The 24th Winter Shore Angling Festival was held on the east facing beaches of Co. Wexford over three days, from Thursday the 26th to Saturday the 28th January 2012. Organised by EFSA Ireland this event annually attracts the cream of sea match anglers from both the UK and Ireland, and with many thousands of euro in prize money up for grabs divided between individual, team, zone, and optional pools, competition is keen.
Southerly gales battered the Wexford coastline right into the early hours of Wednesday morning resulting in some competitors being stranded in Pembrokeshire, South Wales due to the ferry not sailing. As luck would have it the prevailing winds abated and swung around to the west resulting in ideal conditions over the three match days. The lucky Welshmen boarded a later ferry, and although lacking in sleep pushed the numbers competing to sixty plus when the whistle blew for the opening joust.
Sea match fishing drives shore angling technology and methods, of that there is no doubt. Specialist rods up to 16 feet in length, matched to fixed spool reels enable seriously long traces with snoods averaging 2.5 feet to be cast effectively. Strong forgiving tips both allow for bite detection and the casting of delicate soft baits, of which on this occasion lug wraps and maddies reigned supreme. Cast into the gutter or channels between banks on rigs constructed with micro beads, size 8 swivels, size 8 fine wire hooks, and weighted with plain leads the matchmen hunted for their fish, speed and accuracy being of the essence.
Day one was fished on Ballinoulart, with Clone pencilled in for day two, and Ballinesker the beach which staged the memorable opening scene from “Saving Private Ryan” marked down for day three. The sun shone and competitors scratched, mainly flounder with a few dab, whiting, rockling, and school bass thrown in for good measure. At lines up on Saturday the winning result couldn’t have been tighter. Dave Roe won the overall event for the second year in succession, with Courtowns Joe Byrne taking second (one place better than last year), and Ballybracks Ian Knight in third.
It would appear that the English dominance of this event has for now been broken. To put icing on the cake both Dave and Joe won the two man team prize and also were members of the winning four man team. A feature of the results which reflects our depleted oceans is the respective size of the longest round and flat fish, a school bass of 37 cms and a flounder of 36 cms. That said the competition was well run, and other than the north end zone on Clone strand (day 2), fish appeared to be evenly spread along the various match stretches over the three days. EFSA Ireland’s Warren Doyle and his team deserve a pat on the back for their organisation, as do the weather Gods for the light winds and blue skies. Roll on next year….
For further reading click on: EFSA Irish Winter Shore Angling Festival 2011.