Dawn on June 14 – a bit like the “old days” at the start of a new fishing season – and I had been dragged from my comfortable bed to catch a netful of Irish bream and tench at four o’clock!  It was my fault. I had pestered Kevin Lyons – owner of Melview Lodge guesthouse in Drumlish – to take me on a typical guest session and show me how he catches so many quality fish.

“It’s got to be done properly, so you’ll need to be at my place for 7pm so that we can put a bit of stuff into the swims”, he barked.  I was there (on time) to help Kev squeeze what seemed like a thousand Jaffa-size balls of feed laced with all sorts of tasty bits. We loaded two large baby baths into a 4×4 then headed off into the quiet borders of County Cavan to a beautiful lough with restricted shoreline that bellowed fish.

07 A nice net of bream is reward for the hard workMany of his hush-hush fishing venues have been identified after hours poring over the OSI Ordnance Survey Map

s that cover Longford, Cavan and Leitrim. It takes heaps of concentration but the effort has been very successful in locating possible venues, with lots of days wasted too.

“This stuff will get them rummaging for more”, said Kev as we launched a cascade of groundbait laced with casters, hemp, ageing maggots and sweetcorn left by previous guests. I reckon we created enough disturbances to keep the surface water rippling until morning!

The little finger was approaching “11” on the hall clock and with an early shout promised, I decided getting a few hours sleep to make this effort worthwhile. What seemed like a few minutes later there was a tapping on the bedroom door; it was Kevin with a steaming cup of tea and a big grin on his face.

Our 30 minute drive was a blur but stepping on to any lakeshore at dawn is memorable and I always get a feeling that I’m intruding on nature … but enough of that drivel – we were there to catch fish!

02 Kevin wades to the weed bed for a large fish

Kevin is always in search of quality fish and his no-nonsense approach is spot on when it comes to getting his share. His rod and reel are trusted friends and absolutely ideal for this sort of fishing and persuading hard-fighting fish into the landing net through lilies and weed beds. The rod itself is a beefy classic – a Daiwa Connoisseur Feeder – and he his favourite reel is the Shimano Exage carrying 5lb Maxima line on a relatively short cast that was 40 turns of the reel. Hooks baits were simply a combination of red maggot, bronze maggot and worm.

06 Kev keeps his tench in a separate net
Kev’s enthusiasm to catch big fish is relentless and his commitment to the job of catching a lot of fish, will not suit everyone. But if you are an angler keen to catch bigger-than-average fish and willing to make the effort (pre-baiting, fishing early or late) then you will love a week at his guesthouse.

A Cavan Lake
Not all of Ireland’s lakes have pristine grass banks and our chosen spot involved fishing from a muddy watering hole used by cattle, which in turn meant that we had to wade above our knees and use a landing net most of the time to avoid hooked fish diving into the various water plants. In fact my advice to anyone is to bring chest waders if possible and at the very least a pair of waders.

There was no need to repeat a bombardment of groundbait, especially as we were both using medium size open-ended groundbait feeders (the usual paternoster style) with a hook tail just over a metre long. A size 14 was probably better for maggot baits with a 12 the minimum for worm and maggot combinations.

Kevin said there would be tench and bream – and he was right.  He takes this sort of fishing for granted because he follows his regular preparations, which begin with “sussing out” venues (many of them are spots open to angling generally) and targeting the fish at the right times by pre-baiting swims for a few days if necessary.04 Its well worth the effort

Fish were milling about and Kevin’s very first cast produced a bream of 3lb. And from then on it was pretty much kid’s stuff with an easy cast, tighten up to the tip and within a few minutes or so round it went and an easy lift of the rod for the satisfying thump-thump sensation on the rod. We also had plenty of tench with a couple nudging 4lb and by mid-morning we had both satisfied ourselves and enjoyed a great session.