Archive for January, 2011

EFSA Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival 2011.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

The 23rd EFSA Ireland Winter Shore Angling Festival took place on the east facing beaches of north County Wexford from Thursday 27th – Saturday 29th January 2011. Fifty match men from the United Kingdom and Ireland competed for a prize fund of €8340.00 over three days of intense competition. Bright, bitterly cold conditions, the result of a north east airstream, made fish hard to come by on the chosen venues of  Morriscastle, Clones, and Ballinaulart. However the competitors employed scratching techniques coupled with years of experience to winkle out match winning bags of predominantly flounder with a few dabs, codling, and school bass thrown in for good measure.

EFSA Winter Beach Festival 2011, Ballinaulart, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

Against tough seasoned opposition Ireland’s Dave Roe on the back of three section wins took first place with England International Chris Clarke a close second and Courtown SAC’s Joe Byrne a well merited third. Dave and Joe also claimed the two man team prize while Courtown SAC had cause for further celebration with club members Ben Colliton and Clive Ivory winning the longest round and flatfish pools respectively. Make no mistake this competition attracts serious sea match talent, the cream from these islands, winning in this company is a major feather in the cap.

Dave Roe, winner of the EFSA Winter Beach Festival 2011.

Sea match fishing drives modern tackle technology and fishing techniques. A walk along the pegs is an education in how to tie rigs, types of bait to use, and fishing methods, the top anglers leave nothing to chance. On this occasion three hook traces utilizing long snoods, size 2 hooks baited with gutted aged black lugworm tipped with maddies (small harbour ragworm) fished at short range proved to be the winning combination.

A trio of flounder for Courtown SAC's Joe Byrne while fishing Clones strand during the EFSA Winter Festival 2011.

Sea angling will slow down over the coming months as we enter the spawning season, however spring is on the way and before too long County Wexford will be hosting another major event, this time the EFSA European Shore Championships 2011. Scheduled to run from the 27th – 30th April the event promises interesting fishing with bass, smooth hounds, and dogfish added to the mix of species currently on offer. Bring it on…..

For further reading click on: EFSA Ireland Winter Beach Fishing Festival 2012.

Adcock Stanton Centrepin Reels

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

This morning I received through the post a little piece of history, an original handcrafted Nottingham centrepin reel lovingly manufactured by enthusiast Ray Hyland. Based on an original design called the Reynolds Reel after Harry Reynolds an engineer at Stanton Iron Works in Nottingham, Harry started manufacturing the reels from his garden shed in 1938. Harry used to produce a weekly batch then sell the reels of a weekend to coarse anglers he would meet in the pubs around Sheffield. Stanton Iron Works proffered their name to help with marketing as the reels popularity increased, then after Harry passed away in 1968 a Rolls Royce engineer named Cliff Adcock took on the mantle until recent retirement.

Adcock Stanton Centrepin Reel the ideal float trotting reel for large rivers.

Ray Hyland, an Adcock Stanton reel owner, contacted Cliff Adcock in 2008 with a view to a minor repair on one of his reels. On leaving Cliff’s house not only had Ray’s reel been repaired but he also had agreed to carry on the tradition of manufacturing the Adcock Stanton centrepin reel. Today in 2011 the Adcock Stanton centrepin is produced in both 4.5″ and 5″ sizes in five different colour choices. Manufactured from the highest quality 6082 aircraft grade alluminium incorporating sealed ABEC 5 ball bearings they are virtually maintenance free. Oozing quality the Adcock Stanton centrepin is an ideal long trotting reel designed and manufactured to last a lifetime. A piece of modern history manufactured and brought to you by Ray Hyland of Leicestershire, England.

For further information contact Ray Hyland through:

Listen to Ray discuss the Adcock Stanton Centrepin Reel:

River Barrow, A Hard Nut to Crack.

