The Ireland tour is fundamental to the tradition and history of the Tunbridge Wells Fly Fishing Society
From the first, the allure of wild fishing captured the imagination and every year since, a party of our members has made the journey to Loch Corrib, its native brown trout, its often prolific fly life, its untamed beauty and the kind hearts of those who live on its shores. Thus, this silver anniversary year of the Society was also the celebration of 25 unbroken years of pilgrimage to what for many has become a touchstone for all that is best in fly fishing. So much so, that two of the party have an uninterrupted record as members of the tour and many others come as often as life allows
Statistics may inform but often half tell the story. They can give something of a clue to the foundations on which our memories hang and so some account of the structure of this year’s important tour is in order. To start, we had the largest group of tourists ever. The party consisted of thirteen Society members:
Numbers necessitated some of the party being accommodated at Roy Pierce’s very comfortable lodgings at Grasshopper Cottage which for the history of the Tour has been the base for linking with boats and gillies. For the majority, there was the spacious self-catering accommodation a little way between Corrib and Mask
The weather was changeable with one day of gale force winds which kept us off the water and into the shelter of some familiar hostelries
Our regular band of gillies was supplemented by some new friends. In addition to our usual and regular boatmen, Jackie Coin, Tom Sullivan, John Somerville, Paddy Kineavy, Denis Fenton, and Roy Pierce, we had the pleasure of enjoying the skill and company of Mike Shanks, Peter Walsh and Enda Brown. A day in the boat with any of these is a real pleasure. Their knowledge of the water, often complemented by the gift of a local fly can make a crucial difference to the catch
By wild fishing standards, this year was a good one with a total of 173 fish caught and released (all except three or four kept for a barbeque), giving a rod average of 14 fish for the five days we fished. All principal methods were successful (traditional pulled wet flies, nymph fishing, and dry flies) but with the majority falling to wet flies on this trip although on the right day, a dry Olive Wulff did well. The best fish of the week weighed exactly 5lb and was caught by Keith Lawrence thereby winning the coveted Gillies’ Cup. The individual catching most fish during the tour was Richard Denney Jnr thereby being awarded the treasured Tour Trophy
The cliché that fishing is more than catching fish is nonetheless true. This special year was marked by a number of memorable events which included a surprise lunchtime barbeque arranged by our Irish friends on Tom Dix Island - complete with tender and succulent steaks, wine and Mike Shanks’ Cambletown malt whisky and a notable frying rod devised by that Irish design wizard, Tom Sullivan. The Tourists hosted their usual evening barbeque in Roy Pierce’s rod room and we are grateful to him for the additional use of his marquee and gas-powered barbeque and to Sorcha for many other items that contributed to the evening’s success
The Tour anniversary was marked by a meal at the splendid Delphi Lodge. This wonderful Georgian hunting lodge was ours for the evening, complete with self-service bar. The scenery was magnificent with the Lodge set in the valley of the sometimes turbulent and rocky Bundorragh River with the delightful Finlough within casting distance of the front lawn. The standard of the food and service matched the magnificence of the setting and the whole was a fitting location for this special celebration. The evening included the presentation of a bottle of the outlandishly expensive “The Middleton” Irish whiskey to Keith Nicholson in appreciation of his excellent organisation of 25 successive tours
Other peculiar incidents along with many loved and familiar features of Dooras life will long be associated with the anniversary tour: Russell Bell’s bequest of a particularly vicious and tenacious virus and his sudden ejection and full immersion from a swerving boat, an evening of music with Brendan Begley, Paddy Kineavy’s very successful wet mayfly pattern, two father and son partnerships in the party (how long will it be before we have a three-generation gathering?), many nights in O’Malley’s bar, Saturday night in Galway, and of course and most important – our Irish friends. The past 25 years have seen changes tempered with sadness for those who are no longer with us but through all, there runs the bright silver stream of friendship and laughter which shall bring us back time and again. Thank you all for twenty-five memorable years. Here’s to the next twenty-five!
