IFD: Daniel Brosnan grew up in Dingle in county Kerry, here he shares some of his fishing experiences with us. For more from Daniel log onto his excellent website www.facebook.com/DinglePeninsulaFishingandHunting
My relationship with the Dingle Peninsula started as a young boy when my father became the Fishery Officer of the Owenmore River. At the time, I was maybe 8 years old and already a dedicated river angler. Being brought up, in a household where fishing and catches were on the agenda from dawn to dusk, I had literally no chance of escape.
I caught my first salmon at 13 in a pool that was called the Rough Current. I remember feeling like I became a Man that day, as catching a salmon was like a ritual only practiced by the die hard anglers. Even to this day the majority of anglers I meet, have not caught Salmon, this is because this majestic fish have an absolute dedication to survival.
The Dingle Peninsula is a basically a mountain range sticking out into the Atlantic from the Kingdom of Kerry. It is the last stop from Europe onto America and is widely less populated then the rest of Ireland. The Slive Mish Mountains that make up the majority of the Peninsula are made of mostly sandstone and between them and the Brandon Mountain Range there is countless lochs and rivers with pristine waters and they nearly all run Sea Trout. Quite a few still run Atlantic Salmon also and if you look at the Peninsula as a whole, it is quite unique. No where else in Ireland or Europe will you get a congestion of pristine rivers and lochs with so much potential. With clear waters and lochs where Salmon and Sea trout can run literally from sea to loch in one day with high water, should this place be a Natural Area of Conservation for Salmonid Species? I think so!
The Dingle Peninsula not only holds unbelievable potential for Salmon and Sea Trout but also has the best surf beaches in the world for Atlantic Bass. Just in Brandon Bay alone there is about 13 kilometres of beach which is divided up into 4 sections of Beach. Sure everybody with a rod knows of the Beaches that we call, Stradbally, Kilcummin, Formoyle and Goulane! These beaches provide year in and out specimen Bass of 10lb to 18lb. Its not uncommon to catch and release ten bass per angler, when the conditions and mood is right. What people don’t understand is that the Dingle Peninsula incorporates the land from Blennerville all the way to the Blasket islands.
This land also takes in the Famous Tralee Bay, where many anglers come every year to catch Stingray, Undulates and Thornback Ray. Is there any place in the world where in one afternoon an angler could catch a stingray of 60lb, and ten of both undulates and thornbacks? I think Not!
I myself do not have much experience with the Ray species. I am a novice with a lot of aspects to sea angling and I will never ever claim to be an expert. There is far too many so called experts out there but for me, angling is a lifelong journey and in my opinion only the fish are the experts.
This place is really an anglers paradise but when we speak of the good we must speak of the bad. I have a friend who has come to the Dingle Peninsula every year since 1984. He recently told me that in those 30 odd years, he still does not know the peninsula very well and that is very much true.
There is so much to fish for that sometimes when anglers arrive they cram so much in that, the whole thing ends up being a disaster. The main aspect to get right, are the tides and the weather. Obviously the weather we cannot determine but sometimes its best to try and hold off when to come down until you have a good knowledge of the predicted weather.
Also the tides, I much prefer slacker tides as having the tide too big can really work against you. Warm weather, slackish tides and fishing with the coming tide is perfect. Even when you have everything perfect, sometimes like in all fishing, the fish are just not there and thats why you need plenty of time to judge the conditions.
I always tell anglers when they come to fish, to stay for two weeks. One or two days is no good and if the fish are not in the taking mood sometimes different areas need to be fished and conditions need to change.
The Dingle Peninsula has many rivers also for the freshwater angler. Annascual, Aughacasla, Miltown, Emlagh, Fheothanach, Owenmore, Glenahoo and the Scoria are all rivers with significant runs of Sea Trout and Salmon. Some of these rivers run fish as early as March and the reason I know this is because the father lifted 22 nets in one month in around the Dingle Peninsula in March, 1994. I remember a local angler catching a spring fish in the Owenmore on paddys day in 1999 and also a french angler caught a fresh sea trout in the Scoria of about four pound in 2007. Already this year I have caught a spring sea trout that was heading straight up either the Glenahoo, Scoria or Owenmore in march and that fish tipped the scales just under 5 pound. The condition and depth of the fish suggested this anyway.
