We received a great email from Martin Strike, the editor of a newsletter for his local Newbury Angling Association in England. “I invite our members to send in their own fishing stories, and received the following from Keith Hallis, that I thought you might be interested in. Over 60 years on, he clearly has fond memories of his trip to Ireland and also supplied a great photo of some of the 100+ participants.”

Keith: Let’s get this straight from the beginning, I am not a match fisherman, more a pleasure fisherman. I sometimes go weeks on end and not catch anything according to my long-enduring wife. A spring day in 1962 brought a knock at our door in Harwell. ‘It’s David,’ said Mum. ‘Hi there how are you?’ David and I had been schoolfriends who lived in the same road and now, both aged 19, were fishing buddies.

David looked at me sheepishly in case he’d done wrong and blurted out, ‘I’ve booked us a fishing holiday to Ireland with Sealandair -they sponsor one of the biggest fishing events held annually.’ I knew that anglers from the U.K flocked to Ireland in the day, encouraged by the excellent coarse fishing. To mine and David’s relief, they were happy for us to go on this adventure. As the day to go drew near our expectation grew. It was going to be our first ever flight, which only added to the excitement. On the day itself, Dad drove us up to Luton airport in our Morris Oxford (sometimes nicknamed Morris Canhardly, due to the fact we once reached half way up Porlock Hill in Devon but had to turn back because of the steepness).

When we arrived at the airport it was announced our flight to Dublin had been re-routed to Manchester. There were all these peeved anglers mainly from the Midlands, all with rods, creels and tackle boxes waiting to board a coach to the Ringway airport. Eventually we got there and boarded our plane, a Vickers Viscount. Being a turbo prop the take-off was quite sedate however the decent had sudden drops in altitude, so not for the faint hearted – but our flight went without hitch, though David and myself could not get a beer due to the fact that everyone had their finger on the buzzer used to get the attention of the air hostess. Thirsty lot those Midlanders.

We eventually arrived at Dublin airport and were ushered on to another coach. We were told we were going to Clones, a small town in the west of the county of Monaghem. After singing all the Irish songs we knew and grabbing some sleep the delay and re-routing meant that we didn’t arrive to the centre of Clones until 4 in the morning where, to our surprise, the rapturous applaud of cheering locals which will long stay in my memory. I could not believe that most of the inhabitants had been waiting all night to welcome us. The census of 2016 recorded a population of 1,680 and I reckon nearly all of the town were there. Despite the unearthly hour, we were immediately taken to a hall where there were long tables lovingly set out for a banquet meal with a welcome speech made by a local dignitary.

A couple of hours after this amazing welcome meal and having been shown our rooms in the Hibernian hotel, we all gathered in the market square for a group photograph as shown. David and me are on the far right. David is wearing a hat and I am clutching – you guessed a can of beer! Note the cane baskets and the number of anglers wearing ties, not the usual attire today for angling!

Some of the English visitors in 1962. Note the smart dress and cane baskets!

The Sealandair match took place at a number of venues all over Ireland with participants probably running in to hundreds. Our match was held on the river Finn which flows immediately to the south of Clones and was recognised as an excellent coarse fishery with good quality bream and roach. We duly arrived at Annies Bridge 4.5 km out of town .

There were deep sluggish reaches with clean banks and this section was a popular match section with capacity for 50 anglers. I drew a good peg, with my set up being a simple ledgered arlesey bomb with maggots or worm – all bait being provided by Salandair. At the end of the match I had caught four bream for a total weight of twelve pounds. I was pleased with this, though in hindsight might have done better if I’d used groundbait like some of the others. The winner in our location finished third overall, having caught 85lbs of bream.

The next day David and myself decided to pleasure fish one of the 60 lakes within a 5 mile radius of Clones. We used a float set up and maggots. Two hours passed and nothing then suddenly David’s float went under, at last a rudd. For the next two hours it was a rudd every cast for us both. We were well chuffed. The next day we left Dublin for home in a Fokker Friendship – well named as David and myself still keep in touch. My dad greeted us at Luton airport. ‘Welcome back, did you have a good time?’ What do you think? We had a fantastic trip that 61 years on, I still remember fondly. Since then, I’ve fished with David many times, though never again in Ireland.

Keith in more recent times

It was many years before I took up match fishing again. It was one morning I had turned up at Willows lake to do some pleasure fishing to be greeted by the voice of Dave Smith come and join us on Alders lake which I did rather nervously. I have enjoyed many fishing matches on the way, needless to say not that successfully! The social side of meeting other members is a bonus, so please do come along enjoy the fun and the challenge!