Ballinrobe - History of fishing on Lough Mask

Photo:Denis Kelleher fisherman and author

Denis Kelleher fisherman and author


Photo:Book "Another world on Mask"

Book "Another world on Mask"


Photo:Heading out on competition day

Heading out on competition day


Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Ballinrobe - History of fishing on Lough Mask' page
Photo:Wild brown trout

Wild brown trout


Photo:Mr. Patsy Bradley RIP well known boatman and fisherman

Mr. Patsy Bradley RIP well known boatman and fisherman


Photo:Mask 1954 - final decisions!

Mask 1954 - final decisions!


Photo:Writing up the weights 1954

Writing up the weights 1954


Photo:This is the border between County Galway and Mayo.  You can see Lough Corrib to the left and Lough Mask in the middle. The tip of Lough Carra is at bottom left. Click on image for larger version which can be purchased from the website listed below.                                        .

This is the border between County Galway and Mayo. You can see Lough Corrib to the left and Lough Mask in the middle. The tip of Lough Carra is at bottom left. Click on image for larger version which can be purchased from the website listed below. .

Photo:Competition day 1954

Competition day 1954


Photo:Caher, Lough Mask, Ballinrobe

Caher, Lough Mask, Ballinrobe


Photo:Cushlough December 2010

Cushlough December 2010

Peter Staunton

Photo:Cuslought Bay with Partry mountains in background

Cuslought Bay with Partry mountains in background

Averil Staunton

Photo:Some feathered friends at Cushlough, Ballinrobe

Some feathered friends at Cushlough, Ballinrobe


World Cup Trout fly fishing

By Averil Staunton

I was sent this article recently with no author's signature and having checked it out discovered it appears on the local Angling Club's website.  

I suspect it might have been written by Mr. Denis Kelleher, an avid and very successful fly fisherman.  Denis is also the author of "Another World on Mask" which provides a fascinating insight into the many sided history of the World Wet Fly Angling Championships of over the years on Lough Mask close to Ballinrobe see:

Denis writes:

My earliest recollection of preparations for An Tóstal festivities in 1953 was the painting of our neighbours' wall in a green colour, which I did not regard as overly attractive at the time.  An Tóstal gave it’s name to one of the forty shades of green and “Tóstal” green paint could be purchased in a large number of small hardware shops in our towns and villages for a long time afterwards.  An Tóstal was celebrated by hosting cultural and sporting events throughout the country and special An Tóstal committees were established.

The Ireland of the 1950s would not be regarded as a particularly colourful one and widespread emigration was rampant. Perhaps the thinking behind the celebration of An Tóstal was to eliminate some of the gloom and doom that an economically depressed economy visited on the country at that time. In Co Mayo every club and organisation of note had arranged attractive programmes to ensure the success of what was seen as our first National Festival.

In Castlebar the late Paddy Howard and Gussie Wynne decided to visit Tom Coucill with a different idea in mind to mark the celebration of An Tóstal in that part of the country. All three had a common interest in trout angling and were prominent officers of a very active Castlebar Trout Anglers Association –

The Castlebar Club was set up in 1928 and total membership for 1952 was 41.  The fact that 21 committee meetings took place in that year would indicate that it was a very vibrant club.  Release of fry from the hatchery in Pontoon to Loughs’ Conn, Carra, Tuckers’, and Church Lakes had taken place and the club was hosting the National championships on Lough Mask on 16th May 1953.

The “Inland Fisheries Trust Inc” was set up in 1952 by Government for the development of angling; in particular brown trout angling in Ireland and one of the first operations undertaken in the west was the transfer of trout from Lough Feagh near Newport to Lough Conn in a joint operation with the Castlebar Club.
Paddy Howard and Gussie Wynne met Tom Coucill and told him of their great idea, namely a competition on Lough Mask with 500 pounds in prizes. Tom enthusiastically agreed to the idea and immediately rallied to their aid the local and national Press and Radio. Paddy Howard, who was chairman of the Club, had earlier distinguished himself by, as a member of Ireland’s International team, winning the International for Ireland on Lough Leven and becoming Ireland’s captain for that year.

Arrangements were made with the Boatmen’s' Association on Lough Mask for the provision of boats for the event.  The Committee of Castlebar and District Anglers were as follows:

President:   Mr PT Moran,
Vice Presidents:  Mr JP McCormack and T.P.Flanagan.
Chairman:  Mr Paddy Howard
Hon Sec.: Tom Coucill,
Hon Treasurer: Mr C Hanley,
Committee:  B Gillespie, R Gillespie, G Smith, G Mc Nally, C O'Driscoll, G Wynne, M Dunne, P Quinn, I Kelly,
Weigh-in Stewards:  Sergt. Glynn and Mr D Carroll.
Official Timekeepers and Referees:   Rev Dean Jackson, Ms PJ Quinn and TP Flanagan.