Also there is some cracking Lochs on the Dingle Peninsula, where Sea Trout and Salmon run. Loch an Dun is my favourite. This loch drains into the Scoria river and straight out into the Cloghane estuary. I brought two angling friends of mine up there in August of this year and its quite a little hike. When we got there, my friend said there is no way theres Sea Trout here, as he could not believe the size of the river going into the lake. You can literally walk over the stream which down the mountain becomes the Scoria River. We spent four hours fishing the lake and when he hooked a nice Sea Trout of 3lb, he gladly took back his statement. That day we had 5 Sea Trout but the conditions did not favour us. Obviously with these rivers a state license is required to fish for Sea Trout and Salmon. Some have restrictions set on them by the IFI and some don’t. Anglers would have to look up the IFI website but the majority of the rivers are not even recognised. I met a fishery officer last year on the Maine and I asked him what if a river is not recognised, then what is the law and that question could not be answered. In my opinion these rivers are forgotten about and if there is no anglers on them, then they fall into reck and ruin. Angling should be allowed on these rivers and if they want to place a catch and release restriction on them, that would be fine with me. Completely stopping angling on a river has noting but bad effects on the river and also the economy. Shops lose out on revenue through fuel and food because anglers cannot fish a certain area. Poaching becomes rife because its impossible for one fishery officer to enforce the law, never mind cover the ground. Common sense needs to be adhered to.
I would like for a moment to speak about the Owenmore River system. The reason I would like to speak about it is because I spent my childhood there and unfortunately I know too much about it. Before the present day owner, there was a german owner called Metz. My father who was employed by the fishery board at the time in 1994, wrote to the Metz family, declaring his interest in the river. At the time, while my father patrolled the Cloghane estuary he could see the devastation being undertaken but also could see the potential if, proper management was placed upon it. In 1986, aprox 60 nets were confiscated and burned by my father. That actually was breaking the law because you are meant to confiscate the nets and sign them back to, at time called the CFB “Central Fishery Board” office. Usually the nets were owned by individuals who have state licences of some sort for netting fish but all of the nets confiscated were actually not being applied within the law properly. This is still a huge problem today. None of the nets on the Cashen, Laune or in Brandon Bay are being applied lawfully. For instance a fews years back a film editor took a video of the state licensed netsmen actually blocking the river laune in the estuary for hours of the tide. This is completely illegal and is widespread. That video had to be taken down because of the fear of repercussions. From 1994 to 2001 the amount of nets that were confiscated in the Cloghane estuary is countless. The locals were absolutely distraught and still to this day anybody associated wit my family cannot fish the Owenmore.
There was rumours spread about us being poachers ourselves which if true I would have no problem admitting it. Yes I will admit there was a lot of fish killed by anglers but they were different times and the reason for this was to build up the reputation of the river. From the first flood after Paddys day you could not park the car on the road alongside the fishery office while we were there. I met both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness there fishing and the day Jack Charlton walked in while I tied flies looking for a permit, I nearly fainted. The reason for writing this is to clear things up, while i will admit that my father and his tactics where sometimes violent and uncalled for. I swear on this, that man done more for the survival of Salmon from illegal nets then any other man ever in the history of Ireland.
In the end the Owenmore Fishery was sold for a lot of money and it was sold on the catch records for my fathers time. Take a look at the Owenmore Fishery website its the first thing you see the catch records form our era there. To this day I cannot understand the reason for the Roche Family in buying the fishery, its completely destroyed now, to think this river has the potential to equal and better the likes of the Delphi and the Drowes.
The potential for the Owenmore River is boundless but then again to fulfil potential you must work without pay, dedicate your life and work everyday to fulfil it. We cared at the time but it was just thrown back in your face.
For me the Dingle Peninsula is much more than a place, it has been my life. The rivers and the coastline have just been part of that. The place has a kind of fascination about it. I have sometimes wondered what it was and I know part of the reason of its fascination, is its landscape. There is hardly no low lying areas there. There is mountains and hills everywhere. Its like you are constantly looking up and wondering wheres the next one to conquer. There is rivers and sea everywhere also. Its like the land of the last frontiers. From Brandon around to Valentia must be the least populated place in Ireland. If you want to get away or even better, if you want to get away and fish, then quite simply the Dingle Peninsula is the place to go…