Spring trip to France by Dan O’Kelly

IFD: Dan O’Kelly recounts a recent trip to France fishing huge public waters with Davey Phelan. Dan is one of Ireland’s top carp anglers with immense experience fishing in France and this time he fills us in on a trip that didn’t go to plan. All real anglers can appreciate this and it’s a refreshing account of genuine fishing….

Well this year rather than do an Autumn session like I normally do I decided to do a spring session on a big public water in France. 

While in France the previous year I found out that a lake I used to fish had, had a night zone reopen. Originally it had been closed due to some clown’s lighting fire’s which made the farmer very nervous, understandable so with the hot summers they get over there and with live stock on the land not to mention the valuable trees, the night zone was closed. 

I was delighted to find out it was open again. But there were a few conditions and a local bailiff that would be around to check if we were respecting the area and so forth. Not a problem for us as we never light fire’s and all cooking is done inside the bivvy and we never litter.

One of the other condition’s was that it would be closed after the 31st of July to facilitate the Hunters. So a autumn session was out of the question either way. Anyway myself and Edgey Dave set about getting our selfelves sorted for the session. 

In fairness there was not a lot to organise as we’ve done this many times and all we really needed to do was book the ferry and organise the bait. A quick call to Derek in Main Irish Angling and the bait was ordered. 

We decided to go with Trigga from Nutra Baits with the flavour been the Blue Oyster also from Nutra Baits also. Then it was just a case of counting down the days to the off. 

We planned to go in the first two weeks of April. The thinking was that the fish might not have moved towards the spawning areas that early and we might have a chance of connecting with a few of them before romance was in the water. The other reason was that the pike anglers, who can be a royal pain in the arse when fishing the public’s are not allowed fish til the 1st of May. They have no respect for carp anglers and have no problem dropping anchor right on your H-block and fishing away. 

Some areas in France are better and this behaviour is minimal but on this lake it was rife. So the thought’s of fishing unhindered by these Neanderthals made me smile inside and book the ferry. 

On the way down through France we dropped into and old friend Fred who was working on a lake in the north of France and it was not to far out of our way. Due to the ferry times early and late in the season it’s nearly impossible to get fishing the first night as it would be well into the night before you arrived and even later before you got settled. 

So it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Fred. After about a three and a half hour drive we found Fred’s place. We had a few beers and a good chat before hitting the sack as we had an early start in the morning as did Fred. We were back on the road by 9am with probably 4 more hours to go. Four long hours when you have the Edgey fella beside you, going are we there yet, are we there yet…

Finally we arrived on the lake and to our delight the swims we wanted were open. There were a few others carpers on the night zone but it is a very big zone 4kms in total so sharing was not an issue. Launching the boat was, but I knew a spot we could slip the boat in. Getting it out again would not have been possible in this spot. 

The main harbour would have to be used for that job, which could be worried about at a later date. Right now the main concern was sticking our flag in our intended swim. Once that was done and all the gear was unloaded, taking two trips in the boat. We had the dreaded coin flip for sides, always and area of concern for the eager angler. 

Personally I like to let the coin decide, that way I’m not left at the end of the holiday kicking myself for picking the wrong side. I can just put it down to bad luck. Well that’s what I tell myself anyway. In this instance the coin flip when my way and i got the side I fancied. 

Not that it really mattered as i had fished this swim before on my own and had equal amounts of fish from both sides. There was a sand bar out about 300 yards and we placed the bivvy spots to fish either side of it and had agreed to fish left and right of it and fan the other rods back to the drop off 60 yards out in front of us. 

This way we could try to work out the distance the fish (if any) were passing by at. The lake itself was 10000 acres so it was impossible to predict which way the fish would come. 

After a few hours messing around with boats,h-blocks and fish finders we were settled in and all we needed for the party to get started was a fish. At 7 am the next morning my second furthest rod out rattled off. I jumped out of bed and hit it, class I thought to myself first morning and I’m into a fish, here we go. 

I was not long into the fight before i began to think I was into a cat. The strong runs with the tail flapping against the main line is a dead give away, but one can never be sure unless it’s a massive cat. It’s the cats in the 20lbs to 40lbs odd range that can catch you out sometimes. But i was fairly sure this was a cat. 

I fought it from the bank as long as I could before it got caught in the weed that was on the top of the drop off in front of us. The rod was dropped out at 270 yards and the drop off was about 60 yards out. I’ve found in the past getting into the boat to early with a cat can see you been pulled around the lake like a bubble float for a few hours. 

Standing with your feet on Terra Firma gives you a lot more control than been pulled around in the boat. The bigger the boat the better, you will tire the fish out quicker but you are left with the problem of netting it and as I’ve found out in the past to my dismay. 

Carp landing nets are not for cats. The clue is in the name really and until your looking at a cat that’s 1.8 meters long and pointing upwards towards the boat (as i have in the past ) you realise this just is not going to work. 

The only way is to fight them is from the bank. Not to mention 12 foot carp rods are not great for fighting fish from a boat particularly fish that are bigger than the rod is rated for, theres a good chance of breaking the rod. Anyway I’ll get back to the fish. 

As it was snagged up the was no other option but to get into the boat and go after it. Davey skipper the boat out as I kept the line tight. We were soon over the fish, who was buried in the weed and although the water was gin clear we could not see it. 

I pulled the line either way as you do to try and free it from all angles until i conceded to grab the line and do the nervous slow pull hoping for a happy ending. Hoping to feel some movement on the other end and not an uncompromising solid snag. 

As i put pressure on the line a few bubbles started to emerge where the line was pointed and thankfully a few others away from the line. Then there was movement a few bits of weed snapped and floated up and a cat around 60lbs emerged from the weed. Although not our intended target I still like catching them and to see it swimming around in the clear water is assume. 

We were able to successfully steer it into the net as it was not a monster and quickly ferried it back to the bank. With a few quick photos and a weighting of the fish, it was back in the water. It was 60lbs,by no means a big cat but i appreciated it all the same. 

After that we were licking our lips, thinking that this was a great sign of what was to come. That night we were full of anticipation, hoping for an early morning run. The morning came and went and nothing happened. OK two nights in and no carp, well that’s normal on the public’s. Usually it’s the third night in before anything happens.

On the morning of the third night I awoke to hear the frantic call of the Edgey fella. This particular high pitched sound is unmistakable, easily distinguishable from any other critter in the surrounding area and can usually be heard shortly after his alarms have indicated a run. It goes like ……DAN…DAN…DAN….I’M IN……I’M IN…. GET THE BOAT….GET THE BOAT !!!!! and that was the end of my lie in!

By the time i got up to Davey the fish had found a snag but not on the sand bar in front of us, it was a good way out.We had placed the boat in the middle of the two swims with the net and mat already in the boat so that we could assist each other in the event of a run. It was my turn to skipper the boat. 

The rod had been placed 300 yards out and not much line had been retrieved so it was a long row for me. But i was happy to do it. On the row out Davey was getting nervous that it had got off. It had not moved in a while and was rock solid. When we got over the fish it seemed to be stuck in weed. 

We did not even know the weed was there. But again after some nervous pulling and dragging the fish came loose from the weed and the fight began, much to Daveys delight. It was putting up a good fight so again we were undecided on what species Davey was connected to. A good ten minutes later and we seen colour and it was brown. 

We were dealing with our intended species a “carp” and a mirror carp at that. Although I prefer to fight fish from the bank, there is nothing like watching a carp swimming around the boat in clear water during the day. A short while later Davey had steered it into the waiting net and we headed for the shore. Then the weighting and photo shoot ensued. It weighted in at 31.8lbs and we had it back in the water shortly after. 

Confidence levels were brimming now and we thought we had cracked it. But sadly that was the end of the action and morning after morning passed fishless. There are many fisherman’s excuses as to why a session doesn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected it to. 

