This St Stephen’s Day report in from Dan O’Neill of South East Casting:

Spending most of Christmas day indoors assembling different things took its toll on both me and Anthony. Taking a quick look at the weather forecast, Tuesday looked like it was going to be the best chance of a breakout for us. On Christmas Day, Anthony’s grandad told him many fishing tales and stories of enormous fish he had encountered on some of his trips to the river. Growing up just outside Gowran, the River Barrow was quite close and most of my childhood fishing was done there. With his grandads’ stories echoing in his mind (and Anthony’s imagination putting a bit of a gloss on it), guess where we were heading on St. Stephen’s Day! 

As Anthony’s grandad’s sole witness to these enormous pike, and perch I was asked plenty of questions and cross examined by Anthony. When I think back to when I was Anthony’s age, my imagination did paint a different picture than “reality.” I remember seeing a salmon jump for the first time, perhaps a fish of 7 or 8 pounds, but to my young eyes, this was a beast; how would I land such a creature if I was lucky enough to hook one? 

As St. Stephen’s day arrived, we were up quite early and headed to Gowran to dig some worms as we had decided to try canals for perch, roach and dace. I couldn’t help taking the fly rod with me, as I could at least get some practice in casting over water. We had some layers pellets with us, so we added some water, mashed bread, some soil to darken the mix and a couple of handfuls of chopped worms. 

Arriving at the river it was high and slightly coloured; the canal was going to be our best bet today. Packing up and heading to the canal, we had a nice chat on the way, and I again underwent some strong cross-examination on grandad’s stories. Anthony would ask me about different locations that his grandad had nicknamed and, of course, there was a huge fish associated with each spot. 

As we arrived at each spot, Anthony asked me to name them. We had gone what we called “Bull way” today due to a bull being in the field many years ago, original! The river showed up some likely-looking spots, and we did see some fish show ahead of us in the flat water, so we had plenty of hope. I mixed the ground bait up and threw in a few golf ball sized pieces to see what kind of reaction I got from the fish. Casting in the float we watched it carefully and were just glad to be out. Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long for the float to sink off slowly to one side, and we hit our first roach of the day. Some roach and dace followed, Anthony spotted a little area just above me that he liked the look of, so he moved there to give it a try. As he was up there, I took the fly rod and began casting about a bit – just practicing really – when I heard a shout and some heavy fast footsteps coming my way. Anthony was running towards me, cradling a small dace with some lacerations from its dorsal to its tail, ‘Dad – a massive pike came up when I was reeling in the dace and tried to grab it and take it; it must be the one grandad lost!!’ 

I sent Anthony to the tackle bag and told him to grab the pike flies, I set up the rod for pike, and we made our way to the scene of the attack. I had done some casting with Anthony before, so he knew how to handle and cast a sink-tip line. Anthony made a few casts across the area where the pike was, but no interest. We decided to count the fly down and fished at different depths – which paid off. Anthony drew back the fly and the water erupted with small dace and roach jumping for freedom followed by a flash, the pike was on! The fish took Anthony all over the canal and made some good runs – really giving him a feel for a pike on the fly. Watching his face as the pike leapt from the water was just fantastic. I walked slowly for the net to give Anthony some alone time fighting his prize. As the net went under the fish Anthony let a sigh of relief and I knew how he felt. 

Anthony’s prize

The pike was a nice fish, with a couple of scars and fantastic colours. What really hit home was how Anthony acted after the fish was caught, it was all about the fish. He wanted a quick picture and to help the fish recover, something I had taught him to do with every fish. As the pike recovered, he said, “Thanks Mr. Pike, see you next time”. A truly great day and a day where I got to see how Anthony is progressing on his angling journey. 

Well done Anthony 

South East Casting

Address Thomastown Kilkenny Ireland Mobile Phone: +353857652751