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Three times this winter I have walked the towpaths of the River Barrow from Goresbridge to Clashganny, and now upstream of Carlow casting various pike and perch lures to no effect. Plugs of various sizes and descriptions, bulldogs, storm lures, leadhead jigs, mepps, have all tried their luck but still no takers. Bright days, dull days, noon, last light, I haven’t tried first light could that be the reason? Were there no fish in the stretches that I tried, hardly? Was I just doing something wrong, working the lures incorrectly? Anyone out there got any clues?

Working a lure on the River Barrow upstream of Carlow.

Perseverance is the key and the need to tap into more information. Large pike are caught on the Barrow every year as the specimen reports prove. Video clips of perch and pike being caught on the river are posted on you tube, friends have scored with both species. I met three fellow anglers yesterday who recently landed a ten pound pike on a lure from the stretch that I fished. The words “just be there” come to mind. If your not fishing you ain’t going to catch fish, so keep fishing it will happen sometime, the door will open, a chink of light, after that you never look back.

Lures for pike fishing.

It’s not just the fishing though but getting out in the air that is important. Participating, meeting people, visiting new places, sights, sounds, and smells, what surrounds the fishing that is what is important. Yes catching fish is the ideal end result but not the be all. Lies!! No, but if the drought persists? It won’t. A mottled green leviathan is out there its eyes piercing the murk every sense acute to the electrical impulses emitted from that struggling roach, she focuses, she targets, like a zeppelin she floats adjusting her position to strike. Three sweeps of her paddle like tail, eyes intent, mouth agape, BANG, fish on……

River Barrow in January between Carlow and Athy.

High Times in South Wexford.

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

A blocking high is centered over Ireland deflecting Atlantic weather systems up and over us to the north. Winds are slack, the sky is clear, and frosty conditions prevail with temperatures at night down to minus five. No matter about the big spring tide, with the sea calm and clear experience dictates that fish will be hard to come by.

Frosty conditions on Rostoonstown Strand, South Wexford.

A fortnight previous on a similar tide codling had showed on a south Wexford strand along with flounder and dab. Today with high water around six pm I could expect fish as dusk fell from around 16.30 pm. Fishing two rods baited with freshly dug lugworm at various distances by 19.00 pm and one rockling later I called it a day. Late January traditionally sees a tail off in catches as fish prepare for spawning so allowing for that and the prevailing conditions I was not too disappointed.

Winter brace of codling and dab.

With bait left over the following evening I headed for Clones strand, a few codling and school bass had shown up the previous weekend, and the beach traditionally fishes well for flatties at this time of year. Dull and overcast but still frosty, the sea was calm a single wave slopping on the beach. Fishing a rising tide with high water around 23.00 pm small dabs and flounder were the order of the day. The signs are looking good for those competing in the forthcoming EFSA Winter Beach Festival, Clones Strand being a regular match venue.

Piking Afloat.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Is winter pike fishing more productive from boat or shore? I do not know, does the presence of a boat put the fish off the feed? Probably in the wrong hands, however in the company of Peadar O’Brien a pike angling guide with years of experience the term silent running comes to mind. I think Peadar was a Uboat captain in another life the way he glides his Kingfisher 19′ across the flat calm waters of a small Co. Cavan lake. The pike feel safe, they do not know we are there, and the proof is apparent as Peadar’s float slides under, fish on.

A nice eight pounder for Co. Monaghan angling guide Peadar O'Brien.

Float drifting for pike is a great way to fish. You need a fish finder/echo sounder for best results. Set up two rods with sliding floats and adjust the depth relative to the drop offs where the fodder fish lie up, the pike will not be too far away. Today Peadar and I were fishing whole fresh rainbow trout at five metres depth working a drop off that varied between 7 – 9 meters. Fish, most likely roach, were showing 4 meters below the boat. The idea is to work the baits about thirty meters behind the boat slowly rowing or using the wind (with oar adjustments) to stay in line with the drop off. Pike will spot the bait and attack it.

Playing a pike on a Co. Cavan water.

