Autumn fishing in Ireland

Come to Ireland this autumn. This is the time when bream are back on form and feeding well, tench are still plentiful and the hordes are roach, hybrids, perch and the increasing shoals of skimmers are on the move.

It is an exciting time with a great buzz as anglers begin an early dash across the sea when the major ferry companies drop their rates to the “off peak” prices from mid-August. More important is that all of the fish are over and done with spawning, so you can expect much better sport and there is a better spread of fish.

But where? That’s the big question and I was chatting to guesthouse owner and keen angler Kevin Lyons from Melview Lodge in Longford just two weeks ago. He has a steady stream of angling guests arriving on his doorstep because he has done loads of research and now has a batch of productive lakes within a tri-angle formed by Gowna, Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon.

He encourages pre-baiting and an early start and those willing to get involved definetly finish their sessions with above average catches from a variety of waters. We chatted about the difficulties – anglers arriving in Ireland face a conundrum of either not enough, or too much information. “Go here and go there” is often the advice given by various people with the best will in the world, but sometimes the facts are based on old reports or events that happened at a different time of year. What doesn’t change in Ireland is the welcome from local people and willingness to help; free fishing and no need for licences, open access to 99 per cent of waters and the fact there there are fish to be caught. Angling maps are available so all you need is a little water lore, your fishing tackle and don’t forget the bait!

I challenged Kevin to come up with a reliable “starter” for anglers arriving on holiday who were faced with unknown waters, wherever they chose to holiday. He agreed, so I nominated a group of four lakes located between Ballinamore and Ballyconnell that have a reputation for being fish-rich yet are seldom fished in comparison to neighbouring waters.

The lakes are Bolganard, Corgar, Drumlonan and Corduff. They are small lakes by Irish standards but have produced the Irish bream record and specimen tench, yet there is always availability and fishing from excellent stands erected by the Inland Fisheries Ireland. They are most suitable for small parties of up to four anglers. It was a last minute challenge, which meant that Kevin had a day to prepare for a fishing session on a lake neither of us had tackled before. He decided the best plan was to go along at tea time, chose where to fish and introduce a few balls of groundbait and follow it up with a four hour session the following morning. To ensure there was no jiggery-pokey (after all he is a former cockney), I was to fish alongside him and so off we went to choose the swims.

He surveyed each lake and decided upon the smallest – Corduff – covering about five acres, easy access with a walk-in of 25 metres, two new double fishing stands, two old single stands and a small amount of bank space. As with each of these waters, the margins have lily pads that can be a challenge when you hook a really big tench – as Kev was to discover. But at this stage he was content to plumb the depth with his pole and choose exactly where he wanted to dump his prepared 10 balls of groundbait.All of this took nothing more than 30 minutes to get sorted and off we went for a quick pint while the fish were hopefully getting a liking for the mix of brown crumb, Lake Red groundbait, hempseed, dead maggots, corn, caster and some 4mm pellets.

We were on the bank and starting to fish at 5.30am. Kevin took one double stand and rigged up an 11 metre pole with a two gramme float. Because of the lily pads he used a size 12 hook tied to 5lb bottoms and the overall depth was a little more than four metres. Meanwhile, I went on the other double stand and used a peacock waggler, casting to the top of the drop off where it went from three metres to four metres within a short distance. To cut a long story I ended up with a mix of skimmer bream, hybrids, roach and perch but nothing over 1lb.

Kevin was faring better and quickly had a bream of 3lb in the net before losing a monster (he said?) tench. His most successful hookbait was worm tipped with a red maggot and that produced six bream and one tench, along with a raft of small roach, rudd and a decent eel. Our big mistake was to loose feed casters because they simply brought masses of fish up to midwater and while that could have produced a fish-a-cast; our target had been the tench and bream. We are agreed that next time the answer to a big catch is likely to be a groundbait feeder. A new water, a simple approach and we caught fish in a most enjoyable four hour session on a misty morning with the whole lake to ourselves. And while we understand that many anglers on holiday don’t want to be up and out before breakfast, the groundbaiting rule can apply to the back of the end day and great fishing into the evening. And don’t worry about the pub – it will still be open when you’ve tipped all of the fish back.