By The Banks of The Boyne

When I was a boy, my father would take me to the Boyne to fish. Back then he would tell me I was too small to hold a fishing rod of my own, so I was more than happy to accompany him, happy to be in his company, and happy to watch him. I was always happy to be close to the river, as was dad. For us, the Boyne was a chest full of treasures, waiting to be discovered. I loved watching dad fish, watching his skill while casting worm or minnow into the flowing water. Watching how he would let the current move his bait across the river bed, watching his body movements that might give me a clue he was ‘on’ to a biting fish, and seeing the tell-tale ‘tap’ on the rod tip that would confirm he was!
I remember the first item I saw a trout in my father’s hands. I marvelled at the colouration; the shape and the form of this beautiful creature, spotted with brown, flecked with gold and red. Catching a wild brown trout was like catching a gold bar, like catching the prince of the river. To me, my father was the fisher king. Back in those days it was the norm to take the catch home ‘for the pan’. If we didn’t cook it ourselves, it would be donated (via request of course) to friends and neighbours. I remembered my first taste of fried trout, done in a bit of flour and butter. Absolutely delicious, with some brown sauce on the side. Dad would fish sparingly. If he got up to the bag limit, that was considered a ‘good day out’, and he would finish at that.
My turn came later, when I was eventually shown (and trusted) how to cast, how to set up a rod, and how to bait up a hook under my father’s watchful eye. Our trips to the river began to take on a different slant, in that if we went out and dad caught a trout (and I inevitably came up blank), I’d hear him mock football chanting in my ears ‘One-Nil! One-Nil!!!’
That gentle slagging stopped when I finally ‘broke my duck’ and landed my first rod caught ‘brownie’ on a windy April Day in 1979.
That was a day forever burned into my memory. That was the day I ran home, high on adrenalin, holding my prize aloft. It was my turn to crow ‘Ooo-o-ne Nil!! ’ for a change!
That was the day I fell hook, line, and sinker, for fishing. That was the day the goddess Boann finally caught my soul. In the years that followed, my skills evolved into the delicate art of fly fishing, and indeed, into catching and releasing all my trout. I have enjoyed every blessed minute it, and indeed, my father did too when he could.
Even in the autumn of his years, we would still sit and chat about the ‘ones that got away’ and those golden days on the banks of the Boyne that both we shared. We did this right up to the day when he made his final cast.
I will always look back to that precious time we had together.
I will never forget the gift of fishing he gave to me. Gifts of fond memories, gifts priceless beyond measure.
So today, as I carefully release yet another beautiful ‘brownie’ back into my beloved river Boyne, I release it in silent thanksgiving.
This one is for you Dad.
Love you forever. xxx