I hadn’t been to Ireland for approximately 15 years, since doing an Autumn Portumna Festival. With the recent resurgence in interest in the Irish scene and the quality of the fishing, now seemed like the perfect time to make a return.
There is literally a festival every week in Ireland and with so much choice, initially I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. After speaking to Gary Miller and Chris Vandervleit, we were soon convinced that the World Pairs was the one to do. They’d had a cracking previous 2 years doing it, finishing in the top 10 last year and hadn’t a bad word to say about it.
The obvious choice for my partner was long-term travelling companion Danny Grimsey and he took it upon himself to do the rotation draw on the Friday night before the festival, as apparently I hadn’t been drawing very well lately. Well he could have done a better job as we pulled out rotation 5 which put us in a group containing all of the previous winners of the World Pairs! We had the Irish crack (craic!?) duo of Phil Jackson and Cathal Hughes, the brothers Ringer, Adam Wakelin and Lee Klimczk, Lee Addy and Paul Keeley. Which was a bit annoying as it would make it harder to win daily monies. He’s sacked for next year!
Day 1 Connollys Shore & Culleys, Lake Garadice
Ok, so it really was a baptism of fire for me as I had the worst possible start on my peg 5 Connolly’s Shore draw. I initially fished the feeder at 40 metres and the pole at 13 after balling it in. I’d fished the open the previous day on Garadice and had seen Will Freeman empty it on a Window Feeder which he likes to fish on deep pegs as it gets the particles down to the bottom. My peg was similarly deep at 20 feet plus so I plumped for a similar approach. It worked for him yesterday, it seemed logical. I could hardly catch a fish and it seemed that whatever I tried it just didn’t make a difference. Open end feeders were tried, smaller feeders were tried, more and less worm. I just couldn’t get a bite, whereas the rest of the section was bagging. I needed the pole to come good to get me out of jail, however I never had a bite on it. It summed the day up when I started a new line at 60 metres only to catch a 2lb eel which I thought was a big Hybrid. It didn’t count as they were are a protected species in Ireland! Late on my platform must have slipped off of the edge of the rock and I was on the cusp of falling backwards onto my rods and top-kits luckily I JUST managed to keep my balance. My weight of 2210 was way off the pace and my chin was lower to the ground than a snakes belly. Fortunately, Danny had fished excellently in his first ever festival match in Ireland, drawing peg 9 on Cullies (where Will had been the day before) and fished a window feeder for 15510 of quality Hybrids and was close to beating Cathal Hughes off the next peg.
Day 2 Horse Island & Inish Fava
It was over the border on day 2 into Northern Ireland and to the fantastic and beautiful Erne system. I had drawn Horse Island peg 5, which involved a boat ride across Lower Lough Erne to the uninhabited (I think?) Horse Island. Now this was to be wild fishing at its finest with not another soul in sight (fellow anglers excepted). Chris Vandervleit had drawn Horse Island the day before and had caught on a groundbait feeder early, before changing to a window feeder later. I had a better start than the previous day and was getting a fish a chuck, the only problem was their stamp, they were mainly small perch, with hand sized hybrids and roach interspersed. At the next peg Julian Kendrick had a brutal run seemingly catching big hybrids every cast for an hour. I just couldn’t get a single one and a switch to the window feeder didn’t improve things.
As with the day before I’d fed the pole and after about 2 hours I had a look and immediately got bites. I soon worked out what was happening and after getting off my box to put a new rig on I was soon catching a roach a chuck at about 3.5 feet deep in 8 feet of water over loose- fed caster. I stuck with this all day and manged to draw the fish into 7 metres at one point although they kept backing off and I ended up where I started at 13 metres. I had 151 pole fish to go with probably 30 feeder fish for 17100. I wish I’d have had a whip set-up as I think I could have really clattered the roach on this. A better day, which saw me win my 6 pegs by default, although I was still some way off the pace of the better anglers who had caught those crucial big hybrids. Danny had a good solid day with 11700 of roach on the feeder. He was a bit unlucky to have a weedy peg which caused him some fish losses and ultimately cost him the chance of section money.
Day 3 Grassy Bank at Garradice & Lough Scur
Back to the south and I was of course back at my Garadice nemesis and specifically peg 6 on the Grassy Bank, whilst Danny was on the rocks at Scur. Going by the previous days weights the higher numbers in my section were better and the pump house at Scur looked better than Danny’s draw.
Starting on the feeder again produced very little response with only 5 fish in the first hour, although the guys around me were also struggling which meant for once I wasn’t getting an early tonking. Onto the pole and unlike the previous day there were not many fish to be caught shallow and I was soon feeding regular balls of groundbait and catching a mixture of roach and perch on the deck. It was such a frustrating day as I had a big bed of Canadian Pond Weed in front of me which resulted in several fish losses and even more frustratingly getting regularly hooked up on the way out. The only way to get a rig out there was to put my pole joints together and drop my hook bait at my feet before shipping out like a maniac!
It was a tough day, and I felt that I’d fished a solid pole match and was narrowly beaten into 2nd place in the 11 pegs by Paul Keeley next door. By his 8700 to my 8250. I’d had more fish than him, but crucially he’d had 4 decent hybrids on the pole which again I couldn’t find (you may have noticed that a theme is developing here!). Interestingly Phil Ringer in my section had used a very small feeder and had cut right back on his feed to catch 6 kilos of big Hybrids early on, before literally not having a single bite apart from eels for the rest of the day!
