Lough Muckno at Castleblayney

MUCKNO is a ‘bite-a-cast’ 1000 acre lake with a big reputation for outstanding fishing and it is poised to become one of Europe’s top match venues.

Already well known for terrific sport with bream, roach, hybrids and monster pike, talks are well underway to improve access and provide almost 300 pegs along its extensive shorelines. This terrific lake is situated on the edge of Castleblayney in County Monaghan, so close to town that is is possible to walk to the water from some guesthouses. Lots of UK anglers have been taking their annual Irish fishing break in the town since the mid-1980’s when the Monaghan Pairs angling festival got underway and boosted its popularity.

While pleasure fishing holidays became the domain of the late Del Wilson who ran a BB guesthouse with his wife Kath. Del exploited the lake for its riches by taking the time to explore all of the different shorelines with his fishing tackle. Gas Lake – an extension of Muckno – became an annual pilgrimage venue each spring as dozens of fishermen trekked across the Irish Sea and then raided the bream shoals from swims hacked out from the reeds by Del alone. Some of those bulging keepnets held up to 250lb of hefty bream and yet hardly a soul makes the effort to go along and cut themselves some fishing space these days.

With help from other locals anglers he persuaded the forestry and fisheries people to get involved and chopped down trees on Black Island where even more bream where caught.

Things changed for the worse when Del died because there was nobody else in the local tourism industry quite as keen. The Monaghan Pairs is still running successfully and takes place in late September and last year’s sell-out 80 pegger chucked up a staggering average of more than 35lb per man per day across five days! The festival has been limited to 80 anglers for a long time because of the lack of access to all parts of this fine fishery ... but things are about to change.

Dick Caplice has taken up the mantle to create a fishery to stage the very biggest angling events, easy access and a supporting infrastructure. In late April I joined Dick, a 55 year old retired police officer from Carrickmacross who gets out fishing three times a week, for an afternoon session on the Concra Wood section of the lake.

Concra Wood has some of the shallowest water on the lake but still provides a depth of between two and four metres long the bankside track.

“Bream turn up sometimes”, he said while adding a few casters to his groundbait. “Though roach and hybrids catchable all year round and you can come here and tackle them with a pole, waggler or feeder. “It is a brilliant venue but has been closed to the public for the past eight years while the new Concra Wood Golf Club was under construction. But never mind that for the moment; let’s have a bit of fishing and see how things go”.

He chose a 12ft Maver Reactorlite feeder rod and was casting 40 metres into about two metres of flat-calm water under bright hazy sunshine. Dick had mixed his groundbait carefully with equal parts of Sensas Lake and Cors Gardon. Together they give a fine mix that is perfect for an open-ended swimfeeder because, spilling out plenty of attractors that work continuously in the swim to keep all species interested. The Gardon is black in order to make the groundbait colour as similar as possible to the bottom lake bed.

Dick’s mix – which carried three pints of casters - is most effective is clear water and avoids scaring the fish, particularly in a lake renowned for its big predators.

The moment he was settled, he made half-a-dozen quick casts with a loaded feeder to get some attractive feed exploding on impact with the lake bed and entice fish quickly into the area. And on the second cast his tip went round and he was on the way to a 25lb bag of small roach and hybrids averaging around five ounces and one decent hybrid.

It was very comfortable fishing with double red maggot on a 16s hook and the reel mono line clipped up at so that his tackle hit the same spot time after time.

From May until late October, anyone fishing in overcast conditions and a nice breeze breaking the surface size, can truly expect much better quality fish and double the total catch weight.

At the opposite end of the lake, White Island is the most popular spot on the whole of Lough Muckno, partly because access is easier and bream and big hybrids are often present in good numbers. The only difficulty is after heavy rainfall the access drive can be flooded. Another option is Black Island. There is some great bream fishing to be had on the pole and feeder along this shoreline but it means walking in with your tackle for about 100 metres.

“In the very near future I expect to have all of these problems solved” explained Dick, who is also the Irish Team Manager and Assistant Secretary to the European Police Federation. “My expectation is to eventually have 300 swims, most of them with good access and made possible because we now have a working relationship with Concra Wood Golf Club.

“Concra Wood shore always produced great fishing and access was ideal thanks to a car track running alongside the water’s edge. Health and Safety issues made that impossible while the golf course was under construction but we already been granted access for special events and in time for all anglers. “Plans also involve getting the authorities to help with a road on to White Island and to unlock the barrier to enable cars to be taken on to Black Island".

“There are other fishable shorelines in use now but lots more things will be in place for summer because the All Ireland Championships (an event open to all anglers) goes ahead on Sunday July 26 when I expect a sell-out field of 250 matchmen. That’s followed by the international Celtic Cup between Wales, Scotland and Ireland, taking place on Saturday and Sunday August 1 and 2".

“And there’s more to follow with the All Ireland taking place on the lake in 2010 and 2011, plus the 2012 European Police Championships that has 200 anglers representing 25 countries”.

Former World Angling Champion, Belgium’s Guido Nullens captained the winning team in the European Championships held on the Concra Wood section of Muckno in 1999. He declared it to be the best and fairest match fishing venue of all. And that is praise indeed.

According to Dick, apart from that handful of dates the lake will be available – free of charge like most places in Ireland – to all fishermen.

Anglers travelling across to Ireland on holiday are invited to email Dick as regard to access on: richardcaplice@eircom.net


Published in Angler's Mail 2009

By Dave Houghton


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