Mick Ellyatt is this year’s Carrick on Shannon Festival winner. Here is his account from a great week spent in Ireland.
We arrived in Carrick around Friday tea time and managed ‘a few’ liquid refreshments. The next day gave us chance to practice a couple of the sections used in the festival. John Williams and myself went to Cloonahee, Matt Herbert and Arnold went to the Mudflats section on the Shannon.
I had a reasonable day fishing the feeder, trying to tune up my skills with braid on the reel while Matt and Arnold sacked up on the river. On the Sunday we went to the Rocks section and all tried to catch on the pole… and didn’t! However, Arnold and some of the other anglers caught skimmers on the feeder. What did we learn? Nothing really, as everything worked on the river, Cloonahee wasn’t going to be used because a dubious weather forecast meant the platforms could flood and I was sure (well, hoped) the fish would turn up on the pole line on the Rocks.
On Sunday evening we had the section draw. John always draws for us and he was under strict instructions to be on the river first day. The river gets worse through the week and more peggy, so for a better days fishing and a better chance of good points I prefer to be there early (not that we ever are!). He drew us the Pump House on Loch Scur, so we would be on the river on Wednesday. It could have been worse.
Monday – Loch Scur
Monday I wanted an early peg on the Pump House. Pegs 1 to 3 would be ideal; 4 at a push. I drew 7! Although an end peg it’s at the back of a shallow bay and not good. Last year I drew the same peg and won the section (and match) with 12.5kg made up of nearly 300 fish caught at 11.5 metres. Unfortunately, I’ve probably drawn pegs 6 to 9 about 10 times and every other occasion has been a blow out.
I didn’t think lightning could strike twice but saw no reason to do anything differently to last year. That meant a pole at 11.5m up the shelf, a whip at 4m to hand and a feeder rod. If I picked that up I was in deep trouble!
I fed caster and chopped worm at 11.5m and loose fed caster on the whip line. A 1.5g pole rig was used to ‘crash’ through the tiny fish and catch the small fish underneath. I caught straight away. The fish were not big but probably 15 to the kilo so I could hopefully build a weight. Unfortunately, the fourth fish was had by a pike. Many others I hooked were chased, some grabbed and some lost but after an hour I had 45 fish for about 3kg.
I found that I had to use lighter rigs to keep fish coming, plus the size of the fish was getting smaller and the catch rate decreasing as the pike caused havoc. The second hour produced 35 fish for about 2kg, not bad but a worrying decline that continued into the third hour. This only produced 20 fish and they were small, a kilo at most.
I picked the feeder rod up and continued to feed the pole lines, hoping to calm things down and get back on it later. The feeder produced four skimmers an odd hybrid and small fish in the last two hours. The whip and pole produced a few quick fish followed by pike mayhem and no bites.
I could see pegs 2 and 3 catching and felt my lead was disappearing. I just couldn’t put any fish in the net consistently. I was the last to weigh in and 8.05kg was winning so I was worried! I had 7.9kg and was gutted. What I didn’t realise until I signed my sheet was that there was another 8kg, so I was 3rd in section! I knew today would be costly. Carrick is a points festival and always close. Two points had slipped through my fingers – or been ripped out by pike!
Tuesday – Kiltybarden
Tuesday I was at Kiltybarden. I wanted pegs 5-7 but drew 3. Kilty had been fishing poorly and pike were causing major problems so I set up everything. I started on the long pole at 13m and the second fish was taken by a pike. Picking up the waggler rod and bites were slow and difficult to hit from tiny fish. I spent time on the feeder but it was flat calm. Pegs 4-7 had some ripple and were catching odd skimmers and hybrids on the feeder but if I got a bite it was a small roach. I tried the pole again and the line was now swarming with pike!
Halfway through the match I had less than 2kg. I had fished everything two or three times and had no idea how to turn things around unless I could catch very close in. I had fed lines left and right at 3m, tried it early and caught a few small fish. I tried it again and finally started to put a few small fish together. It wasn’t hectic, but at least I was putting something in the net. This had to be the way to go, although I knew if a pike turned up here I was finished.
With two hours to go I decided to count what I caught for the next hour. I caught 94 fish. It wasn’t straight forward, as the fish were not actually on the feed but all around it and by a distance at times but they had to weigh something and the odd better roach of an ounce or two was now appearing with the plimps. I only caught 61 in the last hour but the quality had improved, plus odd hybrids and better roach were showing. Amazingly, I weighed in 7kg for a section win!