In an editorial in “The Connaught Telegraph" on June 6th 1953 reference was made to the event "By far the biggest event, however is the International angling competition commencing on Saturday April 4th (Easter Saturday). A grand and very representative entry has been attracted for the event including anglers from abroad, and in thus attracting visitors, the Castlebar club has succeeded in fulfilling the object behind An Tóstal far better than has any other club, association or organisation in Mayo, perhaps in Ireland. Far more is it to their credit indeed that the idea behind the attractive event was not merely one of popularising competitive angling; neither was it, unlike the majority of clubs, one of making money - in fact the club will lose by it, believe it or not."

The Connaught Telegraph, published a booklet for the occasion with the official An Tóstal stamp bearing the inscription “ An Tóstal” April 5th-26th 1953 (Ireland at home) and advertising the “World Cup” on Lough Mask.   Nine Co Mayo angling clubs were listed in the publication and in addition to Castlebar the three  more closely identified with Lough Mask were listed with the following representatives.

Westport Anglers:  P O’Connell, J Stack

Tourmakeady Anglers:  T Molloy and

Ballinrobe & District Anglers:  J.J.Leydon, B.Daly.

John Hynes, County Jeweller, Castlebar supplied the “World Trout Fly Fishing Competition Perpetual Cup” for the event and 50 years later the same cup adorned with the names of all winners on the base is one of the most sought after prizes in Irish angling.

Paddy Howard and his committee made the necessary arrangements for the inaugural competition and the late Mr M. Moran T.D., later to become a Minister had sought extension to closing hours for the final international banquet in the Imperial Hotel.

A very interesting exchange had taken place between himself and the Judge Mr Moran: " As I have stated it will be an unusual type of dinner because of the fact that the competitors will have to go to their own hotels and then come on to Castlebar. There are special circumstances in this case as, for instance, the competitors will have to change out of the great number of pullovers that are necessary for braving the storms of Lough Mask and then would only arrive in Castlebar at closing time". Judge replies: " They will not be fishing in the dark.  If l give this you will be back next year telling me that I gave it last year”. Mr Moran, also a keen angler was successful in his application, which was granted until 11.30pm, and the day was saved.

The Qualifying heats were run over two days with 82 anglers competing each day and 58 fish were weighed in.  A northeast wind drove snow over the lake at times and the hills on every side of the lake were inches deep in snow.  Among those who braved it out for the full fishing time were three octogenarians, namely 87 year old Mr PT Moran, Castlebar, 84 year old Mr McGovern from Garrison and 83 year old Mr J Meldon from Kent.

One must remember that the era of super light carbon fibre rods had not even been dreamt about at this stage and split cane, greenheart and rods were likely to be the order of the day.  Following the final on Easter Monday in which 20 anglers participated in brighter weather conditions, the anglers were rowed back to Cushlough Bay by the hardy boatmen of Lough Mask.  For the record 5 fish were weighed in for the final.  Seven countries were represented in this competition and the winner was the late Jack Stack of Westport with one fish of 2 lbs 2ozs.

A system of substitutes prevailed and the second placed Mr M Mongavaun, whose sub was Mr S. J. McCormack, Castlebar with 2 fish for 1 lb 12ozs.  Among those present at the International Banquet in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar was Mr Gerald Bartley, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.  At the final banquet a Mr George Waters from Cork made reference to the fact that the oldest man in the room was Mr PT Moran, President of the Castlebar Anglers. He also apologised for the fact that there were not more anglers from Munster.  There were six entries from Munster and he had trained two of them and both got into the final, but unfortunately at Moran’s hotel in Ballinrobe the hospitality was so great that they dined well but wined unwisely.  Although they did fish next day the bags were empty.

Forty five anglers from Castlebar competed and the 4 anglers from Ballinrobe were:

The late Bernard Daly, Malachy O'Haire, Dr J. McDarby and Jack Murphy.

I have not succeeded in finding any reference to the enormous role which must have been played by the boatmen in an era which did not include outboard engines, all movement was by use of oars which must have taken huge effort on a lake of Masks' stature. Of necessity, the distance an angler could hope to cover, especially in rough weather must have been greatly reduced. However, far from being confined as an event, which was organised for An Tóstal in 1953, the competition was to become an annual event that became increasingly popular.

For further information go to:


This page was added by Averil Staunton on 11/06/2011.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.