On this occasion I’m going to blame the Northwest wind that was blowing for a few weeks and the fact that the fish were also going into spawning mode and prespawning is always a difficult time particularly on a 10000 acre water that you are restricted to fishing one or two night zones. So after 6 nights we had to make a decision on wither to move or stay as we had 7 nights left to fish and we both weren’t feeling it.

Anyway the decision was made to move and we packed up and left and headed to another lake a bit smaller at a 1000 acres. But with a move you get a refreshed sense of optimism. I’d like to say we made the right decision and hauled, but we didn’t and apart from one dropped run for Davey that was it for the session. 

We came home with our tails between our legs, no open top bus, no bunting and no cheering crowds awaited us at Rosslare. It was a bad session but I will say we’ve had worse. Carp fishing is hard at the best of times but big public water french carping can be painfully hard and very unrewarding sometimes. But it’s like they say it’s not every throw a coconut.

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Bream and tench with Seamus Smith by Paddy Keogh

We hadn’t managed to get in a tench session so far this year so Aidan Cox, Joe White and myself decided that we would bait somewhere for a couple of days. The plan was to travel up a few evenings after work and bait up with the bic boat.

I called our good friend Dylan Condron to ask how was the fishing lately and tell him our plan. Dylan suggested we get in touch with a friend of his Seamus Smith who provides an excellent prebaiting and pike guiding service. 

We were only too happy to not have to drive up the few evenings beforehand so this seemed the perfect solution. I got in touch with Seamus and we hatched a plan to meet at 3.30 am on Saturday morning.

After meeting Seamus we were soon heading out along twisting narrow roads just as the sky was starting to lighten up. Arriving at our destination we wasted no time in getting the gear down to the swim.

Seamus had prebaited the previous couple of nights and we were all gunning to go. The service Seamus provides is second to none and he also had our bait waiting for us all in top condition. For anglers who travel from around the country or further afield it is a perfect solution.

We ended up with each of us having a pb tench and Joe also getting his pb bream so it exceeded all expectations and we will definitely be getting Seamus to help us again. My best tench was 6lb 2oz, Aidan had his best at 6lb 10oz and Joe had a tench of 6lb 2oz and a bream of 7lb 2oz 

That even Dylan and Damien McCann came up and joined us. It was some craic that night and a pleasure to see the lads in action as they brought in fish after fish and we picked up a few tips.

To contact Seamus please get in touch on his Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Ernecast-1308069715907255/ as we couldn’t recommend it highly enough and thanks to Dylan and Damien.

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The search for a porgie by Dan O’Kelly

After been chasing blue sharks around the country for the last few years, myself and a few friends decided we wanted to go after a Porgie. We anglers are never happy with what we are catching and just want bigger and better all the time and this is the case in this instance. 

We had seen the pictures of porgies knocking about on Facebook and these sharks looked formidable and just down right dangerous. After doing some research and after a good few chats with Paddy on the subject it was clear that it was not going to be easy. 

They seem to be far more unpredictable that the blues and some blanking was going to be on the cards as working out their movements around the coast of Ireland was not going to happen on the first trip. 

Our first attempt was on Kit Dunne’s boat of Wicklow charters out of Kilmore quay at the time.We travelled out 30 miles into the Irish sea and gave it a go. We did not get any that day but had some nice blues which were the first sharks on Kit’s boat so there was a great atmosphere on the boat and I was glad to be part of that day. The second attempt was again on Kit’s boat this time out of Wicklow again we went miles out but this time a Spurdog and a Tope was all we could tempt into the slick and onto our baits. 

Then we tried Galway bay on John Fleming’s boat. The first time in fairness was mainly for Blues and we had some nice ones, well Rory did the rest of us blanked. The second time we tried a different spot closer to the shore, but sadly nothing came of it.

Rory Long and John Fleming

Earlier this year we tried a mark with Kinsale Charters that had produced Porgies for Mike and Pedro last year on their first attempt at them. So we thought it would be a good place to start again they eluded us. We will be back to give that spot another go.

 It was becoming very clear that this project was not going to be easy. We needed some schooling on these creatures. Further chats with Paddy on the subject lead me to contact Andrew Alsop of White Waters in Milford haven. Not an easy man to get a booking with due to his reputation and long history of catching all manner of sharks that are available in ours waters. 

Thankfully he had two mid week days open in late may of this year. So we booked our ferry and started counting the sleeps til our departure from Rosslare. 
Finally the day arrived and we headed off to Rosslare to get the ferry to Fishguard. We travelled with Stenaline to Fishguard as the times of the Irish Ferries to Pembroke sailings did not suit us. Pembroke was a shorter drive to Milford but the drive from Fishguard was only 30 mins or so, so it was not an issue. 

We had booked into a B&B in Milford run by Gareth and Trish Hopkins as advised by Andrew. I always find it better to book with someone the skipper advises as they will normally be understanding if you have to cancel due to bad weather. 

Gareth been an avid an experienced angler himself is well versed in what the sea can do and won’t hold you accountable if you have to cancel. It’s also great to be able to sit down and have a good auld fishing chat with someone that understands your madness. Needless to say the apartment we had was spot on and only a few minutes from the dock and the Hopkins were great hosts. 

After a comfortable nights sleep and a quick breakfast we did the short drive to the dock to meet Andrew and load up our gear. Andrew supplies all the gear you need but we did bring our own rods and reels. Shortly after we were heading down through the haven, (which is basically a 10 mile long fjord ) at a rate of knots and when I say a rate of knots I mean a rate of knots. 

The White Water two is a impressive vessel to be reckoned with. The boat is less than a year old, its a catamaran powered by two 300 hp 2 stroke outboards, yes you read that right 2 strokes. These new 2 ST engines are more powerful than 4 ST, cleaner and more efficient. I thought 2 ST were taking off the market, how wrong was I. 

Blowing down the haven with Iron maiden blasting from the wheel house is something I won’t forget anytime soon. 
In total we travelled 50 miles out and it only took 2 hours. As we got close to the mark that Andrew wanted to fish we slowed down and started to make the chum. Andrew had all the fish we needed for both the hook baits and the chum. 

Gourmet chum

Not long after the chum bucket was in the water and our slick had started, so we set about getting the rods ready. Although we had our own traces with us we decided to use the traces that Andrew supplied as A. He has far more experience at this that we had and B . He doesn’t charge for them. Plus I just wanted to see his ones so we could see where we had gone wrong with oursit. 

It’s all a learning curve at the end of the day and we have a lot to learn about fishing for Porgies. Needless to say over the coarse of the next two days many question’s were asked and answered. 

We had decided to fish our own rods til one of us caught a fish then that person would sit down and let the other fish on all the rods til he caught one then we would go back to just fishing our own rods. 

My second rod was only in the water and the balloon was no more than 10ft from the boat when i noticed the balloon slightly tip then again,  then it move against the tide only a few inch’s but enough to let me know that it was a fish plucking at the bait. I had heard that Porgies are fussy takers , not like blues. 

I was unsure what way or time to strike the fish so i quickly conferred with Andrew, who stepped me through it. basically I didn’t know to hit it or just push the lever drag forward. The fish started taking line so I pushed the lever forward as instructed and then I felt contact and the fight began. 

Now this is what I had been waiting for, I had been told that the fight is completely different than blues so I was not sure what to expect. In no time the fish was heading around the boat maybe in an attempt to get me under the props so Mark and Andrew started lifting rods so I could pass underneath, then the fish turned around and when back the way she came. Then a massive nose dive and she headed straight for the bottom. 

Although I was quite sure it was a Porgie we couldn’t rule out a blue at this stage and there was some debate/uncertainty about what species of Shark it was. I knew it wasn’t massive but I did not care as long as it was my first Porgie, size was not important in this instance. 

