An Irish Anglers World

Monaghan for Monster Roach

Peadar O'Brien

Peadar O’Brien lives for fishing, it is his passion. Co. Monaghan, Ireland is his home patch and he knows the waters intimately. Along with his wife Maria, Peadar ran a bed and breakfast business for fifteen years based in Carrickmacross catering specifically for coarse anglers. A coarse fishing international, Peadar understood what tourist anglers wanted. New waters were reconnoitred, and swims pre baited, nothing was too much for Peadar. He enjoyed doing it because he got a kick from seeing all the happy faces returning at the end of the day telling their fishy stories. Whether from the United Kingdom, France, Holland, or Germany, year after year the anglers returned, confident that they were going to catch fish in the abundant waters that surround Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan.

Three years ago Peadar sold the business and took up full time guiding, lure and dead baiting for Pike being his speciality. He still coarse fishes, mainly to suss out new and existing waters, and help with promotional articles. That is how I met Peadar. Working in angling promotion for the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board I wanted to highlight the excellent fishing in Co. Monaghan. A Pike angling trip in October 2008 set the trend for what has been a fruitful partnership. To date the door has only been opened a fraction and already there is no doubting the quality of angling that the north east counties of Ireland have to offer. A recent trip after quality Roach sets the tone.


“I want to go after Roach”, said Peadar’s voice down the phone. “I know a lake that fishes well for big Pike. It has lots of coarse fish in it, but you very rarely see an angler. Come up and we will give it a go”. So I did, and a recent Tuesday morning in late September saw my self and Peadar launching his 19ft Kingfisher boat on a glorious day with only a light breeze to ruffle the water.

The plan was to run around the lake using the echo sounder seeking out concentrations of fish. A fairly large water about fifteen minutes drive from Carrickmacross, it quickly became apparent that it was stuffed with fish. An interesting aside was that they all were shoaled up below 4.5 metres. Everywhere Peadar and I motored the same result occurred. After about twenty minutes a decision was made to fish a 6 metre shelf about 50 metres off a particular shore, for no other reason then that there was a large body of fish showing. The engine was cut and with a small anchor dropped at bow and stern to steady the boat fishing commenced.

Roach at anchor

A 19ft open boat might seem a small space to feeder fish from, but properly organised it is very manageable. A mix of crumb, sweet corn, garden peas, hemp, and casters, was prepared and about a dozen fist size balls were lobbed into the swim about ten metres from the boat. With the depth showing five metres, open ended swim feeders, with three foot of test fluorocarbon attached to a size ten kamasan, baited with four red maggots were cast into the swim. Bites were instantaneous and a succession of small Perch came to the boat. These were returned straight away to the water. Within fifteen minutes the first Roach came to the net, about half a pound, and the keep net was deployed. From then on the Roach just kept coming and increasing in size. “This does not happen often, this is awesome”, Peadar kept repeating as another pound plus Roach was popped in the keep net.

Every so often the bites would diminish and Peadar would throw in another few balls. Very quickly the party would resume. As a newcomer to coarse angling even I knew this was special. Average Roach of 6 – 8 ounces, and we caught a few of them, were returned to the lake, only the large Roach were retained. Experimenting with the number of red maggots and combinations of sweet corn and maggots on the hook only drew the conclusion that the bigger bait got the bigger fish, so we persevered with the larger offerings. Even allowing for that, the swim just seemed to contain mainly pound plus Roach.

Lunker Roach

Funnily enough we caught no Hybrids or Bream, which this water is also noted for. Pike were in the vicinity because every so often the water close by would be broken as shoals of fry were driven to the surface by an unseen predator lurking below. The lake produces numerous 20 lb plus Pike every season and a thirty, given the amount of fodder fish is a definite possibility. At any minute Peadar and I were expecting at least one of our hooked Roach to be attacked, an exciting interlude that on the day did not happen.

With the session approaching four hours we decided to call it a day. Packing up our gear first we rowed gently to the shore towing the keep net. On land it became apparent that we had retained at least of prime Roach. The average size was running 12 ounces, with many fish topping a pound and a few nudging 2.lbs. Even Peadar was gob smacked, “you just do not do this every day, this is awesome”, he repeated again. “I know other waters that carry Roach like this we will have to try them out too. In fact for pig iron we should fish this lake from the shore”. A week later with Dick Caplice of the N.C.F.F.I. we did just that and repeated the haul. The fish were slightly smaller, but the catch was similar, Dick alone had fifty pound plus of fish with a few Hybrids thrown in for good measure. Both sessions involved no pre baiting we just went at it. Virgin water, and there is plenty of that in Ireland had delivered. A bit of thought and the courage to try something new had resulted in a session to remember.

Slabs of Monaghan Roach

Coarse fishing in Ireland during the 2009 season has been very consistent. The wet summer has coloured the water and fish are moving closer to the shore. Fine catches of Bream, Roach, and mixed bags, have been recorded. The fish never went away they just changed their habits. Being prepared to experiment and try new waters will pay dividends, and for the tourist angler contacting people like Peadar O’Brien is a pre requisite to a successful holiday. Ireland, in particular the counties of Cavan and Monaghan, provides exceptional coarse fishing in wild places. Access is improving, the stock levels are as good as ever, and support structures such as bait, tackle shops, and fishing advice, are on hand or only a phone call away. If planning a holiday to Ireland in 2011 contact Peadar O’Brien or Ashley Hayden by email at ( in advance and make that dream haul of Roach a reality.

Ashley Hayden © October 2009