Finbar Quigley is one of the top big fish coarse anglers in Ireland. A native of Bailieborough he grew up fishing some of the best waters in Ireland and has a lot of course fishing experience under his belt. A truly modest guy Fin was only to happen to take our call and fill us in on some of the best fishing Ireland has to offer…..
How did you start fishing?
Paddy, I grew up in Cavan and had a lake 200yds across the road from my house so I was fishing from a very young age. My Dad was big into hunting and fishing and I learned the art of stalking wild brownies in some of the small rivers around home from him. It didn’t always go to plan though and falling in, casting into trees and spooking every fish in the stretch were the norm for a good few years. My old man had some patience!
What is it about tench and bream that captures the imagination?
Good question. Even though they get lumped together as being similar, they’re actually very different fish in the way they feed, where and when they feed and sometimes the type of waters they grow big in. Bream were the first species to get me interested in fishing for bigger-than-average fish. I’d caught bags of smaller fish and a mate and I got permission from our folks to do an all-night session when we were 12 or 13 and I landed a bream of around 7lb in the middle of the night. It was massive to us and I was obsessed with big fish ever since. Most of my best bream fishing has come in the middle of the night and I get a real buzz from running out to the rod as the bobbin drops to the floor and you feel the thump as a big slab shakes it’s head. As you know, they don’t usually put up much resistance but the sight of a double figure bream sliding over the landing net is something I’ll never tire of. They are incredible looking creatures at that size.
Tench fishing is probably both the most enjoyable and frustrating fishing I’ve done, so far. Nothing beats the feeling as you sit watching the water at 5 or 6 in the morning looking for signs of fish. Those early morning spells of quietness as the world wakes up around you are the moments I love being an angler. We experience things ‘normal’ people never get to and just being out fishing is good for the soul. The sight of a big tench rolling silently over the swim followed moments later by a jacuzzi of bubbles as you hold your hand over the rod waiting for the bite…….and then nothing! That sums up tench fishing for me. But, on the rare occasion that it does all come right the explosive power of big tench on balanced gear is incredible and matches anything else for sheer heart in the mouth excitement.
What are your favorite methods of catching them?
For bream, I use a lot of big method feeders. In fact, my setup is very similar to carp fishing with powerful rods, big reels and strong line needed to chuck a loaded method feeder the required distance. Finesse is not something I incorporate in my bream rigs with big hooks and fake corn, casters and maize hook baits my favourites. Using a setup like this allows me to recast quickly when there are fish in the swim as activity tends to come in short bursts as a small shoal of big fish feeds and you have to take advantage of the opportunity when it arises. The method feeder is also a great way to build up a tight bed of bait as the use of the line clip and regular casting means you can introduce a mix of pellet, corn, caster etc with your hook bait right bang in the middle of it!
For tench, it’s not always straightforward what type of approach I’ll take. In early season a maggot feeder with just hemp and red maggot approach can be deadly and has accounted for some incredible bags of fish from a few waters around the country. As the season progresses and the new weed takes hold, the tactics have to change and bolt rigs with pva sticks or solid pva bags play a bigger role in my fishing. I know a lot of purists look down their noses at bolt rig fishing for tench and consider float fishing the ‘real’ way to catch a tench. Nonsense I say! You use the tactic that’s most effective in the swim you’re in and allows you to hook and safely land the fish feeding there. Simple.
What have been your most enjoyable days tench and bream fishing?
A couple of years ago I was targeting some big tench in a secluded spot when it all came together one morning. I’d had some nice fish in the previous 5 or 6 trips to the lake but nothing over 7lb. When I arrived it was pissing down and everywhere was flooded and muddy. About an hour or so after placing the baits, the right hand rod bent around and I was in. After an incredible struggle I managed to scoop a fish and a netful of weed onto dry-ish land. When I pulled back the weed the fish seemed to grow in front of me. It was massive! I was delighted as I had my target fish, a 7lb tench. Up on the scales and the dial swung around past 8lb. My brain went nuts!! WTF!! I rezeroed the sling a few times and settled on 8-01. It’s still fresh in my mind to this day and I know it’ll always be one of my most favourite fishing memories.