That first pike was played to the side of the boat only to open its mouth and drop the bait, that after being played for at least three minutes, pike are mighty aggressive. A short while later I got a run only to pull the bait from its mouth on the strike. Immediately letting the bait sit hoping the pike might return my luck held and shortly after a well conditioned eight pounder graced the boards. A pattern was forming, the pike were not coming full blooded to the bait more intent to mouth it.

Ten pounds+ of Co. Cavan pike for Peadar O'Brien.

Searching various holes these Co. Cavan fish were hard earned. Towards days end Peadar connected with a well conditioned ten pounder which initially pulled the float under only to lose interest before turning and absolutely nailing the bait. Shortly after on the same drift my float went under, reappeared before sliding away. I could feel the double knock as the fish drew line before striking into nothing. You win some lose some, the story of the session. No matter we had two fish to the boat, one lost at the side, and three dropped runs. It had been a fine day in Cavan, frosty and still, Peadar on his return home from sunnier climes had his first pike of the year, all is right with the world.

Point to Point at Fairwood Park.

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The Shillelagh and District Hunt held their first point to point of the new year at Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, last Sunday 16/01/2011. The sun shone from a steel blue sky, it was chilly but there was no wind. With a lot of rain having fallen the night before the course surprisingly was in good condition, soft but drying throughout the day, Fairwood because of its location on a hillside drains very well.

In the parade ring, S & D Hunt Point to Point, Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

With six races on the card, a couple divided due to large entries, proceedings got under way at noon. By that stage a sizable crowd had turned up no doubt swelled by the fine weather and they were treated to some excellent racing. As always there was great colour which contributed to the spectacle and of course the beautiful surroundings set in the heart of south county Wicklow.

Round the bend at Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.

The Shillelagh and District Hunt, celebrating its centenary of point to pointing  this year, shares ownership of Fairwood Park with the Rothwell family (well known in racing circles) and the Tinahely show committee. In the recent past forward thinking people in the area purchased land to serve the community not once but twice. Tinahely not only has a showgrounds (Fairwood Park) that holds arguably the biggest one day agricultural event in Ireland, The Tinahely Show, in nearby Coolboy are the grounds of the The Tinahely Riding Club, home to a full cross country course and show jumping arena complete with flood lights.

Lining up at the start, Shillelagh and District Point to Point, Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

On the day hunt members and friends man key positions from race commentator to starter to the foot soldiers stationed at each jump who help fallen riders and make sure that the obstacles are in perfect nick before each race. Also important are the bookies, one of whom travelled down from Belfast, and the catering vans (quarter pounders with cheese and chips laden with salt and vinegar) mmmm, sure you’d have to wouldn’t you.

The long hill, Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

The races went off without a hitch. Local favourite Loggan Lass, a six times winner on the course, trained by dairy farmer John Walsh and ridden by his son Aaron unfortunately ran in fifth in the first, the disappointment sweetened by a third place later in the day. Being close to the track it was interesting to hear the jockeys interacting with the race officials, the different points of view prefaced with language sometimes quite industrial, or should I say agricultural? All in the spirit, taken and received with good heart.

Fighting for the finish line, Fairwood Park, Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.

At days end the large crowd, participants, and organisers, headed for the exits happy in the knowledge that they had experienced a well run uniquely Irish event. The day was kind and the racing exciting. There is something about the sounds and smells of live horse racing, you do not need to have a great knowledge of horses to enjoy it. As for the amateur ethos, yes there is an innocence to it, but when the tapes go up and those hooves thunder, it becomes a serious business. Great fun though…

Pike Hatrick in Co. Cavan.

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Some days it all just happens, there is no apparent reason but lady luck shines. An hour and a half late due to yours truly over sleeping, and a change of venue the result of an impromptu phone call, opened the door to a memorable pike fishing session on a small Co. Cavan water. January last year my fishing partner Gary Robinson landed two twenty pound+ Co. Monaghan pike in two casts, that is some feat. I didn’t reach those heights, but three pike in three casts does come close in the memory stakes.

Gary Robinson with a 10.oz Co. Cavan, Ireland, pike.

