Angling on The Barrow
The River Barrow holds coarse, predator, game and even sea species such as flounder in its’ tidal stretches and for this reason enjoys a strong reputation as one of Ireland’s premier mixed fisheries.
The Barrow is a big river, the second longest in Ireland after the Shannon. The waters of the Barrow vary along its route, from the peat stained nature of the upper river which is fast flowing to the river’s middle and lower sections that are slow flowing. The waters of the middle and lower sections are influenced by the flatter terrain in these areas coupled with the building of the navigation in the 1800s when 23 locks were constructed to accommodate commercial barges.
It is this variety of water that gives the river its wide range of species, especially coarse fish. It can be shallow in places but along the left bank depths of 3 metres can be found as a result of the Barrow Navigation. Shallow sections have weirs and lateral canals which are particularly suitable for fishing – these are separate navigational channels designed to follow the course of the river, where the river itself is not suitable for navigation. It is important to know how to fish these sections as it can greatly improve your catch.
The river is currently closed for all salmon (Salmo salar) fishing and sea trout (Salmo trutta) fishing over 40 cm.
When it re-opens a state licence will be required to fish for salmon and sea trout. A survey has been completed by IFI (Inland Fisheries Ireland) on the stocks of juvenile salmon in the River Barrow. 2011 was the fourth year of the survey which has seen a significant increase in stock levels compared to previous years. However, the mean catch over the four year period is still below sustainable levels. The survey is planned again for 2012, hopefully with positive results which may result in the river opening on a catch and release basis for salmon in 2013, but only if all targets are reached.
The river provides good trout fishing with best prospects below the weirs and outside the navigation. The average weight ranges from 0.5 to 1.25 lb depending on location but surprises often occur. The development of brown trout fishing on the river is mainly carried out by angling clubs. Normally all fly fishing tactics work best. The tributary rivers – Burren, Greese and Lerr – are best for trout fly fishing. Indeed, the Burren and Greese have even featured in articles written by visiting anglers for trout and salmon. A permit is required for these rivers and can be purchased at the following locations:
Murphs, Unit 2, Lismard House, Tullow Street, Carlow
T: + 353 (0)59 9132839
These predators are prized by many anglers. The upper stretches of the River Barrow are renowned for offering some of the best wild perch fishing in Ireland. Perch of up to 2 lbs are widely distributed throughout the river. Anglers have a good chance of landing a specimen perch (specimen weight 1.2 kg or 2.64 lbs) and fish of up to 4 lb are realistic for dedicated anglers. These larger fish have been caught mostly between Monasterevin and Carlow.
Perch are rough and prickly to the touch and are easily recognised by the characteristic vertical dark stripes along their usually green stripes. Perch have two dorsal fins, the first of which is well armed with very sharp spines. Suitable bait: worms, maggots, casters, small dead fish and a range of spinning baits.
Dace, an invasive species in the River Barrow have only been present since the late 1960s and have now spread throughout the system. Dace are either loved or hated by anglers as they are noted for negatively affecting native species such as brown trout. However, on the Barrow the brown trout stocks are still healthy even in stretches that are heavily colonised by dace. Some anglers consider them a nuisance as they rob the bait off their hooks while targeting other species. But match anglers report that a good bag of dace for a 5 hour match would be in the region of 20 lb. It is often recommended that if you are being plagued by dace to switch tactics and target them. It will be likely to get a fish each time you cast and it won’t be long before you fill your bag.
A slim bodied fish, dace lack the red eye and fins of the roach and have concave anal and dorsal fins. (Specimen weight 0.3 kg or 0.66 lbs).
Suitable bait: maggots, casters, worms, sweetcorn.
Carp are rare in the River Barrow but as the Grand Canal holds a decent stock of carp it is understandable that some have made their way into the river itself. A “specialists” fish they are notoriously difficult to catch. While targeting carp on the Barrow is not recommended, some surprises have occurred.
Dull brown in colour, carp are a stocky muscular fish, with an elongated dorsal fin. Four barbels on the large mouth help the carp detect food items on the canal bottom. (Specimen weight 5.443 Kg or 12 lbs).
Suitable bait: maggots, casters, boilies, sweetcorn, worms, bread, fishnuts.