Danny had a decent weight from his area weighing in 10550, including some hair raising big hybrids on a whip. He’d also lost a very big fish on the long pole which he’d played for some time before it broke him. It would have either been a pike or a very big hybrid.
Day 4 Greenies & Killideas
If we were to salvage anything from the festival we needed a massive day and needed to draw pegs 1-4 at Killideas to achieve this. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as Danny drew 9 at Killedeas and I was on peg 2 at Greenies.
The transportation to Greenies was something I’ve never experienced before. The car park, track and fields were all now resembling a swamp after 4 days of anglers and heavy overnight rain. Initially all of your gear was taken via a quad bike with a trailor to a huge cattle wagon which was then towed by a tractor to the Lough. The tractor was slip sliding everywhere and even the farmer said it was touch and go whether we make it or not! Phil Ringer even had a go at driving the quad! When we arrived at the Lough the gear was then ferried down to anglers pegs in pairs in the quads trailor. I can assure you this would not be fished in England as it would be logistically impossible!
The wind was very strong and in my face and as a large weight was required I simply set up 3 feeder rods. I needed 20 kilos plus and it was big hybrids on the feeder or bust for me. Again, I simply didn’t fish a good enough match and weighed in 9250 with Adam Wakelin giving me a massive tuning off the next peg with a 23 kilo weight. Again I’d caught lots of small fish, but had given the quality hybrids the swerve. A word on Adam actually, I can see why our feeder team is so very good. He fished an excellent match, his casting was metronomic and he simply didn’t make a mistake. He fished a relatively small open end feeder all day and didn’t feed very much bait at all. I’d tried to force things and had hammered 4 pints of casters through the feeder which was exactly what the big hybrids didn’t want. My casting wasn’t good enough in the windy conditions at times either. He almost sneaks his fish in, as he gloves lots of them out and catches deceptively well. If he picks up his landing net regularly you’re in trouble!
Danny had done all he could from Killedeas and his 8650 was another solid return. We were out of it now but still wanted to go out with a bang on the final day.
Day 5 Brackley & Bunerkey
We’d escaped with some fairly benign conditions by Irish standards up until the final day, when we certainly didn’t escape. The wind was due to gust in excess of 50mph accompanied by torrential rain. Even hardened Irish angler Francis McGoldrick described the forecasted wind as ‘seriously naughty’ which filled me with dread.
Unfortunately the forecast wasn’t wrong and my draw of peg 7 on Brackley did at least have a big bank of trees behind us which I hoped might offer some restbite. It was again the standard horror show of a start on the feeder approach after balling the pole for me. I knew that Bream were to be required to have a chance of winning the section and after speaking to others it appeared that 50 metres was to be the range for these. Unfortunately for me my chosen starting line was a real snag-pit and despite dragging a bomb around before the match and feeling nothing it appeared that there was indeed quite a bit there. Every fish I hooked snagged me solid immediately and I was cut off a few times too. I didn’t fancy going longer as the wind was really whipping up now so I tried coming 10 metres shorter only to encounter the same problems. To be fair lots of people seemed to be snagging up and it was perhaps just a very snaggy area. The only guys that didn’t seem to suffering were those in the top 3 pegs who all seemed to be regularly playing Bream.
I’d wasted an hour for basically nothing and it was nice to hook a decent roach straight away on the pole which annoyingly was snaffled by a Pike. There were a lot of decent fish on the pole, quite a few of which were chunky hybrids. Whenever I hooked a better fish I had to bully it in as quick as I could as there was more than one Pike ready to strike. It must have got to around the 3 hour mark when the wind got ‘seriously naughty’ and it was completely impossible to hold a long pole any longer and for my poles safety and my own sanity I packed it away. I flicked a small feeder just past my pole line and had odd fish. My final weight of 7750 was disappointing, as there were a lot of decent fish on the pole which I couldn’t make the most of due to the conditions and to a lesser extent pike. If decent presentation had been attainable I’m sure at least double would have been possible. It was academic anyway as the top 3 pegs in my section all had 30kgs of Bream! Phil Ringer was one of these and it meant that him and Steve accelerated up to 3rd place in the final standings.
Danny had somehow managed to hold 13 metres of carbon from peg 2 at Bunnerkey for another solid 9850. This gave us a combined total of just over 100 kgs and a ‘thanks for coming’. Congratulations to German pair Jens Koschnik and Thorsten Klisters, who had successfully front run from day 1.
As had already been said by many other anglers I would highly recommend giving the World Pairs a try if you’ve never been. The hospitality, organisation and fishing is first class and it was a highly enjoyable week. At this point I’ll mention our accommodation of ‘The Anglers Rest’ in Ballyconnel which is owned by Irish International Francis McGoldrick. Nothing was too much trouble and everything is there you could possible require. Fresh bait every day, a walk in bait fridge, groundbait for sale and fantastic food and drink at reasonable prices. The steaks have to be seen to be believed. I can’t believe there would be a better place to stay in Ireland.
Myself and Danny will be back next year and we made notes on our phones of our mistakes on the boat home and also the additional tackle we’d need before we come back again. We were under gunned to a certain extent with our rods, reels and feeders when the wind really blew. The only draw-back that I can think of is the amount of driving involved, we did over a thousand miles in the week (door to door). It’s also relatively expensive if you dodge the money like we did for most of the time!