Wednesday – Mudflats
At the midway point I wanted pegs 5-7 on the Mudflats and got 7, the downstream end peg. Pegs 5 and 6 had been first and second on the first two days but I was more than happy with this peg. What could possibly go wrong? Well, it was hot, sunny and there wasn’t a breath of wind, so the skimmers wouldn’t feed. If the hybrids didn’t either then I would probably want a peg at the other end of the section to catch some roach!
I set up two feeder rods and a waggler rod. Starting on the feeder at 30 turns I had bites straight away. Nothing big, but fair quality. Weed was causing an issue, though. I’m not sure what it was but it went out a long way and nearly all the fish were getting stuck in it on the way in. Most came out but a few were lost.
I did start to get pike trouble in the second half of the match. One took a hybrid and headed across the Shannon like a torpedo! I had to unclip and cast out further to keep bites coming but with an hour to go I thought I was doing well. I had caught four skimmers, about 35 hybrids and some reasonable roach… then I hooked a proper bream.
I gained a bit of line but it kited downstream and all went solid. Really solid. I could feel the fish but the snag wasn’t moving. I felt the fish come off and pulled for a break and lost the lot from the braid down. A little momentum was lost retackling but I kept fish coming to the end and won the section (and match) with 14.45kg. I was now in with a squeak but lost fish could be costly as weight would count if points were tied.
Thursday – Loch Allen
I was on Herons Shore on Loch Allen. A middle to high number was required and I got peg 7 again. Herons is very shallow so I set up two feeder rods but my number one plan was two waggler lines; a 4AA as far as I could loose feed and a 6g at 40 yards fed with soft balls of groundbait.
Through habit I started on the feeder, which wasn’t a great idea, but after 30 minutes I picked up my 14ft Acolyte Ultra and started to put fish in the net. Fishing a worm head produced better fish and I was motoring, although quiet spells started to creep in as I suspected pike were moving fish around. Then I hooked a hybrid and a pike grabbed it right in the swim. The peg nose dived.
The fourth hour I caught just three fish. There were pike everywhere! In desperation I picked the feeder rod up and chucked it as far as I could, caught a couple of small fish then went back on the waggler. I caught an odd fish but the pike were ravenous now and I could once again see a lead slipping away. I thought fishing was supposed to be relaxing, I wanted to start smoking!
I didn’t catch a fish over the loose fed caster and only nine on the further swim in the last hour. Stan was catching me up. A pike ate his waggler, which slowed him down a bit, but John was also catching.
I was last to weigh and had 6.5kg to beat. I was very concerned until I tipped my fish into the weigh net. I thought I was okay and was right. I weighed 7.95kg for another section win but again a big weight had eluded me. I put a lot of fish in my net in a 90-minute period and that got me through. I don’t remember bumping or losing a fish all day (unless it was eaten by a pike). That rod is superb!
Friday – Rocks
I was on the Rocks for the final day of the festival, not my favourite venue as it can be feeder and skimmer dominated. I was currently second on weight but could win the festival with a section win because no one else could get four wins. If I didn’t come first or second I couldn’t win because I had inferior weight.
Ideally I wanted an end peg or peg 2. I got peg 3, but was glad to avoid 4, 5 and 6. Matt had won the section off this peg with skimmers on the feeder on the first day. I set up 3m and 4m whips, rigs for 11.5m up the shelf, a waggler rod and a feeder rod. If I picked up the waggler rod I was in deep trouble!
An hour on the feeder produced two bites, a skimmer and a plimp. Little was being caught. I went on the pole and caught 40 fish in an hour for about 2kg. Again the fish were away from the feed. Odd fish were being caught on the feeder but they were not big. I thought if I could catch 2kg an hour and weigh in 8kg-plus it would be a good target.
I did catch steadily for the next two hours but found I was chasing fish. The 3m whip produced zero and 4m a few quick fish before they backed off. As the match went on a few more fish were being caught around me on the feeder but nothing stunning and my last hour was the best.
I used a light 4×12 (0.2g) rig on the 4m whip and caught 50 fish with some 6oz hybrids among them. 5kg was second in the section and I was really pleased to win the section and the match with 9.55kg. A great end to a great week on a really friendly Irish Festival.