The year was 1935 when most rivers were still in excellent order, but few could match the abundance of Ballynahinch in Co Galway. A gillie out with an American dentist, who had reached the last day of his holiday, desperately wanted to give his visitor a day to remember.
The river was low and clear, the sun shone intensely, in short, it could hardly have been worse. But the gillie knew one or two pools that would be bursting with fish.
Salmon were not going to take a fly, spinner or worm, but there were other, perfectly legal ways to put a fish on the bank or in the boat.
Having checked along the river, the gillie rowed the dentist out across a pool that was filled with jumping salmon, the poor creatures were jumping in a vain attempt to get more oxygen.
“You cast and I will row,” said the gillie. He rowed back and forth and the dentist cast continually in all directions.
Then something happened that the gillie imagined might happen and a great silver bar of a salmon leapt into the boat. Unfortunately, no sooner had it slammed down on the bottom boards than it thrashed its tail, slipped through the gillie’s hands and splashed back into the water.
They gave up and retired for lunch. In the afternoon they tried the same trick again and, incredibly, it worked. Another big salmon leapt into the boat and this time the gillie threw himself on it and the American dentist had a splendid Irish salmon to take home.
Edited extract from Tom Quinn’s book Fishing’s Strangest Days, published by Portico, an imprint of Anova Books.
Anglers on the move
Willie Nelson’s version of On the Road Again comes to mind as anglers knock off the shackles of distance restrictions and can move freely across the country to their favourite fishing venues without fear or foe.
Of course, all the Covid-19 regulations must still be rigidly adhered to but, nevertheless, it is terrific to be back up and running. After four months of lockdown, it really is a time for catch-up!
On Lough Sheelin, fishing was tough going due to variable weather conditions. Angling numbers averaged 10-15 boats a day with recorded catches scrambling to make it over the 30 mark, according to Brenda Montgomery.
There is normally a fallow period following the mayfly, probably due to the portly trout lying back allowing time for the food to digest after a spell of ephemeral over-indulgence.
Fish were caught on a variety of patterns with teams of wets favoured as dry fly conditions deteriorated. Nonetheless, the spent gnat patterns with the Wulffs in grey, green and royal were responsible for a modest number of catches.
Continuing this week with one of the big fish of 2019 as recorded in the Irish Specimen Fish Report, I include a sting ray caught by James Raymond from Tralee Bay, Co Kerry, in June. The fish had a wingspan of 122cm.
Natural Resource Wales (NRW) has joined forces with Farming Connect to remind landowners not to remove gravel from streams and rivers, following an increase in the number of incidents reported across Wales. These operations cause damage to aquatic invertebrates and fish spawning grounds and also risk the spreading of seeds from invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed to other locations. Hilary Foster, NRW’s specialist adviser, said: “Protecting our rivers is a priority for us. Gravel shoals provide habitat for fish spawning and are a key feature of a healthy river ecosystem. It can take years for a river to recover from inappropriate works,” she said.
Dún Laoghaire in-shore lifeboat came to the assistance of two anglers who were at risk of becoming cut off by the incoming tide north of Whiterock, Killiney, Co Dublin, last Wednesday. On arrival at the scene, the crew took the anglers on board and relocated them safely to Killiney beach.
Liam Mullan, RNLI press officer, said: “It is very easy to be caught off-guard, therefore it is important to check the weather forecast and tide times. This is of particular importance for shore anglers. If you get into difficulty, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.”