Bankers, bean-counters and those whose baleful disposition reduces life to a balance-sheet of material gain, may have felt we were owed
Anglers know different: their nature is more inclined towards the equable and optimistic. Together with a soupçon of superstition, we know that our favourite waters must be treated with respect; that they are unmoved by expectations of fairness; that gifts are never looked for but gratefully accepted when proffered. Thus it was, on our 24th annual pilgrimage to Loch Corrib, we went in due humility to enjoy whatever this queen of waters would deign to offer and were duly rewarded
For 2014, the party comprised six members from the Society:
The tour followed a familiar pattern but always with something new within the well-known and well-loved pattern of people and places. Following last year's precedent, to coincide with increasingly earlier mayfly hatches, it was again decided to fish at the beginning of May. This year, the weather proved gentler and after a mild winter, olives were in evidence plus a few mayflies. A mixture of wet days, windy days and sunny and calm days suited a variety of fishing methods and fish were taken on traditional wet flies, dry flies and nymph (buzzer) patterns. The first day set the pattern for the week with several fish in the 2 - 3lb class. The fishing continued to be good and by half way through the week, we had surpassed the previous year's total. By the end of our seven days on the water, the six members of the party recorded a total of 73 fish over 12 inches in length. All were returned carefully with the best being weighed in custom-made slings before a quick release. In addition to the "official" fish, good numbers of smaller fish were caught and released
Congratulations are due to Keith Lawrence for winning the Spotty Hors Cup for the individual catching the most fish during the week with a total of 16 fish over 12 inches. These included some very fine specimens
The Keith Line Memorial Trophy for the biggest individual fish was shared by Keith Lawrence and Keith Nicholson who each caught splendid fish weighing 3lb 11oz
As usual we enjoyed the company of our experienced and familiar boatmen who have become good friends over the years and our thanks and appreciation are due to Roy Pierce for both ghillying for us and for arranging for John Somerville, Paddy Kneavey, Jackie Coyne, and Denis Fenton to be with us
One highlight amongst many, was participating in the charity competition in support of the local hospice. Once again, each of us shared boats with local anglers who were generous in their hospitality and their good company forged new friendships with mutual interest in what we could learn from each other. As in the previous year, the competition was for pairs of anglers even though each partner fished in separate boats. The Society's reputation was upheld and two of our pairs featured amongst the prize-winners with Keith Lawrence and Micky Priest securing fifth position plus the winning place in the overseas category and Keith Nicholson and Peter Thomason (entirely through the efforts of the former) secured sixth position. The prizes were kindly donated by local supporters and Keith and Peter won a day's fishing on the productive Galway weir salmon fishery and Keith and Mick a day's fishing on a good local sea-trout loch with dinner at a first-class hotel plus a day's guided fishing on Loch Mask
Success in the competition and the happy obligation to honour our prizes prompted thoughts of a return trip later in the summer to coincide with the World Wet Fly-fishing Championships on Loch Mask in late July. Watch this space for further reports!
The charm of Ireland rests as much in its hospitality as in its wonderful wild fishing and conviviality and friendship abound. O'Malley's Bar has become a home from home where the fire warms the body and the craic warms the heart. We had a wonderful evening at Greenfields, lower down the Loch, with music from the very talented Don Stiff and friends and where our old friend, Martin Conroy from the Queen Mother club, entertained us with his sublime singing voice. On these occasions, time stands still and not surprisingly, the following morning saw us on the water a little later than usual where fuzzy heads were eased by the spectacle of Jacky Coyne giving a casting lesson to Paul Wade (we await its appearance on You Tube and the possibility of going "viral")!
A regular feature of the tour is the barbecue we arrange for our Irish friends. This year Roy and Sorcha Pierce, kindly gave us the use of his rod room and awning together with tables and chairs and all domestic comforts. Another splendid evening enjoyed by all - thank you Roy and Sorcha! We were very pleased that our dear friend Kathy Manion, who despite recent and difficult surgery, managed to join us for part of the evening. We wish you a full and speedy recovery, Kathy
As always, our final night was spent in Galway; surely one of the most welcoming and amiable cities in Europe. Such are the seductive nature of its charms, we plan to recommend that our hotel should charge only for the time we spend actually sleeping there, thus saving a considerable sum to help balance the bar bill!