Ain’t beat yet

A few more long deep runs and I got some line back on the reel and we started to see some colour, then she came into sight and it was a Porgie, not a monster but a Porgie at last. This was the first time for me to see one let alone catch one so I was well happy. She made one more run and she was beat. A few nervous moments after the leader was grabbed, the fish was lassoed  quite expertly by Andrew and then pulled on board by himself and Mark. 

Although I was very confident that Andrew could boat the fish I always feel a few moments of helplessness when I’m standing there holding the rod just in case the fish bolts again. Thankfully my momentary feeling of nervousness and helplessness abated quickly when my prize was safely on board. 

All that was left to do was get some photos and get her back in the water, so after some quick schooling on how to hold them we got a few shots and released her. Mission accomplished !!!

A well deserved fish for Dan

I forgot to measure her in the whole drama of the situation. But I know the girth was around 35 inch’s. How I know this is, during the fight Andrew had noticed that the fish had a box strap wrapped around its neck. He said that it was about the fifth Porgie that he had seen like this, but never seen a blue shark with one. 

I can only imagine that they are probably more inquisitive and curious than blues and end up swimming into them. Which would suggest they are far more intelligent than blues and would part explain why they are far harder to get a hook up from. Anyway we removed the strap, which had become embedded in the fish’s skin and flesh. 

Later after realising that I had not measured her I had the brain wave to measure the strap and it was 33 inch and maybe allowing 2 inch for the depth it was cut into the flesh of the Shark. Either way Andrew estimated that it was around 80lbs. Not a monster by Porgie standards but I’m happy to start with that and the fact that is was the first shark on the White Water 2 of 2017 and the first shark of Andrews twentieth year in Chartering for sharks I was honoured. 

Unfortunately that was all the action we had for the rest of that day and the next day apart from one of the baits having bite marks on it the first day. 

So the time was spent talking about all things Sharky and trying to get that perfect photo of a dolphin jumping which always eludes me, as was the case this time as well. 

A minke comes in for a closer look

We did have a Minke Whale circle the boat for a while which was interesting. All in all I think a lot of patience is required for Porgie fishing, But the rewards are there and I can’t wait til my next encounter with one. 

With skipper Andrew Alsop

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Six gill shark fishing in Carrigaholt by Luke Aston

Well as many of you know anglers fishing with us here at Carrigaholt Sea Angling have made some headlines over the last month! I suppose it started with enquires almost a year ago now and then confirmed bookings at the end of last year.

First over where the 2 Ben’s from Somerset, they took a chance and booked a 3 day fishing trip with us for the first week in May. The plan was to be here for 3 days but to fish the 2 best of them. As they arrived the forecast was quite promising but with the weather disapproving. So we got out the first day and it was perfect. No wind and almost flat seas. 

We got our first take during the afternoon and after a 25min fight Ben Carter had an 18foot Shark to the side of the boat. A real bonus was that Ben had brought a drone with him and we got some great aerial footage of the Clare Dragoon with the shark beside the boat. 

The next day was slightly windier but still perfect and although we did have at least one good bite we did not manage to hook up. So that night the Ben’s asked if they could do the third day. Although the forecast was not perfect I was happy to give it a go and as is often the case, once we went for it the conditions were not bad.

The lads were fishing a rod each but as Ben Carter had already got his Shark he was happy that Ben Bond would have the first hook up regardless which rod it was on. As it happened we put down a quite day until it was almost time to go when we got a good hook up. 

Ben Bond got rigged up with a harness and then got stuck into what turned into an hour and a half fight. His fish seemed to be willing to come to mid water but no further! When at last he got it to the surface it was a massive fish and as it lay along side the boat we called it at 25ft and about 1500lbs. Unfortunately mainly because it was now quite windy we could not fly the drone but we got lots of good pictures and film from the boat.

Just as a side note to those two Sharks. I was using marks alongside the boat to measure them. As the longest up to that was just around the 18ft I knew my mark there but the bigger one was longer that any before. 

I took a tape to the boat the next day after the lads had headed for home and measured the mark for the bigger fish at 22ft 11 inches. Weights are always only an estimate if you do not take them in to weigh so I can only go off the one I did weigh which was 12ft 9inches and 1056lbs.

I think it was safe to say Ben Carters shark was over a 1000lbs and as Ben Bonds fish was just massive I knew I was being very conservative at 1500lbs.  We will never be sure but it would not surprise me if it was nearer 2000lbs!!

Next up was the week just passed and Andy Griffith’s trip. Although he had tentivitly booked 3 days fishing over these dates at the end of last year I was happy to move them about a bit during the week depending on the weather. So he had not booked flights and was playing a waiting game. 

On Wednesday the 17th we had a chat on the phone and although the forecast was very changeable we felt we would get some window so he got the flights. We planed to then make the most of the weather even if the “3” days got rolled up into one long session. 

As it happed the Tuesday was all right and we got a standard day with one Sixgill during the afternoon which was about 9 ft and 600lbs. Andy was chuffed as he had got his target but was also keen to go again as he hoped to break the 1000lb mark. 

We decided to throw it all at the Wednesday as the forecast was not great for the day after. So we headed out with the plan to fish until dark. As it happened Andy got his first hook up of the day at just after 6pm. A 20min fight had a 14ft Sixgill to the boat. The Grander was bagged! 

We put out another bait and took to the wheelhouse for some dinner, it was a case of job done…will we just put in another while?! I must admit that I did not expect any more action. Then at 7.45 we got a good hard run and another hook up. This shark took a lot for fighting but after a hard hour Andy had a very feisty 18footer to the boat. 

Again taking in the benchmark of the landed Shark I estimated Andy’s 2 Sixgill at 1150 and 1400lbs. One thing for sure they where both over 1000lbs and 2 1000lb Shark in one days fishing is a high bar!

Luke Aston 

087 6367544



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Springtime at Brigueuil by Steve Briggs

Winter seemed to go on for longer this year and although that’s never held me back from getting the rods out I was just longing for some warmer days and to see the countryside turning from drab browns to vibrant greens. 
For me, spring is the best time of the year when everything is waking up and coming back to life and as carp anglers we get to see it happening right in front of our eyes. It can be a strange time of the year to organize trips away though. Conditions can be unpredictable and so can the fish. 

It can almost be like flicking a switch, one day the fish can be lying dormant and the next they can be up and about looking for food. After fishing the lovely Etang de Brigueuil a year earlier I knew that we would be back for more, it was just one of those places that had a good feeling about it and both Joan and I were keen to return.

 I figured that early in the year would be the ideal time to go, not so much because of the carp but more for us as we would be booked in to the Chalet swim, which has all of the comforts and facilities to make it a pleasant stay whatever the weather could throw at us! 

We were a little late in arriving, the sat nav somehow decided to send us in to the middle of a field! However, we did finally arrive and owners, Tracey and Andy were there to greet us as were Paul and Carmen Armfield who take care of the bookings on there. The news was good, the previous week had fished well and in particular down our end of the lake, which had produced a number of fish to over 60lb!

So the carp had certainly woken up and I just hoped that we hadn’t already missed the best of it. We all walked across the road to what was to be our home for the week and as if by magic straight away I saw the unmistakable shape of a decent fish flop out of the water and a short time later there was another definite show about 70 yards to the right. I had a good feeling about this and couldn’t wait to get the rods out! 

His and hers bivvies Brigueuil style

Once everyone had gone I could start work. It was all fairly straight forward really, I had to put a rod where each of the fish had showed but on previous experience the area along the dam wall to the right of the swim was normally the most productive area and so my other two rods were placed along there, one next to the sluice where the depth goes down to about 8ft and the other about 20 yards out from the sluice in 6ft. 

