There are a lot of big roach around at present and I'm praying for a good draw on one of the shallow roach pegs when the festivals get underway. My best ever roach catch came from the Portora stretch of the Erne back in 1992.That day I took seventy one kilos of roach on strong pole tackle. For those not familiar with kilos that's just over one hundred and fifty six pounds of my favourite species. If you've never been to Ireland I would urge you to give it a go. Believe me you will really enjoy it and want to go back again and again. I love the Erne system in County Fermanagh but there are loads of places you can go to in both Northern and Southern Ireland.

The best way to plan a trip is to contact an angling holiday tour operator and they will sort everything for you including bait. I normally book my trips through Cliff Smart's angling holidays. You can contact them on 01536 724226. They have an excellent brochure listing all the best places to fish and stay and just a phone call will get you one. Your trip can be tailored to suit your own needs. Whether you want to stay in a guest house,self catering chalet or hotel they can sort it for you. Once you've decided where to go your next job will be to plan things like tackle and bait. Your normal kit will do a job but in my experience it's better to kit up with slightly more robust kit than normal as you could find yourself on a lot of fish when you're there and to take full advantage you will need to beef things up a bit. Modern day carp poles are ideal for Irish fishing but remember to change the internal elastic for strong powergum as this will enable you to lift decent size fish without needing a landing net. I use Maxima as a main line for my strong pole rigs as it's very reliable and has never let me down. You will need to get hold of pole floats between two and ten grams to cover all eventualities. I make my rigs up at home on around eight metres of line and shorten on the bank as necessary. Remember to get some big olivettes as well as these perform much better than a string of shot. There are lots of good hooks on the market nowadays that will do a good job in Ireland but my favourites are the Mustad Long Point patterns. If you are on a lot of fish it's quite possible to catch on a size 12 or even a ten. On the day that I took that big roach catch I used

a size ten dry fly hook with a bunch of maggots on board. Main line was six pound Maxima and hooklength was four pound.

Irish fish love groundbait and plenty of it. If you are pleasure fishing it's advisable to pre-bait the swim the night before you fish. If there are any bream around they will soon find your feed and be ready and waiting for you when you start fishing next day. My favourite groundbaits are the Whizzo Big River mix and Irish Bag up. Mix them equally for your main feed and use a dryish mix of Big River for the open end swimfeeder.

The very best bait for Irish bream is worm, both on the hook and as feed in the swimfeeder.I get all my worms before I go from British Worm Breeders in Leicester.They can send you all the worms you need on an overnight carrier so all you need to do is work out what you want and give them a ring on 01455 282072.They will send the worms to you in convenient plastic buckets which are robust and help to keep your worms in perfect condition for your trip. British Worm Breeders produce worms in a variety of sizes but for Irish fishing I would recommend you use medium worms for chopping up for the feeder and small worms for the hook. Try one, two or even three small worms on the hook as these often work better than just one big worm. For more information on the various worms available give British Worm a ring and they will send you a brochure listing prices. It's also a handy reference guide to how to fish with worms with articles by several leading anglers including current world champion Alan Scotthorne. A brilliant product also from the British Worm range worth mentioning is the popular "Worm Bank". Basically this is a highly concentrated worm feed into which you can store any worms you may have left over. By keeping them in this way I have stored worms for several months and I've always got some hookbaits available whenever I need them.

In addition to worms and groundbait you will need some casters and red maggots when you are there.These can be ordered through the tour operator who will send you a bait order form when you book. Don't bother to take casters and maggots with you as the bait available in Ireland is equally as good as the bait here and usually cheaper.

Looking at running line tackle for Ireland I would advise you to get hold of a good eleven foot/ thirteen foot combination feeder rod which will enable you to punch out a decent sized feeder thirty to forty yards. I use the MAP Big River/Method feeder for strong lines and the MAP medium feeder for lighter work. Over the past twelve months I've had a lot of success using braid as a main line. If you've never tried it give it a go. It's very strong, has little stretch and helps to magnify the bites even from small fish. In addition it's very low in diameter for it's breaking strain so you can cast a long way much easier than with a thick mono line of the same breaking strain.

You will need to get some swimfeeders to take with you. Don't bother with blockend feeders, take just open enders with you as you will be using groundbait to plug the feeder containing chopped worms and casters. The best feeders I've used in Ireland are the NISA range which are available from many good tackle shops. If you want more information on the NISA range give the owner Nick Larkin a ring on 01502 563965. Nick will send you a brochure listing all the feeders in the range. I normally use the medium or large feeders with a lead loading to suit the distance I need to fish. It's also worth remembering that on very windy days it's useful to use a heavy feeder to enable you to cast accurately through the wind. On days like this I like to employ a strong shock leader of around six pounds breaking strain as this avoids the danger of the line breaking on the cast and losing the feeder.

Whilst swimfeeder fishing is undoubtedly the number one method on most Irish waters there is also a great deal of enjoyment to be had by floatfishing with a waggler or big sliding float. Forget your normal small peacock wagglers though. You will need to get some big bodied floats taking between eight and sixteen grams and you will also need a powerful float rod to punch the float out to the required distance. My particular favourite is the MAP Concept carp fourteen foot match rod which although powerful is also forgiving in the tip section. Team this up with three or four pound Maxima main line. I prefer to use a high-tec hooklength to tie my hook to and my choice would be MAP Carptek which is a very accurate and strong low diameter line. I've always been in the habit of carefully checking line diameters with a micrometer and it's amazing just how far out some lines are to what is stated on the spool. When you get to the business end of the tackle I think it's vital to be using what you think you are using. For instance I recently checked a well known brand of line which had a stated diameter of 0.12mm. Upon checking I found the line on the spool was actually 0.14mm. Now when the fish are feeding well it might not make a lot of difference but on difficult days it's a well known fact that it's possible to get more bites on finer lines. To that end I would always recommend you to use the MAP Carptek line.

Finally, when you are sorting your gear out for an Irish trip make sure you've got plenty of accessory bits and bobs with you. There's nothing worse than starting fishing and being short of small essentials like shot or disgorgers. Also make sure you've got plenty of warm gear and waterproofs with you. The weather as I write is glorious but I know from experience that things can quickly deteriorate. I've had many a soaking in Ireland but the memorable big catches have made it all worthwhile. I only hope I can get amongst a few this time round !!. Oh I've just remembered don't forget to take plenty of spare money with you. They'll keep you in the bar all night if you let them. I've promised myself at least two nights before 3am this year. Mind you I am here for four weeks !!!!!.

Next time I'll be taking a close look at fishing back home. If the air temperature continues to climb the start of the "proper" fishing season could be a real cracker.