An Irish Anglers World

Irish Dreams, A Coarse and Pike Angler’s Guide

I much prefer getting off the beaten track when I am looking for waters to fish in. When short on time I will take a handier trip with better access to maximise my fishing, but with a couple of days at my disposal I really like to visit some of the more remote waters. Venues that on arrival won’t be populated by twenty lads lined up along the bank and certainly will not be defiled by rubbish piled high after previous visitors. Most of my coarse fishing is conducted in the lakes and rivers of counties Cavan,Monaghan, Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Meath. Living in Dublin/Wicklow a two and a half hour car journey puts most waters worth visiting well within reach. I have used various sources to scout out my hunting grounds, usually the OSI Map Viewer that can be found at and the OSI Discovery Series Maps (numbers 26, 27, 27a, 28, 32, 33, 34, 35, 40, 41 and 42).These map resources, used in conjunction with Hugh Gough’s excellent book on Irish coarse fishing or Bernie Murphy’s series of books are usually sufficient to find me a couple of decent swims capable of producing excellent results.

Come to Ireland for a coarse fishing haul like this.

Top draw fishing marks are becoming more of a guarded secret than ever before, with good reason. Many a lad does not want to see their favourite spot suffer from a stampeding influx of anglers after word of a good haul gets out. That might sound a bit of an over-reaction but I have seen it happen. A picture of a good day’s fishing is posted online, somebody invariably recognises a feature or two in the photograph and before you know it the word is out. The spot fishes well initially for the first of the new anglers hitting the area but as time moves on, so do the fish. I find that after a while, the increase in angling pressure can put  fish “off”, on occasion litter becomes a problem and the original angler who pulled off the hard work in establishing the mark now has to share a venue which up until then probably had not seen another angler for years. And who could blame them? Excellent spots are to be cherished, you do not stumble across them all that frequently and with the fear of an “angler invasion” or indeed a poacher’s convention, I can understand why some lads play their cards close to their chests and keep their venues to themselves – “looselips sink ships” after all. Besides, getting the maps out and studying the form is so much more rewarding when your hard work pays off. Every specimen becomes a well-earned achievement when you have to put time and effort in from the start.

Maps and charts coupled with books give a good idea of what can be found in a lot of Ireland’s waterways. I look for small, out of the way waters on the OSI Discovery Series Maps. When I have located a couple of likely looking, isolated lakes I refer to some of the books. With a bit of luck there will be at least basic information on the water in question– what species it holds, for example. The only thing that I do not like about these books, through no fault of the authors I hasten to add, is that they are dated. While a lot of the venue depths and features mentioned are still sound, what they lack is recent information on how the last twenty to twenty five years have treated the fishery.I speak in terms of weed growth, invasive species, “Celtic Tiger”-era construction projects and the likes. The information in the Hugh Gough book in some cases is getting on for thirty years old and more. Enter Martin Allington and his book “Irish Dreams”. Martin is a UK angler who has been coming to Ireland fishing for over fifteen years. A lot of that time has been spent fishing under the very capable guidance of Brian Bohan, a well known, Country Leitrim based fishing guide. Brian has been guiding for years, catering to both Irish clients and those from further afield. He seems to know the Leitrim/Longford/Roscommon areas like the back of his hand and the many pictures that have featured him and his clients catches on the “Fishing in Ireland”website stand testimony to this. Brian helped Martin put Irish Dreams together.

Brian Bohan, Irish coarse and pike angling guide.

Coupled with my maps, I can put together a good idea of what I will be letting myself in for before I have even left the house!! The Discovery Series Maps allow me to identify a water. The Irish Dreams guide book is indexed by Discovery Series map numbers. So all you have to do is find the lake name in the relevant section, get the page number and you have good information on a given water that is a lot more up to date than some of the work found in the aforementioned scripts. With over four hundred and twenty venues detailed in the book, Martin has included a photograph of most, a description of each, and a couple of other handy nuggets of information. These include what species the angler is likely to encounter by way of a legend beside the name of the lake. On a scale of one to five, he has denoted the amount and the likelihood of a good day’s fishing for a particular species. Also, in a lot of cases he has mentioned whether or not pre-baiting is recommended or, indeed, essential to get the best out of some of the waters.

