Angling. A member of Team Ireland
Mary Peters Trust athlete
working as an Investment Risk Analyst after graduating from Queen’s University Belfast with a BA in Finance
Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Erne Anglers and CM Lakeland
Achievement I’m most proud of
5th place Senior (over 25s) World Championships 2022
What is your current goal
to be a World Number One
Coarse fishing has always been a challenging sport – but now it’s also young and trendy
The Fermanagh Lakes region has for many years been a heartland for angling with visitors coming from all arts and parts of the world to fish for pure pleasure but also to compete.
‘Fishing is right on my doorstep, and when the big competitions came to Fermanagh I used to go and watch all the anglers after school had finished – even though my family had no association with the sport,’ explains Mary Peters Trust athlete, 24-year James O’Doherty from Enniskillen.
‘At the age of ten I was inspired by Jack Tisdall (currently Chair of the National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland – NCFFI) to get involved in junior competitions. I’ve loved it ever since. I took part in school competitions whilst at Erne Integrated College competing on the River Bann at Portglenone amongst others.’
James is a member of the Erne Anglers, a club that has existed for over 45 years and he became part of the Junior Ireland set up when he was 14. He also competes with Monaghan based CM Lakeland. James has taken part in a host of fishing festivals and competitions across Europe. Hungary and Italy are stand-out memories as fishing is massive in both countries and the sport is well funded and promoted.
Belgium too where James secured 5th position in the 2022 Senior World Championships which he reckons is his best achievement to date. Winning the Erne Classic in 2019 was also very special. It’s a top-drawer competition held annually in May and attracts over 300 competitors internationally. This year’s (May 2023) didn’t quite go to plan but having already caught the top prize at the Classic, James knows what it feels like to be a winner of this renowned competition.
FIPSed – the Federation Internationale de La Peche Sportive en eau douce is the world body for angling events. All ‘World’ and European events are operated by FIPSed and typically have five days of practice where each team is allocated a different section of the river, lake or reservoir to plan their tactics for a two-day competition at the weekend. Most competitions last two or three days but in Ireland some can last up to five days.
In terms of positioning along the bank of the river/lake it’s the same for all competitions. Anglers are each allocated a ‘peg’ area usually 15 metres long and anglers must stay within that zone for the duration of the competition.
Participating countries fish in teams of five with titles awarded to the team with the least number of points. The competition is split into sections and the winner with the most weight is awarded one penalty point, two for second, three for third etc.
At the end of the two days the team with the least penalty points is the top team. As James points out for a team of five people, five penalty points is the best achievable score. The same process applies for anglers competing on an individual basis. All non- World/European competitions are measured by total heaviest weight wins with no penalty points awarded.
James is also involved in a few Club team competitions throughout the year, but mostly it’s individual events. In June this year (2023) he competed with CM Lakeland Club in the FIPSed World Feeder Club Championships held in Co Monaghan. Twenty-eight clubs took part over seven days with James’ team coming third and Lurgan Coarse Angling Club taking the top honours.
After gaining A Levels in Maths, ICT and Business Studies, James secured a BA in Finance at Queen’s University Belfast. He is currently working in asset and investment management based in Fermanagh and Dublin. No mean feat for a student who suffered from dyslexia.
‘It’s definitely hard work organising my job alongside fishing, but I’m determined to make it work and I’m so lucky that the company I work for, Neuberger Berman, is very supportive. They allow me to participate in a lot of competitions. From March until September this year I am taking one week per month to compete. Whilst I will miss some competitions, it’s a fantastic arrangement. I feel that the more open you are about your commitments, the more your work will try to help. Many corporate companies love to see their staff do something different and be successful.
‘Lots of people have helped me get to where I am today and in particular my family. I simply couldn’t have done it without their help. Before I passed my test my mum drove me everywhere and now it’s fantastic that I can drive myself to competitions.
‘Funding from the Mary Peters Trust is helping with transport to competitions across Europe. As an international competitor I have so much equipment and need to drive to events, therefore transport costs are high. And as competitions extend over several days, I also need accommodation. Trust support is so helpful and it’s also wonderful to be in the company of many other great sports people.’
Fishing as a sport and a pastime has moved more centre stage in recent years helped in some way by Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s ‘Gone Fishing’ television programmes and follow-up books. They certainly brought fishing to the attention of a wider public. James points out that Sky Sports broadcast all the major competitions which helps promote the sport to a younger audience.
‘Equipment for fishing is expensive so that does make it harder for young people to get started. I’m involved in coaching children and young people, and we’ve had over 300 take part which is incredibly encouraging for the sport’s future.’
‘Consistent practice at world class championship venues is how to improve,’ says James. ‘There is a lot of planning and strategy required at competitions. For example, do you go for speed and try to catch several hundred fish in five hours or do you gamble and wait for the big fish ie the heaviest to enable you to ultimately win. You also need to know what species of fish you can catch at certain times of the day. Practice as they say makes perfect.’
James became an individual All-Ireland Champion in Summer 2022 at a competition in Leitrim and his dream goal is to become a World Number One. James explains that at a World Championships there could be over 20,000 spectators. Proof that this popular sport has a huge following and will only develop more in the future.