As many of us already know, fishing is a fantastic sport, but have you ever considered fishing competitively? And maybe even representing your country? Well, Kevin Magill has done just that and is currently a member of the Northern Ireland Fly Fishing Team. Go Fishing NI were delighted when he agreed to answer a few questions on how it all started.
At what age did you first get into fly fishing and who got you interested in it?
I am 48 now, but I started fly fishing around the age of 22. It was a very close friend called Mark Kenny who got me hooked to the sport. It didn’t take much encouragement as my dad taught me how to fish by putting a fishing rod in my hand at the age of 3-4years on the end off the old Bangor Pier.
Is there a preferred age for children to learn to fly fish? And if they are interested in learning, what can they do to get started?
My view may be completely different to others but I would like to see children around the age of 7-8 years learning how to fly fish, that age means they have been to primary school for a few years and they have learnt to listen and grasp the basics of the sport.
When children reach the said age I would advise them to join a club where you have people of the same age learning, there are a few trout waters in N. Ireland that have coaches and for a very small fee the art of fly fishing will be shown correctly. Northern Ireland Fly Fishing Association (NIFFA) have a hub at Dungannon Park Lake, the hub is controlled by the Mid Ulster council who work closely with NIFFA.
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone who is just starting to learn to fly fish?
Don’t rush everything slow down and everything will fall into place as they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, when you go fishing don’t expect to be a professional, my father always told me whatever type of fishing you do (it’s the getting out into the fresh air that counts, catching a fish is only a bonus) remember that and you will not go far wrong.
When did you first get selected for the Northern Ireland Fly Fishing Team? And how did selection come about?
I was selected for Team Northern Ireland last year, it all came about in 2014/2015 season when I entered a competition at Dungannon Park Lake, I didn’t do very well but I met a group of people who were involved with NIFFA and completely bonkers about fishing. To be selected for the following years Team you must be a member of NIFFA, then you enter six trials held all over the province, three bank heats & three boat heats. The trials are all scored with points for every fish. On the day of the trials you have a morning and afternoon session, when you complete all six trials. Your best four scores count from the six, so after all that you will know then if you have qualified to represent your country. It sounds all very serious but trust me the jokes and laughs you have along the way is fantastic.
What have been the highlights so far of being a member of the Northern Ireland Fly Fishing Team?
The highlight of being part of Team Northern Ireland was early this year for me, when we fished against the Republic of Ireland Team in the Inaugural Cross Border Cup. We won the cup for the second time in a row, where we all received a gold medal & an International Cap, on that day I was also awarded the Top Northern Ireland Cross Border Angler and was presented an individual gold medal for my achievement.
What advice would you give to anyone who has aspirations to one-day fly fish for Northern Ireland?
Yet again people may think differently too myself, but if you want to achieve anything in life you must listen, learn, practice & read up on different tactic’s also finding out what other anglers are using. Then when you finish with all of the advice you have been given go and do it all again and again. The main thing to carry forward is to believe in yourself, because if you don’t then don’t expect others too.
What is your favourite fly that you like to use and why?
We all have a particular fly or fly’s that we trust will catch us a fish, I have two the first being a fly that I sat at the bench one night & tied, I call it the ARD’S DISTROYER as I live in Newtownards– size 10 hook, red thread, red chenille body, red marabou tail and finally bright blue nail varnish dabbed around the red chenille body, most of my friends laugh but this little fly has pulled me out of a hole on the poorest of days fishing. Finally, the second fly would be a pheasant tail nymph size 12 fished very slowly.
What is the largest fish you have ever caught on the fly rod?
The largest fish that I have caught on a fly rod was a 21lb 8oz Pike in Lough Cowey, Co. Down. I must admit that I was trout fishing at the time, when I realised that I had caught a pike, It took approximately 15-20 minutes to land it as I never had a wire trace on and I didn’t want to lose a fish off a lifetime.
What is the most challenging water you have ever fished?
This is really only my second year at competitive fly fishing & I have not been fishing great amounts of different waters, but one water I will remember is Elinor Trout Fishery in Northamptonshire, England. I qualified to take part in the final of the Iain Barr World Bank International, I was only one from 100 hundred anglers who were competing. On that day I had too read the water and watch others how they fished plus what type of flies they were using, to make it even harder I was competing against 6-7 ex world champions, England Scotland and Welsh Internationals plus your idols from all your fly fishing magazines, it was a weekend too remember.
What would you say to any potential fly fishermen/women who are thinking of visiting Northern Ireland to try outs its many lakes and rivers?
If you will be travelling to Northern Ireland soon please remember to get a rod licence from the government website DAERA, or go online before you travel they are very cheap, there is great fishing all over our wee country whether you want ministry waters (Mill lough Bellanaleck, Lough Mourne Carrickfergus, Spelga Lough), there are some put and take trout fisheries (Dungannon Park Lake, the Straid, Movilla) to mention only a few, rivers are also great ( Roe, Maine, Moyola, Upper Bann). I have just been registered disabled myself and have found the DAERA website very accommodating, send them an email before you travel & remember get a rod licence and a permit if required, but above all enjoy the crack and fun that this little country provides.
Thank you Kevin for taking the time out to talk to Go Fishing NI. I wish you and the Northern Ireland Fly Fishing Team, the best of luck in future competitions.
It has been a privilege to take part in this Q&A and trust Go Fishing NI, will grow from strength to strength, keep up the great work.