(File image)

Mayo river restoration would make for a fine local project


SALMON anglers up and down the country have endured something of a drought, but this has undisputedly come to an end. And this is none the more so on the Moy, where another decent flood has spread fish throughout the system.

It is surely only a matter of time before reports come in of this king of fish being caught on the Castlebar River once more. They are in there alright, at least during the winter spawning season. In fact, we went to see what we could find on the stretch below Turlough but were unable to get close enough to the river, for years of neglect have left the banks completely overgrown along the best parts.

I still feel this river is worthy of care. If it was in the UK it would be in the hands of a private fishing club, with high charges made for a day fishing. The banks would be manicured and the riparian zone planted with an array of vegetation. Farmed fish would be the order of the day, just to keep a big stock of trout in the water. It would be a rather exclusive fishery, and we can be thankful, for the most part, that here in the west we allow nature to take its course.

Make no mistake, the Castlebar River has the potential to become one of the best trout streams to be found in this part of the world. A few years ago it suffered greatly from organic pollution of the worst imaginable kind. Things have improved tremendously, so that brown trout of several pounds can be found within, and juvenile salmon have been caught along its length.

When it comes to choice of fishing location we are spoiled here. We have an array of excellent lakes and rivers for both salmon and trout. In fact, we have so many that even the best lie pretty much abandoned, just like the Castlebar River is at present.

Will it always be this way? I don't think so. Sooner or later somebody with the wherewithal to change things will recognise the potential and do something about it.

The Castlebar River joins the Manulla River a short distance downstream of Turlough. Below the confluence of these two rich streams there lie several miles of productive game fishing before the combined flow enters Lough Cullen. This stretch is now known as the Ballyvary Fishery. It used to be free to fish, although this is no longer the case. Now we must fork out €20 to spend a day there. Few that I know bother any more.

With only limited income for Inland Fisheries Ireland, who manage the Ballyvary Fishery, it might make sense to lease it to one of the local clubs and have it looked after properly. Better still, forget the lease and make a gift of it.

The benefits to the local community would be many. Wild trout of a good average size are hard to find throughout the European continent yet are becoming increasingly sought after. Anglers used to come from all corners of the globe to catch an Irish trout. They still do, though there are far less of them.

What would be needed to raise the profile of this once renowned water and bring tourist anglers back? Are there no Rural Social Schemes or Community Employment programmes that could take the job on? Of course there are.

There is even professional help available from the Wild Trout Trust, a UK-based charity specialising in river restoration. Wouldn't it make a fine project?

* Read the Country File column in our print edition every Tuesday