As a match angler first and foremost there is little that gets me more excited than the ‘Daiwa Irish Pairs’. This annual competition has been held in County Kerry, Ireland for the past 30 years and now calls Dingle Town its Headquarters. It is a week long competition that will run from the 14th of September until the 21st this year with the 14th being the registration night and the 21st being the presentation night. During this week there are three pegged matches which are usually the Saturday, Monday and Wednesday. Outside of these matches there is the specimen hunting competition. This runs from after the first match all the way to the afternoon of the presentation night.
As the name suggests, it is a pairs event, so picking your partner is possibly even more complicated than picking your husband/wife, after all, this is fishing we are talking about and there’s little more serious than that! The beaches have been split in two for the past number of years, so venue selection is a key tactic in the quest for glory. Ventry is the distance venue, so usually the bigger caster of the pair will go there. Cappalough has more fiddly fishing so the angler that enjoys scratching out fish should in theory go here.
Day 2 is generally Brandon beach or Banna beach and Rossbeigh strand when the weed stays away and the day I personally look most forward to is the final day on Inch beach where you can see over 100 anglers ready to do battle! This is also the 4 man team event which is fished on the last day at Inch.
The fishing is scored from a weight to measure format unique to the pairs and developed over its long life. The choice is hard, big fish is big reward but lots of small fish can be caught too which rapidly add up to a good score. Definitely a head scratcher!
The specimen format is a welcome break from the stress of the pegged matches. Or so you would think! There are ten nominated species to chase over the week and it kicks off after the first pegged match, or technically during it as specimens caught within the matches count too. The species are flounder, bass, pollack, ballan wrasse, painted ray (undulates and small eyes are allowed in this category), thornback ray, bull huss, dab, mullet and conger eel. As you can see it’s an incredibly diverse list of species so it’s extremely hard to try and nail all 10 in the week, especially as each one has a challenging set qualifying size.
Lots of skill, determination, stamina and no shortage of luck is needed for glory. One year in particular I had a 46cm flounder which is a brute in its own right, only to hear Gareth Griffiths had nailed a monster 52cm flounder in Dingle Harbour! There are of course some serious variables to take into consideration when it’s comes to organisation at the Pairs. Nick Hayward and his crack team really do put the hours in for this event. Anyone who has even organised a day match will know the pains included when dealing with anglers and their various grievances.
As always, the weather in Ireland is the great unknown so checking venues, watching seaweed build up and avoiding the inevitable autumn storms has become second nature to the lads. As I type this, Hurricane Dorian has laid waste to the Bahamas and is threatening the Eastern seaboard of the United States. Backlash from this is due to hit Ireland on Wednesday in the form of heavy wind and rain and the word hurricane has been mentioned. With all these various threats its certainly no easy job for Nick, Ian, Darren and big Jim.
Ventry is a horseshoe shaped beach fishing mostly over sand into mixed ground. Tackle losses are possible but minimal. The main species to target here are dogfish and garfish with bull huss, strap conger, flounder, mullet and bass all making the occasional appearance. Tactics are usually straightforward for Ventry, with 3 hook clipped downs being launched to the horizon in search of the high scoring dogfish. Main baits are Sandeel, mackerel and ragworm.
Cappa is a conundrum in that so many species are available here. Your peg really does tell all! Low numbers can chase small fish in the reef with the hopes of picking off the odd doggie. Whereas the higher numbers face choices of flounders, gars or all out for a ray or doggie at distance. Rigs are all the weird and wonderful concoctions from flappers to bubble rigs. Main baits are lugworm, maddies, sandeel and mackerel.
Brandon Beach is the heart breaker. Its huge expanse means that typically some spots will be better than others. Trying to pinpoint these areas is virtually impossible though because of the storm nature of the beach. It’s big crashing surf changes the layout of the beach almost daily. Bass flounder and painted ray make up the quarry here and rigs are simple 3 hook flappers and 3 hook clip downs. The main baits for here are lungworm, maddies, sandeel, mackerel and razor fish. Brandon is certainly a marmite beach you either love it or hate it with passion!
Back up venues of Rossbeigh and Banna are standard Irish storm beach fare. They produce flounders, bass and can both throw up extremely valuable ray. Unfortunately, they are vulnerable to weed and can fill overnight which has happened in the past. Standard surf tactics apply, and lugworm is a must have for both venues.
Last but not least is the glorious Inch beach. This long expanse of surf beach is famous the world over and lots of information can be found with only a few clicks into Google. It’s famous for its bass fishing and flounders. Bass, being the high scoring fish, are always on the mind of the competitors but bags of 20 plus flounder can wipe out a few good Bass. Tactics are essential here and timing more so. Main traces are 3 hook flappers with all shapes and sizes on display. The main baits here are lugworm, maddies, peeler crab and black lugworm.
This year has seen a bit of chaos around entries and with a number of regulars unable to attend teams have been switched up and evolved. I will be fishing the pairs this year with Ben Butler from England. Ben is an all round angler and fishes with the commercial club back home. Thankfully Ben stepped up to the plate when I found myself without a partner and although we have never actually met the power of Facebook made the team possible. I’ve been lucky enough to do well in the past and comparing results from last year I think Ben and myself will do well this year with a bit of luck.
The countdown is now on to the most exciting competition of the year so it would be a missed opportunity not to have a go at a prediction. Teams to watch out for are. Ashley Sampson/Ged Stevens, Joe Arch/Roy Tapper, Jp Molloy/Sean Ivory, Paul Molyneux/Dave Roe and of course last years winners Jim Gross/Ian Hewitt. Keep an eye on proceedings through the Hookpoint Facebook page and hopefully Ben and myself can cause an upset.