Dan O’Neill, Fishery Manager at Mount Juliet, cast an eye back at when he was starting out in the angling world and discovers some even older memories…

During the worrying times at present most anglers, if not all, are reminiscing of past seasons and the freedom that possibly was taken for granted. I for one certainly miss the Friday evening calls that usually resulted in my nearest and dearest rolling her eyes to heaven, and the ham and cheese sandwiches with a cup of coffee as I took a time out to discuss strategies with a fishing buddy – how best to approach a fussy fish or take a closer look at the fly hatch…

As an angler I have met some characters in my time. I won’t mention them all but one in particular has always stuck in my mind. Most of the way I approach fishing and being an angler in general is based on this man. Like someone out of a Mr. Crabtree book, Mr. Matt Bolger left a very strong, lasting impression on me. Growing up I was always interested in wildlife and indeed fishing, I first came across Matt in the Mount Juliet estate where I started my weekend job as a linen porter at the age of 14. We were introduced in a way that seemed as if it had been planned. One day, whilst carrying out my duties, I noticed a wet fly on the steps just past the fishing room. The fly was a bloody butcher, which was the fly that I caught my first trout on at the age of 4 with my dad. Dad would cast in the bubble and fly and then pass me the rod to slowly retrieve. When opening the door to the fishing room it was like a dream to me, with fly rods on the wall and numerous pictures of salmon and trout that had been caught along the Mount Juliet stretch. Upon handing the fly to Matt and stating the name of the fly he became interested in how I knew what it was. After explaining the story behind it and many other fishing tales also, I got my invite to fish the river with him.

So the day came and it was time for me to go fishing with Matt. Being young and inquisitive my constant questions raised an eyebrow and gained a sigh at times. Matt was there to fish not talk. It was clear to see that it was a case of watch and learn and I believe in angling this has stayed with me. It’s a very rewarding way of learning and probably the best. It always helped me to take  the smallest bit of information then run with it multiplying it into many different ways and techniques to tackle many angling situations. Matt told me some stories of fish that he caught when he was a ghillie in Mount Juliet, fish of 30 even 35 pounds. As anglers we all have our favourite fishing spots and secretly try to imagine or wish that we could rewind 70, 80 or even 100 years and cast a line in them.

It is something special to fish a pool that has held salmon of that size, with stories Matt told me echoing in my head; salmon being hooked and fought for 60 minutes but never landed, an afternoon’s catch for 110 pounds then realising it was between just 3 salmon. I would love to even have a dream about the pools along Mount Juliet back then and allow my mind to speculate and run wild as to how I believed it would be.

Major McCalmont left some records that only recently came to my attention. Records that backed up every word Matt had told me. If asked did I believe Matt before I saw the records, my answer would have been a very honest yes as Matt himself was always conservative with his tales and a very honest man. These handwritten records only add more wonder to the question “How did it feel to fish the river 100 years ago?”

Sadly we will never know for ourselves. The only thing that we can do is enjoy our time when the current crisis ends, not take for granted our freedom to roam the river getting to fish with our buddies again and enjoy a ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of coffee riverside, thinking that in one hundred years from now anglers will again wonder what the river was like 100 years ago.

I have sent in some pictures for you all to have a look at and I hope maybe it sparks a fond memory or indeed makes you think a little about angling and what it would be like to catch a 30 or  35 pound fish in your favourite pool.

Stay safe everyone,

Hoping to see some of you down the riverbank soon.

Dan O’Neill
Mount Juliet Estate.

Go fishing…

Mount Juliet House is set on a large estate, which offers private fishing on 2.5 miles of the middle to lower reaches of the River Nore. Mount Juliet Estate offers fishing of the highest quality, just a short stroll away from the Manor House. There is a fishing room on site in the Manor House for your convenience i.e. for storage and drying of fishing equipment. Mount Juliet Estate can also provide the necessary equipment on site if needed.

https://www.mountjuliet.ie/fishing-on-the-estate.html

For any information contact Dan,

Tel: 085 7652751

Doneill@mountjuliet.ie