Baits were all snowmans or double bottom baits incorporating the famous Scopex Squid. It was always one of my top Nash baits and I was so pleased when the news came through that it was coming back in to the range under the Old Skool banner. 

It’s so good to see these making a return

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that I found myself with the whole lake to play with, there was literally no one else there, although one guy was booked to arrive in swim 1 at the other end of the dam wall. It always amazes me that while some lakes are almost impossible to get on there are little gems like Brigueuil that go under the radar – but I could live with that and I looked forward to a quiet and peaceful week. 

A lake full of fish and no other anglers

Tracey arrived with the first of her fantastic meals and I retired to the Chalet with the sounder box to have dinner with Joan. Sitting there in comfort with the TV on it was easy to forget about the rods just outside, but I was jolted back to reality when the sounder let out a single bleep – followed by an absolute screamer! 

It was now dark and in my haste to get inside for dinner I’d forgotten my head torch. I just headed for the little blue light and the alarm, which sounded in pain by now! It’s all basically open water so there was no panic and it was really nice to feel the solid lunge of a good fish on the other end. 

The fish kited towards the dam wall and I just let it go on its own way, thinking that there was no danger there, until everything came to a grinding halt! It had found sanctuary somewhere out there and to cut a long story short, after about twenty minutes I ended up retrieving a large branch with my hook in it – and no carp! 

Gutted, and if I’d just kept in a bit more control the fish would’ve been mine. But it was gone and all I could do was get the rod back out and try again.

It was just getting light the following morning when the same rod signaled another take. It wasn’t a screamer like the first but just a few bleeps with the line tightening up, but sure enough there was one on there. I wasn’t about to mess this one up so I gave it my full concentration. Actually this one kited left rather than right and apart from having to do a bit of cats cradle with the other lines it was all fairly stress-free and with a sigh of relief I slid the net under the first fish of the trip! 

I looked around at the chalet and the curtains were still closed so I thought I’d just sort most of it out and rest the fish in the sling for half an hour until I could wake my chief photographer. It was a nice high-backed mirror with a single large scale on its flank and weighing 41lb. A decent enough start and it certainly made up for the earlier loss. 

It was good to get off the mark after losing one

It was a lovely spring morning, very calm and misty but for a change there wasn’t a chill in the air. It looked like the sort of morning that more action was bound to come but it was all quiet for the rest of the day. I was surprised that northing had happened on the baits where I’d seen the showing fish but they were all quiet and although I watched carefully I didn’t see any more shows in the area. In fact the next day was very similar, I was almost sure that more action would come my way – after all the fish were under so little pressure but they seemed to go quiet for some reason. 

I sat there and just watched the lake for as long as I could and I did start seeing fish, the problem was that they were all at the far end of the lake and not in my half of the lake at all! Of course it is one of the problems with having a whole lake to yourself, it might seem like a great situation but for the fish, which are used to knowing what lines and pressure are all about, it’s not hard for them to just move to an area where they are not getting bothered – and it looked like they’d done just that! 

That evening Richard arrived and got himself set up in swim 1 opposite me and I only saw that compounding the problem. If the fish had moved away from the pressure then another set of lines certainly wasn’t going to help matters. But on the plus-side there were a lot of empty swims and I made my mind up that if that night was all quiet then I’d grab some gear and move to one of the other swims for a day or two. 

Sure enough the night passed without a bleep and I checked out a few of the other swims. As I stood in swim 10 one crashed out just down to my left, in fact I saw several so my mind was made up. It was hard to leave the comfort of the chalet behind and moving in the pouring rain wasn’t particularly nice but nothing beats the feeling of being on the fish again and once more I felt confident that a fish was on the cards. 

I basically had the whole half of the lake to go at so being very conscious that I’d already spooked fish from my first swim I decided the best option was to spread the rods as wide as I could. It was much shallower at that end, mainly around 4ft with a fairly soft bottom but presentation stayed exactly the same with 10” of 35lb coated ClingOn hook length and a size 5 Fang Twister. 

With so much water to go at, I spread the rods right out

The one feature I did find was an area between what I think were two old beds of lily pads, although there was no sign of the pads that early in the year. But it did drop from 3ft down to 4.5ft before rising again and it looked an obvious spot for sure. I didn’t go with too much in the way of freebies, but about thirty 15mm Scopex Squid boilies and half a kilo of Key Cray pellets around each bait. 

It’s typical but it was only once I’d done all of the work that the rain started to ease and there was at last a faint glimmer of sun to see the day out. I huddled under the Scope brolly and thought about sorting the tea gear out for a much-needed hot brew. A single bleep made me look up sharply just in time to see the tip pulling down steadily before the alarm let out a scream. It was of course the bait in the deeper hole! 

There was that great feeling of solid resistance on the other end with the occasional thump down the line as the fish shook its head. I’d only been in the swim around two hours so this was the perfect start! Slowly but surely I just eased the fish towards me. It wasn’t one that did a lot but it just used its weight and there was no way I was going to rush anything. 

Eventually the back of a large common broke the surface and slowly I eased it over the waiting net. It was a big one and I felt sure that it was a fish known as Frankie – one I’d actually photographed the year before at 55lb! It looked to be around the same size but the needle on the scales wouldn’t move past 51lb 12oz, which was more than good enough for me! If I needed any proof that moving was the right thing to do then this was it! 

First take after moving and the incredible Frankie at 51lb 12oz

Joan had been watching events unfold from the chalet and came around to do the pics. The fish behaved perfectly, like it knew the procedure well and I was just about to lower the fish back in to the depths when another rod screamed off. 

We sort of shared that one between us taking it in turns to play the fish and pass the rod over to one another and the end result was a rather short and round mirror of 31lb, which fought nearly as hard on the bank as it did in the water. 

By the time I’d got everything sorted and the rods back out it was dark and with Joan back at base in the chalet I had one quick cup of tea before flopping back in to the sleeping bag. After spending so much time fishing out of a bivvy it seemed a little strange to be under a brolly again but it felt good too and with the rain once again beating down I drifted off in to a much-needed sleep. 

Rain laden skies were never far away

I was up once at some stage in the night for a tough-fighting low 30 mirror but otherwise I slept fairly soundly until the alarm once more dragged me back to reality. I peered out from the warmth of my bag, the rain had made way for bright early morning sun with a slight mist rising from the rippled surface. 

I leapt out and grabbed the rod, squinting in the bright light and watched the line slowly cutting through the surface as the fish kited right. There were no dramas and I was soon looking down on a real chunky 41lb mirror. I put the fish in the sling while I set about sorting the camera gear out – I thought I’d just sort that one out by myself, but before I had the chance I was away again! 

In fact before I knew it I’d banked three fish in just over an hour. The second one was a long streamlined 40lb 4oz mirror but the last one was one of the jewels of the lake – not quite as big at 35lb but a gorgeous linear mirror with big plated scales right down its flank. It was the smallest of the three that morning but undoubtedly the one I was most pleased to catch. 

It was the smallest of the three but the one I was most pleased with

The great thing was that with such a large area of water at my disposal I wasn’t putting the fish under much pressure and they were well spread out. The 40lb 4oz mirror completed the set actually, as it meant that I’d caught fish on all four of my rods, which was the perfect situation as there was a chance at anytime on any rod! 

During the day there were two more mirrors, one of low 30’s and the other just short of 40lb. It was all quite hectic but all great fun too. The day had been nice and sunny which helped but in the evening the rain returned. I wasn’t too disappointed not to be disturbed through the night but as soon as it was light I was in action again with two more mirrors of 35lb and 38lb 12oz. 

I sat there sheltering from the rain when Tracey arrived with the dogs, Merlin, Frodo and Thorin. She was pleased how things had gone but explained that someone was due in to the swim the following day. I could stay another night and pack up early in the morning but in the conditions I didn’t fancy an early pack up too much and so decided that I’d gather everything up and head for the comfort of the Chalet swim for the last couple of nights. 