Now, back in England, we can look forward to the possibility of our return trip in July and more importantly, next year's official tour which will be the Silver Jubilee Tour. Plans are to be made and those who wish to participate in what shall be a memorable event are recommended to indicate their interest at an early date. In the meantime the mind recalls those magic days with the whale-backed Gable Mountain dominating the view to the east, the far and craggy majesty of the Maam Turk Mountains to the north, pine-clad islands of Creenillaun and Illaunagowna to the south and the familiar Doorus peninsula with its small protected boat havens to the west. This is a place where saints lie in rest on Inchagoill and for all, where "peace comes dropping slow". We shall return
No two Tours are ever the same but some things are constant
All fishermen soon learn to capitalise on what fortune may bring and to adapt and gain new knowledge in what, to some, may appear unfavourable circumstances. Our party of both seasoned and fledgling wild trout enthusiasts proved as adaptable as ever and demonstrated their supreme capabilities in the fine arts of reciprocal hospitality with our long-standing Irish friends
Making the pilgrimage on this 23rd occasion were:
We also enjoyed the very welcome company of John Lewis, a long-standing and regular Tourist who made his own way from his home near Tewkesbury
Three members of the party continued their record of consecutive Tours with Keith Nicholson and Micky Priest achieving a grand total of 23 annual visits and Peter Thomason a total of 13. It was good to welcome Paul Wade for his first experience of Ireland and its wild fishing
This year represented a slight departure from established tradition. We chose to fish two weeks earlier than usual as in recent seasons the main mayfly hatch has been occurring earlier and we have missed the best of this fishing. It was a sound plan but the weather gods and water spirits dictated otherwise. As at home, the winter had been cold and the spring was late. With trees hardly in leaf and no hatches of our precious mayflies and olives, it was a case of settling in to assiduous prospecting with small wet flies around shallows and reefs, seeking feeding fish wherever we could find them
Bringing forward the Tour date did however bring a significant bonus. We were able to join Tom Sullivan's annual charity match to raise funds for the local hospice and had the great pleasure of being paired with local anglers. Our partners proved the kindest and most welcoming of hosts, sharing knowledge, techniques, fly patterns and an easy camaraderie. As ever in fishing, if success is measured in captured trout alone, the real pleasure is missed: here we made good new friends. Not that material success eluded us: Keith Nicholson and Vince Brooks demonstrated their adaptability and skills by winning fourth prize for their performance as a pair and other individuals from our party achieved catches to match some of the best local anglers. In token of our many years association with this area, its people and past memories, we were very pleased to donate the finance for a trophy to be presented at this annual event and will be looking forward to the opportunity of fishing for it in many years to come
The weather presented a mixture of challenges over seven potential fishing days. Conditions ranged from good calm nymphing conditions to cold stormy weather and one day proved too rough to go afloat. Despite attempts with dry flies and nymphs, the lack of hatching flies dictated that pulling traditional wet flies was the successful method. Catches were not plentiful but considering the conditions, we did quite well with a grand total of 39 fish over the 12-inch limit (all returned). The best fish of the Tour was a splendid 2lb 3oz specimen of well-marked, hard fighting Corrib trout caught by Vince Brooks. This achievement won him the Keith Lyne Memorial trophy. The Spotty Hors Cup for the individual catching most fish over the 12-inch limit was won by Keith Nicholson with a commendable 8 fish
As ever, the social aspect of the Tour was as important as the fishing. O'Malley's bar provided its inimitable blend of superb Guinness, a warm fire and warm smiles from our Cornamona friends. Not only did the spring and the fly hatches prove late but remarkably this year, so did Christmas which was celebrated on 2nd May. We had great pleasure in entertaining our Irish friends to a traditional Christmas at our comfortable lodgings. Decorations were hoisted, including a particular selection of extra strong, electronically tested latex balloons. A wonderful meal of roast turkey, baked ham, wild smoked salmon (caught and donated by Tom Sullivan), prawns, Christmas pudding and apple crumble was produced by excellent teamwork overseen by head chef Keith Nicholson. Carols were sung and peace and goodwill were in abundance. In such ways traditions are founded and we look forward to future Cornamona Christmases!
