Tim Smith and myself, along with other selected members of the angling press, had been invited over to Ireland for a spot of small-water competition fishing. Tim had other things to attend to, so he said (I actually think the whole thought of competition freaked him out), so he couldn’t make it.
However, I managed to enlist a close friend, Patrick MacInnes, another journalist that works for DHP, to come along and keep me company. For the sake of this story we’ll call him ‘Pat ‘the journo’.
The small-water competition was okay but the weather, on the other hand, was absolutely horrific, with wind and rain battering the competitors all day. This didn’t bode well for me as I had organised some river fishing through Paul Bourke from the Central Fisheries Board. Paul is a star; the man had worked tirelessly… well he spent ages on the phone to get me hooked up with a guy called Pat McLoughlin for a spot of river fishing on the Kells Blackwater. We’ll call this Pat ‘Pat ‘the guide’.
It wasn’t looking good, though. Paul explained to us: “The river is big with all the rain we’ve been having so there’s no guarantee that you’ll get fishing, never mind catch any fish.”
We travelled up the next day from Glendalough, up through the Wicklow Mountains – we never really saw them unfortunately, as the weather was the pits – to Enfield, which was to be our base for the next couple of days.
Pat ‘the journo’ and I kept looking at each other on the way up, knowing full well that the weather we were having did not bode well for anyone wanting to fish a freestone river. “Do you think we’ll get to fish the river?” asked Pat ‘the journo’. “I honestly don’t think so, but this guy is a guide and I’m sure he will find somewhere where we can winkle out a trout or two,” I replied.
When we eventually arrived at Enfield and got ourselves ensconced in our fancy hotel rooms, I decided to give Pat ‘the guide’ a call and find out what the patter was regarding the river.
He told me that it would not be possible to fish it the following day. He said it was in a proper full flood, six or seven feet above normal level, and looked like a molten Mars bar. Not good then! These things are to be expected at the start of the season I suppose; not so much spring showers in this case, more a monsoon. He suggested that we would be better going out on a lough and leaving the Blackwater to the following day.
Our day on the lough was uneventful. Pat ‘the guide’ reckoned it was too bright and windy, which was not good for the fishing, but the absence of any rain meant that we stood a chance of getting on the river after all!
|Not huge but a fish!|
Back at the hotel, Pat ‘the journo’ and I got cleaned up and then hit the bar. It was Saturday night and the place was heaving; all the young and trendies were in. It just so happens that attached to our hotel is one of the biggest nightclubs for miles and the hotel bar is the first port of call for a lot of these revellers. Of course we had no intentions whatsoever of heading to this nightclub as we were to be meeting up with Pat ‘the guide’ first thing in the morning to tackle a flooded river. However, after several pints of Guinness, which, by the way, is tested on a regular basis in Ireland by specialist ‘Guiness inspectors’, we decided to go to the discotheque, or club as the youngsters call it.
As we were nearing the door to the club, a bouncer the size of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger advised us: “You’re not getting in, no trainers allowed lads.” Damn!
We slinked back into the hotel, where I bumped into John, the owner. I knew he was the owner because I’d been outside having a cigarette when I’d seen him escorting an unruly youth on his way. The youth had asked him who he thought he was throwing him out of the place, to which he’d replied: “I’m John and I own the place!” Suitably impressed, the youth skulked off, telling John he could stick his nightclub somewhere it was never going to fit.
John chatted to me and Pat ‘the journo’ when the young lad had cleared off, asking us where we were from and how long we were there for. We told him all about our expedition so far and that we were due to fish the Blackwater the following day. “Well, if you need anything give me a shout,” said John.
We told him we had been refused entry to the club and he said: “Follow me boys.” So we did, straight through the back of the hotel and into the upstairs section of the nightclub. He introduced us to another big bouncer, and told him that we were his guests and that we were fine with our trainers on – result. Inevitably we got slightly the worse for wear before retiring to bed in a haze of Bulmers, Guinness and whiskey fumes.
The next morning we were rough; not slightly rough, but full-blown dying rough. The phone in our room rang. I picked it up and a voice said: “Good morning Mr Cullen, I have a Pat McLoughlin on the phone for you, can I put him through?” It seemed that Pat ‘the journo’ and me had both had the same idea, in that each would wake the other up in the morning – it hadn’t happened. “Yes, put him through,” I said.
“Good morning Steve, are you about ready?” he asked. I told Pat ‘the guide’ that I was up and raring to go, while still struggling to open my eyes due to the intense pain in my head. “Is there any chance you can pick us up Pat?” I asked.” “No problem,” he told me. “Okay, give us 30 minutes to grab some breakfast and we’ll be ready. Where are you just now?” I asked. “I’m already in the hotel lobby. I’ll just have a read of the papers while you go on and get some food; I’ve already eaten,” he continued.
