How it all began
The first World Cup Trout Fly Fishing Competition was organised by Castlebar & District Trout Angler's Association, and took place during Easter 1953. The venue was Cushlough Bay, Lough Mask. close to Ballinrobe town, and has remained so to the present day.
Lough Mask, the largest lake in the county, an extremely picturesque expanse of water over 10 miles long and 4.5 miles wide is bordered by the Partry mountains almost entirely on the Western shore and some of the peaks of the Maamturk can be seen from the lake in a southerly direction.
A comprehensive history of the competition entitled "Another World on Mask" was written by present chairman Denis Kelleher in 2003 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event.
In 1965 a Ballinrobe based committee replaced Castlebar and administered the competition to the present day.
Little did that exiled poet of long ago imagine that, centuries later, anglers would be converging on Mayo from all quarters to participate in the World’s Trout Fly Fishing Competition. With its much-indented coastline, Mayo typifies the scenic grandeur and variety of Ireland’s western seaboard.
Here is Nature in its grandest aspect, mountain and moorland, lovely landscapes and superb seascapes, but it is in her great lakes that Mayo is supreme as far as the rest of Ireland is concerned.
My earliest recollection of preparations for An Tostal festivities in 1953 was the painting of our neighbours' wall in a green colour, which I did not regard as overly attractive at the time. An Tostal gave it’s name to one of the forty shades of green and “Tostal” green paint could be purchased in a large number of small hardware shops in our towns and villages for a long time afterwards. An Tostal was celebrated by hosting cultural and sporting events throughout the country and special An Tostal committees were established.
The Ireland of the 1950s would not be regarded as a particularly colourful one and widespread emigration was rampant. Perhaps the thinking behind the celebration of An Tostal was to eliminate some of the gloom and doom that an economically depressed economy visited on the country at that time. In Co Mayo every club and organisation of note had arranged attractive programmes to ensure the success of what was seen as our first National Festival.
In Castlebar the late Paddy Howard and Gussie Wynne decided to visit Tom Coucill with a different idea in mind to mark the celebration of An Tostal in that part of the country. All three had a common interest in trout angling and were prominent officers of a very active Castlebar Trout Anglers Association - - -
The Castlebar Club was set up in 1928 and total membership for 1952 was 41. The fact that 21 committee meetings took place in that year would indicate that it was a very vibrant club. Release of fry from the hatchery in Pontoon to Loughs’ Conn, Carra, Tuckers’, and Church Lakes had taken place and the club was hosting the National championships on Lough Mask on 16th May 1953.
The “Inland Fisheries Trust Inc” was set up in 1952 by Government for the development of angling, in particular brown trout angling in Ireland and one of the first operations undertaken in the west was the transfer of trout from Lough Feagh near Newport to Lough Conn in a joint operation with the Castlebar Club.
Paddy Howard and Gussie Wynne met Tom Coucill and told him of their great idea, namely a competition on Lough Mask with 500 pounds in prizes. Tom enthusiastically agreed to the idea and immediately rallied to their aid the local and national Press and Radio. Paddy Howard, who was chairman of the Club, had earlier distinguished himself by, as a member of Ireland’s International team, winning the International for Ireland on Lough Leven and becoming Ireland’s captain for that year.
Arrangements were made with the Boatmens' Association on Lough Mask for the provision of boats for the event.
The Committee of Castlebar and District Anglers were as follows:
President Mr PT Moran,
Vice Presidents: Mr JP McCormack and T.P.Flanagan,
Chairman, Mr Paddy Howard;
Hon Sec. Tom Coucill,
Hon Treasurer; Mr C Hanley,
Committee; B Gillespie, R Gillespie, G Smith, G Mc Nally, C O'Driscoll, G Wynne, M Dunne, P Quinn, I Kelly,
Weigh-in Stewards; Sergt. Glynn and Mr D Carroll;
Official Timekeepers and Referees; Rev Dean Jackson, Ms PJ Quinn and TP Flanagan.
In an editorial in “The Connaught Telegraph" on June 6th 1953 reference was made to the event "By far the biggest event, however is the International angling competition commencing on Saturday April 4th (Easter Saturday). A grand and very representative entry has been attracted for the event including anglers from abroad, and in thus attracting visitors, the Castlebar club has succeeded in fulfilling the object behind An Tostal far better than has any other club, association or organisation in Mayo, perhaps in Ireland. Far more is it to their credit indeed that the idea behind the attractive event was not merely one of popularising competitive angling; neither was it, unlike the majority of clubs, one of making money - in fact the club will lose by it, believe it or not."
The Connaught Telegraph, published a booklet for the occasion with the official An Tostal stamp bearing the inscription “ An Tostal” April 5th-26th 1953 (Ireland at home) and advertising the “World Cup” on Lough Mask. 9 Co Mayo angling clubs were listed in the publication and in addition to Castlebar the 3 more closely identified with Lough Mask were listed with the following representatives. Westport Anglers ; P O’Connell, J Stack Tourmakeady Anglers ; T Molloy and Ballinrobe & District Anglers ; J.J.Leydon, B.Daly. John Hynes, County Jeweller, Castlebar supplied the “World Trout Fly Fishing Competition Perpetual Cup” for the event and 50 years later the same cup adorned with the names of all winners on the base is one of the most sought after prizes in Irish angling.