Bream and Hybrids
Bream are one of the more common coarse fish in the river. However, most of the species are hybrids as roach, rudd and bream interbreed very easily. This results in a total of 6 species to target – roach, rudd, bream, rudd/roach, rudd/bream and roach/bream. Thoroughbred shoals can be encountered throughout the river but most sessions will result with a “Heinz 57 bag”. It is recommended pre-baiting the swim you wish to fish a day or two beforehand to ensure a prosperous days fishing. Feeder tactics are very successful for these species. Ground bait is also available in local tackle shops in a variety of mixes and flavours.
Bream 3.402 kg or 7.5 lbs
Roach/Bream Hybrid 1.6 kg or 3.528 lbs
Rudd/Bream Hybrid 1.2 kg or 2.64 lbs
Roach/Rudd Hybrid 0.9 kg or 1.98 lbs
Suitable bait: maggots, worms, casters, sweetcorn, bread, paste.
Adult bream are recognised by their bronze colour, black fins and protruding upper jaw. Young bream or “skimmers” differ from adults due to their silver colouring.
Shoals of rudd are not as common as they once were, due to competition from roach. Nevertheless rudd/roach hybrids are more prevalent. However, this is not a concern for anglers who are satisfied that with a greater diversity of species, the fishing has improved. If targeting rudd, the best fun is had on light tackle in the canal sections.
Rudd can be distinguished from roach by their more golden, rounded appearance. The fins of rudd are a vivid, bright red colour. They have a pronounced, protruding lower jaw which allows them to feed on the surface of the canal. (Specimen weight 0.9kg or 1.98lbs).
Suitable bait: maggots, worms, casters, sweetcorn, bread, paste, flies.
Roach are widespread throughout the system and reach specimen weights of 2lb especially below Carlow. Fishing for roach and its’ hybrids can be enjoyed throughout the year. Roach fishing can offer a change of angling experiences – they are often caught in the slow pools with a gentle take compared with the wraparound bites in faster water. (Specimen weight 0.907 kg or 2 lbs).
Suitable bait: maggots, worms, casters, sweetcorn, bread, paste.
Tench are an increasingly popular angling quarry and are widespread in the canal, but more localised in the river. Tench can weigh up to 5kg, but typically weigh in the region of 1-2 kg. An attractive fish, tench are a dark olive colour with rounded fins and an almost unforked tail along with distinctive bright red eyes. (Specimen weight 2.721 kg or 6 lbs).
Suitable bait: maggots, casters, sweetcorn, bread, paste, worms, mini boilies.
Given the plentiful supply of food on offer, it comes as no surprise that the River Barrow is a notable pike fishery. Pike angling is carried out on all stretches of the river between Athy and St. Mullins with the main locations being Bahana Woood (just above St. Mullins), Graiguenamanagh and Ballytiglea Bridge near Borris. Not only are pike widespread throughout the system but many grow to truly leviathan proportions. In exceptional circumstances pike weigh up to 20 kg and can grow to 1.3 metres in length. However, they typically average 2-3 kg in weight and specimens in excess of 10 kg are present.
Pike are very streamlined with a torpedo shaped body. They are perfectly designed predators, with rows of needle sharp teeth and its mottled olive green colour provides perfect camouflage. The Irish record for a river pike is 42 lbs which was caught on the Barrow in 1964 by M. Watkinson.
(Specimen weight 9.072 kg or 2.646 lbs).
Suitable bait: range of deadbaits, spinners and plugs including jerkbaits and flies.
The River Barrow is one of the few rivers in Ireland that gets a run of twaite shad. A member of the herring family these fish migrate to the tidal waters at St. Mullins to spawn in the gravel beds during April and May. They are normally caught by spinning but can also be caught on the fly. The annual shad fishing competition held over the May Bank Holiday Weekend attracts entries from all over Ireland. Participants can register at the Mullicháin Café, The Quay, St.Mullins.
(Specimen weight 1.2kg or 2.65lbs).
For information contact MartinO’Brien T:+353(0)872584663 www.oldgrainstorecottages.ie
Tackle and Bait
For most coarse fish species, pole or float is the method of choice. On the larger sections of the river feeder fishing can be effective. On the canal section of the Barrow Navigation, anglers should target the middle, with the bait fished on the bottom. Ground bait should be introduced at the start of the session and loose feed thereafter to keep them interested. Should boats pass it may be worthwhile adding some extra ground bait as they can disturb the bottom. It is recommended to fish with a No. 6 or 8 elastic, 1.4 kg main line to a 0.9 kg hook length, a medium wire and size 18 hook. As a general rule the lighter the tackle the greater the catch.