Lake owner and tip cake maker Tracey and the three boys

To be fair I was more than happy with what I’d caught, receiving ten runs in two nights. So it wasn’t too hard to wrench myself away and of course there was also a very good chance that some fish would have moved back to that end of the lake having been free of lines for a while. 

I must admit that it was nice to be back in the warmth of the Chalet and to eat dinner in comfort, along with the cakes that come with it – home-baked muffins with big white chocolate chips inside – oh boy! That night I probably didn’t get the rods sorted as well as I could have – well definitely not as I didn’t get a bleep! 

With Richard across in swim 1 it did change things. At least two of his rods would be coming across very close to where I’d had the action from on the first night and although it was of course very tempting to try and fish the same areas again, I really didn’t think it would do any of us any favours. Instead I studied the swim and tried to work out where the fish might move in to the area and perhaps cover spots where I hadn’t already fished. 

The wind was pushing nicely down towards me so it looked good and after much deliberation I decided that the most likely-looking area for a fish or two was right up the centre of the lake, well away from where anyone else would be fishing and somewhere I’d not even tried up until that point. It was one of those situations where I had nothing to lose anyway as I’d already caught enough to make the trip a good one, but trying something different can sometimes bring a surprise result.

Tight lines and heavy indicators

I’d not long pulled the zip up on my sleeping bag when the alarm sounded – it’s amazing how many times that happens! The culprit was a 27lb mirror, the first fish under 30lb and so although I was pleased to see it, I simply slipped it back to its home after weighing. By the next morning three of my four rods had gone off and they were the three main rods up in the central section. 

One had fallen off after a few seconds and the final fish was a pretty 34lb mirror with nice scattered scales down its flank. It was a nice way to finish up, I started and finished by catching a few fish in the Chalet swim but I loved the hectic action of those two days in swim 10. 

The old saying is that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and it seemed like no sooner was I getting the gear out of the van than I was putting it all away again! But my saying is that you can’t stop time marching on, all you can do is fill as much of it with good stuff as possible and at Brigueuil we’d certainly done that. 

I’m always a little bit wary of publicizing venues as I might struggle to get back on there myself in the future but having such a great venue nearly all to myself for a week is almost crazy. I know Paul and Carmen at Armfield Angling tell me that there are places up for grabs so you could do a lot worse than contact them. 

For the second year running we had a great week at Brigueuil and this time around I certainly got amongst the fish and something tells me that we’ll be going back before too long for some more carp action and cakes. You certainly need a bit of luck at this time of year to get everything right but this time lady luck was on my side – happy days! 

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Trip to Porgie alley by Mark Heffernan

I was out practicing for an upcoming club species hunt when I started getting messages that the Porbeagles had reappeared and it was all over social media. It was very early but I wasn’t surprised and immediately started planning a trip while I tried to fool the mini species of Dundalk Bay.

Day 1.

I was unable to get my Monday night graveyard shift off work .  I was sleepy but high on anticipation when I left home and pointed the battle bus north west at 9 in the morning straight after finishing work. 

At half twelve I arrived and with the help of crewman for the day Mike, we launched “Fish Magnet “ straight onto the sand and waited for the tide to start flooding so we could float the boat and steam to the Shark marks. Kayak Graham arrived then. I’m fascinated with the skill and commitment involved in kayak fishing but it’s not for me as I can only swim the anchor stroke.

Fish Magnet

Soon we were at the mark and we  started jigging for whatever baitfish were about. Retrieving my feather trace I noticed a dark blue shape  emerge from the depths following my gear. This reminded me of when we first discovered Porbeagles at this mark, then they also followed our traces to the Top. 

I told Mike what I’d seen. Literally in seconds he had a stale half frozen Mackerel on the hook. I wasn’t too long after him either. Perhaps 30 seconds later Mike yelped that he was hooked up. 

Mike Sherwood

Now my problem was to retrieve my bait without it being taken as a double hook-up here can be disastrous. I  was forced to wind my bait in as fast as my right hand could turn the reel handle to avoid the snapping jaws of another Porbeagle that followed it right to the boatside. We noticed Kayak Graham was also hooked up. 

Mikes fish put up a great account of itself and measured out at a little over 150lbs. It was my turn next and I wasn’t waiting long for my first taste of action as a Porbeagle took my bait, swam to the surface then charged at full pelt into the transom of the boat before tearing off 80 meters of line, surfacing and then spitting the hook back in my face. It was one bad ass Shark and deserved its premature freedom.

Soon enough I was hooked up again. After a winter catching small stuff my big fish memory was still only kicking in, but despite this I managed to get this one boat side for measuring tagging and release.
Next up it was Mike again. He skilfully fought and brought another brute boatside that measured up just shy of 2 meters fork length. A lovely female. It was my turn again and just as I was setting up a drift, word came through that Graham on his Kayak would like some assistance in measuring up his Shark. We soon picked him out on the horizon and helped him measure and release his prize after congratulating him. I have huge respect for Graham, he is a true trail blazer and always kind with information. 

When we returned to the mark it was obvious the tidal flow had changed and indeed the Sharks had switched off. So rather than flog a dead horse we headed for shore and a celebratory pint. Mike was a super crew man, his knowledge and experience certainly helped produce great results on the day.

That night the Galway gang of JP, Stuart and Mike arrived after a long troublesome journey. The chat was all about Porbeagles and I think they were that excited after hearing my stories that they didn’t notice the cold as they slept in Mikes van that night. I poshed it up by staying in the local hostel. LOL.

Day 2

The view from the Sandrock Hostel over Trawbreaga Bay is truly stunning.  After a restful sleep with a Mug of tea for breakfast it was time to get the boat wet and see what awaited us. Different crew today in the Shape of Mike from Galway and Gee Gee from France.

The view from the hostel

I have seen before many a time how the Shark fishing can just switch off, so it was some relief when we arrived at the mark to see J.P. hooked up. It wasn’t long before the Porbeagles were pulling at our baits and I was hooked up. This shark fought very hard and dirty but was alongside after about 25 mins. She was on her way about 3 mins later sporting a fisheries board tag in her dorsal. I love the shark release, they always swim away strongly and defiantly after a short run boat side to get the water flowing their gills.

Another fish tagged

The next fish was Mike’s and after a bruising near 80 minute encounter which included a snapped Rod he had is first Porbeagle alongside. With a 2 meter tail length and a big girth she was an impressive animal. Mike was ecstatic, it was his first ever Porbeagle . Gee Gee snapped away the trophy shots. It was a special moment.

Mike Greene with his porbeagle

 An issue was that as the Sharks were being played was that other Sharks were swimming with them and slicing the line as they did this. So it became important to keep the fish on a short a line as possible to try and minimise the risk. We then got another one boatside who released himself as I went to tag him.


About this stage of the day it was noticeable that the sharks were following the baits, butting them but not taking them no matter how we varied the retrieve so I decided we should catch some fresh baits before returning to Shark fishing. Gee Gee and Mike weren’t long catching enough Pollack and Coalies to last us the rest of the day.

Well the fresh bait appeared to make a big difference and soon I was hooked up into a strong angry Porgie who just kept pulling the boat round in circles. After 50 minutes a gorgeous 2.2 meter tail length female Porbeagle was alongside posing for photographs before being released to continue terrorising its smaller ocean neighbours.

A fine porbeagle 

Mike hooked up again and he really enjoyed this fight as the pressure was off and he was in his element.   We didn’t attempt to take any sharks inboard this trip so with the Shark alongside more photographs and some video taken it was time to head for shore, say our goodbyes and promise to meet up again soon.

There were many moments to savour over the two days. Incredible scenery, stunning weather, lost Sharks, boated Sharks, sharks ramming boats, snapped rods, firsts, personal bests and new friendships.  

