Water Under the Bridge

Water Under the Bridge

IN THE EARLY YEARS, the clean waters of the River Erne flowed between the two lakes at Killykeen in Lough Oughter. With little access to that location in the forest, there was no bridge. It was there that we caught big slimy bream to 7 lbs and we learned to use the crust of our precious sandwiches for the lovely rudd around 2 lbs, which fed in the weedy stretch.

When we launched into the development and promotion of coarse angling tourism in the 1950’s, we were to learn that our waters abounded in stocks of quality coarse fish. In those days, the lovely fish with the red fins (rudd) were known as “roach” to us, but years later the true roach was to appear up the Erne waters from Northern Ireland. I well remember receiving my first reports and claim forms from the Specimen Fish Committee and observing with interest the Irish Record Fish List and when compared with the record list of English coarse fish, was greatly surprised to note that our fish were much lighter.

It was indeed no surprise when the Specimen Fish “hunters” flocked over here to discover our waters. Ireland was then a treasure of unfished waters which held vast stocks of big fish. The early influx of English anglers helped greatly to introduce techniques of coarse fishing to Ireland and especially to promote coarse fishing tourism.

I recall rendezvousing with big prison officer, Eddie Hawksworth at the reasonable hour of 6.00 a.m. at Bun Lake to find that he had already 23 specimen rudd/bream hybrids in his net! His lesson was simple. To catch specimen fish, you must be prepared to fish long and hard hours.

It was when the Power Station at Lanesboro began to emit hot water into the River Shannon that the stretch at the town bridge became the mecca for specimen fish anglers. In those early years, the best results came only to night fishing and the fish responded mostly to bread flake as hook bait. Visiting the water during the days of April/May you would find the bankside quiet, while the bleary eyed, unshaven anglers lazed around at their camps, further along the bank.

It was essential to keep one eye on the smoke emission from the Power Station chimneys and should that stop, then all hell would break loose. The temperature of the water outflow dropped, sending a signal to the big fish out in Lough Ree to stop their approach to the river stretch. While protests were being made to the staff in the Power Station to bring that critical hot water on again, many anglers would come to me seeking information on other “big fish waters”.

Trips to Lough Ree, Inny Bay were laid on and I became the Pied Piper, leading convoys to Monalty Lake where I had taken great big rudd in the past. Ray Webb followed in his old van which was his home for years, the John Mills and others followed to enjoy the great sport with rudd/bream hybrids in that rich, weedy water, which then produced good tench. Ray Webb packed up his job and came over to Ireland to haunt our waters.

I enjoyed many expeditions with him, including some hazardous ones in his collapsible marine-ply boat, aptly called “Tinca”. I joined him one night at Stone’s Lake and brought him some news from the outside world, that a man had landed on the moon or some other item of interest but his only response to me was that he had seen some tench move in the lilies to the right! Like so many others, he was totally obsessed with fishing and sadly this was the demise of a truly great character whose name is recorded in many Specimen Fish Reports.

The explosion of the tench population in recent years has been welcomed and low we are finding new waters with good tench to 7 lbs. in fact, I have been looking for virgin tench waters in the Erne System and have had great sport With fish up to 6 lbs. A record to go must surely be the tench.

I fished the Co. Roscommon lakes for big rudd and this year was successful in creating another new Irish Record with a fish of 4 lbs. 8 ozs. I was pleased that at last we had an Irish Record to equal that of an English one. it was in Norfolk that the Rev. Alston in 1933 also landed a 4 lbs. 8 oz. rudd. But, I was dismayed to find roach in most of those rudd waters and one wonders how many more years the lovely big rudd have in Ireland as the roach invasion continues.

Hybrids in Irish waters have increased in size and numbers, bringing great pleasure to many, as those fish of 5, 6 and 7 lbs bend rods. We can expect great times with those fish all over the country.

With new legislation and hopes of a total ban on the killing of all big pike and a great awareness of conservation out there, pike angling is improving. I predict that a fish of 50 lbs will be caught by the angler who is prepared to fish hard and long hours in our rich waters. I am presently experimenting with new baits and using techniques which Ray Webb and I discovered in the pre-bleeper/buzzer era. I insert these last words for all to read and to illustrate that all big fish anglers are prone to dreaming.

Happy Days!

