Early Memories of the Brown Flesk

I was born very near the Brown Flesk river in the early forties. In my youth I spent a lot of what spare time I had at the river. To me at the time it was a very big river as I knew no other river. As our small farm was bounded on one side by it and I had easy access to it. The horse was often taken to the river on warm days for a drink of the cool clear water. It was a joy to watch fish jumping and by the sound of the splash we would say a trout or a salmon. The cattle had access to it at all times and spent a lot of time just standing in the water chewing the cud and keeping the flies away with the swishing of their tails.
On many a Sunday my brothers and I would go to the river for our sport. We often had a jam jar with a string tied around it to catch very small fish (young trout or salmon.) We used to have a competition who would catch the most. We would put them in a bigger jar and then return them to the river. I remember a day that the water bailiff came up behind us and made us put them all back and we were told not to catch any more. That did not stop us as one of us would keep a look out for him after that. We often met fishermen in the fishing season and were amazed when one man in particular made his dinner by boiling water on a primer and making tea for himself to go with his sandwiches. Some of them had come from Tralee and Castleisland. We knew most of the locals. That got me interested in fishing which sport I still enjoy in my late seventies. Another pastime of ours was skipping stones on the water. The trick was to pick a flat stone and count the number of skips it made before sinking to the bottom of a big pool. We were never bored as the youth of to-day have a habit of saying.
I started fishing at a very young age. My first fishing rod was a straight light branch of an ash tree with a length of fishing line tied around the top of it. I well remember my first catch a lovely half pound brown trout. Three of us were fishing that day. One of them, having no patience even to this day, threw all his worms into the river That ruined the day as the fish got enough but late in the evening one took my worm. There was no playing of the fish just haul it out. My youngest brother came down to the river to call us home for supper and ran off with my fish. I was so hungry and tired that I could not catch him. He got home before me with my prize. Another day with a small flood on the river I was still fishing by the same means and hooked a good fish, a white trout of about a pound and a half, and just whipped it out. It came off the hook in flight and landed in a bunch of feileastrams . Who should be coming along the bank but my “friend” the water bailiff, fortunately he did not see the incident, and the fishermen told me to leave it where it was, as I had no fishing licence, until he had gone on his way1I was the talk of the day as it was the only fish caught. The old saying was true “no sea-trout until the feileastram is in bloom.”
In those days hard work was the order of the day and we as kids all had our own jobs to do and all the family combined to do major jobs like saving the hay, thinning turnips and mangolds, picking the potatoes and gathering and binding the oats, barley and wheat in the days before the reaper and binder. The river was full of fish with no pollution even though the local creamery emptied the washing of the butter making vats into it but trout and eels seem to thrive on it for a good half mile down river. Bring back the old days.