with bags of power when required. They inspire confidence and the trade off in weight is a small price to pay in my book. I also have some of the short baitcasting rods and they are great fun to use for smaller species. That is not to say I only possess ABU kit, I have a range of rods and reels made by other manufacturers such as Daiwa and Shakespeare. All my flies are tied by myself and the challenge here is to cut down the sheer number of flies I bring with me. Talking of flies I will add any unusual patterns or variations of standard ties in the main blog so that the 32 pages don’t become overly complicated. There will be enough going on in them without adding things like fly patterns.

I also swear by some of the old Swedish ABU baits such as the Toby, Tylo and Krill. Again, I have used these all of my angling life and firmly believe they out fish newer baits stamped out on a press in China or Korea. Owning hundreds and hundreds of baits means I am forever switching them when on the river or lake but that just adds to my day out too. I am perfectly willing to accept that I could sell off 95% of my gear and not suffer any reduction in my catches but that is not the point. I get enjoyment from using different rods and reels or trying a different baits. Each to his or her own I say.

ABU Tylo

Having declared my love for all things ABU I must admit that I do like Rapala plugs as well (bit of a Nordic thing going on here!). The original floaters and countdown sinkers are excellent baits and I have started to trial the newer scatter raps now as well. The action in the water is excellent and I have great faith in their fish catching ability. I have some small ones which are yet untried but I suspect they might be good for perch and jack pike, time will tell.

Anyway, as I rove around Ireland you will see me use a host of various baits and lures, some of which may even catch the odd fish or two. I’ll try to keep note of the ones I use but I’m pretty sure I’ll miss some of them. Who knows, perhaps some new and otherwise untried baits may be successful for me in some far flung corners of the island. For instance, I hear that the best lure for Shad in the river Barrow is the Tasmanian Devil, a lure I have never even tried before now.

Talking of tackle, I am thinking about pulling together a small ‘kit’ of basic gear which I could keep in the car at all times in case I get an opportunity for an hours fishing as I travel the country. My new work will in all probability take me different parts of Ireland so having a couple of rods with me makes a lot of sense. Initial thoughts are this would consist of 4 rod/reel combinations and a bag of bits to cover very basic float, light spinning, heavy spinning and light fly fishing. Scenarios I can foresee would include an hour on a canal where the float rod could be used for Roach or Bream but I’d have the backup of the small spinning rod to try for a Perch if I did not have any bait. Or the heavy spinning rod could be used off a pier for Mackerel or to chuck a plug into a Pike lake. My Orvis fly rod throws a no.5 line and this is adequate for small river fishing as well as top of the water smaller lake fishing for browns and rainbows. If I am planning on a full day fishing I will be properly organised and take all appropriate gear with me but for those odd occasions when an opportunity presents itself for an hour on some stretch of water this ‘kit’ could be a godsend.

It’s just an idea at the moment but it seems to make sense. There should be space in the car for this limited amount of gear. With this lot I could fish for trout, pike, perch, roach, rudd, mackerel, Pollock and wrasse. Everything bar the rods would fit in a large box and I could take a bag along and just fill it with the bits I needed for that session and off down the bank I’d go.

Tackle shops are going to be a necessary evil for me during my travels. Why an evil you may ask? Well you see I am a sucker for the salesman patter and will inevitably end up buying stuff I don’t really need. Tackle shops will provide me with permits, bait and ground bait and hopefully some advice as well. But I am resigned to adding to my huge collection of tackle just for the sake of it. At this stage I am guessing the coarse fishing areas will be my biggest challenges and so the local tackle shops in those counties will be visited and consulted. Irish tackle dealers are the same as those the world over, only too keen to help out anglers with advice as well as selling them gear. I am looking forward to meeting some of these characters in far flung corners of the island.

