One of the first Irish Festivals of 2020 took place on Inniscarra lake over the past weekend. Daiwa consultant Cathal Hughes was defending the title he won back in 2019 and here he gives us a brief insight into how things went.

Firstly, the festival was run under the strictest of health and safety guidelines in accordance with government advice and regulations in the battle against the spread of the Coronavirus .

My day 1 draw put me on peg 27 on the Graveyard section. Although initially this wasn’t my favoured rotation, it was still a decent draw and I expected to catch a few. My plan revolved around catching roach on the feeder, long pole and hopefully whip. I plumbed up four and six gram floats for fishing just off bottom at 11 metres into 14 foot of water. For the feeder, I put up a 10’ N’Zon S rod for fishing braid direct at 18 metres and just in case it was ‘solid’, I assembled a 4.5m Connoisseur speed whip, which had a 4gram DH series 19 whip float attached. On the whistle, I balled both the long pole and whip line with groundbait and started on the feeder. It didn’t take long before the full section realised that we weren’t in for the usual bag up session the venue is famed for. Bites were hard come by, but I plugged away on the tip catching odd fish while regularly feeding the pole line in the hope that the fish might make an appearance later in the match. Thankfully, with two hours to go, I tried the pole for the umpteenth time and the float buried!  I caught steadily for the remainder of the match, finishing with 146 roach which registered 8.500kgs, which was amazingly, enough to win the day overall. A great start to the festival, but I genuinely felt that because the fish had arrived late in the match, those going to the section the next day would bag up.  

Day two I was heading to ‘A’ section which was the Garden Centre. A low draw was essential for a good weight and I went into the draw bag hoping to draw between 1 and 3. I think I was the only one surprised to see peg 1 looking at me when I opened my hand and to say I was relieved would be an understatement, but I still needed to do the business. Peg one is the deepest peg on the section and requires top sixes to fish past 9 metres. I settled on a line using 8 sections (11m) of pole, but in order to make swinging in fish easier, I replaced the full number four sections with half fours. I also set up five and six meter whips to cover all eventualities, along with the customary feeder rod which remained the same as the day before. As was the situation the previous day, the match started slowly. No fish showed on the pole but I was getting bites on the feeder at 15m. With little distance between the pole and feeder swims, I was confidant that it was only a matter of time before the fish would come within pole range. Surprisingly, it was almost halfway through the match before I finally started to catch on the pole, but when I did, it was game on. Having to remove only two sections had me catching at a reasonable speed and I finished with 180 roach which weighed 10.800kgs, which was once again enough to win the day. Much to my surprise the Graveyard fished terribly with only 3kgs winning the section. This was probably due to water levels rising significantly overnight, completely affecting the fishing.

Going into day three I was only 4.5kgs ahead of Robert Holt who had amazingly finished 2nd overall on both the previous days. With Rob heading to the Graveyard and me to the Greenway, I wasn’t feeling very confident of holding onto my title as I couldn’t see the graveyard fishing badly two days running. Peg 15 was the one to draw on the Greenway but I’d settle for anywhere down that end of the section. I wasn’t too pleased to pull 21 from the bag and felt that it was game, set and match to Rob when he drew my winning peg on the Graveyard! It was an out-in-out feeder job on the Greenway and I set my self a target of 4.5kgs. With the water level coming up a few meters overnight, I decided on the advice of Shane Dunne to fish a little further than those around me. Shane had fished peg 22 the previous day and after a very slow start,  unclipped and went further where he started getting bites almost immediately. So I chose a line at 35 turns and hoped for the best. I kicked off feeding a dry’ish mix through an N’Zon 40gm medium cage feeder. This I hoped would help create some fish attracting activity in the swim. Once the fish arrived and I started to get regular bites, I dampened the groundbait mix a little to reduce activity. Doing this helps keep the fish on the deck and definitely reduces the amount of bites you miss. I fed this stogger mix through a small window feeder which kept everything tight and direct in a difficult blustery side wind. Although I had ample amounts of caster with me, I chose not to feed any.  The only loose feed I added to the groundbait was small pinches of maggots and pinkies. I felt that due to the size of fish I was catching, this was a better ploy and would keep fish in the swim for longer periods and help avoid those quite spells that most anglers seemed to be experiencing.  This seemed to work and I had a reasonably straight forward five hours putting on average 25 fish into the net per hour. I was very surprised to see that my 122 fish registered 7.030kgs, which was enough to win the Greenway.

I was asked after the match why I had used a 10’ rod in such blustery conditions, my reasoning was that it cast the feeder at a lower trajectory which helped with accuracy and also because it was closer, helping me spot the tiniest of bites. Unluckily for Rob, the Graveyard had fished terribly and he struggled for 3.5kgs, which meant I’d defended the title. Adrian Bus shot up the leader board with a final day’s match winning 10kgs catch, which secured 3rd place in the festival for him. Irish International Jordan Hall’s 7.300kgs was enough for him to finish 2nd on the day and my 7kgs was enough to take 3rd in the daily prizes. A sincere thanks to Tommy Lawton for organising and running the event in difficult circumstances, along with all the stewards that did the weigh-ins and to Eileen Martin and the staff of O’Callaghan’s bar for their hospitality. A mega thanks to Duncan Lennox for his continued sponsorship of the event, it’s very much appreciated by all, who I hope to see back next year, where I’ll be doing my best to make it three in a row.