Fishing Folklore?

The myths, traditions and legends, affect every area of life and explains why the beautiful reed-fringed Crannog Lough has lay untouched for 40 years as anglers feared the ‘Curse on Bream’ imposed by a local Priest.

In terms of ‘Irishness’ this is a recent event and took place about 40 years ago when some visiting anglers upset a local farmer, we know not why, who complained to his local Parish Priest. The story goes that the Priest decreed to the congregation during his Sunday sermon: “From this day there will no bream fishing and no more bream caught on Crannog Lough".

And since that time, only winter pike anglers in their boats have ventured on to the 60 acre lake …. that is until the bold Ivan O’Connell, an Irishman from Broadford in County Clare, gave in to his overwhelming urge to try new waters and catch a lot of fish.

“In fairness I was not aware of the curse until after my first session”, he recalled. “I had discovered a spot that gave a good depth close in and was suitable for pole fishing – my favourite method – but it involved a 300 metre walk and I was looking for somewhere a bit handier”.

Ivan’s search brought him face-to-face with a farmer from the parish, who explained about the curse and told him he was wasting his time – but by that time our hero had already taken a big catch of large bream and there was no turning back.
In fact his biggest catch of bream was 78 that he considered to be 390lbs, based on the fact that most of 5lb but some are nudging the 7lb mark; apart from that it would be madness and cruel to attempt weighing such a staggering haul of fish.
What is more, the catch was completed in less than six hours and when Ivan packed up he could hardly walk to his car.
I was on a fishing break of my own and staying at Clondanagh Cottage, a delightful small guesthouse specialising in angling holidays, close to Tulla and absolutely surrounded by lakes and river; in fact the house has its own private shoreline and fishing jetties at the bottom of the garden!

Dorothy Landers, the owner, told me all about Ivan and his cursed lake, and a quick telephone call later, everything was in place for me to go bream fishing at Crannog Lough.

It was to be a 5.30am start and Ivan was at the water the evening before, dumping 30 tennis ball-size helpings of groundbait into his swim. My personal early morning preparations largely revolved around stuffing charms into my pockets to ward off and wickedness. It worked well for me but poor old Ivan didn’t bother – something that surprised me because he is an insurance broker – and even before we got going, he was forced to swap cars twice after running out of petrol, then suffering a puncture.

The Fishing was Brilliant

A breathtaking sight greeted us as we reached the water’s edge. It was shortly before seven o’clock and his swim was alive with big bream rolling on the flat calm oily surface, a scene enhanced by a steamy mist and shafts of the early sun edging around a cloud.Ivan drew his powerful 14 metre pole from its bag and chose a top section carrying a beefy 18s hydro elastic capable of dealing with large bream; fish that are unlikely to have ever seen a baited hook before.

The depth of water was seven metres and he opted for a four gramme bodied pole float, 6lb main line with 4lb line carrying a size 12 hook intended to carry a combination of red maggots and worm baits.

“My groundbait for pre-baiting consisted of breadcrumb (two-thirds brown and one of white as a binder), a bag of flavoured continental groundbait, mixed with casters, corn, 4mm halibut oil pellets and dead white maggots”, Ivan revealed.

“Anglers coming to Ireland should choose their favourite flavour because it doesn’t really seem to matter on the lakes in Clare because they are rarely fished. I also freeze the white maggots so that they don’t crawl away into the mud”.

Ivan had cut away the tall reeds to reveal a firm lake bed and placed his fishing platform close to the edge of the deep water. “My advice for anyone tackling these big deep waters, is forget about fishing-to-hand with long pole gear, simply because it becomes impossible to handle if the wind gets up. Of course, you can catch a lot of fish on a groundbait feeder or straight bomb and there is nothing more pleasant that catching bream on a sliding float – so the choice is yours”.

Having laid a carpet of feed the evening before, Ivan decided to hold back on groundbait until he got a feel for what was happening under the water. Incredibly, considering the number of fish topping in his swim (and nowhere else on the lake), the first half-an-hour was absolutely biteless. Then the float started going under but only as the fish became foul-hooked; at times the olivette was being held up, probably hanging on the back of the fish.

The swim was stuffed full of bream and Ivan hooked and lost seven before he got a nice cleanly hooked fish that simply didn’t want to leave the water and battled furiously to stay with the shoal. Its head was covered in spawning tubercles but there was not scale out of place and Ivan estimated it fairly at 5lb.

With a decent fish in the net we had the all important photograph and now he could relax and decided to be a little more aggressive with a decision to begin giving the fish some groundbait, aimed at getting them down and feeding. It worked a treat eventually, though he suffered the frustration of dealing with an estimated 15 foul hooked bream altogether.

The fishing got better and better. He packed up at 11am and had 17 bream in the net, all of them between 5 and just over 6lb, which gave him a total weight of around 85lb and another potential 75lb lost off the hook. It was a memorable day full of angling’s most enjoyable essentials and a session that has put the Curse of Crannog Lough to rest.


Published by Angling Times 2008

By Dave Houghton


For somewhere to stay and fish call Dave on 0151 324 4744