Some days are going to be dedicated to fishing with early starts and long journeys but others will likely be short sessions snatched after work. This will be challenging angling with little time to get to know a piece of water and so sticking to basic methods will be the name of the game. The humble worm will likely feature as bait. Readily available and good to tempt most freshwater species it could well be my mainstay. Then again, a tin of sweetcorn tucked away in the tackle bag is a good standby for some species. Pre-baiting is a luxury I cannot afford which is a pity as it certainly seems to be key to good catches of some species such as Bream. But, if my goal is catch one fish from each county, one single solitary fish is all I need to achieve my target. Big bags are not going to be a feature of this venture.

What happens if, despite all my planning, I fail to catch a fish at my selected venue? I’m in no doubt that this is going to happen and probably happen quite often. A blank will entail me visiting that county again and again until I catch a fish. Blanks in Antrim or Wexford are going to be expensive and time consuming failures! I suppose the best approach is to give myself the maximum chances to catch fish at each venue, meaning I need to do a lot of research into each place beforehand. I also need backup plans for when things are going wrong. For example, finding a river in flood may rule out the chances of catching anything there but if I have a ‘plan B’ in the shape of a second or even third choice of venue it could negate the loss of the first venue. I can’t just turn on my heel and drive all the way back home just because one river is out of ply. I will need to think about varying locations and target species in light of any blanks, there is no point in going back to the same spot and hoping for a better result! There is a huge element of ‘suck it and see’ with the whole of this adventure and making adjustment and changes as I go along is part of the fabric.

I want to try to vary species and methods as much as possible without tying myself to impossible dreams. My disturbing lack of knowledge about all forms of coarse fishing means I will be taking some calculated risks but taking along a small spinning rod to cast worms or small spinners for perch should go some way to providing a back-up in many places. But I don’t want this to end up as me simply fishing for the lowest common denominator. It will make for dull reading indeed if all I do is worm for perch and bottom fish for dogfish (probably the easiest two species to catch in Ireland). Hence the different types of venues and methods of fishing.

I will need to provide photographic evidence of all catches too. Just writing a post saying that I caught a fish is not good enough, I need to show clear evidence that I caught the fish and, importantly, that I caught it where I said I did. To this end I will take liberal amounts of photos and add them to the posts. Pictures of the whole trip and not catch will be taken so you get a ‘feel’ for the whole trip as this is just as important to me as the actual landing the fish. Who knows, I may even play around with video!

I read somewhere recently that a ‘good’ days fishing happens to competent anglers on average every fourth trip. I know my own average of good days is well below that level, leading me to conclude that I am far from a competent angler! Then again, what actually constitutes a good day? Long ago I abandoned all hopes of catching lots of big fish on a regular basis. Too often I have blanked on good waters while those around me hauled out their share (and mine too). As long as there is some faint hope of catching something I am a happy angler. Once that hope dies I pack up and head for home or the pub. Flogging empty water is a thoroughly depressing business and one to be avoided at all costs in my book. Attempting to catch a fish in each county in this land will test my resolve and willingness to keep going even through tough situations. Any stretch of a trout river is going to be a joy to fish and I’m comfortable casting small flies for wild trout so these venues are going to be the jewels in the crown for me. What to do when Bream or Tench refuse my cunningly presented feeder will cause me much more difficulty. Density of loose feeding, castor versus maggots, boilies or minis? As a complete novice these and a hundred more coarse fishing conundrums await me. It will be a steep learning curve but one I am really looking forward too. I beg forgiveness in advance from those of you coarse experts who read this blog, all I can say is that we all had to start somewhere. My mentality is simply to catch one fish at each venue, not attempt to secure large bags. For me, one bream will constitute a good day’s bream fishing!