It is always sad to leave this magical place where marks on Corrib are now as familiar as those on Bewl. Whilst casting a fly in Dunster's Bay or drifting off Ferry Point, the mind will drift back to Fiddler's Acre, Laffey's Island and Oaklands Bay. Memories will sustain us until we return to our old haunts and our good friends. Happy Christmas!
Each year, new and old hands at the Tour look forward with anticipation to meeting again with our Irish friends and, for some, renewing a lengthy bond with Corrib, the queen of wild limestone loughs
In any long relationship, there have been times of bliss and times of bleakness: what would this year bring? Last year was wild and catches limited, would this year prove as testing? As in all good stories, the tale was told in the telling.
Our party for the 22nd Tour comprised the following stalwarts:
For Keith Nicholson and Mickey Priest, it was the continuance of a perfect record of attendance, having been on every Tour since the start in 1990. For Peter Thomason it was his 12th successive Tour. Of additional note was the birthday of Colin Findley which fell neatly in the week and necessitated additional celebration, conviviality, and the sampling of a hitherto little-little known but high-octane mixture of tequila, vodka, and Red Bull together with the singing of songs and the aching of heads
This Tour was also notable for our splendid accommodation (found with the assistance of Kathy Mannion) which provided us with the unusual luxury of a separate room for each Tourist, many with en-suite facilities! The domestic arrangements were further enhanced by the expert culinary skills of Keith Nicholson, Colin Findley, and Keith Lawrence who provided splendid cooked breakfasts, including smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, and substantial suppers. They further enhanced the week by organising the barbecue which has become a regular feature of the Tour where we are able to entertain our Irish friends
The fishing proved to be interesting and mixed. Our first day blew a gale which fortunately did not set the pattern for the week. Conditions varied from high winds to nearly calm and provided the opportunity to fish traditional pulled wet flies, dry flies, and nymphs. All methods produced fish, most coming to the wet fly but dries bringing nearly a third of the total of 48 "keepers" (we only count fish over 12 inches in length and all fish are returned alive)
The Spotty Hors trophy for the individual catching most fish was closely contested with Mickey Priest and Vince Brooks ending the week with 9 fish each. The winner was decided on the basis of which of the two had the fewer blank days and was duly awarded to Vince Brooks who had one compared with Mickey's two
The Ghillie's Cup for the biggest fish of the week as won by Russell Bell with a fish of 2lb 12oz, caught, as were most of his fish, on a dry Wulff pattern
Needless to say, the week passed quickly with much hilarity and good companionship. Mickey Priest gained celebrity status by being interviewed for a DVD on Irish trout fishing; the Chairman could not understand why the hire car would not move when the accelerator was pressed (only to find the engine was not running); an emergency return to the house had to be arranged because an oven had been left on; and some of the party were confused in a lift. Incidents such as these would normally have qualified for serious consideration for the notorious "TC" Award (generally understood to refer to the Team Clown although it is rumoured there may be alternative interpretations). Perhaps the passing years may bring wisdom and sobriety, perhaps the Tourists have become wily, but I suspect that by now we are all equally capable of those senior moments which can so easily achieve TC distinction. So, by common consent and with due ceremony, the TC Award was solemnly superannuated and the cup consigned to a suitable resting place in the River Corrib under the bridge where salmon swim through the city of Galway
The Tour ended suitably in lovely and lively Galway where music, good company, and some more strange drinks were found in abundance. and now back home, we shall fill our time catching rainbows, singing a chorus of The Fields of Athenry, and looking forward to another Corrib encounter
The forecast was perfect, steady west-south-west winds, mild overcast skies, and this year, no volcanic ash from Iceland to upset our plans
