Rod & Gun: It should be two great days at Birr Castle

Cole in action with his labrador
Cole in action with his labrador

It is the time of year when the thoughts of anglers and shooters gently turn to thoughts of the Great Game Fair at Birr Castle in Co Offaly.

Organisers of the Irish Game and Country Fair at Birr today and tomorrow are ready to go with what they say will be the biggest and best Game Fair in the country.

Fair director Albert Titterington said: “Birr Castle’s game fair is already the top fair in the Republic. Historic Birr Castle is the backdrop and the public love the fair’s unique style. There are special treats planned for Birr such as non-stop entertainment, surprise acts and attractions, top competitions of all descriptions, huge prize funds and a big tented village of trade stands from Ireland and the UK.  

“Hunting, shooting, gundogs and fishing are always placed centre stage at the Great Game Fairs of Ireland and in 2015 all facets are enhanced including the competitions having prize funds unrivalled in Ireland.”

The youngest ever gundog trainer – possibly in the world – eight years old Cole Mathews, will be in the main arena with his Labrador, Chloe, which he trained to exhibition standard. The top lurcher and terrier shows and racing have the best ever Irish prize fund.

The final of the Red Mills/Irish Countrysports and Country Life five nations terrier championship will be decided by a three-judge system at 5pm in the main arena. 

Ulster Angling Federation chairman Jim Haughey clearly oozes with anger in the sternest of letters to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, about a disastrous fish kill in the Ballymartin River on Monday.

Jim wrote: “This is the latest in a long line of similar fish kills on this river, and the main stem Sixmilewater river.  Your department seems to be unable to take any steps to avoid these recurring events, particularly on this tributary.  In the first instance I would request your most urgent actions to find the source and take the necessary action. Unfortunately, the recent changes to your enforcement policy could serve to protect the polluter, which, to some anglers, appears to be one of the chief aims of DoE nowadays.

“Another aspect of this incident is that the Sixmilewater has been identified as the main spawning source for Lough Neagh dollaghan, many of which have been killed in this incident.”

The letter concludes by urging Mr Durkan’s department to identify those responsible for the latest fish kill.

Meanwhile, the Foyle Ambassador Programme is aimed at 14-17 year olds from Derry and Donegal who are interested in the natural environment.

The programme will run for 10 weeks starting mid-September through to early December. On Thursday evenings the ambassadors will meet at Loughs Agency HQ in Prehen to undertake personal development activities such as communication, confidence building, citizenship, team work, etc.

Then on Saturdays (sometimes Sundays) they will meet again to undertake an activity such as canoeing, sailing, powerboating, surfing, angling or a conservation project. During the programme, there will also be a weekend residential trip.

The purpose of the programme is to get young people connected with the River Foyle, its tributaries, estuary, wildlife and the recreational opportunities it holds. The programme also aims to connect young people from different communities within the Foyle catchment to share their experiences.

Anyone interested in applying should ask for an ‘expression of interest form’ from Gillian Simpson at Loughs Agency via email Applicants will be invited at allocated times to meet with the team leaders on Saturday September 12. Only 20 places will be available.

Professor Ken Whelan, research director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust asked anglers to take part in the Kickstarter Campaign for Atlantic Salmon Lost at Sea ( on the homepage of websites. The campaign is time-limited to 30 days and Ken says if they do not reach their target (€45k/$50k) they will not be able to draw on any of the pledges made by their supporters.

Professor Whelan and Deirdre Brennan (documentary producer) are in the final stages of completing an investigative film into the lost salmon problem. Deirdre has been making this film for six years in the rivers of Europe, North America, Iceland, Greenland, and in the Atlantic Ocean. It tells the story of the collapse in abundance of wild Atlantic salmon over the last 30 years. The film records the urgent quest to try to solve the mystery of the salmon’s life at sea and to answer the question: “Why are salmon dying in greater numbers than ever before in their ocean environment and not returning to their native rivers?”

Filming is now complete and the film is ready to edit.  In order to raise the last 10 per cent of the budget needed, Deirdre has embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to bring in funds to finish the project. Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform and in its 10 years has raised over 1.6 billion dollars for creative projects. To contribute, contact 23 Cowper Downs, Cowper Road, Dublin D06 V0T2. Mobile: +353 867835900. Email:     

Ulster Angling Federation chairman Jim Haughey has joined in appeal for the return of salmon tags and has highlighted a leaflet from DCAL Inland Fisheries Group and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) regarding the tagging and reward scheme which is ongoing. 

The leaflet said the recovery of tags from salmon caught by anglers will help in assessing the health of stocks and DCAL and AFBI earnestly request all anglers to assist in the scheme. There are rewards for recovered tags. The request does not apply in the Loughs Agency area.

The leaflet said if you catch a tagged fish, it does not need to be killed, simply take a note of the unique tag number printed on the tag and report this along with the date and recapture location via one of the contacts listed below.

Tags can be returned to either DCAL Inland Fisheries, River Bush Salmon Station. 21 Church St, Bushmills, BT 57 8QJ or Ulster Angling Federation, 14 Gleneden Park, Newtownabbey, BT37 0QL

Craigmore will be open on Bank Holiday Monday (August 31). In difficult conditions, Maurice Anderson had 11 trout to 6lb on dries and Samuel Anderson had 15 to 5lb on nomads.

Other catches were: James Harper, 20 to 7lb; Johnny McNeill, 21 to 5lb; Jim Simpson, 12 to 5lb; Billy Hazlett, Michael McWilliams, and Robert Morrison, 12 to 7lb; Jeff Davidson, 11; Alan Temple, 10 to 5lb; John Hughes, 21 to 8lb; Edward Eden, 17 to 6lb; Martin Allen, 27 to 5lb; Daniel Donnelly, 13 to 5lb.

William Kinnaird, Tommy Spence and Billy Todd 11to 5lb; Matthew Laffin and Thomas Hillyard, 12 to 8lb; L Clewer, 11 to 6lb; N Clewer, 15 to 5lb; Hugh Mitchell,12; Andy McClelland, 10; Harry Graham, 11; John Carson, nine to 8lb; Davy Couples Sr, 10; Micheal Currie, 12 to 6lb; Jason Smith, 11 to 7lb including a tagged fish worth £25; Jackie McBurney, four to 6lb; Neil Wilson, two at 6lb 9oz; Adrian Matthews, two to 6lb; William Elliot. 7lb; Paul Wilson, two to 5lb; Neil Fleming, two to 8lb; Paul Armstrong, 5lb 5oz; Brian McNeill, 6Lb; Phil Taggart, two to 7lb 10oz; Gareth McCaffery, six to 8lb; Steven Webb,5lb; L. Reid, 5lb; David Cunningham, two at 7lb; Jim Patterson, 5lb.