By Marty O’Brien

In the 1980s on our way to Kerry where we had a house rented in Ballybunion for our summer holidays, we always stopped in Castleconnell coming and going. We would have a picnic by the river and call in to the shop that had big salmon on display and old fishing tackle hanging on the wall. With five children I was not into old fishing – that would come later when I came across an article by Daniel F. McCrea in an old issue of the magazine “Rod and Gun”. That was in February 1979. Daniel visited Castleconnell in that year to investigate the life of John Enright. He lamented that there was nothing in Castleconnell to commemorate the achievements of the local angler who became the World Fly Casting Champion in 1896.

Around 1990 I began to collect antique Irish fishing tackle and had acquired an old brass reel made by the Enright’s of Castleconnell. I was curious to find out more about the man and visited Castleconnell myself and talked to local people to try and unravel the Enright story. Then I met Paddy Lee whose grocery shop had been the Enright tackle shop and where the famous Castleconnell greenheart rod was sold having been made in the nearby Enright factory. Paddy was a great help and gave me numerous items associated with the Enright’s. Later I met Albert Enright who was enthusiastic about the achievements of John Enright. Albert was also so generous in giving me some photos and cards associated with the Enright firm. Later I also met Joe Carroll, author of several books about Castleconnell, and he too was a great help to me in my research. All these locals have a great interest in the great Enright family and are part of the driving committee who worked to ensure that John Enright will never be forgotten in Castleconnell.

What I can tell you about John Enright is that he was a very shy man, a small man but from the waist up he was all muscle with great powerful arms John Enright, World Fly Casting Champion. An Caisleán – The Castleconnell, Ahane, Montpelier Annual 2008 86 that came from fly casting from a very young age. This was his secret strength that came from working as a young boy in the rod factory, swishing and testing the big greenheart rods. It is now very difficult to get even a photograph of John Enright or anything to do with the firm – ledgers, books, fishing tackle or catalogues. They must be out there someplace. I will keep searching. Some of the highlights of John’s career were:

– 1896 in London – World Fly Casting Champion in three events including the prestigious 20-foot rod event and the World Record previously held by J.J. Hardy was broken.

– 1900 in Paris – at an angling exhibition he equalled his record from London of four years previously.

– 1904 in London – he broke his own record with a throw of 147 feet.

– 1906 in New York – on Harlem Lake he broke the world record yet again with a throw of 148 feet and 6 inches.

He broke numerous other records with smaller rods ranging from 11 to 15 feet. As far as my research shows, John broke at least eleven world records using different rod lengths.

John Enright used these events to market and sell the rods produced in Castleconnell. With his fame and success his rods sold to all corners of the world and his business thrived. He was internationally renowned.

John’s last display was in the Franco-British Exhibition Tournaments held near Shepherds Bush, London in July 1908. Even though he was unwell he gave a marvellous display of his outstanding casting ability. He died at this home in the Shannon Hotel on 25th October 1908 at the early age of 44 years.

I want to leave the last word to J.J. Hardy of the great Hardy Tackle Firm who was John’s principal and most formidable opponent in the casting tournaments of the World. In a letter to the Fishing Gazette in October 1908 after he had heard of the death of John Enright, he said of him, “he had never heard an ill word spoken of him.” Surely, no man could have a better epitaph