Fly dressings had been shared and tied in expectation of good hatches of lake olives and mayflies. CO2 cylinders had been removed from lifejackets ready for the flight. Favourite hip-flask fillers had been purchased in the airport. All was well. All was anticipation
The gale arrived at about the same time as the intrepid fishing party. It stayed almost for the duration, blasting our dreams and fantasies in a hooley of tangles and black-fingered squalls. Undaunted, this year's party fished on and enjoyed whatever could be hard won from the ever changing Corrib. We were:
It was the 21st successive tour for founders Keith Nicholson and Mick Priest; the 11th for Peter Thomason; and the first for Russell Bell. John Lewis made the journey by ferry and car and proved invaluable in transporting quantities of essential liquid refreshment which he kindly and generously donated to our various social events
Some fish were caught, despite the weather. Surprisingly, fishing dry mayfly imitations proved one of the most reliable methods (olive Wulff patterns). The total catch for the week was a meagre 16 "keepers" (i.e. fish over 12 inches in length) all of which were released. The best fish of the week was taken by Keith Nicholson and weighed a splendid 3 lb 14 oz, taking the coveted Ghillies' trophy. Thanks to Keith's ingenuity, we are now able to weigh specimen fish rather than guessing according to length. The "Spotty Hors" trophy for the angler catching the most keepers was tightly contested with three of the tourists catching three fish. The deciding factor was then which three weighed most and the award was presented to Keith Lawrence
The weather had no effect on the levels of conviviality and hilarity and on the time spent with our Irish friends who were entertained in what is now a regular feature of the tour: a barbecue with the best Irish steaks, Guinness, wine and cider. Music and singing featured including a burst or two on the spoons from the Chairman. As usual, the week went all too quickly and the last night saw us in our usual haunts in Galway where we undertook the onerous duty of being preliminary goodwill ambassadors in advance of the Queen's much publicised visit to Ireland. Judging from the publicity granted to Her Majesty, we obviously succeeded and await our rewards in the New Year Honours
Finally, the much avoided TC honour was awarded to himself by the Chairman for several acts of absent-mindedness which he blames on too much wind!
We will return!
The annual tour to fish the mayfly on Loch Corrib was a special one this year
It was the 20th anniversary of the tour with two TWFFS members having been on every tour since its commencement in 1990: Keith Nicholson and Mick Priest, and the tenth successive tour for the Chairman, Peter Thomason
The tour was also special in that the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland nearly prevented our departure and contingency plans were made hastily for journeying by car and ferry. Fortunately, at the last hour, airports were declared open and we managed to get away on our scheduled flights
This year the party comprised:
Regrettably, John Lewis (Porridge-Maker Extraordinary and a regular supporter of the tour), had to cancel at the last moment because of ill health. We are pleased to report he has now recovered and we look forward to his company in future years
The tour commenced with two days' fishing out of Headford on the east of the Loch. Here there was good fishing to buzzer patterns and dry fly under the expert tutelage of Larry McCarthy and Andrew Boyd. Corrib had experienced the same cold winter as here in Kent and the mayfly was only just beginning to show. For those that could fish the small dry flies on light leaders recommended by Larry, there could have been excellent returns. Adjusting to very light leaders was a challenge for some of the party whose reactions remained in the industrial or agricultural category rather than the requisite delicacy of touch (much to our tutors' frustration and amusement)
The traditional part of the tour commenced with our arrival at the Dooras Peninsula at the north of the loch. Here conditions remained difficult with cold northerly winds and relatively sparse mayfly hatches but the warm welcome of our regular boatmen and other local friends provided ample compensation. The open fire and liquid refreshment in O'Malley's bar provided much needed physical comfort!
