I first met Paul Creedon through the CarpFishingIreland.com forum. Paul has been carping a long time and seen many changes throughout his carping days. A regular visitor to France and one of Irelands top carpers, Paul is most happy out on the bank enjoying his fishing, so over to Paul now for his interview….
Me: Can you tell us how you started off fishing?
PC: My earliest memory of fishing was a few hours of sea fishing for Pollack off the rocks in Ballyferriter in Kerry when I was 5 or 6 years old I think. My parents were friends with a family who had bought a holiday home in the area. Dad’s friend was very much into fishing and hunting and it was just a few hours fishing off the rocks to pass the time but my father and I accompanied him that evening. I was hooked straightaway really, he was explaining that different types of fish like to live in different areas feeding on different foods and I was totally blown away. I remember being very interested in nature from the word go and this was like a whole new world opening up in front of me. I think I tried casting a few times but more than likely made a right mess of things. I remember the tide coming in and the darkness falling so we left but I was hooked even after only a few hours. Back at the house that evening he gave me one of those ‘Concise Encyclopaedia of Angling’ that I think everybody had when starting out. It was divided into Game, Coarse and Sea sections and it was flicked through about 20 times with everyone in the placed bored to tears by the barrage of questions. I remember in the game section seeing a chapter on river fishing for Trout and Salmon and all of a sudden every stream and river within 10 miles of the family home now became possible lairs for these fish.
My birthday is in the late summer so no prizes for guessing what was on the wish list that year. I still remember the Fishing set and it’s exactly the type I’d warn everyone off nowadays haha. 6ft Fibreglass with about 4 rings (non-Fuji J) on it, a reel which took about 50 yards of 6lb ‘gut’ and a mini tackle-box with a few spinners, several worm hooks, one or two arlesey bombs and one of those red and white floats which would of course sink when trying to fish a big worm on the hook. I don’t recall anything being caught on that gear but an invite from Dad’s friend Michael to fish for Rainbow Trout in a lake called Lough Aderra in east Cork was agreed to the following spring. 6 of us went that day, three in each boat and myself and Michael’s nephew Darren had 5 trout apiece on worms. The others were fly fishing which I hadn’t seen before in the flesh…… a fly rod was the next birthday present.
Me: When did carp come along for you Paul?
PC: Carp came about through my introduction to Rainbow trout fishing at Ballyshoneen Reservoir or Ballincollig reservoir as most of the Carp lads would know it as. This was about 3 miles from where my parents live and a few local kids and myself would go up there and pay our few quid to fish for the day. It was flyfishing only and we all became fairly proficient with our casting into nooks and crannies picking out the stockies. This lasted for a year or two but I think the money ran out and the owner Jerry Sheehan gave it up as a business. Near to the time it was closed as a business I remember hearing a few stories of people catching carp on the light fly gear and being unable to land them. I was always sceptical of these stories until two people I knew did catch these, had them almost to the net before the light leader material parted as the fish was being brought up to the surface. There was a summer or two of constant Soccer due mostly to Ireland qualifying for Euro 88 which had the whole place on a high for months afterwards. I recall the fights about who was going to be Ronnie Whelan after that volley against the USSR, it was a great buzz at the time. The following year, 5th class in Primary school would have been 1989 and there was a bunch of us got into fishing on the River Lee which is again about a mile from the parents house in Ballincollig. That went fine until three Salmon club members arrived and gave out stink to three of us for fishing on their river. We were 11 years of age, hadn’t a clue what we were doing to be honest and here we were being berated by these guys spouting on about prosecutions and gear confiscation. To this day I’ve never cast a line in that river on the strength of that experience.
