Darran Whelan is the man behind Lyreen fishery in Maynooth co. Dublin. When not busy with the day to day running of the lake, Darran likes nothing more than to be wetting a line himself. Lyreen is home to the biggest carp in Ireland and so much of that has been down to Darrans perseverance and hard work. So now over to Darran….
Me: Can you tell us your first memory of fishing?
DW: My first memory of fish was with my dad when I was just 5yr old, my dad was a trawler man out of the docks in Dublin and was kinda always a fisherman, but he loved trout fishing when not out at sea. At the time money was hard to earn so I started to save green shield stamps and got my first fishing rod at the age of 5yrs, it took 2 books to get the rod I wanted, it was a solid fibreglass 6ft and bright orange in colour. My dad brought me to a favourite fishing spot he fished for years, we always called it the Brocky, as it had plenty of large boulders in it and ran pretty fast in places, it was actually where the Liffey as we know it started in the mountains it was always a deep wine colour and boasted plenty of wild brown trout. My dad helped me set up a ledger rig with garden worm and thought me to cast it, then left me to it. Can still see the big smile on his face as I ran down the bank towards him with this poor brown trout bouncing and dangling from the end of the rod as I shouted at him “I caught one”, was the best feeling I had ever had and have never looked back since and still have the same feelings today when I catch and it always reminds me of that special day I spent with my dad.
Me: You started off coarse fishing and trout fishing, where did you fish in the early days?
DW: As the years pasted and I got older I never went fishing without my dad, all the years I spent fishing with him we always targeted trout big enough for the table. I think we fished almost every river and lake in the country that held trout, it was always with a ledger set-up and it was when I was 16yrs ols when I got interested in fly-fishing after seen an old man at the poulaphuca dam casting a fly-line, it amazed me how he could cast so far with such grace and little effort, it was about 2 yrs later that I got my first taste of fly-fishing when a friend of my dad offered to take me out in a boat on Lough Owel. From that day on I never used a ledger again to catch trout. In 1993 my dad pasted away and to celebrate his life of fishing I decided to go fly-fishing in honour of him and drove around looking for somewhere to fish, that is when I came across the fishery at Maynooth, not long open I had a great days fishing and put it down to my dad looking down on me. About a year later I started coarse fishing with the waggler, my partner in crime was my brother in law who was a coarse angler on the canal but he didn’t drive so when I started coarse fishing we were able to travel afar in search of decent Tench & Bream. We fished almost ever lake in Cavan and practically every stretch of both canals we could, we settled on a stretch near Edenderry called Ticknevin bridge where we caught many a good Tench, to the extent we camped there on many occasion night fishing.
Me: When did carp come along for you?
DW: After a couple of years coarse fishing I watched John Wilson fishing for carp on TV and thought OMG, I have to catch one of them. So I bought every fishing book and anglers guide for fishing in Ireland to help me on my quest to catching a carp, travelled to every lake listed at the time to have carp stocks, but after finding out local knowledge on each place my quest was looking very un-likely until one day I stumbled upon Gaulmoylestown lake and could not believe it when I saw a young lad land a 5lb mirror carp, that was it, everything went out the window as I embarked on catching as many carp as I could, I lived on that lake spending weeks on end trying to catch one without any success, which annoyed me to breaking point as everybody that fished there caught plenty of carp. So one night while still blanking I looked up to the stars and smiled saying to them, please let me catch one thats all I ask. The following day after a good nights sleep I landed 53 carp in total, that night I looked up at the stars with the same smile and thanked them for the day I had.
Me: When did you first fish Maynooth for carp?
DW: As I said before I started fishing at Maynooth when my dad passed away in August 1993. At the time there were just a handful of Irish carp stocked into a lake there that was split into two lakes by way of a bridge and a large net underneath it keeping the trout and carp from mixing together. I use to fish the fly lake during the week and would fish for the carp at weekends. The agreement had been made to bring in big carp from France and stock them into the lake that was split in two, so I helped with the work that took place to make the lake all one by taking out the bridge and net, at the time the lake had been drained down to make it bigger for these big carp, I started working there full time the day the carp were arriving at the fishery. I handled every carp that came out of the big tanks that were used to transport the fish for their long journey to their new home. My job on the night was to hold every carp down on the carp matts for pictures and for them to be weighed. I was a cold wet night in December when this all took place, so between working at the fishery and also been a bailiff on the carp lake at weekends, I saw a lot of what it takes to run a fishery, as I was just an employee I only had limited input to the running of the fishery and ideas were never listened to. So after a few years working 18 hour days I left the fishery.
Me: How did you go from that to one day running the water?
DW: In 2009 I had heard through other carp anglers that the fishery was nearly at the stage of been closed down due to the poor state of the fishery and poor management. So plans were put into place to contact the owner of the fishery who wanted to turn the fishery into a nature reserve and run pony tracking on its grounds, our plan was to revamp the whole place, from top to bottom and get anglers back in the door. The plan was to lease the fishery were as before it was just managed for him, he liked the plans we had and went for it, and gave us the keys to the kingdom.
Me: What has been your favorite catch?
DW: My favourite catch on the carp lake has to be the carp they call, The Grey, it had been the biggest carp I had caught on there at 29lb 8oz, I had caught that carp back in 2006 and up until a few days ago it had remained my biggest capture on the lake, when I finally caught the carp they call Big-hole and what a carp to catch too when it is at one of its top weights at 40lb, only 3 of us fishing the lake have caught her at the 40lb+ mark.
Me: You like your French fishing too what has been your favorite lake over there?
DW: Yes I do love travelling to France in pursuit of bigger carp, have been there 7 times now and have been to some cracking lakes with some cracking carp stocked in them. My favourite venue has to be a lake called Laroussi, it is an 18 acre lake with carp to nearly 80lb, it is the kind of lake to visit if you want a challenge, the carp don’t give up too easy, but when you do catch one it could be what I would class as been a monster, My personal best carp is a lovely mirror carp weighing a nice 52lb caught on Laroussi. When I travel to France I like to target lakes that have big sturgeon and cat-fish, they tend to put manners on us when it comes to fighting one of these beasts, they for me are the best part of going to France, I would advise anyone want to go to France to hit a venue where these monsters are stocked, some of the fish over there are a fish of a life-time and well worth the effort and expence.
Me: With all the work that goes into maintaining the water, how often do you get to fish it yourself?
DW: When taking over the fishery a lot of time was spent getting it looking and fishing they way I wanted it to, so had no time for fishing and as they say, all work and no play, I decided to fish the carp lake every two weeks by spending the weekend there, even in winter I can be seen on the bank at weekend just to break up the time spent working there. Even in winter the fishery can take up most of the day as work still has to go on, it don’t just stop because it’s winter.
Me: Where else in the world would you like to fish?
DW: Have been to France carp fishing and to Gran Canaria in pursuit of Marlin and large sting-ray, but if it came down to it I would love to travel to Thai-land in pursuit of the giant Siamese carp there and the 16 different types of cat-fish, that would be the dream, but another part of me want to travel to the Frasier river in Canada chasing monster white sturgeon, hard to decide which if offered to me.
Me: Finally Darran, what are your plans for 2014?
DW: Plans for this year started off quite different with the fishery been split in two and the coarse lake and lodge been run by another party, I kept the carp lake, and hopefully this will give me more time to put all my effort into it and give me more time on the bank chasing some of the beauties that lie within, family commitment have stopped me from going to France this year but hey there is always next year and the carp are not going anywhere.
Me: Thanks a million for chatting to us Darran and hope to see you out there soon…
DW: Your more than welcome lads see you soon….