When Kilkenny native Ned Maher visited his first angling centre, he fell for the idea... hook, line and sinker.

Ned began his career as a dairy farmer and contractor on a 50-acre farm, but felt there was a lack of security.

“Milk prices were volatile and expenses, like fertiliser among others, always seemed to be getting higher while profit margins were getting lower,” he explains.

Ned’s 50-acre farm left him with little room for expansion, but on a trip to Mullingar, he came across a local angling facility and was immediately drawn to the idea of setting up a similar enterprise on his own farm.

Unfortunately, at that time, every acre was being used for his dairy farm, so the idea of ripping up a good field to use as a lake to stock with fish was unimaginable.

Eventually, after selling his herd, Ned’s dream of setting up a centre was well and truly under way. His first port of call was to contact his Teagasc adviser.

The process of approval for the fishery project involved site meetings, the development of a business plan and meetings with the Kilkenny LEADER board. Asking other angling centre owners for their expert advice was also key.

Opening Ardaire Springs

After a long journey, Ned finally opened Ardaire Springs, an angling centre in Ardera, Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, covering 2.5 acres of lakes.

These lakes are stocked with rainbow and brown trout ranging from 2lb to 20lb. The decision to stock the lakes with rainbow trout was due to Ned’s keen interest in fishing for trout since childhood.

Rainbow trout are much tougher, grow quicker and are easier to source than the native Irish brown trout.

Ned Maher \ Dylan Vaughan

The fishing lakes have added to the tourism of the area and have benefited local businesses, from B&Bs to restaurants.

In recent times, the fishery has been visited by individuals from England, France, Italy and the US, while local anglers enjoy the facility once or twice a week.

Although Ned was initially questioned for his decision to diversify, he admits that he has “got something right as we get people coming from all over the country to fish at Ardaire Springs”.

Growing The Business

Offering tuition for various levels and supplying all fishing gear, it has become an ideal location for beginners and for anyone who wishes to try out fishing.

Although not part of the original plan, Ned and his team have developed an extensive tackle shop. The on-site tackle shop holds a range of fishing tackle, allowing for easy access to anything you may need for a day of fishing at Ardaire Springs.

The tackle shop is the main dealer for Mackenzie fly-fishing in Ireland, stocking the full range of Mackenzie single and double rods.

The shop also offers rod hire at reasonable rates.

Ardaire Springs caters for both young and old. As part of a recent expansion, a smaller lake has been added for bait fishing, which helps to cater for kids, families and schools in a better way, as well as the added incentive of being able to cook the catch of the day on the facility’s BBQ.

The journey of setting up Ardaire Springs was difficult, but what does Ned believe is the secret to establishing a successful business?

“You must have a passion for your project,” he replies, “you must also research your target market and you have to make your project stand out from your competitors.”

The Kilkenny Trail Festival

Ardaire Springs is offering beginner lessons in fly and bait fishing as well as fishing sessions as part of the Trail Kilkenny Outdoor Festival.

The action-packed, two-week festival is a joint venture, funded by Trail Kilkenny and Kilkenny LEADER Partnership through the Rural Development Program.

Running from 2-15 July, this is the first year the festival will be held and includes activities such as rock climbing, Nordic walking, white water adventures, giant catapulting, raft building and so much more.

The programme is aimed at getting everyone active, so round up your family and friends to enjoy the great outdoors or just try something new in the world-renowned Kilkenny countryside.

Booking details are available on www.trailkilkennyoutdoorfestival.ie

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