The question was where to now? The river was a no-no, the local John A Wood lakes (Sand and gravel quarry) had Danger signs up all around so they were to be avoided. With no other option really we ended up heading back up to Ballyshoneen reservoir to see if there were any trout left in the lake. I remember the car park having two cars in there when we arrived which I was surprised at. Was somebody else thinking the same thing about some older wiser trout now possibly 10lbs+ sitting there waiting for a lure to pass by it’s nose? No they weren’t, not by the gear they were using. Again, I’d seen all the bits and pieces of gear in the books and annuals I’d been collecting over the years and knew that the trio, an English couple and a friend of theirs, were coarse fishing. They were incredibly patient and generous with their information and advice which I’m still grateful for to this day. I remember the rest of the bunch went off looking for the trout but I sat and chatted to the coarse anglers for what felt like hours. Waggler Rods, the different shotting patterns, maggot and sweetcorn cocktails, the keepnets.. I’d seen them all a million times in the books but always dismissed them as I had never seen or heard of anyone fishing for coarse species around Cork. I watched for hours as they’d spray maggots to the same spot over and over, groundbait balls were landed in the same one or two square foot area every time. As soon as the Waggler settled, it would dip and bob and then slide away under the surface leading to a 20-30 second scrap resulting in a small carp of 4-5 lbs. The first one I ever saw was a mirror carp, totally unlike anything I had ever seen. Several mother-of-pearl looking scales along the flank of the fish but very little scales present apart from these. I saw a few commons also which looked like any other roach or rudd I had seen in the books but the Mirror Carp just stood out as the one to go after from now on. About the same time Argos had begun to set up shops in the Republic so their Match Set-Up or Ledger Set-ups suddenly held interest for me. I went for the match set up for the birthday again, a 12’ Rod, Reel with 3lb line, wagglers, hooks, disgorger, bait tub and nets, everything you needed for 4 or 5lb carp.
Me: Tell us about the early days of your carping?
PC: The next two or three years were spent fishing now and again at the reservoir, catching smaller fish usually but snapping off a fair few times when we were using corn so we knew there were bigger fish to be caught. It was around this time that through my sister I met with Tom Hillgrove who I have fished with predominantly since. We spent most of the summer in 1993 fishing up at the reservoir, trying different areas but again we were quite new to it and we began running into more experienced anglers and learning from them. I remember about the same time we began buying the Angling Times and the new range of magazines which were hitting the shelves, Improve Your Coarse Fishing / Coarse Fisherman and the like. We’d read them cover to cover and were keeping journals of our catches and the conditions at the times. This was all pre-internet times so even getting the gear was just ridiculously difficult. You would be buying things that would do a similar job to what you really needed a lot of the time. The tackle shops around at the time in the area could be talked into buying in some Carp gear but there was never the numbers fishing / buying to warrant carrying a big range of carp gear. It’s around this time that we met up with Ernie McGrath and Martin Heaney / Darren Keane and Gerry O Sullivan who were all just as mad into it as we were. I can remember 2 or 3 years where we’d almost take over the lake, fishing there as many weekends as possible and the odd evenings fishing with floating dog biscuits, something I love to this day. It’s very rare to be able to do it anymore in this country but floater fishing is about the most exciting as you can see the fish feeding and how competition between them eventually causes one to slip up and you would have a cracking scrap without a 2 or 3 oz lead dangling on the line. We always caught lots of fish, well over 100 between the 4 or 5 of us over a weekend which was great but the sizes were on the wane. We heard of the 20lb fish which were out years ago but we never saw them ourselves or hooked any. The next step in our fishing was a move into fishing the Lough where the Irish Record was at the time, a 27lb Mirror to Rob Coleman. We started to fish there more regular from then on, the first time I remember was a really stormy weekend when we were all lined up along where the playground is now. Not a peep between us but we got our first idea of the “drink fuelled nightlife” out there.