Planning with near military precision is going to be required and I have made a start. I have created an initial list of potential venues, listed by county. This is very much a ‘first stab’ in the dark and will require much refining over the coming months but it is a starting point. I intend being flexible and taking advantage of any opportunities which present themselves as the months pass. If I hear on the grapevine of good fishing in counties I have yet to tick off I’ll adjust my plans accordingly. A good run of grilse at the weir in Galway or heavy mayfly hatches on Sheelin could send me scuttling across the country to try my luck. Odd occasions like that will not be the norm and instead I will have to plan in some detail where, when and how to fish in each county. No point in turning up at the other end of the country to find my chosen spot has not fished for a month or that it produces good catches in August but I am stood there in my waders in December! In these days of the internet I should be able to glean sufficient information to make informed decisions but I have to accept sometimes I will simply get it wrong and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such is angling!

The Galway Weir

I am fairly familiar with some counties but others I have never even visited. I have never set foot in either Kilkenny or Wexford and only passed through Armagh, Down, Offaly, Laois and Tipperary. My knowledge of the fishing in many of the other counties has come from books or the net, not actual experience. The midland counties and the southeast are pretty much a mystery to me right now.  The challenges will be many and I am banking on good fortune along with tips and help from other anglers I encounter during my travels. Anglers the world over are a helpful bunch so I am hoping for some free information from my companions on the bank.

I know I have a tendency to fall back on tried and tested methods sometimes when the fishing gets tough (a size 12 Green Peter cast at wild brownies has saved the day many times, as has a silver spoon for Pike) but this may work against me on new venues. I must cultivate an open mind! I do like using two rods when shore fishing, sometimes even three. A ‘normal’ beachcaster hurled out a fair distance, a heavier rod fished very short with a large bait and often a spinning rod in my hand casting a lure or feathers looking to pick up Mackerel or Pollock. This certainly improves my chances not only in terms of numbers but it targets different species, always a good thing when you don’t know the mark well (or at all).

if in doubt, a small Green peter usually works!

So what do I hope to achieve by all this dashing across Ireland, waving rods at fish I have never caught before in places I have never even visited before? I guess I want to address my jaded approach to angling, to re-invigorate my fishing so that I get more enjoyment out of it. Isn’t a change as good as a rest? At the same time I hope to show you, the readers, some new and interesting places as I travel the highways and byways of this lovely country. Ireland has the capacity to confuse, irritate and disturb you at times but alongside that there is a beauty and charm which is hard to match. I hope you enjoy reading about my travels, the successes and inevitable failures, the people I meet and the stunning locations I fish.  Two years is a long time to ask you to stick with me but I will do my best to educate and entertain you all as I try my luck in all the odd corners of Eire.

Many of you either live in Ireland or have some knowledge of the fishing here so I am open to your suggestions and comments. Drop me a line if you have anything to say (positive or negative, it all helps).

I will preface my posts on the blog dedicated to the 32. This will keep them separate from my normal musings and make it easier to follow for the reader. As I said earlier, it is looking like I will be able to head off doing the 32 counties thing roughly once every fortnight leaving plenty of space for me to keep adding posts to my normal blog.

So, there you have it. I plan, over the next two years, to catch a fish in every county on the island of Ireland. I may succeed gloriously or fail miserably but I am looking forward to the challenge and invite you all to come on the journey with me. Starting date is the first day of January 2020.

Update: last day of November, 2020

Covid-19 has of course devastated my plans. Two level 5 lockdowns and a return to level 3 in December effectively stopped all my fishing for most of 2020. When the restrictions were eased in June I made a start on the 32 project as best I could. A couple of blanks in Roscommon and Leitrim were quickly followed by limited success in both of those counties plus Clare, Sligo, Longford, Offaly and Cavan. As I write this today there is no prospect of any further excursions this side of the new year. My plan to complete all 32 counties by the end of 2021 is not going to happen so I have decided to take the pressure of of myself and just leave the timescale open ended.

The expected challenges such as car reliability, lack of coarse fishing knowledge and poor access to some venues are all coming true but I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Let’s hope 2021 is a better year and that I manage to get out and fish more of Ireland’s beautiful rivers, lakes and seas.

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