Ballybay, Carrickmacross and Blaney

Carrickmacross is the most underrated angling holiday centre in Ireland. 

Lakes of all shapes and sizes, together offering fishing to suit everyone, surround the lively market town

Big bream specialists regard “Carrick” among the very best places in Ireland, with years of specimen fish awards coming from Lough na Glack and Monalty Lake.

Monalty Lake singularly produces more Irish specimen bream each year than any other water in the country with plenty of fish between eight and 10lb, usually on breadflake, corn and maggots. There are ponds loaded with brightly coloured rudd, more then enough tench, vast lakes alive with roach and hybrids – you name it and it’s here.

It is a market town stacked with lively pubs and places to eat, located 65 miles from Dublin (about 80 minutes by car), making it perfect for short fishing breaks. A mate and I “discovered” Carrickmacross by accident after looking for somewhere to fish on the way back to the ferry from a week in Cavan. We had been told about a relatively quiet, shallow lake, called Rahans that could be depended on for instant fishing. The decision to stop and fish gave me one of the memorable days when everything went right and rounded off a brilliant week. 

It was easy enough to find beside the Carrickmacross to Drumconrath road and there was plenty of room because there was nobody else on the lake! There is something like 100 acres of water, though only one bank seemed fishable and the bank was soft peat, so I’d imagine it would be tricky after very wet weather. There were half-a-dozen swims that had signs of having been fish so I chose one right in the middle and it turned out to be about three metres deep with a soft, but clear, bottom.

Thankfully there was a nice facing breeze. Apart from the scientific elements that such a surface wind brings the warmest water and natural food to encourage the fish, I feel that the broken surface affords the angler cover and lets him fish more boldly than under calm conditions.

Not that I was going to do anything rash. I chose a straight bomb rig on a swingtip and plumbed the depth before doing anything else. Then I catapulted eight walnut size balls of light brown crumb mixed with caster about 30 metres out, but dropped another four balls on a 10 metre line for the pole. I used a ½ ounce Arlesley bomb on a line and a two metre tail finished of with a size 16 hook carrying two bronze maggot – and I got a four ounce roach on the drop straightaway.

It was that sort of day, with lots of roach with nothing over six ounces, hybrids to about 1lb and half-a-dozen bream to 2lb. About every 20 minutes or so I would lob a small ball of groundbait on the pole line and after about three hours decided to have a change by coming inshore. It was a rare treat with a shoal of bream to 3lb sitting there, waiting to be caught. It was a real drag having to pack up and head off for the ferry home. And to this day I’ve never been back to Rahans, but I’ll bet those fish are still there to be caught.

Carrickmacross is in County Monaghan. Apart from the prolific Carrickmacross waters there are two other important angling centres - Ballybay and Castleblayney - both with a great variety of fishing and plenty of places to stay.

Steeped in fishing tradition, this busy small town is surrounded by the Dromore River system plus lakes of all shapes and sizes. Lough Major is the town lake and located a stones throw from the main street. It covers 200 acres and the easy access has attracted first-day sessions for umpteen years and it can normally be relied upon to provide good fishing with bream to 3lb, hybrids and roach on the feeder, pole or waggler. However, there are better waters including White Lake, noted for its large fat spring tench and Corravoo where a stretch of shallow water (up to 10ft) makes it an ideal waggler and long pole venue for a break away from feeder fishing. 

Lough Muckno is a long-standing attraction capable of terrific sport, whether it is pole fishing for roach or chucking a groundbait feeder 40 metres for black-backed bream. The massive lake also has a reputation for superior pike fishing with plenty taking the scales around the 25lb mark.

The most popular stretches of lake are at White Island, which is reached through the gates to Hope Castle to the east of the town and is by far the most popular coarse fishing venue on the lake and produces great catches every year. Waggler, pole and feeder methods all produce results at this location. 

Concra Wood must have room for about 40 anglers on comfortable banks with fishing into depths of around four metres, making it the perfect pole and waggler venue. This area produces great catches of quality roach but all the other species listed are regularly taken.

Spring fishing in Gas Lake – an extension of Muckno – can be outstanding during May and early when June as the bream congregate for spawning, but strangely these days, few anglers bother to make the 100 metre walk to the best pegs.

While anglers staying in Castleblayney spend most of their time fishing on Muckno, there are other lakes in the area or they “cherry pick” the best known waters at Ballybay and Carrickmacross, both only nine miles away.

Published in Angler’s Mail

By Dave Houghton

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