We had begun to do a bit of travelling at that time also, we fished Paddy MacNamara’s in Clare, Galmoylestown and Ballinafid. We also did a few sessions up around Clare for Tench / Bream but never caught any of the type of fish we were travelling for. We had found out about Millers Pond in Tipperary from a Guy from Clonmel who we met fishing on Ballincollig. He’d had a few good fish out of the Lough and loved fishing Ballyshoneen so we made arrangements to fish Millers Pond with him for a weekend. We had a really good weekend there, had about 20 fish between the three of us which was great going for the lake, it being so small and any disturbance probably being heard all around the lake. At the end of that weekend we did a short few hours “guesting” on Decoy before being removed by Liam and Marie-Anne and ruining Liam’s night at the Cinema which I was reminded about ad nauseum for the few years I spent on the Decoy syndicate later on. I remember us chatting to Liam as he was marching us back to the gate and we were telling him how there’d be people willing to pay for fishing the lake, how it could attract plenty people into a select group to fish it. I think we may have been a small part in the process of the Estate eventually believing that there could be a source of income from the lake leading to the setting up of the lake as a fishery. I think that they were throwing out so many people close to that time that it dawned on them to allow people in and fish it for a fee.
It was back to the Lough for the following few years with the odd trip to Ballincollig to keep the spirits up while blanking regularly at the Lough. With the Lough’s current state of being overstocked, it’s hard for anyone to imagine how difficult the fishing could be before the restocking from Kilsheelan in 2000/2001. Without doubt it needed some fresh blood but some of the originals were lost which was a shame. It was always a pleasure to see these fish on the unhooking mat over the years, very few common carp amongst them, mostly Mirrors which were always my favourite. At this stage we were all working and the idea of carping Holidays became possible which leads nicely onto the next section.
Me: You have travelled many times to France, can you tell us your favourite lake so far?
PC: I have two favourite lakes which I’ve travelled to, one is a public water and the second is a commercial. I’ve now been travelling abroad for a week or two’s fishing every year since 2002. Several of these trips have been return visits to venues where we’ve really enjoyed or had good results. We started off on some smaller commercial waters but 2003 saw Darren Keane, Paul Heaney and I flying down to Nice to give St. Cassien a go. I’d been reading about the place for years in Rod Hutchinson and Richie McDonald’s books and we now had the chance to actually set foot on the bank and fish the place. We organised a trip through Martin Russell who runs Gerard’s Café on the lake’s South Arm. The inside of the Cafe is just incredible, the walls of the building are lines with photos of anglers with 50lb+ fish, literally 100’s of these photos blown up to A3 size. It’s a sight to behold and I’m sad to say I can’t find any of the photos I took of the place to put up here. I was on such a high to be fishing this lake which I had read about for years but it’s a really difficult water to get to grips with. Between us we had one or two 20’s, a few smaller fish, I even managed a terrapin on a double boilie hookbait. The instruction to fish at 60ft came as a big eye opener from Martin, with the lake being so deep, the fish at times get comfortable living and feeding at certain depths according to the time of year. All summer long the sun heats the water and by the end of August and September the fish can be down at 70/80 feet depth. We did three different trips to this venue but never had anything above 25lbs if memory serves me correctly. With it’s big fish the lake attracts people from all over Europe and as it’s a water open to the public, there are no rules except for the general French regional rules. Some of the shenanigans going on down there really ruined my image of the place and although I’d love to visit the place again sometime, the thought of the cutthroat ‘fish at all costs’ way in which people behave on there would have me leaving the rods in the car. Terrible shame really
The second is an 18acre Lake which as recently produced an 88lb mirror but it was several years ago when the lake had just opened when we had some really great trips to the venue. We stumbled across it by accident really, we were meant to travel to Dream Lakes but were put off the idea for several reasons which I won’t go into here. It was quite late if I remember correctly, February maybe when this occurred so we phoned Angling Lines looking to see if they had any venue which could accommodate 8 anglers booking exclusive for a week. Island Lake 45 minutes SE of Paris was available and had 14 swims, fish to 50’s, good head of 30’s and 40’s. It sounded ideal so we snapped it up. The first trip there, between the 8 of us we had 1 x 50lb, 8 x 40lb, 30 x 30lbs and 1 x 20lb. It was a fabulous result and we ended up back at that venue 4 or 5 more times with a lot of highs and lows. A high profile angler made a video on the lake and caught a 54lb Common (Ken Flanagan had this fish at 54.01 on our first trip to the lake) while making the film and the place has been booked up since. With this pressure came slower and slower fishing and even though it’s close to producing it’s first 90lb carp, I will not be returning again. With the crowds came more and more rules and nowadays it’s not somewhere that you can fish how you want. Certain rig set-ups are the only ones allowed and that has moved away from the holiday part of my fishing trips which I like, having the week to relax and just take things nice and leisurely. Having someone over checking rigs and watching everything you do becomes very annoying and you’re never relaxed. Hoping to find a new favourite venue soon, to be able to look forward and not backwards will be a good thing.