Shercock, Co. Cavan is surrounded by productive pike and coarse fishing waters of varying size. When it comes to catching pike small waters can fare better due to the hot spots being more defined. A phone call to Peadar O’Brien elicited a very welcome piece of information which resulted in a change of venue while also proving to be extremely accurate. A well known small water indeed, but Gary and I now had some vital local information with which to unlock its secrets.

A well conditioned 10.oz County Cavan pike.

Fishing into a deep hole Gary and I chose to dead bait with fresh rainbow trout and frozen lamprey while lure fishing the shoreline alongside.  Casting a whole rainbow (minus tail to prevent spinning on retrieve) thirty metres out I commenced working a storm roach lure sink and draw style. Letting the lure hit the bottom a lift and two winds of the reel handle, BANG, fish on. This pike was game making strong runs left and right before succumbing to the net after a five minute fight. Weighing 15. lb 10.oz a great start.

Storm Roach lure.

Deciding to check the bait rod, no sooner had the retrieve commenced then a violent tug signaled pike number two. Feisty but definitely not as strong after a short battle a well conditioned 10.oz Cavan pike was netted and safely returned to the water. It is very important to have all the right equipment set up and to hand when practicing catch and release with pike. Gary Robinson knows the form, these fish were in good hands.

A capacious net suitable for pike and carp.

Rebaiting, recasting, and returning to lure fishing first cast in BANG, a fish of eight pounds returned. Thirty six pounds of pike in three casts, that is good fishing by any standards. After that proceedings became more leisurely, however fish were still showing interest with three more pike to the net and a couple of dropped runs for the afternoon. The tally was split 50/50 between lures and bait, a feature though was that two of the dead baits were taken on the retrieve, very interesting!

Releasing a jack pike to grow bigger.

The day had been mild and overcast, threatening to rain but not. A fresh north west breeze died out towards evening flattening the lake surface dimpled now by rising coarse fish. Close to five pm Gary and I called it a day. The lake had been good to us and there is no doubt that we will return. Word is the bream fishing is good, what better magnet.

IFI brochure detailing pike waters in Ireland's northern counties.

Regarding pike fishing information a recent publication available from Inland Fisheries Ireland details key pike waters situated in Ireland’s northern counties. A well produced brochure containing current information, pike anglers of all persuasions should obtain and carry a copy with them, a first class guide book, and furthermore its free!

Click on: Playing the Pike Percentages.

Click on: Cavan Pike.

Sunday Morning Hack Out.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Carrig Wood is a combination of spruce, larch, and beech woods. Clear felling of the evergreens by Coillte, The semi state forestry organisation, has been ongoing for a number of years resulting in bare patches on the mountain. The broad leaf sections thankfully have been left alone. A legacy of the recent children’s hunt is a jumping course combining natural obstacles such as fallen trees, ditches, dykes, and logs criss crossing between the beech woods and the pine forestry. It adds a new dimension to what is an enjoyable place to ride out the horses and ponies.

Cluney, a Connemara Pony who is learning the ropes.

Howard and Alan Woods of, Tally Ho Connamara’s, wanted to school a couple of youngsters, thus an arrangement was made to meet at the entrance to Carrig Wood on Sunday morning last. Crisp and frosty with no wind and a clear blue sky, it was a fine morning to be out.

A leisurely Sunday morning in north county Wexford.

The relations were up for the weekend and it did not take much persuading for the niece and sister in law to accept a steed and join the party. The idea was for the inexperienced horses and ponies to mix with the senior animals in a group situation and learn from the outing. The new jumping course being an ideal environment given its natural location.

Roz and Dixie jumping a pine log in Carrig Wood.

Young Erica and her green pony had a ball negotiating logs, ditches, and banks. The pony was well up for it and Erica showed her ability as a young rider which was duly noted by Alan and Howard. “As good a pair of hands as we have seen in a long while for someone so young”.

Erica and her green pony jump a log in Carrig wood.