3 thoughts on “Water Under the Bridge

  1. eric a hattersley

    Hi, I have today come across your website.
    I have been looking for information on ” Ray Webb ” for many years now and find your site superb.
    My family come from Sheffield and had connections to Ray Webb from their school days, my Grandfather, Eric Travellian Hattersley spent holidays
    travelling from Sheffield to lough mask and others, with his tackle, wife and family ” ON THE BUS ” as I call it, yet public transport must have been a right trial for them, but what an epic journey that must have been.
    In the 1990’s my father Eric Hattersley acquired grandad’s tackle and paperwork he had put together of the areas he had fished.
    I and my family took dad to various places in southern Ireland, he was by this time disabled and could only fish close at hand and easily accessible waters i.e; canals, the golfcourse ponds and any we could drive to and fish at the side of the car.
    What a fantastic array of opportunities for all anglers, our problem was we could not fish in a style needed to match the usual anglers who visit Ireland, but boy did we get some fish, except the wife holds our record for the biggest bream, we got pike to 28 lb some fantastic tench, dad did his usual rudd fest, hundred’s and hundred’s, maybe not all thoroughbred rudd but beautiful fish to keep us more than happy.
    I will read with avid interest anything I can find, now I have found your site. …THANK YOU…..

  2. William Roche (ISFC Secretary)

    Eric, enjoyed your recollection of times past and glad that you find the ISFC interesting. There are many more articles on various topics in the ISFC reports on the site which you may find interesting.

  3. Eric A Hattersley

    I apologise for the gap between this and my last writing about our Irish exploits.
    Ray Webb held the Tench record for something like 25 yes in Ireland, my Grandfather and Father both held this fact in high regard.
    I and my wife took my Father to Cavan for a week many years ago, I managed to catch a Tench,
    Just 1oz under Ray Webb’s Record, I will verify this in this way.
    We catch fish, but not the best anglers and many silly things happen.
    We stayed In and around Cavan with a headmaster and his family, his son a local bailiff.
    They directed us to an easily accessible spot on a lake we could see from their kitchen window.
    The fishing pegs where at least 1 mile apart, so we would not be disturbed…….
    Down the lane over the river through a gate, yes a lovely easy spot and room for 4 or 5.
    We did not pre bait and after breakfast we meandered down letting Dad pick his own swim to fish,
    First I had to set a rod up for the wife, a large perch Bob float with a size 8 hook on a 12ft carp rod.
    Whilst doing this another angler appeared asking if we had caught, so we explained we had just arrived and still settling in, he informed us he and several others from Dublin had been there for 2 days Specimen hunting, On the next peg, “about 3 quarters of a mile away” and if we needed any help with anything feel free to contact them.
    I finally got fishing with a 12ft heavy feeder rod running lead and size 8 or10’s hook, with worm and maggot cocktail bait, no problems 5 or 6 bream at about 40 meters up to 6lbs.
    Then it was time for Dad’s mid morning snack, nice to have the wife for a waitress……
    So after the tea and biscuits I fancied a mess about so borrowed the wife’s rod, strange but sometimes it’s just nice to do some easy fishing around the edges, so it was a float that was a far cry from a pole float, 8lb line a big hook crammed with masses of maggots not much more than rod length,
    No more than 15 minutes had passed and away went the float followed by a good fight but easy controlled with the tackle being used, IN CAME MY TENCH,,,,,,, I do not normally weigh fish or put them in nets, but it seemed there or there abouts the record, Dad had scales of some sort and he was excited to see the weight, WOW, exactly the same as Ray Webb’s record… I remembered the specimen hunters so thought you never know, I then needed to get in the car go back through the gates and down the road to the next peg,,,,3 quarters of a mile down the lake, true to their word the y got their scales and paperwork, why all the paperwork I thought !!!! 2 of the lads followed us to our peg and excitedly weighed my fish.
    1 ounce UNDER Ray Webb’s record, the elder of the specimen hunters proclaimed stuff a ledger down it’s throat and weigh it again, as it would have given me £1,000 catchers reward….. no, no, no, not for us.

    I have had some good luck for memories with Tench as I spent many more hours, days, and weeks on my local lake as a kid and teenager (CARR MILL DAM, near St.helens ) since used for many national matches I fished many times with the now bailiff Sammy Thelwell and match organiser Paul Platt of the early seat box makers Platt Forms PF. On one session with Sammy when you could fish from the bridge
    ( the 19 arches as it was known.) Close to the roadside I hooked into my first gorgeous small Tench, Sammy went down the side to net it, then it was gone, but unknown to me not the memory,
    as, I have met Sammy several times in other locations where he reminded me of my first Tench.
    He suggests it was the first to be caught from the dam, I am undecided about that.
    Yes many thousands have been caught since there, but, fishing tackle and techniques are far more advanced now and most anglers just go fishing and you catch what you catch, why bother telling anyone.
    I / WE hope this brightens someone’s day, as it is all completely true, ( maybe strange, but true.)
    A man in Albufeira Portugal spoke to us on one of our holiday’s, as I watch some carp in a park pond,
    (Typical angler), We all have at least one story to tell, why not, just do it…..

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