Me: What has been your personal favorite catch so far?
PC: Despite having been lucky enough to catch fish in France up to 50lb+ my favourite catch so far was on the Lough in the year 2000. Early January is always the coldest period but a few of us had spotted a mild spell due to come in. At the time I was field-testing a new bait which the now defunct Session Bait & Tackle from Cork were developing. I’d put the bait together with garlic and Liver powders which really brought out a pungent smell in addition to their Red Birdseed Base Mix. I had read several writings in which Essential Oils behaved better than oil based flavours in cold water conditions so I included Clove Essential oil as a flavour in the bait. It turned out really well and I was very happy to try it out in any weather. Another idea I was messing about with at the time was using hempseed which was still very hot after boiling when being introduced as a bed of bait to fish over. I was thinking that the scent which hot food gives off travels better than if the food is cold. Air of course is the medium in which that travelled, was water the same?
All round angler Colm Quinn and I had decided to do an early Sunday morning session on the Lough with this little mild spell due for a day or two. I’ll always remember the wind that morning when packing the car, it was actually warm, like that first blast of heat when you disembark an aeroplane on holidays abroad. I had a feeling straight away that something good would happen, just one of those times when you can feel something is on the cards. With the warm wind blowing into the road side of the Lough, we unloaded the car by the Bus-stop swim and the first thing I did was to boil a kettle of water in order to put some over the hempseed I had previously prepared. Once it was sitting in the boiling water for 5 minutes, I began to Spod the hempseed out to a spot about 20 yards out. I catapulted about ten of the clove flavoured boilies over the area also. I’ll always keep bait to a minimum in winter as their metabolisms slow with the cooler temps and the less bait in there, the more likely for your hookbait to be taken. The nightmare with fishing the Lough over the years has been its shallow water and the presence of swans which can dip their heads down and pick up our hookbaits. I had 8 or 9 swans dipping their head down over the bed of hemp I had put out when the rod took off. Your first reaction is to look for a swan shaking it’s head if it’s tangled itself on the line but there was none. I lifted into the rod and the line cut out of the water out beyond the baited area with the swans so I knew it was a fish. I remember it putting up a good scrap and after a few minutes Colm had the fish in the net for me. We photographed and weighed it and the Mirror went 20lb 2oz. A 20 pounder on the new bait, happy days! I don’t know why but I was thinking that the guys might want some good photos of the fish to maybe use down the line in promoting the bait so I sacked up the fish and rang Tom to come out and take some more photos with his camera. I put out some more hot hemp and another scattering of a few of the boilies over the same patch which the swans had vacated. They were soon back in on the new bed of bait and it was only about 15 minutes later when the rod took off again. Same thing, have a look for any swans acting strangely, nothing again….. so lifted the rod into solid resistance. I remember Tom was just arriving as Colm was netting the fish. I remember Colm laughing saying it’s bigger than the first. We brought it over onto the unhooking mat. It was a Common this time but definitely had more girth than the earlier Mirror. On the scales it went 23lb 4oz. Great start on the new bait was all I kept thinking. Colm took some photos on my camera and Tom took some also for the bait company and they were both returned. There was nothing further that day but it was only a few days afterwards that Colm rang me about the two fish. He had talked to a friend of is and they were saying that they’d never heard of a brace of Winter 20’s in Ireland before. I don’t know if it was a first or not, I’ve never been one looking for the limelight in any way but it was a great buzz to catch two good fish at that time of year especially after having that feeling that something was going to happen.
