Inland Fisheries Ireland and Izaak Walton’s New Disciples

Pupils from Gaelscoil Aogáin with instructors at the Inland Fisheries Ireland river education day on Thursday. Seated from left: Darragh King, fisheries officer; Pádraigín Uí Chonaill, muinteóir; and John Reidy, River Maine and Brown Flesk Anglers Association. Daltaí, líne tosaigh: Jerh Ó Brosnacháin, Aoife Ní Laoire, Clodagh Ní Dhubhshláine agus Nicole Ní Bhruadair. Ar chúl, ó chlé: Michelle Nic Suibhne, Emer Ní Chonchúir, David Peskett, Pádraig Ó Sé, Josh Elvins, Ruairí de Búrca, Billy Breathnach, Rebecca Ní Riada, Áine Ní Mhurchú, Blathnaid Ní Chathasaigh, Bríd Nic Gearailt, Katelyn Nic Léid agus Finn Ó Nualláin. ©Griangraf: Seán Ó Riada
At the Inland Fisheries Ireland river education day on Thursday were from left: Karen Griffin assistant inspector; Darragh King, fisheries officer; John Reidy, River Maine and Brown Flesk Anglers Association and Pádraigín Uí Chonaill, muinteóir, Gaelscoil Aogáin. ©Photograph: John Reidy

It is highly unlikely that Izaak Walton ever fished the Nuns’ Pool on the River Maine here in Castleisland.

However, the great environmentalist and father figure of angling as we know it would have been proud to find that his teachings are still doing the rounds almost three-and-a-half centuries after his death in December 1683.

Born in England in 1593, he wrote the bible of angling ‘The Compleat Angler’ and is widely regarded since as a man whose thinking was away beyond his time.

Wildlife Management

In his book, a character he named ‘Piscator’ – based closely on himself, taught, with great patience, the novice not only how to fish but also how a healthy environment supported the sport he loved.

The book, and Walton himself, promoted methods of wildlife management and sustainable fishing that are very much part of today’s science-based approach to angling and conservation.

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Fisheries officers, Karen Griffin and Darragh King of Inland Fisheries Ireland joined up with local angler, John Reidy and pupils from local schools on Thursday on the banks of the River Maine and by the Nuns’ Pool.

They set their camp right beside the recently placed riverside seat in honour of the late Con Houlihan – a noted angler among many other notable attributes associated with the great man.

Hands-On Experiment

Karen Griffin explained that they went to the local schools last month and invited pupils from the fourth, fifth and sixth classes to participate in Thursday morning’s educational and hands on experiment.

“We explained what the Inland Fisheries Ireland is all about and how we protect the rivers, the flora and fauna and the environment generally.

Fly Casting Techniques

“We did a power point presentations at the schools and invited them to take part in this morning’s class here.

“We have local angler, John Reidy showing them fly casting techniques and we invited the pupils to ask questions about the river – as they are situated here beside it. They’re great as they all got involved and were curious about various aspects of the river and our roles in maintaining it.

Species of Fish

“We told them all about the species of fish and other forms of life to be found in and along the river and the river bank.

Otters, mink, herons, kingfishers and their roles in river life were all covered in the course of the wide-ranging and highly educational day by the River Maine.

Invasive Species

We also spoke about pollution and invasive species of plant life like the Japanese Knotweed.

“As plastics are the new threat to the environment we covered it as one of the topics of the morning.

“The salmon spawning time in the winter and what they could look out for at that time of year was another topic which gripped their attention.

Type of Life

There was an electro-fishing experiment done by the officers also to show the class the type of life the river supports.

The ‘catch’ was brought to the bank and placed in a tank for all to see before they were returned safely to their habitat.

Flick of the Wrist

For his part, John Reidy, of the River Maine and Brown Flesk Anglers Association spotted a few naturals among his class of fly-casting pupils.

“There’s a few of them there with a natural flick of the wrist which is just what you want to see in in a fly angler.

Great Day’s Work

“This is a great day’s work for the fisheries officers to come out and engage with the children in this way. And you can see they’re all enjoying the experience,” said John.

Isaak Walton would have been delighted with a new generation of disciples. Con Houlihan would have nodded his approval and gone off and written a Tributaries column out of it.


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