The morning progressed with a trek along various forest paths before another round of jumping. The horses and ponies working up a sweat and enjoying the ride out.

Coming down the mountains, north Co. Wexford, Ireland.

On the day Erica’s pony showed its class, is definitely a prospect, and would be a credit to any junior rider once it has a few more miles on the clock.

At full tilt, horse riding in County Wexford, Ireland.

Where would you get it? Sunday morning in good company, enjoying the fresh air and shooting the breeze. I’m often asked about living in a remote area and possible disadvantages. Whisper it, ” there are no disadvantages”.

Winter Beach fishing, South Wexford.

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Not having shore fished since mid November due to the arctic conditions it was great to once again feel the crunch of shingle underfoot, wind up the surf casting pole, and send a five ounce lead fizzing towards the horizon. A planned session after codling along the south Wexford beaches delivered a pleasing result yielding four species and a few fish for the pot.

Winter beach fishing south county Wexford, Ireland.

Fresh/frozen razor fish from a previous session were supplemented with lugworm and clam dug from the back strand at Rosslare. A couple of fellow bait collectors hinted at the prospect of fish and information was traded as to the current hot spots between bouts of digging. Lugworm is the top bait at this time of year but don’t rule out mussel and razor fish or combinations of all three. Coalies love mussel and razor can be very good for flounder especially when fished in the gutter after a blow.Bait digging on the burrow shore, Rosslare, Co. Wexford, Ireland.

A quick spot of lunch then off to the beach. Winter codling fishing has become increasingly hit and miss due to commercial overfishing, however large numbers of one-two pound codling have been present along the south coast since the summer hinting at a bumper winter beach season. East Cork, in particular the Youghal estuary, has produced good bags of fish to five pounds+, so I was hopeful that the Wexford beaches would not disappoint.

Daiwa 7HT's and Paul Kerry combinations.

Night tides in early January can throw up codling to weight  along the south Wexford beaches west of Carnsore point. Few and far between in recent years I was confident that fish would show. Setting up twin rigs, a single hook clipped down and a two hook flapper, the former was fired out while the latter was lobbed to about 60 meters. An oily swell was running creating a single wave on the beach and there was little or no floating weed. With high tide at five pm approx, I commenced fishing around half past three. As the light faded fish came on.

Winter sunset in south Wexford, Ireland.

Initially bites were tentative then a full blooded rap led to a slack line. Backing up while winding I felt the weight of a reasonable fish which turned out to be a codling of close to 40.cms. The action was fairly constant for an hour or so over the top of the tide. A few bites were missed which might have been down to coalfish and the fact that I was using long snoods. That said codling, dab, flounder, and rockling were landed, with the highlight being a fine flounder tempted by razor at distance.

Winter beach fishing fare, south Wexford, Ireland.

A brace of codling coupled with a nice dab and flounder made the trip worth while. January will see the best of it after which the beach rods will be moth balled until May. If the weather holds up another session or two is definitely on the cards. Let’s hope the codling are still obliging.

New Years Day Hunt, Carnew, Co. Wicklow

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

What better way to start the new year and blow away the party cobwebs then to take a rough and tumble ride in the country. The Shillelagh and District Hunt meets in Carnew, Co. Wicklow, annually on the first of January. At least forty riders ventured out this year, some a little worse for wear, and had a fine day out in glorious sunshine.

Meeting outside Sinnott's pub, Carnew, Co. Wicklow.

Heading out the Fern’s road the plan was to work a wide loop around the village towards the Kilcavan gap. Due to soft conditions a lot of farm land was out of bounds. To make up for this various makeshift jumps had been organised along the planned route.

Huntsman David Nolan leading the charge.

David Nolan works and manages a fine pack of hounds. They love the run out and are very responsive to his calls and commands.

On the scent.

Hedges, ditches, gates, or pallets, there is no stopping the Shillelagh Hunt members when they get going. Hold onto your hat, grab the mane, and keep your heels down!

Howard Woods clearing a gate, Carnew, Co. Wicklow.