Me: How does the future look for Irish Carping, do you think we will see anymore fisheries?
PC: I honestly think there’s a great future ahead of us if things continue as they are going now. I think over the years anglers were taking things into their own hands and moving around the Irish Carp Strain into any bit of water they could find. At the time this was probably the only way that the fish were going to become widespread. It always appeared that the Fisheries Boards were doing their own thing and not listening to anglers and their needs/wants for their sport. To be fair there needs to be some government body overseeing these things but when they are not listening then there’s a huge breakdown between the Board and the anglers. The importation of French Fish in to Decoy and Maynooth really shook up the whole sport. Finally a strain(s) of fish which would go above 30lbs was possible. The original imported fish would not be able to be considered for the record but it’s their offspring and the following generations where these importations will have the big say. We can now have Irish fish, developed from the egg through to adult, born in Ireland which are perfectly valid for consideration for specimen awards and even the record in time. Further introductions of English strains into the country in the last 10 years have also widened the genepool so we have a really healthy spread of fish strains going forward. The CACI group have done Trojan work in developing more and more dedicated Carp fisheries and organising the stocks in conjunction with the fisheries boards, working with them and not against them. More and more fisheries have been popping up year on year and then we have some of the wilder waters which are now being fished after getting fish stockings years ago and left to their own devices. Inniscarra in Cork, a 900 Acre Reservoir produced a 26lb Common out of nowhere 3 or 4 years ago now which really got the pulses racing down here. It’s quite daunting to fish but you just have to take the place in sections and fish them accordingly. More and more anglers are fishing there and more and more fish are coming out. We’re all waiting on the 2014 World Feeder Fishing Championships in July to see if anything extraordinary shows up. With so much bait going in over a few days of the match we’re hoping to see something special showing up. To sum up really, it’s an exciting time I think. I’m hearing of new lakes all the time producing good fish and I think most carp anglers have several waters at their disposal now as opposed to the few in Cork and the few in Mullingar like years ago. I think Co-ops of anglers organising leases seems to be the way forward, the syndicate waters in place will be hard to top but the scene is evolving all the time here. As I say, very exciting to see after 20 years of false dawns.
Me: What water in the world would you most like to fish?
PC: I’ve always had a drawing towards the waters in South Africa, Klasserie Dam, Donaldson Dam, Snagmere, it’s that other worldly aura about the waters. One of the long time Carp anglers in Ireland, Peter Thornton, has been on a few trips down there and I’ve seen some of the photos he’s posted up onto websites and I’m fascinated. Rhino, Hippo, Elephants, you won’t see this anywhere else on the planet. I think a few of the waters are next to Kruger National Park and I’ve read of the anglers hearing the Lions roaring through the night. Spine chilling but it would be unique.
This new World Record water over in Hungary is appearing to be something very special also. Euro Aqua it’s being referred to. Whilst in France a few weeks ago, I borrowed a Carpworld magazine which had a big write up on the water. It’s only 11 hours drive from Calais so it’s really not too far a jaunt. The article describes how in a week the article writer’s contact there had 8 fish above 30kg (66lbs) and he lost count of the fish between 25 and 29kg (55lb-65lb) This is incredible really but I know that the lake is being hammered at the moment. I’d love to have a crack off the place before it burns out like they all do. With the record gone above the 100 mark then who knows what else may come out. Once all the fish aren’t named then I’d be happy to fish the place. The naming thing is hard to avoid at times but if I caught a fish at say 32 lbs over here, I’m happy to have caught it, I don’t want somebody telling me ‘half-tail’ was out last week at 4 ounces heavier last week. I want to enjoy my fishing and not be comparing a fish I enjoyed catching to someone else’s experience from last week.