I have now realised what I loved most about those couple of days . It was meeting great people and making great memories in beautiful surroundings.

Now back to the grey factory to reflect and day dream about my next trip. Good Luck.

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Two pb’s in one session by Aidan Cox

I made the annual trip to the Barrow at St. Mullins. Speaking to other anglers when I got there revealed there wasn’t much coming out that day.

I gave it an hour and had just the one fish, so I decided to change plan and head to a beach Mark instead.

Twaithe Shad

It was still early so I made my way to the coast and got set up with plenty of time to spare before the tides would be right.

I was hoping for some hounds but just happy to be out fishing. I set the first rod up with crab on a pulley rig and for the second rod I set up a tope bait, as I was putting the tope bait on the first rod went bang.

I was thinking lovely, first hound of the year, as I got it close I realised it was a bass. Got it in and weighed  and it turned out to be 8.2lb and a new pb happy days.

A new pb bass of 8.2lb

I got the rod back out and got the kettle on and had a few lucky jaffa cakes! I was also changing the tope baits regularly as they were coming back in with munch marks from doggies. I was swapping rigs to cut down on the time the baits were out of the water.

I’d say an hour and a half went by when I was bringing in the crab setup when I turned around and the ratchet was screaming on the tope rod. That sweet sound that only a tope can make.

I had to drop the other rod and make a dash. I bent into the fish to set the hook and it went off running down the beach. There was an angler to my right and I asked him to bring in my other rod and was grateful for the help. 

I was fighting the fish for about ten minutes before getting it into the surf and it was finally landed. Thanks to those who helped you know who you are. We weighed it and a second pb on this surprise session, I was over the moon. The fish came in at 37lb. I was a happy man.

Two pb’s on the one session, 37lb tope

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A change of plans by Dylan Condron

It was Saturday 6th of May. Myself, Lenny and Lloyd were part of a group of 8, who were meant to go to Galway on a sea fishing trip. As faith would have it, I got a call from the skipper, my pal John Fleming saying that the trip couldn’t go ahead as there were winds forecast and a small craft warning had been issued.

Not to be too disheartened, the three of us decided to make the most of the weekend and said we would go tench and bream fishing instead. Our trip with John was rescheduled for a couple of weeks’ time.

We opted to try a new water as many of the lakes we normally fish, are being hammered at the minute. We sat down, put our heads together and came up with a plan. We chose a lake and headed off at 11 o’clock on Friday night. When we arrived at our chosen venue, there was very limited access for 3 of us, so we agreed to cut out a new swim. It was about 3am when we had enough room raked out.

We mixed up 3 buckets of breadcrumbs with some bags of ground-bait, some hemp, corn and casters. We then made 100 bait balls from the buckets and under armed them out into the swim. We set the bivvies’ up and got the rods out. We were using worm, corn, maggots and casters as bait, while Lloyd showed us some of his Carp skills and shared some pop up boilies. Rods out, alarms on and very tired after a long night, we went to bed at 5am to try and get some sleep. None of us could have imagined what was about to happen. 

At 7am I was woken up by the screams of Lloyd’s alarm. He shouted I’m in lads, putting on my wellies, I rushed to his aid with the landing net. It was a 3lb Tench. We fished for the next 36 hours without a wink of sleep, landing fish after fish. 

At different stages, every bait worked to catch both Bream and Tench. In total we had 18 Bream and 28 Tench, a new wild Irish pb for Lloyd of 5lb, he has a 6lb 8oz captured in France on one of the amazing trips he went on with his buddy Chucky. I also had a new pb of a 6lb 5oz Bream with Lenny just short of his pb when he got a nice Bream of 5lb 4oz. 

When everything died down on Sunday about 3pm, we pulled in the 2 keep nets, weighed the catches, took a few quick photos and released the fish to grow and be caught another day. The total weight was just over 150 lbs. This didn’t include the various small Roach and Rudd we never bothered putting into the keep nets, or Lloyd’s 2 Jacks of 4 & 5 lb. respectively. 

We packed up and headed home to Dublin, 3 very tired but very happy men. It was deffo one for the books and it just goes to show, none of us ever know what is out there in the thousands of un-fished lakes in this amazing country we live in.

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Craig Renwick pike angler

IFD: There are many famous names in big pike angling and one that needs to be added to the list is none other than Scottish big fish specialist Craig Renwick, recently we caught up with Craig to ask him about his fishing, so here’s how it went….

Craig ​can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I work full time for Mitsubishi and I’m a part time pike angler. I’m a mechanical engineer to trade, I work shifts and plan my fishing around it. I try squeeze in as much fishing as I can but I find it very hard to keep everyone happy at the same time.

I’ve two daughters (one I’ve adopted as my own) and my Mrs has recently given birth to my third. This time it’s a boy so there’s going to be some very exciting times ahead with him!

What was your first memory of fishing and was there any early capture that set you off chasing big pike?

It was in the summer of 1995, at the tender age of seven years old that I managed to hook my first fish by means of my own accord. The unfortunate victim was a small 6inch flounder from a stream that ran alongside the front of my house at the time. From that moment on I knew that I was the one that was hooked and my overwhelming love for fishing began. 

During the following years ahead I spent many days of my childhood fishing for trout, flounders and eels on it, building knowledge on my experiences and later moving on to a reservoir close to my home that would later become a very special place close to my heart.

I suppose the story that I am about to relate to you starts when I first ever fished the reservoir back in April 1999 when I managed to catch my first fish from the water, a rainbow trout of about a pound in weight, caught on a mepps spinner. I instantly fell in love with the place and it quickly became my new haunt, each year season tickets were bought and with each venture to the water my skills and knowledge grew together hand in hand to the point where during the up and coming years, I managed to win a number of junior trout fishing competitions, although my methods were employed to catch a completely different species of fish….

A young competition winner

It wasn’t until a year later from when I caught my first fish from the water; the summer of 2000 that I caught my first good sized pike from it; a fish of around 18lb, caught off the reservoirs dam wall on a four inch black and silver Shakespeare Big S plug.
As you can imagine, a twelve year old boy hooking into a fish of that size on 6lb mainline, using a light weight seven foot trout rod managed to gather quite a bit of a crowd. The commotion must have alerted one of the fishery’s bailiffs that someone was into a good fish and with it he too joined the crowd.  I fought the fish for what seemed like an age under the critical eyes of the onlookers. 

As time went by whist playing the fish I was starting to get nervous with the thought of losing this monster fish. After all the fish had me in a pickle; this fish was giving a good account of itself with long powerful runs and staying well deep in an attempt to break free. We all thought at the time it was one of the big wild brown trout which naturally inhabited the reservoir that was attached to my line. They were seen as the ultimate goal within the trout anglers and every angler on the water wanted to catch one, although they were rare one or two usually made an appearance each year.

Eventually the fish showed, coming up from the deep was the unmistakable profile of a pike with its iridescent olive green back and big yellow spots. The fish was eventually showing signs of being beaten; I had won my battle with the monster and looked on in anticipation as the bailiff slid the net under her. She was now out the water and onto the grass bank. I couldn’t believe what met my eyes, this fish was bigger than anything I had ever seen at the time, never mind caught!

The fish was then quickly unhooked by the bailiff and I was able to seize my first chance to hold this monster pike, staring at her beauty for a moment I slipped her back into the reservoir to fight another day and with it hopefully giving another angler the same joy to catch that she gave me. From that moment on I knew that I simply had to catch another one, trout were no longer what I was after and my obsession with pike began.


What advice would a keen pike angler like yourself offer to all the youngsters missing out on our glorious sport? Any extra pointers for parents?

What advice would I give to youngsters? Wow… now there’s a question I’ve never been asked before!