The river section is populated with good numbers of larger fish and specimens of most species may be encountered. For the river section a more aggressive approach is needed. A wide range of baits are successful, particularly white and red maggots, pinkies, casters and worms. It is also worth having corn if targeting larger species.
The fishing around Monasterevin is controlled by the Monasterevin and District Anglers Association. The main species in this area include trout, pike, bream, roach, tenchand perch. Permits to fish the River Barrow and its’ tributary, the Black River are available locally from Finlay’s Tackle Shop. The best fishing can be enjoyed upstream and downstream of the old road bridge and under the motorway bridge.
Athy offers excellent fishing on both the river and the canal. It is easily accessible and all species of coarse fish are well represented here. The Barrow from the Horse Bridge in the town is part of the Barrow Navigation and is accessible as there is a towpath on the left bank from here to St. Mullins. Bream, rudd and tench give good sport in the summer months while pike fishing peaks in the winter.
Carlow Town offers good fishing. The river is accessible in the Town Park where hybrids of up 5lbs have been taken in the past.
Upstream of Carlow Town, there is limited road access to the towpath. However, this stretch of waterway as far as Athy enjoys good quality fishing. The bridge at Maganey is a good place to access the towpath. Downstream of Carlow Lock there is a good stretch where local clubs often organise matches.
Bait and angling permits: Murphs, Unit 2, Lismard House, Tullow Street, Carlow
T: + 353 (0) 59 9132839
If you are planning a visit to enjoy some coarse angling in Carlow further enquiries can be made through the following website www.carlowcoarseanglingguides.com
Leighlinbridge is a reputed location for pike fishing. In fact it is known to produce fish over 20lbs which is specimen weight and regularly produces double figured fish. Downstream of the old bridge angling is controlled by the Leighlinbridge Angling Club. Not only is it a pike honey hole, Leighlinbridge also offers opportunities for all the usual species including hybrids, good roach, bream and dace.
Very good fishing can be enjoyed in Bagenalstown. Specimen pike are taken from the river and the town canal section. When the river is in flood large mixed shoals often congregate below the lock. In the town, the swimming pool stretches are easy to access and there are a number of fishing stands here that are suitable for anglers with disabilities.
Below Borris at Clashganny Weir, about 5km north of Graiguenamanagh, there is good bream fishing just at the fast water. Not too far downriver there is a first-class stretch which has produced specimen fish including bream, tench, rudd, hybrids, perch and pike.
Clashganny can be very productive under the lock when the main river is in flood as fish tend to shoal up and shelter here. There is parking available and the river is easily accessible with clear banks, thus making it a popular spot with pole anglers. However anglers are advised to fish the main river if water levels are low.
Fishing above the slipway and boathouse on the right bank can produce decent bags of bream, hybrids and silvers. Both lure fishing and worming are successful. Evening fishing following heavy ground baiting will improve the chance of securing good catches. Rudd provides excellent sport in summer, while bream fishing is best from May to late September. Perch and pike fishing is also good in summer, but the best pike are taken in the winter. Tench can be very active in May and June.
This is the tidal section of the river and is a year round venue, being productive at all stages of the tide. Visitors to the area will enjoy the best sport from late-April to mid-June, this being the period when the elusive twaite shad start to run to the gravel beds at St. Mullins to spawn.
During this short period lasting only a few weeks, hundreds of anglers make their way here to sample the great sport which the shad provide. Nowadays twaite shad appear only to run the River Barrow in any numbers and are considered a threatened species.
St. Mullins also features large spawning shoals of bream, roach and hybrids. Anglers not used to tidal conditions should try feeder fishing to mid stream or further as this will avoid the need to continually adjust depth with the tide. However, heavy leads will be needed to hold ground when the tide is falling.
Anglers not familiar with fishing tidal waters should be aware of the tide times to ensure safety. The towpath at St. Mullins can flood when high tides are at 4.0m or even less if the river is in flood.
Tide tables can be purchased at New Ross Port Company or per T: +353 (0)51 421 303.
For more information on fishing the River Barrow visitors are advised to talk to local tackle dealers to secure the most up-to-date information.
Further information is also available from Inland Fisheries Ireland www.fisheriesireland.ie
Acknowledgements: Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) for supplying background information and images.