Being at a nice place for a few hours or a few days enjoying your fishing is what it should be about and it shouldn’t be all about a list of numbers in pounds and ounces.
Me: Have you any lakes booked for this year?
PC: We’re only just back from our 2014 trip hence the delay in writing this article L Due to Confirmations, honeymoons and family holidays we were down to 6 people going this year so we decided to go for a smaller lake than usual and decided to give Blavet Valley Lake in Brittany a go this year. It’s smaller at 8-10 acres than we’re used to but it has a good stocking of fish to upper 50lb bracket. We got caught out in Brittany two years ago with a late winter as we had thre dry hours in a full week on a lake called Margot. Some great fish out to 66lbs but the week was awful; definitely not holiday material, just howling winds and constant driving rain. On the strength of that experience we decided to book a bit later and we decided on the second week in May. We always book lakes for our exclusive use and we all know each other at this stage and there’s never any hassle with third parties at the lake which I have experienced on our first trip away in 2002 when several different groups were on the lake at the one time and half were into having bbqs and parties all week whilst the others wanted their peace and quiet. There was murder, never again!
The lake is a peach, it’s the nearest thing I’ve ever seen to Ballincollig Reservoir which is the lake I grew up on really, where I got into carpfishing first day. It has an abundance of nooks and crannies, over hanging trees, lots of underwater features to fish to, it really does give you a lot of options. I was lucky this year again and drew out number 1 in the swim draw. I got to choose first so I chose a swim which had so many overhanging trees and bushes that I realistically could have found 20 decent spots to place a bait. I was told that the fish were in the area already so no need for lots of bait, no need to scare them or try attracting them with beds of bait if they’re in there already. I had two fish casting really tight to trees but I was struggling to get in tight under some of the overhanging trees and bushes with my casting. Gordon the bailiff recommended that I rent a remote control baitboat for the week which I took him up on. I have one myself but didn’t think I’d need it for the trip but they will undoubtedly catch you more fish on this water. Almost to prove him Gordon right, less than three hours after him dropping the baitboat down to me and me placing a bait right in under some overhanging trees, I had a new personal best of 53lbs.
My week was made and it was only Tuesday morning at that stage. I had a great week, 9 more fish for the week, 3 30’s and 6 fish in the 20lb bracket. I had another angler Willie Delaney from Port Laoise in the swim next to me who also was catching solidly throughout the week having moved swims on the Monday morning. Willie broke his personal best firstly with an upper 30 but on the Friday night, the day before we packed up, he had a stunning mirror of 49lb 6oz. There were between 25-30 fish caught for the week which was good going considering the first three days brought hailstones regularly. For any interested parties, the catered food served at the venue really was exceptional and the week is probably the most enjoyable weeks fishing I’ve had in France. The owners cannot do enough for you and I can say for certainty that I will be returning to the lake.
Me: When not carping what fishing do you enjoy?
PC: I’ll be fishing 3 or 4 waters this year which would be my usual really. The Lough is always the place to go for a few runs when you’re struggling elsewhere. I’m a member of Ballyhonock Fishing club which is in east Cork. I’m good friends with the guys who have set up the club and they’re the hardest working committee I’ve come across. It’s a medium term project and there’s been lots done on the 3 years since the club took on the lease for the lake.
The third water I’ll be on is Inniscarra Reservoir. It’s on my doorstep, about 700 yards from my house but at 900 acres it can be daunting. With the depths of most of the lake being 60ft+, you can disregard probably 80% of the lake immediately for fishing purposes. I fish quite close in, 30-40 yards max. Bill Collins once said to me that the further out you’re placing baits in what is a flooded valley, the more rubbish and snags between you and the bait. To make sure you land the fish keep the distance to a minimum. With pre-baiting we’re having very good results with fish regularly on the bank but you get out what you put in on this water, time and energy is the key for definite.
I’ll be looking to the coastline going forwards now also to broaden the horizons.