Memories …. The gentle tuk tuk of the Yamaha outboard engine on our brand, new
to us, 18ft wooden boat as we launched into Lough Carra near MooreHall is as vivid as it was 30 years ago. With my Dad on the tiller we glided the light blue boat though the soft reeds as we made our way to the open waters of our favourite fishing spot nestled between two small islands west of our launch. It’s a lake that has a unique limestone bottom and this always created a surreal fishing experience as you can often see the fish move along the bottom and you wonder at your lack of camouflage as you cast your mayfly on the bright waters.
The following year we moored the boat in Tourmakeady, on the shore of Lough Mask. The fishing was a completely different experience. Whereas Lough Carra was like a friendly uncle “The Mask” was the alcoholic uncle who could be great fun one minute and fly into a murderous rage the next. Being caught in the wild squall of a Mayo shower as the wind whipped across from Ballinrobe was not for the faint hearted but as always my Dads experience as a former Lighthouse keeper ensured we navigated the sea-like waves with the expertise of a man used to wilder conditions. The thrill of a brown trout breaching the surface just as your fishing reel sung is a delight that still sends a shiver up my spine. The joy of the bend of the rod, the rush of the reel and the timing of the strike ensured a tasty tea or a tale of the one that got away.
Bilberry Lake, just outside Castlebar, closer to home was the go to lake for everyday fishing. Myself and my friend “Pud” used to hitch, cycle or even walk the five miles to the lake. We would rent a boat and set out to explore every corner of the drumlin surrounded lake. Pre our “engine days” we would spend hours, rowing around the lake, exploring every nook and cranny but we always started and finished at our favourite spot, the old graveyard shore. It always bore fruit.
On an exceptionally poor fishing day we decided to troll our flies up the centre of the lake. Pud rowed, into the stiff wind, and I lay back on the floor of the boat with my feet crossed and resting on the gunnel. I wasn’t expecting a take … Suddenly my rod dipped violently. The scream of the reel let me know this could be a big one.
Pause … pause … wait. .. wait. .. strike … Hooked, but that’s only the start of the battle
or the dance…. 15 minute later, the fish still hadn’t shown itself. Patience, play him,
don’t force it. .. calm … calm.
I gained some ground as the fish was tiring and I gained a few crucial yards as I reeled him closer. He breached. “Jaysus .. He’s a nice fish” uttered Pud. Of course it was the one day we forgot the landing net and this fish wasn’t giving up easily. Plan B … Pud rowed gently to the old graveyard shoreline and I guided the now tiring fish with us. Stepping out of the boat onto the shore, we fortuitously borrowed a landing
net from a shore fisherman and slide it beneath a beautiful majestic Rainbow trout. Landed. A Six Pounder.
It is lockdown and I’m searching my memories. When this time passes it is going to be like the scene from the film “The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy Dufrey described his favourite spot to “Red”. “It’s got a long rock wall with a big oak tree at the north end”.
I too have my spot. I have pictured the rock I will sit on. I see the flat rock that I will put my stove to brew my cuppa. I see the knarled tree that I will hang my fishing bag on and I see the exact spot that I am going to have my first cast. Memories …