Largest salmon ever caught in Foyle makes big news splash

THERE isn't a fisherman past or present who hasn't got a tale to tell of 'the one that got away' - but very few anglers can boast of landing a salmon that gives issue to 'Desperate Dan-sized' steaks that won't fit on a normal dinner plate.

Patsy McHugh from Conneyburrow Road just over the border from Strabene in Lifford, however, may well find himself thoroughly sick of the sight of salmon by the time he, his family and his friends and neighbours have polished off his monster catch - a whopping 33.5lb salmon which he caught in the Foyle system last week.

It was so big when he lifted it the official tag snapped and the brute had to be re-tagged. Meanwhile, in order to get a photograph with it, Patsy had to wind bailer twine round the tail and hang the fish from the corner of a fence and pretend to hold it aloft while official catch photos were taken.

Bigger than his spaniel Bowser, Patsy had to take his catch to his sister-in-law's home to keep it in her bath covered in ice, because he did not have the space to lay the fish out in his own home.

At its broadest part when cut into steaks they measured 24 inches, so Patsy was forced to cut the steaks down into one-inch thick slices before freezing them or giving them away.

In fact, it was so big that Patsy has now entered the record books as the fisherman who caught the heaviest fish in the Foyle system in decades - his nearest rival is a 32lb catch back in 1991.

"I have been fishing for about 30 years and this is by far the largest fish I have every caught," said Patsy, adding: "The Foyle Commission took it off me to get it mounted and they are getting a reproduction of it, keeping one for official purposes in Derry and I'm getting one."

Asked how long it took him to get the salmon freezer-ready he laughed: "It took me a brave while. I'm not particularly fond of salmon, give me a couple of good trout any day."

Caught using a bubble and fly, Patsy revealed that some anglers couldn't believe his choice of fly.

"I have had anglers coming to the house to get a look at it and get some tips on how it was caught. I used a Green Highlander No.8 treble and bubble and some of them said 'If that was my last fly in my box I wouldn't use it'," he said.

"There are a lot of sites on the Web saying I should have had the fish tagged. When I caught it I put a tag on it, but when I grabbed the nylon tag she broke when I tried to lift it, and the only thing I could do was use bailer twine wound round the tail for carrying it."

In addition to reeling at the notion of having platefuls of salmon for tea for months to come, Patsy said his catch has also landed him a gold medal and certificate - and, of course, a place in angling history.

His prize catch has brought Patsy to the attention of anglers the world over, and according to Danny Hunter the CEO of FoyleFishing.com, some famous faces have been in touch to find out 'where, when and how', including Simply Red front man Mick Hucknall who is a keen game fisherman who invested in Glenmore Rivers Sporting Estate - there's nothing quite like a little competitive rivalry.

Congratulating Patsy on his catch on Thursday, Mr Hunter said: "Patsy comes down to the river for a couple of hours every day. This is a lifetime achievement for a person who likes to fish. This is like winning the National Grand Prix in fishing terms, and he will get a bit of fame from it and, of course, he now goes into the record books for the biggest catch in Northern Ireland."

"A 33.5 lb salmon is hard to beat. The last one ws 26 lb weight and that was caught six or seven years ago on the Mourne River. There were five more caught today (Thursday] that were nine of 10 lbs.

Among the other famous faces that have fished the river system who may well make their way back to try their hand at trying to land another 'big one' are Chris Tarrant and Tiger Woods.