An Irish Anglers World

Barrow Boys

Living in south east Ireland I am blessed with a range of quality sea and freshwater fishing opportunities. Bass, smooth hound, tope, flounder, and codling provide good sport along the coast, while the streams and lakes respectively running off and within the Wicklow Mountains contain good stocks of wild brownies, with sea trout featuring every summer in Rivers such as the Slaney and Avoca. Coarse fishing is well represented also and this writer, a coarse angling rookie I might add, has had an enjoyable apprenticeship over the last couple of years fishing the River Barrow at numerous venues from Athy down to the tide at St. Mullins.

The River Barrow flows over Clashganny weir below Borris, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

The River Barrow is the second longest river in Ireland after the Shannon. From its source in the Devils Bit and Slieve Bloom Mountains it flows for 192 kilometres before entering the sea below New Ross in County Wexford. Draining a large catchment through the midlands and south east to include counties Laois, Kildare, Carlow, while briefly tipping Kilkenny and Wexford the Barrow in its middle to lower reaches is a wide river made navigable for boats by a series of canals up to Athy in Co. Kildare. My short experience of the river to date tells me that these canals play a major role in the success of the Barrow as a coarse fishery, for they give shelter to the great variety of species which inhabit the river in times of flood and also I am sure act as nursery areas, while the backwaters in front of the numerous locks provide ambush points for pike and perch as well.

Mentors who have helped me no end on the Barrow have been angling writer and good friend Gary Robinson and Naas and District Anglers stalwart Paul McLaughlin. Their enthusiasm and knowledge of this branch of the sport has enabled me to enjoy some good mixed catches of bream, roach, hybrids, dace, and perch, at this stage exclusively to the feeder. However, it is my intention to purchase a trotting reel such as the Adcock Stanton centre pin and develop moving water float skills over the coming 12 months, my one experience of still water float fishing within the Athy marina proving extremely productive with a mighty haul of plump roach.

A catch of roach and hybrids from the River Barrow at Athy, Co. Kildare.

Why did I leave it so late to start coarse fishing? I do not know, but I’m glad that I bothered for it is a fascinating branch of the sport, from the constituents and preparation of ground bait through to the various methods that can be employed relative to the species being targeted. The amount of clobber which some anglers bring with them, especially match men, is staggering. But that appears to be part of the fun and I must admit my tackle collection over the last couple of years has expanded, that said it’s functional and it does make a day on the bank that bit more comfortable.

My feeder set up consists of a thirteen foot Team Daiwa rod, Model No’ TDSR3-13FQ with three interchangeable tips, matched with a Shimano 2500FA Technium reel loaded with Maxima line for roach and dace fishing, beefing up to if there is a chance of bream or large hybrids in the swim. A Preston seat box carries all my ancillary tackle to include spare reels, various size feeders both round and square, cage or closed, ranging in weight from 15 – 40 grams, split shot, Kamasan hooks in sizes 16 – 10, swivels, Browning ambition tail making line, scissors, and disgorgers. Add in bank sticks, attachable table and containers for the various baits, bait and prepared ground bait, basin for the feeder mix, keep net, landing net, wet weather gear, lunch and I’m ready for the day.

A River Barrow bream.

Because I would fish in a puddle my year has to be broken up into various seasons by species, this is not a bad thing because it means that there is no break in my angling calendar. When the sea fishing season tails off through early January my concentration turns to pike and coarse fishing. This timing fits perfectly with the Barrow, because it comes into its own during the early part of the year and can yield massive bags of roach to those in the know, just ask Paul McLaughlin. Checking my diaries I’ve experienced top class fishing for Athy roach in February, cracking mixed fishing again in Athy during April, and superb bream and hybrid fishing during April, May, and early June in the river below Graiguenamanagh. My fishing has always been during the day, but this year I’m going to try a night session after bream just to see.

Bait has been exclusively bunched red maggot, or maggot/caster, sweetcorn/maggot, caster/sweetcorn combos presented on a predominantly size 14 hook on a two foot tail. The method taught me which has proved successful is to aim at a particular feature on the far bank then cast a filled feeder the required distance, lock the line to the reel, before repeating the exercise every 30/60 seconds for 10 casts to build up a bed of food. Throwing or catapulting in a couple of feed balls is optional but certainly can improve things if bream are about, as a shoal of big slabs can hoover up ground bait in no time, then lose interest and move on.

Casting the feeder, River Barrow, Co. Carlow, Ireland.

On casting the feeder will settle on the bottom and the tip will bend to the current. Bites can register quite quickly and knowing the Barrow dace will not be far away with their quick fire rattles. Roach tend to give a more purposeful knock, while bream will slack line you or cause the tip to wrap around as they move away. I tend to hold my rod and feel for bites as against placing it in a rest, unless the session is slow, coarse fish can suck the insides out of maggots and be away before you can blink. My catch rate has certainly improved as a result.

Bream are my favourite Barrow quarry, OK they don’t put up much of a fight and are fierce slimy, but boy they do look good fresh out of the water in the landing net, deep set and bronze flanked. On hooking they kite in the current and if of a size, Barrow fish can certainly top plus, most certainly will put a bend in your rod and cannot be hurried to the net. Swimming with the bream will be roach, hybrids, dace, perch, and even trout. That is the beauty of fishing the Barrow, plenty of mixed bags which add to the interest.

A brace of St. Mullins, Co. Carlow hybrids.

The recent spell of unseasonably warm weather in March got the bream on the feed and I enjoyed a cracking session in glorious sunshine with Gary downstream of Graiguenamanagh, meeting in the process Dublin based anglers Keith Marsella and Graham Pepper who were bream fishing for the first time. What a day they had weighing in of bream and hybrids along with a few dace and trout. By the time this article is published the Barrow will be in full swing with migratory shad swimming alongside the resident bream shoals. With out a doubt I’ll be there, the vanilla smell of additive in the air, covered in slime and smiling, my keep net filling up, with another bream pulling my rod over as it kites in the current. Out with the landing net, quick twist of the disgorger and away. Heaven on earth, if not it runs very close.

Further reading, click on: Bream Bonanza

Further reading, click on: Feeder fishing the River Barrow at Athy, Co. Kildare.

Ashley Hayden © April 2012