Kevin Ashurst – Tactical Angling in Ireland

Ireland has become a match angling Mecca and so it is no surprise that Kevin Ashurst takes up residence in on the island from April until late October. As one of the sport’s keenest matchmen, it means he can tackle the Irish lakes almost continuously for seven months enjoying the competitiveness that he relishes. And there is no doubting his love of the sport.

Roberto Trabucco – famous as a world class match angler who represented Italy several times, and even better known for manufacturing quality fishing tackle – is a friend of Kevin’s and often came to Ireland to fish with him. Anyway, Rod Scott was across from Northwich to fish one of the festivals and dropped Roberto off at his section and picked up again at the end of the match. A couple of hours after the match there was no sign of Kevin and Roberto asked where he was. “He’s fishing on for a while”, said Rod. “I can’t believe this man”, Roberto replied. “He has been fishing almost every day for more than 50 years and at the end of six match hours and it still isn’t enough?”

Kevin on Gulladoo near Carrigallen

Right now the autumn festival season is in full swing and bubbling with its own energy. By the time it ends on October 7, Kevin’s calendar will have covered 40 days and most of them are six hours long, amounting to 240 hours. And he loves it!  “Give me more”, says Kevin.

Kevin’s almost ready

Apart from everything else it is great fun and there’s a lot of camaraderie. Many of the lads come across on the ferry several times a year and have their own favourite competitions along with the growing band of UK anglers living in Ireland and turning out whenever they can. I reckon the average entry figure to the festivals is around 75 with the biggest being the Waterway Ireland Classic in Fermanagh, which gets 250-plus in May.

This mix of UK and local anglers guarantees a lots of banter and spirited competitiveness, but it’s never cut-throat and if you ask any of the anglers how they fished their peg the day before, there is always a helpful answer.

Tactically, being successful at catching fish in Ireland is having tackle and simple working methods that are fit for purpose. You have to remember – if there are fish about there is a way to catch them. If you walk along the bank of any popular match it becomes obvious that every man has a pole and feeder rod set up for the day’s business – and that’s because those methods catch more fish than anything else. They are so effective I haven’t picked up a waggler rod once this year!

The truth of the matter is that the pole and feeder have made catching fish a lot easier for everyone. No two pegs are the same, yet there are factors common to most of the lakes and nowadays the target fish are roach, skimmer bream and hybrids. Rarely do bream make appearance and apart from a handful of venues such as Killykeen on Lough Oughter, where some sections have deep water, the sheer volume of the other fish can’t be ignored. Tactically speaking, the modern-day matchmen have their situation well sussed and certainly have their gear, baits and basic approach worked out. But even the keenest lads arriving in Ireland for their annual one week can struggle (especially after spending 52 weeks on commercials) to reinvent themselves.

Angling Times have given me the opportunity to talk about my personal approach to fishing the big Irish loughs and hopefully go some way towards helping you to catch a few more fish.

I promise you that this is my basic approach and it is as simple as it sounds. In fact, today I’m fishing the Arvagh Festival and have drawn Upper Gulladoo Lake on the second car park. Last year I got the exact same peg and didn’t do very well, though I know for sure that it is possible to catch bream on a very long cast with a groundbait feeder because I got 12.500 kilo of them. That day, after struggling close-in, I went out with a large feeder at 80 turns of the reel (about 75yds) and in a very good last hour the fish were begging to line up to be caught! However, this lake is full of roach, skimmers, hybrids and perch, so it makes sense to cover all eventualities with the pole and feeder.

“I start the match pole fishing at 13 metres and introduced four Jaffa-size balls of groundbait carrying casters and hempseed to establish a fish base. The pole is supreme if there are fish within range. It allows perfect bait presentation and is so smooth that it can catch fish of all sizes. Because the depth of water at 13 metres is just two metres (6ft) a one gramme float is a good starter and I put the olivette about 60cms (2ft) above the hook and three size 10 droppers. I have set up my pole with three top four sections. Two tops are kitted out with number six elastic for roach with a size 16 hook, the other has 8s elastic and a 14s hook for baits such as double maggot or worm.

“There was no consistency on the feeder until the last 90 minutes when I began to catch a skimmer bream every cast but they weren’t enough on this day. Feeder fishing is equally important and I’ve set up two feeder rods and they will be clipped up at 35 and 80 turns of the reel. The shorter one is most important and likely to catch fish but the longer rod is almost a last resort tactic, though the water is deeper at that distance and has been known to produce proper bream as it did last year. I have to say that 40 turns is generally an ample distance to catch fish on most Cavan and Leitrim waters and in some places you can get away with 20 turns. By the way, I use mono reel line for short work but when casting 35 turns or more I prefer braid line with a 5m shock leader of 8lb mono. My first choice hook for feeder fishing is the Kamasan B560, a fine wire wide gape pattern with a micro barb and a long curving swept point. Its shape gives a great hook hold and very few fish are bumped or lost.

Ireland has tons of fish

“Lakes in Cavan and Leitrim are very alike and you don’t need to be the world’s best angler to catch – but it is essential to keep be busy. If you are coming across to Ireland pleasure fishing keep it simple and stay active. There’s little chance of making a good catch if you catapult a few maggots every now or again, or chuck out a ball of groundbait every 20 minutes.

“Irish lakes can be very clear so I always use a bread-based mix 50-50 with a dark roach groundbait. Loose feeding with casters can be expensive so I’d suggest that instead of catapulting them in every cast, use a small ball of groundbait carrying caster every 10 minutes or so. On average I go to a match with a pint of red maggot, at least two pints of casters, some large worm for feeding and a separate tin of small ‘hookers’. I often take hempseed, which is a good holding bait, but it isn’t essential, but I’ve great faith in casters and reckon that two pints can catch 100lb of bream”.

Published by Angling Times 2011

By Dave Houghton