Six Miles From The City

It’s still dark. 4am. The Liffey flows gently by. Our van moves so smoothly it is along the empty road it almost seems silent as we pull into the car park of the Wrens Nest. Lifting the punt from the roof we make our way through the bushes to the water’s edge. The sky brightens as we paddle towards the first string of fyke nets. The river is full of wildlife but eels are our targets. There are bubbles and splashes on the surface indicating otters are making a comeback, two families along this stretch. On the far bank a flash of blue and red suggests a kingfisher has joined us for our mornings work. An old grey heron stands motionless on a fallen log like the sentinel of the river. Birdsong fills the air, first a robin and then a thrush joins the chorus. Buzzing insects add to the din. Who would believe we are only six miles from the city? The river narrows as we move along. Shackleton’s weir is next on the list. There is a set of steps here to ensure salmon can move upstream. We move on to Lucan weir, where the Griffeen flows into the main channel. The nets here are bulging with eels to add to the days catch. We salute the grey squirrel crossing the river on the edge of the stone footbridge. The day is warming up now and we unlock the gate leading to the dam. The water here varies in depth with the highest yield coming from the deepest area of the old riverbed. Each bag here holds fifty kilos of silver eels. They had been waiting for October when they make their way to the ocean, cross the Atlantic and spawn in the Sargasso Sea off Bermuda. The eel elvers catch the warm Gulf Stream to return to Europe. A fish lift means the salmon can climb to the spawning redds. The same device means elvers can populate the feeding grounds. The grapple snags the next string on the nets and we’re off again. Untie the bag and tip a dozen eels into the keep-net. This has been a good day. Now it is time to turn our efforts into cash. We fill two forty-gallon barrels and take the catch to the docks. The lorry is already there, waiting for us. The driver has been in the pub for supper, after collecting the catch of the day from dozens of other fishermen like us all over the country. Our contribution completes the order and we are done for the day. The eels are destined for Holland. Our seasons were short but full of incident. After several years natures scales became unbalanced and demanded correction. Eel fishing was suspended awaiting resurgence. It has been 15 years since I last launched my boat on the Liffey before the city woke up. My fishing days are now behind me but the memories of these mornings still fill me with a sense of contentment and peace.