At the time of writing, maybe, just maybe, the signs suggest we may get to wet a line before the end of season. I, for one anyway, continue to remain optimistic! Even if we do get there, social distancing will probably be with us well into 2021.
Meanwhile, I continue with more entertaining and bizarre tales gathered from around the world in Tom Quinn’s book, Fishing’s Strangest Days.
In England in 1816, the vicar of Salisbury was one Josiah Carter. He was an enthusiastic fly fisherman in the days when live flies were still used, and fly casting – in the modern sense – had yet to be invented.
The Georgian technique, if it can be called that, was to use a very long rod, perhaps 18 feet, and allow the wind to carry the horsehair line, with daddy-long-legs or whatever attached to the hook, out into the stream.
Most fly fishermen simply collected a tinful of real insects and proceeded to dibble them across the surface of the water.
Of course, in the early 19th century, the pressures of pollution and over-fishing were unknown and large stocks of unsophisticated trout made game fishing that much easier, which is why our intrepid vicar often came back with a basketful of fish.
But on this particular day the trout were unresponsive. Along with several friends, they had enjoyed plenty of good days on other stretches but the weather on this particular day had turned against them.
Loath to give up, the vicar fished on. Two hours later as his fly landed on the water for the umpteenth time, there was a huge boil and a giant rat took the fly. It fought, as he explained later, like a tiger before he was able to bring it to the net.
Most of his friends assumed that he had simply released it or knocked it on the head. So they were astonished six months later to visit the vicar and find, in a glass case above his fireplace, a very large rat beautifully stuffed by one of London’s top taxidermists.
The vicar had even asked the taxidermist to attach the hook and the final six inches of line that had landed his great prize. And at dinner parties from that day forth he always boasted that any fool could catch a trout but only a very skilful angler could catch a rat the size of that one!
Scotland, 1972. A famous gillie who had worked on the River Spey for decades regularly caught fish when others found it extremely difficult. Some put it down to his experience while others thought it was because he knew the water so well he could time his fishing to perfection.
One day he had done particularly well whenever his guest handed him the rod and went off for a while. Each time the fisherman returned he found the gillie had landed another fish. After three fish caught in this way the fisherman decided to stick it out.
He fished hard for a couple of hours. Nothing. It was puzzling because he was experienced and knowledgeable. Eventually he stopped fishing, offered the gillie a dram from his flask and asked him how he did it.
Feeling sorry for the fisherman who was an old friend, the gillie looked about quickly and then beckoned him to come closer.
“Dog hair,” said the gillie.
“What?” said the guest.
“Dog hair,” came the reply.
“What on earth has dog hair got to do with it?”
“Each time you went away, I tied a bit of my old Alsatian’s fur to the hook. On a dour day like this it can make all the difference,” the gillie said.
The fisherman clearly didn’t believe a word of it so the gillie took the rod, reeled in and, having fished around in his pocket, tied on a short tuft of blackish hair. Five minutes later he was into a good fish.
The fisherman was astonished. This time instead of removing the dog hair when he handed the rod back to the fisherman, the gillie left it on and within minutes another salmon lay on the bank.
The gillie insisted the trick did not always work, but when everything else had been tried it was, he said, always worth a shot.
Flynn’s super bream
Continuing this week with one of the big fish of 2019 as recorded in the Irish Specimen Fish Report, I include the heaviest bream of 2019 caught by David Flynn on the River Erne at Belturbet, Co Cavan in May. The fish weighed 5.16kg (11.37lb).
Major five-year plan for Clare River
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed between Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and Cairde na Chláir, will enable both parties to join forces on a five-year plan towards the conservation and development of brown trout and salmon on the Clare River in the Western River Basin District.
Commenting on the partnership, Minister Seán Canney, said: “I fully support the signing of this MOU which represents the formalisation of a long standing collaborative relationship between IFI and Cairde na Chláir.”
Dr Byrne, CEO of IFI, said: “We look forward to working with Cairde na Chláir, learning from one another and developing joint initiatives at a time when collaborative work is critical for the future of our fisheries resource.”
The Cairde na Chláir clubs involved are Milltown Anglers, Cregmore Athenry Anglers, St Colmans Anglers and Tuam Anglers’ Association.