Even though I’ve had bigger individual fish, my favourite bream session involved a crazy night. I’d fed the swim heavily when I arrived and as it started to get dark, I could see big black backs rolling over the swim about 50yds out. I knew it was gonna be a busy night and I got a few extra red bulls from the car! I never slept all night and landed 11 specimen bream before the sun came up. I had 4 9s to 9-13 along with 5 8s and 2 high 7s. In among that lot I had some rogue big tench to 6lb and roach bream hybrids to over 5lb. An epic night! God bless Red Bull!
Whats the longest session you have done on the bank?
In my carp fishing days, my mates and I did 2 trips out to France for a week each time. They were my longest ever sessions although they weren’t just fishing sessions, if you know what I mean! Great craic with great mates. My bream and tench sessions would tend to max out at 3 days in recent years. I actually don’t think long sessions work well for them and a single night in the right sort of weather conditions is worth a dozen in the wrong conditions. A couple of years ago circumstances at home allowed me to do single nights mid week and I was able to pick the most suitable conditions and my fishing results improved dramatically as a result. Plus, I tend to switch off a bit after 24hrs on the bank and don’t fish very effectively. Being awake, active and alert is vital when fishing for any fish.
If someone is just getting into it what advice would you give them?
If you mean fishing for big fish, the most important advice is be sure the water holds the fish you’re after. Most of what we read and nearly all of what we hear about the wilder venues tends to be nonsense for one reason or another. Do your homework and be sure the fish are there. After that, the best advice is to stick with one water for the season. Most lads like to float about a bit and fish a few different spots every season but the best results tend to come when serious effort is put in with prebaiting and fishing the one water. You will have to put up with blanks and that’s when the temptation is to bugger off to the spot your mate is bagging up on but don’t do it! After that, keep rigs very simple and use quality bait like maggots, casters and pellets and if the fish are feeding, you’ll catch.
Besides tench and bream, what else do you like to fish for?
I have a bit of a gra for roach and would love to bag a real biggie. I’ve had a few 2lb fish but a 3lb fish would make me a very happy man. Someday! Other than that big hybrids tend to appear in among the bream on some waters and are a fish I love to catch. I’ve not fished for Rudd for a few years now but hope to change that this year as I’ve been put onto a couple of waters reputed to hold big ones. But can I trust yer mans word? Lol. Time will tell. I used to fish for pike every Winter but a lot of the lads I fished with have packed it in and I lost a bit of interest. Someday I might try and beat my pb of 27-08. The one species I love but don’t fish for is carp. From 1995 to 2000 I did a lot of carp fishing and was lucky enough to be a member of the Decoy syndicate when it first opened. That was an amazing time and I met some great lads that are still mates to this day. I’d love to fish for carp again but the current irish scene doesn’t really interest me. Each to their own I suppose.
What Irish fish have you not caught that you would like to?
The one species that has really attracted my attention recently is mullet and I’m determined to have a go for them this Summer. In fact, I might try a bit of sea fishing this year, weather depending. Last Summer, I spent too many nights baking under a brolly during the heat wave for no fish. Meanwhile some lads I know were having great fun spinning for bass and chasing mullet by the beach. Sounds like good fun so I hope to give it a go.
What foreign destination would be top of your list?
Tough one. I visited Cassien last Summer while on holiday and it’s a fabulous place. I didn’t fish but was fascinated to be watching the lads out baiting up while we paddled around on our pedalos. Other than that, Smiths Hardwick lake in the Linear Complex in the UK would be a spot I’d like to fish someday. Big Carp, bream to 15lb and tench to 12lb. That’d do me alright.
What are your fishing hopes for 2014?
I don’t have any specific targets for this year but I do plan to fish 2 new waters for big tench to assess their stocks. I’ll probably wait till the big girls have spawned before doing a bit of exploring. Other than that I’ll be chasing big bream and tench as per normal….
Thanks for the chat Fin hope you have a great season