In memory of Des Brennan

Clive Gammon wrote to us on the 6th April 2000 with the following sad news, and a personal tribute which we echo.

“Des Brennan, who died early this week at age 73, was my oldest and closest fishing friend, as well as the best bass angler I ever met.

The first time we met, more than 40 years ago, was when I’d been commissioned to write a book on Irish Sea Angling and the Inland Fisheries Trust had sent him to brief me. He picked me up off the ferry at Rosslare and less than an hour later I was casting to big shoals of bass working over the Splaugh reef.

We did a six week stint together and became fast friends. And the following October we met again for what I still have to call the finest week’s surf fishing I ever had, even though the first day we’d been blown off by a big sou’westerly.

Next day, as the sea eased down, we fished the Black Strand in Co Kerry where the surf proved full of bass and we hammered them. We didn’t linger though. That night we drove east, to Rosscarbery in Co Cork, and repeated the performance on Ownahincha, then the Long Strand. So it went. Next stop was Courtmacsherry – more bass – then Garretstown near Kinsale, then Dungarvan, Co Waterford. And, as a grand finale, just before he put me back on the Fishguard ferry, we socked it to the Barrow Shore, Co Wexford. All week long we’d hit bass after bass after bass.

Oddly, on that trip, we didn’t fish Brandon Bay or Inch, beaches which have since become surfcasters’ Meccas. But the following year we made up for it. At Inch, people told us we were crazy to try catching fish in them big waves. That day, we caught 34 bass, nothing under 4lbs, best just under 10. When we showed locals the fish in the pub, they didn’t know what they were.

We were the first to surfcast Brandon Bay, as well. But it was there – this would have been in the early ’60s – that one day, loading the catch into the back of Des’s old Hillman, we looked at each other. Why the hell were we killing these fish?

It was the start of something big. Soon we’d be joined by Kevin Linnane of the IFT which now – this was the early ’60s – instituted a bass tagging programme which would end in the current Irish bass regulations – bag limit, close season etc – which puts ours to shame.

If Des needs a memorial, it’s that programme and its effect.

As early as the late ’60s, though, bass fishing had gone into decline. But Des, I and now Kevin, kept up our regular autumn bass week until I went to the States in 1974.

Even then we didn’t stop altogether. I flew New York/Shannon a few times, and Des made it over to the States now and then. I’ll never forget Big Des and I on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts knocking the bejasus out of a shoal of big striped bass. And later on, after red drum this time in North Carolina, showing bemused Yanks how to slap a 5oz lead far out into the high surf. And hooking and landing a 50lb tarpon from the beach on Blackbeard’s Island, Georgia.

And when I came back to Britain in the early ’90s, we picked up where we’d left off.

Until this last November, that is. Des was due to fish Inchadoney beach in Co Cork with Kevin and I, but he wasn’t well enough to make it.

The trip wasn’t the same.

And neither will any trip be in future.”

Clive Gammon