Although the total catch was relatively poor, some very good individual fish were caught (and carefully returned). Best fish of the week fell to a black Diawl Bach fished as one of a team of nymphs on a floating line by Peter Thomason - a magnificent 22.5 inch specimen weighing over 6lb. After an epic struggle assisted by the expert boat handling of Roy Pierce who had to row after the fish at one point, the fish was landed, admired, photographed, revived and returned to grow on to double figures for future years. The Chairman's hands only ceased to shake after the second tot of whisky! There are fish in glass cases around the loch that are not as big!
The total catch for the week was a relatively meagre 48 fish but fortunately no-one blanked. Compared with the usual high productivity of our home rainbow-stocked waters, this is a low catch rate but here we are dealing with wild brown trout in wild waters. That's why we go: some years are plentiful; some are difficult; all are enjoyable!
The tour trophy (the Spotty Hors Cup) was won by Simon Newman with a total of 12 keepers and the runner-up was Keith Nicholson with 10 keepers. The TC award was awarded to Mick Priest for a moment of Sage memory loss and for being the only car pointing west on a one-way street in Galway where all others were driving east. Well done Mick!
Our Irish friends ensure we have a good time. Social events included the singing of the songs, the drinking of the drink, and the telling of the tales. It was our pleasure to arrange a barbeque which our friends made a huge success (including a whole sirloin obtained with the help of Paddy Kineavy and which allowed our extraordinary chefs to demonstrate their talents
On what should have been our final evening at Dooras, the Irish reciprocated with a special meal at O'Malley's pub. After our usual sad farewells and our final night in Galway we were once again under the shadow of the volcano and this time our return flight was cancelled, necessitating an extra night's stay for all but two of the party. Cathy Manion played valiant host by finding us places to sleep on spare beds and furniture and feeding us a full cooked breakfast in true Irish hospitality. A drive across the width of Ireland to Dublin airport found us a flight to London and home at last
Another memorable tour. We shall be back!
Seven members of the Society made the 19th annual pilgrimage to Lough Corrib in the west of Ireland on the 7th of May for eight days of fishing for wild brown trout in the most beautiful of surroundings
We were to spend 2 days fishing in the south of the lough from Ballindiff before heading north to fish from the Doorus peninsular for six days
On our arrival we were met with very strong winds and there was debate if we would be able to get afloat the next day. We met with our ghillies at Ballindiff harbour and fortunately for us the wind abated slightly overnight and it was agreed that we would fish. On the second day there was even less wind but still blustery
None of us had fished this part of the lough before so we were totally reliant on the knowledge of our ghillies. We were lucky to have the services of Larry McCarthy, Andrew Boyd, Don Stiffe and Brendan? All knew the lake like the back of their hands and put us on the best drifts. This part of the lough is renowned for its buzzer fishing but the strong winds restricted our ability to fish this method. The main line of attack was to fish traditional Irish wet flies or fish the dry mayfly patterns
The fishing wasn't easy, it rarely is on the Irish loughs, but we managed a total of 15 fish between 1lb 2oz (12") and a magnificent 4lb (20") fish caught by Micky Heasman over the two days - all returned. We were extremely well looked after by our hosts and will definitely be returning to this part of the lough next year
We headed north to the Doorus peninsular, which is our usual destination, to meet our old friends from the Cornamona area. As usual we were met with a warm welcome in O'Malleys Pub and much chat and many beers followed
Our ghillies this year were our usual crew of Dennis Fenton, John Somerville Jnr, Jackie Coyne, and Paddy McKeivy. The lough had been performing well in the Doorus area as it had been relatively sheltered from the strong winds of the previous week
As ever, the ghillies looked after us very well with Jackie Coyne providing the entertainment at lunchtime by singing or playing his harmonica. A big thank you to Katty Mannion for mothering us when needed. A great time was had on our last night in Doorus with much singing in O'Malleys Pub. The presentation of trophies also took place on the last evening and the awards were won as follows:
2010 will be a special year as it's the 20th year we have visited the Corrib. I am sure we will be celebrating the event in style. If you are interested in fishing Lough Corrib next year please let me know