When I was a youngster I was a total idiot. I gave my family heart ache, I was always in trouble and I was the class clown at school. My teachers told me that I was a waster and that I wouldn’t amount to anything in life. 

I was in trouble all the time at school, be it through giving cheek to my teachers, not doing my work, causing an uproar in class or fighting with other pupils (and sometimes the teachers), I actually got expelled in the end!

I’m not ashamed to say that because nowadays I am a much better person, I have to be, I have a kids of my own now!
During my school and teenage rebel years fishing was my refuge, a place where I felt I could relax and be myself, a place that made me feel more at home than my home. The only advice that I can share to all the youngsters out there is to give fishing a go and see what it has to offer. My girls love it!

I think that it is important for parents to get their youngsters out and experiencing the joys that fishing and being out in the wild has to offer their children from a young age. Not only is it fun but it also teaches them to love and respect nature… something that I think a lot of today’s youngsters sadly lack.

Big water pike fishing

What types of waters do you mostly fish?

90% of my pike fishing is done on trout waters. Simply because thats the type of waters that I get most of a buzz out of fishing. After all there is no better place to catch a big pike than on a big trout water.

Trout waters like Chew are the types of venue I like to spend my time on

They are tricky to catch from and for that reason I don’t catch a lot of pike each year but the ones that I do catch are usually pretty special. That’s what drives my pike fishing, I do like fishing difficult venues. It gives me more of a buzz when I do catch one. 
The often difficult nature of these venues always keeps me on my toes and I’m always thinking of different ways I can catch them. I like to think of myself as a thinking angler. I’m not one for following guys or fishing the ‘GOING ’ venues. 

Fly fishing for pike

I like to find my own fishing, that way I have no one else to compete with and I can experiment with things and be a bit more leisurely in the way I go about it. Unlike most guys in Scotland I very rarely fish for pike during the warmer months. If I do it’s usually on the large wild waters with the lure or fly rod just to get my fix and to keep the buzz going. I much prefer fishing for perch or tench during this time of year.

Craig loves his summer perch fishing

When it comes to trying to tempt a larger pike, what methods have you found the most successful and what are your preferred baits?

As a general rule big pike are not any harder to catch than smaller pike it’s just that theres a lot less of them about on most waters. Interestingly though what I have found when targeting big pike is that they can be very fussy as to what they want and how they want it. Finding this out is IMO the key to fishing any water for BIG pike no matter the size of it.

No two waters are the same and each has to be treated differently so what I do when I first start fishing a water for the first time is I try gain as much information on it as I can that will help me. Success is never usually instant. Big pike are creatures of habit and for that reason I’m constantly trying different things until a pattern starts to emerge. All I try do is find out what they want and how they want it and without meaning to sound arrogant they are usually pretty easy once you find that. 


For example it could be something as simple as just fishing big baits, maybe its small baits, sometimes it may be a specific bait or even something as simple as just fishing one area where I’ve found to be better than anywhere else. Feeding patterns are something that I’m more interested in but maybe I will go in to that at a later date?

I think the most important thing when targeting BIG pike is to make sure your fishing a water with plenty of them in it and to keep an open mind about things. Nothing is set in concrete when it comes to fishing for big pike. 

QI never fancy my chances of catching an individual fish on a 100+ acre loch but providing there are other big pike about to keep me interested in them who knows, I may have a chance at catching it. That’s basically my thinking in a nutshell…

I wouldn’t say I have favourite all round bait but what I do have is favourite baits on individual waters. Like I said earlier, it’s all about finding patterns and giving them what they want and maybe more importantly….when they want it!

You have now caught a whopping twelve pike over 30lbs, can you tell us about your pb?

The day was Thursday the 10th December 2009. I arrived at the waters edge at first light and the mist was slowly rising off the flat calm sheet of water that was in front of me, the conditions looked fairy tale like and expectations of a fish were high.

Each one of my three rods were casted out into known features in the loch. My first, baited with a lovely fresh sardine was accurately placed thirty yards out, straight in front of me into a deep hole that was twelve foot deep and was surrounded by eight feet of water. 

The second, a popped up herring was cast to my left about twenty yards out from the bank, just shy of a weed bed in seven feet of water. My third and last rod was baited with an eel section and cast off to my right hand side onto a gradual drop off that went from four feet down into nine feet of water again about twenty yards from the bank.

The morning went by slowly just like the previous six had where I had not encountered even a sniff from a pike on any of my baits. At just minutes past 10am I was standing next to my closest rod, the one that was out in the twelve foot hole. I was admiring the morning sun as it was just starting to burn a hole through mist that was lit a lovely bright orange when thoughts were running riot through my mind, why are they not having it? Are the pike in the deeper water? Should I have pre baited an area? etc when suddenly my drop off slammed against the rear bank stick, I don’t know whether it was the adrenaline that was pumping or that I simply never heard the sounder box going but I grabbed the rod from off the bank sticks as quickly as I could, wound down and stuck. It was my first run in over thirty eight hours of fishing I wasn’t going to let the fish drop the bait before I had a chance to set the hooks!

What met my strike was a solid resistance. My 3.25lb test rod was bent double just trying to lift this thing off bottom when suddenly without warning I get a vigorous side to side sweeping head shake which confirmed it was a fish, and a big fish at that. Now, I had previous caught more than a good handful of thirty pound plus pike before this but none of which previously had even come close to the power this fish had.

Eventually I started gaining line on here inch by inch as she just kept plugging bottom with solid thumps of her tail. I quickly grabbed the net that was down at my feet and placed it in the water as she edged ever so closer to me. Just as I done this I get my first look at her, she bobs up out on top of the water just 5 feet out from the bank. I seized my chance and got her over and into the net first time then onto the mat. She was very lightly hooked with just the bottom treble stuck in her scissors. This was quickly turned out and then I stood up and looked at her. I simply couldn’t believe what I had just caught! 

37lb 12oz and a new pb

After a few quick photographs she was popped onto the scales which read out a mighty 37lb 12oz, I was simply in awe! She was then carefully slipped her back into the loch where within seconds she shot off into the depths. I stood back up, wiped my face and looked at the time, it was 10.15am, time to leave for work!

Which was the most hard won of your 30’s?

Probably my most recent one…

Without going into too much detail – I had been fishing a loch that I knew held the stamp of pike that I was after but it is notoriously difficult to catch them from. Myself and my mate managed to secure the fishing rights to it and I had a great first season on it catching eleven 20s, seven were over 25lb and two of them were different 29lbers. I had five over 20lb in one day off it that year!

The following season I caught very little from it as did my mate and between ourselves we began to write it off. Fish were showing up here and there but nothing like they did on the first season, what we did catch proved to be a few repeat captures from the previous season. It wasn’t until a cold February morning at the back end of that season that I managed to catch a 35.2 from it. I had been blanking the previous trips and the few hours leading up to the capture of the 35. What I had been getting was runs from trout…they love a sardine! I fished a rod in close trying for one and when the inevitable happened and I got another run, I struck into it, I expected it to be a trout – nope it was a 35.2 pike.


That’s trout water pike fishing for you, it’s never plain sailing and that’s what I love!

I will go into more detail about this in a future feature possibly…

You have set yourself out to predominately catch big pike, how difficult is it to achieve?

Like I said earlier, the hardest thing is finding waters that hold them Paddy then it’s all really just down to time you can spend fishing for them I suppose. BIG pike always eventually slip up, you don’t need to be a somebody to catch stacks of big pike all you need to do is spend the time on the right waters. That’s exactly what I’ve tried to do over the years and I certainly don’t class myself as a ‘somebody’. All I do is fish the right waters. I don’t waste my time fishing waters where the average fish is 12lb, I want to catch much bigger ones than that. 

