A small mid-Cork community that relies heavily on coarse fishing has mounted a worldwide campaign to bring in more anglers next year to revive its Covid-battered economy.
Coachford has also embarked on a domestic campaign to entice more young people from across the country to get involved in the sport, especially as the age profile of anglers has become noticeably older in recent years.
The people of Coachford know this year is all but a write-off when it comes to foreign anglers visiting the area. That will seriously injure the local economy as it is estimated the fishermen spend around €1,000 each during a week's stay — benefitting tackle and bait suppliers, pubs, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, taxis, and local shops.
Trevor Platt, a tackle shop owner and leading member of Inniscarra Lake Tourism & Development Board (ILTBA), said that while they're still hopeful of hosting some angling competitions later this year, realistically they are putting their efforts into attracting coarse fishermen from all over the world back to the region in 2022.
ILTBA put up a post on its Facebook page which resulted in it getting a huge number of requests worldwide for a printed angling guide which it then posted to anglers in Britain, Sweden, and as far away as Thailand and Australia. The campaign was sponsored by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).
“We're trying to keep people interested in us so they don't forget about us.” Trevor said.
Eileen Martin, who runs O'Callaghan's pub and B&B with her partner, Patrick O'Callaghan, has suffered more than most from the Covid-19 lockdown as their premises is the epicentre when it comes to visiting anglers.
Coachford was the main venue for the recent World Feeder Championships and the World Youth Championships, which was attended by representatives from 27 countries.
Trevor and Eileen said the latter, in particular, was a major godsend for local businesses.
“The French entourage alone had 57 people and we also had anglers competing from as far away as Kazakhstan,” Trevor said.
Eileen pointed out there are also a number of other B&Bs and self-catering homes in the area which benefit from the influx of coarse anglers.
“We got a kicking with foot and mouth in 2002 and then again with the recession [from 2008], but Covid has capped all of that,” she said.
The pub can accommodate 10 guests and is “heavily dependent on anglers” to fill the rooms.
“We're blessed that we have had little Covid here [compared to other countries]. But we've had to cancel fishing festivals and we basically can't reopen them until international travel is allowed,” Trevor said.
However, he pointed out that the virus pandemic is only the latest hit to the Coachford economy when it comes to visiting anglers. The demise of the Swansea-Cork ferry link was the first negative and the latest is the Stobart airlines cancellation of flights into regional airports in the south.
Trevor said some foreign anglers are so keen on fishing in the region that they actually keep their rods and tackle in local B&Bs as it's a lot cheaper to do this when one considers the lengths some of them have to go to to get to the area.
“The Dutch lads have to go [on a ferry] from Zeebrugge to Hull and then on to Holyhead to Dublin and then drive down here,” Trevor said. “One angler comes here from Australia every second year.”
In an effort to get more younger, home-grown anglers involved, ILTBA is undertaking some courses with schools, in conjunction with the National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland and Inland Fisheries Ireland to encourage our youth to get involved in the sport.
“The age profile of anglers is getting older and we want to promote our fisheries with people through schools and Men's Shed organisations,” Trevor said. “We are prepared to take this [programme] anywhere in Cork or around the whole country,” he added.
Eileen is looking forward to hopefully opening the pub on July 5. It's been closed since March 15, 2020.
In the interim, she had to lay off six staff.
“They've all been very good to me and they're all coming back, thank God,” she said.
While the anglers may not be back this year, Eileen is hoping to get some of her rooms booked by contractors who are about to start work on upgrading the wastewater/water treatment for the area.
In the meantime, ILTBA is also trying to fundraise and use volunteers for the upkeep of the greenway it has developed in the area.
Trevor pointed out they have got a 25-year lease for this amenity from the ESB “who have been extremely helpful” in maintaining it, but they still are very dependent on grants and donations to keep it in shape.
It's a fisherman's paradise, but also home to many endangered species such as ospreys and the occasional incursions of sea eagles.
Local Fine Gael councillor Eileen Lynch said there has always been a strong tradition locally of angling and she is looking for Government support to prop it up.
She said in particular help was needed by the local community to preserve and enhance the lakeside greenway.
“We have a great location here in Coachford on the banks of the Lee Valley in terms of fishing and each year we see people from all over the world come to Coachford to fish,” Ms Lynch said.
"This brings a massive benefit to the local area in terms of the spin-off effects of angling tourism, money spent in local accommodation, shops, and bars — and we need to ensure the economic future of this area through angling."