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The K Club stocks lakes with trout and offers fishing classes.
The K Club stocks lakes with trout and offers fishing classes. (GolfPublisher.com)

Golf and fishing in Ireland: Bring your fly rod along with your golf clubs

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,

DUBLIN, Ireland — If you can get over the truly un-American notion of mere humans having the divine right of owning rivers and lakes, you should seriously consider packing your fishing tackle on that golf trip to Ireland.

Yes, most of the rivers, lakes and streams in Ireland, as elsewhere in Europe, are owned by individuals, angling clubs and state bodies. We're not talking about the land around these bodies of water; we're talking about the water itself. If you want to fish them, you'll have to pony up.

However, there is no charge for offshore fishing, as even the Europeans concede that nobody owns the ocean. Yet.

In any case, Ireland is one of the most lightly-fished countries in Europe, though they take their fishing seriously there. Thus, the toast: "Here's to the health of the salmon and the trout."

The island is rife with fisheries. Ireland is dotted with lakes and drained by rivers, not to mention the fertile coastline for shore fishing. River fishing can be spectacular; there are 7,000 miles of riverbank for anglers fishing for salmon, trout and "coarse," which refers to any freshwater game fish other than salmon or trout, like pike, bream and carp.

Fly fishing is your best bet — in some cases, your only bet — in that it is probably the most thrilling way to fish, because it leaves the least mark on fish and habitat and because it is closer to golf. But, there are always offshore charters and shore fishing with bait and tackle if you want to venture further afield.

Ireland has never had to suffer a great deal of heavy industry, so most of the rivers and lakes are clean and clear, though many of the lakes are dark with peat stain. The biggest rivers are the Shannon and Erne, which flow in and out of lakes large and small; the Shannon, for example, contains several large lakes, like the Lough Ree, 18 miles long.

Ireland is roughly the size of Maine, so you can play some of the more famous Irish golf courses, as well as some other hidden gems, and be in pristine fishing waters minutes after you walk off the 18th green. In some cases, you won't even have to leave the course.

Here are a few suggestions:

The K Club in County Kildare is the site of the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches. It's located on the River Liffey, 17 miles southwest of Dublin. The River Liffey has a natural stock of wile brown trout up to seven pounds, averaging much smaller of course.

Three of the lakes on the course are stocked with rainbow and brown trout and also with coarse. The K club offers fishing classes.

The river, which is fly-fishing only, produces great hatches of fly throughout the season and especially during the Mayfly months of May through July, and sedges afterward.

Salmon are occasionally found, usually in autumn. County Kildare is more famous for horse racing and breeding, but the river and canal systems — the Grand and Royal Canals run through it — have excellent fishing, as well as the River Barrow. There are a number of fishing hotels, if you put your fishing ahead of your golf.

The Lahinch Golf Club is in County Clare on the Atlantic coast, an area known for its excellent shore fishing at places like Fanore, Doolin, Liscannor and Lahinch itself. You can go after pollock, bass and mackerel from the beaches.

The lakes, rivers and streams in Clare have salmon, brown trout, and a wide variety of coarse, including pike. There is good trout fishing at Lough Inchiquin, and on the West Clare lakes of Gortglass and Cloomsneachta. Killaloe is another well-known pike spot. Ireland has produced some monstrous pike, some more than 50 pounds, and they can be caught in every body of water; fly-fishing for them has become popular.

Boats can be chartered from a number of places, like Kilrush Marina, Quilty and many places along the Shannon estuary, and deep sea fishing can also be arranged. Galway Bay's gentle waters are good for sea angling.

Other County Kildare courses include: the Carton House, Athy, Kilcock, Naas, Knockanally and Kilkea Castle.

The Royal Dublin Golf Club and Portmarnock Golf Club, only eight miles from Dublin, offer good, nearby fishing. In Dublin itself, you have quite a few options for freshwater fishing in rivers and reservoirs for perch, pike, salmon and eel as well as both sea and brown trout.

The River Dodder runs through the city and harbors brown trout and sea trout, especially from July to September. It's good from the estuary to the bus garage at Donnybrook.

Other nearby courses include: Dublin City, St. Anne's, Dun Laoghaire, Forest Little and Malahide.

• A personal favorite is the Woodenbridge Golf Club, in the Vale of Avoca in County Wicklow, known as the garden spot of Ireland. It's a beautiful course, largely unknown by Americans, and is dissected by two rivers, the Avonmore and Aughrim.

The Avonmore rises from the foot of the Wicklow Mountains and continues southeasterly through semi-mountainous terrain for about 20 miles before joining the Avonberg a little ways from Avoca.

It's a beautiful river that runs through plains and valleys and is bordered in some areas by dense forest. For the fly fisherman, it's perfect: alternating between deep, slow-flowing glides to fast-moving riffles.

It has good stocks of wild, brown trout of a pound or so, though fish of five and six pounds are recorded annually. From March to May or in the late summer and early autumn are the best periods.

The Aughrim also contains good stock of wild, brown trout, but be aware the river is overgrown in places and access can be difficult.

Other nearby courses include the Arklow Golf Club, Druids Glen, the European Club, Powerscourt and Rathsallagh.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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