The King of Clubs in Ireland is a competition close to my heart as I won it on my first visit back in 2007, as much as winning the event, the fantastic scenery and fishing created some great memories, I fished the event again in 2008 but had not been back since.
This year I decided to have another go on this festival and was looking forward to revisiting some of the sections I had fished back in the day.
My base for the trip was the Anglers Rest pub in Ballyconnell, which is spot on, offering accommodation and food including the biggest steaks in Ireland! I stayed here in 2006 for the first time with England for a four nations event and have been mates with owner Francis McGoldrick ever since.
The King of Clubs venues are all lakes around the town of Arvagh on the Gowna and usually offer a lot of pole fishing for roach and hybrids with the feeder coming into the tactics a bit less than on some other Irish festivals, that’s what I was hoping anyway, here is a run down of the brilliant days fishing I had during the week.
Gullado Cross Peg 4: Gullado Cross is a lovely straight section with parking behind the pegs and I was fortunate to draw here on the first day as I had practiced peg 5 the day before and caught a lot of small roach. Nigel Franks had practiced on my peg and fished the feeder but the skimmers hadn’t shown in numbers so it was an easy decision for me to focus on roach tactics.
Concentrating on two lines at 11m and 5m I ended up catching 15kg 230g of small fish, the best line was 11m. Initially I fed 6 balls of Spotted Fin Dark Roach ground bait at the start containing a mixture of hemp, caster and a small amount of chopped worm. Topping up this line with regular balls of the same mix using the pot and then catching a run of fish before re-feeding was my chosen tactic, I have done well before fishing like this but it can attract a smaller stamp of fish compared with loose feeding casters but on this occasion I won the section and was second on the day overall giving me a great start on the weight festival.
Derries Peg 10: Well this is an interesting section the depth varies massively along the short section. Peg 9 is the end peg and together with 10 is pretty deep the pegs to the right 11,12,13 are shallow. On my long pole line I had about 18ft at 13m and yet next door peg 11 had 9ft!
I wasn’t sure what to do here exactly and decided to fish in 9ft of depth which was at 6m and then feed a long line, again potting in a sticky rich mix, where the bottom was flat at 13m.
I had a good start but not as good as Gavin Butler on peg 9 who was slaying roach on a 5m whip but the pegs to my right were not catching that well. After and hour and a half my inside line dried up and I was forced onto the long pole but fishing in such deep water was very slow and with Gavin still catching well and Simon Godfrey now bagging on the long pole I was not enjoying the match at this point!
I had to ignore what was going on each side and just carry on. As it goes the last 2 hours of the 6 hour match were pretty good I caught a lot of hybrids and chunky roach on a 2g rig and despite the depth casters were the best bait which caught me out as I had been trying to catch on worm heads. At the weigh in Gavin put on a well deserved 21kg 760g, his tactics had been spot on chasing the fish out as the day went on. I had 15kg exactly and Simon Godfrey weighed 11kg 850g with his peg drying up late on as the fish backed away. Another great days fishing and one to remember, a few ups and downs but ok in the end!
Killykeen Forest Peg 8: This is a prolific section and really you need a decent weight here to do any good in the festival with the pegs each end doing well in the previous two days. I was not that happy to draw peg 8 in the deep middle part of the section. After negotiating the steps down to the peg I was faced with some breath taking views, one of the best looking lakes I have fished for sure.
The pole line was very deep and shelving away all the time, I spent a bit of time plumbing up and convinced myself that I had found a couple of flat spots at 5m (9ft) and 7m (double deep!) but in reality it didn’t plumb up very well at all, full of boulders and shelving away all the time. I prepped a feeder line at 27m and my gut feeling was that I was going to be fishing that to do any damage.
Ten big Guru feeding feeders of Spotted fin Dark lake were launched out on the feeder line at the start and after a pretty fruitless start on the pole I went out and had a really nice days feeder fishing.
Plenty of Hybrids from 6oz to and pound and a half plus some good skimmers up to 2lb made it an interesting days fishing and I was quietly pleased to weigh in 15kg 430g which won my section and although not up with the 20kg plus weights caught in the low numbers was still a good weight. Gavin had sacked up again with another 21kg and was now looking favourite to win the festival, I had been in the top 5 since day one and was really enjoying the fishing.
Kevins shore peg 11: I fished this section in 2007 and had a great weight of skimmers on the pole but the levels had been low and with the hot weather the quality fish had moved in close that year.
