Penny McCormick speaks to the Ireland’s Ladies Fly Fishing team and discovers the best spots for casting off around the country …
Julie McGeever is just back from The Ladies Fly Fishing International Championships – an annual event for the last 32 years which rotates between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland – and for which she won her twelfth cap for Ireland. This year’s event was hosted by England at Draycote Waters in Warwickshire, in June. Team Ireland brought home silver medals and the beautiful K-Club Trophy which is awarded to the runners-up in the Championships. (England came first, Scotland came in third place followed by Team Wales).
Ireland’s lady anglers have taken home gold medals on two occasions and are frequent silver medal winners, says McGeever who is a member of the Irish Ladies Fly Fishing Association. Her participation in this sport had much to do with her relocation to Ireland from her native Sydney, Australia. “I joined the Association in 1993. At the time my husband and I owned Healy’s Hotel in Pontoon, Co Mayo, having arrived from Sydney in 1991 to take up ownership of the hotel. I was encouraged to take up fly fishing by our guests who were mainly anglers, fishing the local lakes of Conn and Cullin and salmon fishing on the River Moy.”
Enrolling for fly fishing tuition at the Pontoon Bridge Hotel Fly Fishing School under the guidance of the late Alan Peason, a former English International angler, McGeever’s first championship experiences were on English and Scottish waters in 1995, 1996 and in 1998.
As for the rest of the team – it’s an all-island affair captained by Julie Gerry from Collinstown, Co Westmeath and includes the youngest competitor Almha McDonnell, from Rathfarnham who is a first year student of radiology in UCD. Last year she came straight from her Leaving Cert Exam Hall to compete at the Ladies International
Championships in Wales.
There are plenty of places to start learning. McGeever recommends Laois Angling Centre, Coolrain, Co Laois, while her favourite places to fish are in the west of Ireland. “My favourite is mayfly fishing on the Corrib, I highly recommend staying at The Fishing Lodge. Mary and Paul Miller are both international fly fishing champions for England and run a superb lodge – the views are magnificent with the evening sunsets to the west over Connemara. I also recommend Basil Shields at Ardnasillagh Lodge, in Oughterard, Co Galway for boat hire, guiding and flies. Renvyle House, Connemara, Co Galway run excellent weekend courses for beginners in fly fishing, and anglers are spoilt for choice with fishing on the local lakes around Connemara for sea trout and salmon, while staying at Renvyle.”
As for the benefits of fishing, McGeever says it takes her away from the madness and busyness of everyday life. “I love nature and sitting on a fishing boat on a lake anywhere in Ireland, is a front seat to nature. We are so lucky to have some of the best wild brown trout lakes in the world, the maintenance of which is ensured by the Central Fishery Boards.”
Where to go fly fishing:
Ballynahinch Castle: The season runs until September 30, with sea and trout fishing a speciality on the three kilometres of Ballynahinch river which winds to the ocean. Half and full day fly fishing tutorials start from €140. www.ballynahinch-castle.com
K Club: The hotel has a private stretch of the River Liffey (full of brown trout, carp, bream, tench). Anglers can request their daily catch be cooked for dinner. www.kclub.ie
Sheen Falls Lodge: There’s plenty of opportunity for trout and salmon fishing at Sheen Falls Lodge where fly fishing tutorials with a ghillie include equipment and permits for one of the lakes on the estate. www.sheenfallslodge.ie
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