So, I managed to get myself into some sort of shape and headed for the breakfast tables, where I ordered for Pat ‘the journo’ and myself. I had mine half-eaten when he finally appeared, looking like death warmed up. The poor soul couldn’t manage much for fear of projectile vomiting. I, on the other hand, due to a full breakfast and necking a couple of painkillers I begged from the lady serving, felt fighting fit.
We met up with Pat ‘the guide’ in the lobby. He looked at Pat ‘the journo’, smiled knowingly, and told us to follow him to the car.
He told us that the river was still high, up over the bank and into the fields. It was probably somewhere in the region of four to five feet up, but he suggested that we might have a chance because the river was dropping. Pat ‘the journo’ and I, on the other hand, reckoned our chances were slim. A flooded river is never going to give up its fish easily but if we did get a fish it would be worth it.
|The fish fought well, which was not surprising considering the height of the water.|
We drove through the lovely town of Kells and stopped at the side of the road just before the Maudlin Bridge. Pat ‘the guide’ walked with us to the bridge, all the time telling us that there was a chance of a fish on this day. We looked over. It looked terrible. It was big and brown and downright scary. Pat ‘the guide’ told us that everything would be fine and that there would be little back eddies that we could expect to catch fish from, if, we kept at it.
We got ourselves kitted up. I showed Pat ‘the guide’ my box of river bugs and nymphs, to which he gave a big thumbs up. “Everything in there should catch you a fish,” he said confidently.
Pat ‘the journo’, decided that the river was a bit too scary for his liking and decided he would take photos of me fishing instead.
So, it was straight down to the river, just above the bridge, to concentrate on some of the little eddies formed by the riverbank.
Under Pat ‘the guide’s’ instruction I started underneath a tree, my three flies only a foot apart because I wanted to keep them as close together as possible. One reason was to get them down where I wanted them and, secondly, if they were fished close together I figured that the fish would have a better chance of seeing them.
Within a few casts I was actually playing my first Kells Blackwater brownie. I couldn’t believe it and, to be honest, neither could anyone else. Both Pats were in shock!
Pat ‘the guide’ told us that he had never bothered to fish the river when it was as high as it was, and preferred to take his clients out
|Take no chances when wading in a big water – a life jacket is a must.|
on the loughs instead. He told me that all the bluster earlier was to give me confidence – well it certainly worked. I now had a lovely little brownie to show for my efforts.
Well, I was even more determined now; if I could catch one then I could surely catch another.
I asked Pat ‘the guide’ if I would be able to wade out to the slack water created by the pillars of the Maudlin Bridge. I figured if I could get into these calmer areas of water I would be able to pick up some better trout. He told me that it would be risky but manageable as long as I took my time. That was good enough for me; I donned a life jacket and made my way, ever so carefully, out into the raging torrent.
I managed to get to the first arch of the bridge with the water lapping at my knees and proceeded to bug my way down the seams created by the pillars. I could feel the flies bouncing along the bottom nicely, just like a day grayling fishing on the Tweed.
It didn’t take long, 10 minutes or so, before I was into another brown trout. Within a second of me striking into the fish it was into the fast water and ripping line from my reel. The fight was spectacular, the fast, turbulent water making the fish fight above its weight. Eventually it came to the net, a cracking fish of around 1lb.
The day continued in this vein with me wading to the various eddies caused by the pillars and catching fish from all but one of them. By early afternoon I had managed to land nine decent-sized brownies, which was a surprise indeed considering the conditions, but it just goes to show what a little perseverance can do.
The method I was using was basic Czech nymphing, so nothing fancy. I had my patterns a little closer together than normal so that they would be easier for the fish to pick out in the coloured water. I also fished dark and even black patterns. I figured that the silhouette would be more pronounced with these patterns. It seemed that the fish did prefer the darker flies because I experimented with bright patterns but only managed one fish on them, despite fishing under every arch. The overall results for the day were, however, great. It just goes to show that when the water is up and in flood, you should still give it a go; you could be as surprised as Pat ‘the guide’.
With our day done on the water it was back to Pat “the guide’s’ house to grab a few photos of his pride and joy. In 2005 he had managed to land a trout of mammoth proportions, a monster brown trout weighing in at 10lb 1oz. Even more amazing was the fact that he caught the beast on a dry fly!
The flies that did the damage.
Pat ’the guide’s’ monster brown
The trophy fish sits on top of Pat ‘the guide’s’ living-room cabinet. When I saw it I couldn’t get over the size of the thing – I want one! I wonder what would’ve happened if I had hooked something that size on my day on the Kells Blackwater.
Location: Kells, County Meath, Ireland
Open: March 1st until September 30th
Tel: Pat McLoughlin 00 353 (0) 8611 017415