The weather was pretty windy on day 3 and I had another deep peg to contend with and also hybrid expert and serial festival winner Kevin Johnson on peg 10 next door so it was going to be tough. With the strong wind and deep water I knew I had to catch short to make things as easy as possible and after 40 minutes on the long pole I came in to a top 4 plus 1 section where there was fortunately plenty of bites from roach and small hybrids. By throwing in small balls of gb every drop in I had 220 fish for 14kg 680g using a 1.5g rig and hooking maggots for most of the match but switching to casters late on.
By the end I had got through 5kg of ground bait and a gallon of hemp and caster. Interestingly heavier floats were not as good despite the depth and wind. Kevin did his thing and weighed in 16kg 330g of chunky fish including some nice hybrids to win the section. I was happy with my match and this put me up into 3rd place overall just a few hundred grams behind Simon Godfrey but 5kg behind Gavin Butler who had another good day weighing in just under 14kg.
Rockfield peg 15: So the last day, with the top 5 anglers in the festival being a bit ahead of the rest of the field I knew anything over 10kg was going to give me a very good chance of top 3 in the festival and with Gavin so far ahead in first a place was the best I could aim for.
I haven’t fished Rockfield Lake before it seems to be an out and out roach lake, or at least I was on this day. Conditions had changed from the overcast/wet warm conditions we had been experiencing every day to clear sunny conditions but with a chilly wind and the start to this match was quite strange. I potted in 2 lines, 5m and 11m with the dark roach mix and caught straight away at 11m but after catching 25 nice roach quite quickly the fish disappeared completely!
I must admit at this point I was not sure what to do I had a feeder ready but decided to stay on the pole as the fish surely had to come back in. I started loose feeding pinkies regularly, this was my back up plan as it can be a surprisingly good method in Ireland. After about 20 minutes I started to get an odd bite from roach and slowly the peg built up nicely.
Sticking with the pinkies with the sun now warming up the water i was now soon catching well but a small stamp of fish, by counting the fish and gauging there size I felt that anything over 200 fish would give me 10kg plus despite the small stamp. I ended on over 250 fish for 12kg 750g.
Possibly there was a bigger weight in the peg if i had changed tactics after the fish had arrived but it was almost like a team match where I had to just do a job to get a result, i had tried short with casters briefly but as I was in a nice rhythm at 11m I stuck at it.
Tony Hopkins won the section narrowly from Gavin on pegs 12 and 13 with 14kg weights and Gavin had clearly done enough to hold on to top spot in the festival for the second year in a row, top angling and well deserved!
My closest “rival” Simon Godfrey had caught 10kg from a feeder peg at Gulladoo narrows and had two late bream so I had leapfrogged him into 2nd place but one more bite for Simon and it could have been the other way around.
What a great festival, the fishing had been outstanding and together with the good atmosphere and half decent weather plus the bonus of the van parked by the peg most days it had been a really enjoyable week.
If you prefer pole fishing to feeder tactics the festivals in the south of Ireland on the Gowna system are probably the ones to go on, the match was run by the Breffini arms hotel and details can be found on there Facebook page for next years events, fingers crossed I will be there.
The presentation night was well run and with some local crystal and good cash prizes well spread about there were a lot of happy faces.
Ground bait wise I stuck to the two new spotted fin Go2 Naturals mixes all week, pretty simple really I used the Dark roach on the pole and Dark lake on the feeder.
The roach mix can be very made very sticky so I initially mixed it on the dry side in the morning, then as I was using it I was generally adding hemp and casters which were both in water in the bait box and some chopped worms another wet bait. By keeping the mix dry knowing I was going to add wet baits to it I ended up with a nice sticky mix containing a lot of bait, on day three I fed over a gallon of bait through the ground bait to attract and hold the fish.
When used over wetted and sticky this ground bait is also not that active which is perfect for attracting a better stamp of fish and keeping them near the bottom, the last thing you want are particles flying up through the water column and small fish chasing them around its better to have quality fish grazing on the deck, it makes them easier to catch as well.
For the feeder fishing on Wednesday I mixed up 2/3rds of a 2kg bag of Dark lake but mixed it really dry for use with a window feeder. Mixed like this the ground bait remains quite active sending particles up into the water column from the feeder to attract the hybrids a fish that live in mid water generally and it also comes away from the feeder quickly releasing the casters and worms from inside the feeder. Dragging the feeder along the bottom for a foot or so was a good tactic on the day helping to release the bait and creating a bit of activity.
It was nice to have just one ground bait for the pole and one for the feeder, no need to combine them with anything else and by putting the unused ground bait in the bait fridge overnight it was still good to go the next day.