Another area he has picked up on is accessibility of the waters. Each of the waters has a brief description of how to find them and when you manage that, it details whether you can fish from the shore, whether there are stands available to the angler, what condition the stands are in or whether the venue can only really be fished well from a boat. In the case of “boat only” venues Martin has given a bit of information on launching sites and the ease or difficulty of their use, depending on the water. For those lakes that are lined with soft bog, advisory notes are included which recommend the use of waders, for example. Other small notes that make the day’s fishing  more comfortable and enjoyable include the best wind to fish each venue on.Some will fish better in a cold northerly while others will want a warm southerly for the best results. Some of the waters have a small map accompanying them with the better swims marked on it. The bigger, more popular lakes have depths marked which no doubt are the result of countless hours of motoring up and down the lake with a sonar device.

Brian Bohan and daughter show how it's done.

Also included with each venue is a short paragraph on how to find the water from the nearest town of village. The instructions are clear and the road numbers are also mentioned, making the task that bit easier.Thoughtfully, some of the rougher tracks to the quieter waters have a mention that they are best suited to 4×4 type vehicles. A very handy thing to know, being the driver of quite a low slung car. Allied with the Discovery Series maps, the locations are easy to find but for those of you who will not or cannot use or read maps and prefer to rely on technology, the grid number is listed beside each venue title. I have been informed that if this number is entered into a sat-nav’ device in the car then the sat-nav will retrieve directions to the water. I do not use sat-navs myself so I will have to assume that the information given there is accurate. Call me old-fashioned but I think the skills of being able to read and interpret the information on maps and the ability to understand how a grid reference works are important skills to know but, like the English language, some things are destined to be dumbed down by today’s ever increasing dependence on technological gadgetry.

Finally, the book is peppered with small hints and tips for anglers to try and get the best out of their day’s fishing. These include advice on hook bait, ground bait, rigs, methods and other general pieces of information that may be of benefit to the angler that is prepared to heed them. A lot of them are common sense suggestions, like using dead maggots over a very silty lake bottom to stop the bait crawling down into the soft lake bed, for example. These are seemingly simple ideas that can make all the difference between bagging up and blanking and ideas that a lot of anglers can overlook.

A fine bag of County Monaghan roach.

The guide is definitely worth a look for the new and relatively up to date information on the areas that it features. It is not though going to put fish on the bank or in your keepnet as if by magic. Still required will be a bit of scouting, looking over your maps and using the guide in conjunction with the valuable resource that is the OSI maps to find waters that you judge to be worth spending a few days on. Most definitely,  a bit of thinking about what swim you are going to fish in and a bit of a pre-baiting campaign will be required. Consideration still needs to be given to weather and atmospheric conditions on the days you decide  to fish. Some days that seem perfect turn out to draw a blank; other days that seem horrendous sometimes turn up the bumper catches. The point Iam trying to make is that if you do decide to have a look at the book and use the information, don’t expect to turn up at any listed venue with a pint of maggots and expect to catch fish from the off because you probably won’t. Wild Irish venues do not respond well to this type of approach at all. To truly derive pleasure from angling, it can be argued that some degree of difficulty must be suffered to obtain success. If you are prepared to invest a bit of time, money and thought you will reap the rewards and this guide may help you along the way towards doing it.

I bought a copy at the recent angling show up in Swords, Co. Dublin and am looking forward to putting it to good use over the coming months. As far as I am aware Irish Dreams may be made available through tackle shops in the future. To be honest I am not certain of that but in the meantime, anybody wishing to find out more about the guide or purchase on line need only to visit Tight lines……

Gary Robinson © May 2012

Fact file:

Click on: Brian Bohan, coarse and pike angling guide.

Click on: Martin Allington, Irish Dreams, coarse and pike angling.