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Anglers so grateful to be casting a line

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Fisherman on the bank of Ballysallagh Lower Reservoir near Craigantlet

Fisherman on the bank of Ballysallagh Lower Reservoir near Craigantlet

PA

Fisherman on the bank of Ballysallagh Lower Reservoir near Craigantlet

Some pensioner fishermen were able to see their friends for the first time in weeks as angling was permitted to resume here yesterday.

They had to raise their voices to speak to each other due to social distancing but savoured casting fishing lines anew as coronavirus restrictions were eased.

For many used to spending days indoors in recent months it was a relief to enjoy the pristine water conditions of the Craigantlet Hills near Belfast.

Alan Chowney (64) said: "A 78-year-old said: 'It was nice to see my friends'."

He is honorary secretary of Belfast Anglers Association, the oldest such club in Ireland and celebrating its 132nd birthday this year. Its 90-strong membership stretches from Donaghadee to Lisburn.

Mr Chowney, a retired civil servant from Lisburn with more than four decades' service, said the association fished loughs near Holywood which have already been stocked with rainbow and brown trout.

"It was in brilliant condition," he added. He said a lot of other lakes were suffering from weeds and algae growth, but savoured his trip yesterday morning to the hills overlooking Belfast.

"The water is very clean and the fish are in good condition."

He said that a lot of club members were quite elderly and the sport was about socialising.

"It makes an awful difference. It gets people out of the four walls of their house which they have been looking at for quite a long time."

Despite social distancing measures his members are able to talk to each other, albeit with a raised voice.

The season at the higher-level lakes in the Craigantlet Hills usually begins in earnest in April.

Mr Chowney added: "Today is the first day of our fishing season for 2020."

He said Environment Minister Edwin Poots had made the right decision in giving his hobby the go-ahead to resume this week.

"Angling is a solitary sport in terms of the individual fisherman distancing from other fishermen because you need clear space to fish."

Mr Chowney said a strong case had been made to Government by the fishing clubs: "Our sport is such that you are not in a crowd and a group, so it is quite easy to do."

Belfast Telegraph