I don’t get a lot of time on the bank so when I do get out I want to maximise my chances of catching a biggie as much as I can. Each year I set myself out to try catch at least ten 20lbers a season. I usually achieve it. I try to focus on fishing for 30s and find that the 20s usually take care of themselves. 

That’s what I enjoy, that’s what I love, its hard going and often soul destroying at the same time but when one slips over the draw cords it’s a different buzz altogether.

Luckily I have access to a few really good waters but I’m never really content with my fishing, I get bored easily around the same surroundings and I’m always on the lookout for somewhere different.

29lb the best of five twenties in a day

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A Winter’s piking by Danny O’ Callaghan

I started this years pike campaign with high hopes and plans to get out as often as I could and to do alot of overnighters, as last season I only managed 7 or 8 sessions (due to a nagging ex girlfriend) with fish to 18lb to show for it. So this year i aimed to beat my PB and that i did!

My PB stood at a 21.02 river pike for the past 3 years.

On the 25th October 2016, I set off down the river around 9:00am on a very mild and calm October morning and decided to work my way up the river rather than go to the furthest spot I usually have success on, as my lift wasnt collecting me until 6:30pm. 

I tried 2 spots, one in the main flow and one further down where the river widened out and had alot of features with slack areas and overhanging trees. It was soon 12:30 and without a bite on the deadbaits I got the lure rod out but with not much luck. 

I switched one deadbait rod to a paternoster rig and the other to a popped up smelt and sat this swim out a little longer while having my lunch hoping that something would show up. it didnt… now 2pm i set off for my favourite stretch of the river feeling somewhat hopefull that a big girl could show as “when the jacks are away the big girls come out to play” and this stretch is also where i had claimed my previous PB.

I switched back to my usual tactics which worked here in the past , hard on the bottom in a deep silty area on the inside of a bend of the river. Baits chosen were a large smelt and a full lamprey around 14″ long. I waited and waited with not a beep or a sign it had been weirdly calm and quiet all day, I began to pack up some of my gear around 5:30 as light was fading fast when my right hand rod with the lamprey on went into meltdown. 

I could see the line in the water tearing off into the middle where there was still lots of weed from the summer so i wasted no time with striking hard into the fish with the drag up tight to steer the fish clear and once in control I could loosen up and play the fish, she went on two good runs under the rod tip when the net was slid out but third time lucky she was in the bag. 

I knew it was a decent fish but couldnt get a good look in the dark until I got her on the mat and quickly grabbed my headtorch. Once I had a look I smiled to myself and was rushing to weigh her thinking she would hit the magic 20.

I knew she a good fish, when I went to unhook her the trebles had come out in the net and she had bent out a size 4 hook that shall not be named but will never be used again.

I wet the sling, zeroed the scales and slid the fish into the sling, she came in at 22.02. I had broken my PB by a pound exactly and I was over the moon, what a great start to the season. I popped the fish into my floatation sling and left her to wollow in the margins as I rang my Da to hurry up and bring his camera, another  scales, and a torch that he needs to come down and take some pics. I had no tripod and nobody nearby to ask to take a pic in the pitch black. 

I packed away all my gear and left one rod out in the hope of another. Half an hour past by and soon I could see a light bobbing towards me so I went to retrieve my catch from the sling. Out on to the mat with her and my Da gave me the approval with a “yeah thats defo a 20+ son well done” , we weighed her on his scales to confirm and then a few quick pictures and back she went!

I was delighted with a good start and felt confident to go on and hopefully do better on a few other waters.

Next up me and a mate tried a lake not too far from us for a few hours the following weekend , I had one fish of 15lb that gave a great account for itself. We returned early the following Sunday and I managed two fish of 13 and 14lb. 

A few days later with a day off work during the week I was thinking of doing an overnighter here or another lake which was fishing well and was producing some good fish. I chose the second lake and what a great decision that turned out to be.

Tuesday evening my Da dropped me off and helped me over with my gear. The lake was busy and wasnt sure of a spot so might have had to wait it out. Luckily enough 2 guys fishing the swim I had wanted to fish were leaving shortly so I got my rods set up and had a chat with the lads. 

Soon enough the rods were out and I was chilling in the bivvy trying to watch the floats through the fog and listening for any signs on the alarms. 3 hours passed with nothing and a mate fishing further down had packed up and came over for a chat so I stuck the kettle on as the fog was finally beginning to clear. 

We had just been talking about the chances of a run tonight and it could throw up a big fish under the windy conditions and the low pressure that was creeping in and with that my alarm was screeming and line was being tore off my reel. 

I was on the rod like Usain bolt and waited for the fish to end its run then wound down quick and struck into the fish with a massive headshake straight away, jerking the rod tip towards the lake. I quickly loosened off the drag a bit and slowly played the fish towrds me as I knew it was a big one and didnt want her wiping out the lines next to me or worst of all losing the fish. 

She really did fight hard and was an epic battle in the dark waiting to see a glimpse of her under the head torch and when she finally did show and seen two headtorches shining at her she went on another run, at this stage my heart was in my mouth but soon had her under the rod tip again and with good netting skills on hand, a lump was in my net and when I peered over the edge to have a look I couldnt believe my eyes.

She rattled the scales at 26.08 and I had well an truely smashed my PB! Absolutely buzzing! after a few pics she rested in the sling for a few minutes before releasing her into the depths leaving me one happy man on the bank.

Leaving just the second rod out i was relaxing with a cup of tea and a smoke as my mate left and the second rod went off resulting in a fine 20lb 2oz pike.  Delighted with a brace of 20s I didnt get much sleep. The next day I had a low double and an 18lber that evening with some other anglers going on to catch some great fish too that night.

That weekend I was on the beer celebrating and gave the fishing a miss. The following weekend myself and three mates set off down the river Inny at 7 am, but with very little rain over the past few weeks the water levels were very low so we tried various stretches of the river but couldnt find any fish or a deeper area to fish so we called it a day and went home that afternoon.

I managed to get my da out after some 3 or 4 years of no piking for him due to becomming a workaholic! We went to two different lakes he used to fish in the 90s that had done a few 30s over the years so I couldnt wait for it. It wasnt to be though and drew another blank but we had great craic and he instantly got the bug back planning our next trip on the way home.

Myself and my good friend darragh decided to do two nights where I had had the 26 a few weeks prior and it turned out to be a great weekend with plenty of action for both os us and a few high doubles to 18 and 19lb. although the second night was a bit rough with tempretaures dropping to -4 and all the gear freezing over but the good fishing made up for it all.

​Next session out with my da I managed a fatty of a trout at 7lb 10oz on a small popped up roach and a 17lb pike just after dark and straight after he lost a good pike so we sat it out another hour but it went dead and we called it a day.

​​With that fish playing on my Da’s mind we set off back to the spot a few days later after work with one rod each and a few bits to try and get him a lump and back into the swing of things. He managed a beaut at 22.02 and we were both delighted a great moment to share and a great first fish of 2017 for him.

2 weeks later me and a good pal Ambrose went for a few hours after work on a friday as we were both busy that weekend and it turned out to be another busy night and we jus couldnt leave as we were getting takes every 15 – 20 mins. 

Ambrose broke his PB with a cracking 20lber and a few doubles , I had an 18 a 19 and a few low doubles and lost 2 good fish so i was also determined to get a 20 and kept at it until finally at 3a.m I was rewarded with a lump at 24lb 8oz and soon after that we set off home both happy with a 20lber each and into work at 9 wrecked but buzzing , its always well worth it. 

​I decided then to fish a new lake but with 2 blanks there and signs of spawning on most places i left it be for a few weeks and let nature take its course. im planning a few lure sessions now over the coming weeks and then ill be full on fishing for carp , tench and bream for the summer , im hoping and planning on breaking some more PBs so if its anything like my pike season i should hopefully be in for a treat!

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