Tuesday 21 November 2017

My grandmother fed a big family from the river back in the sunny summers when the fish gave themselves up

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

It was Wednesday last and the width of the Liffey could be lepped by a half- decent long jumper. The sun-dried, tide-out river trickled past Heuston Station.

I always thought the Liffey was a big wide river, but now you could capture every fish that travelled up and down the waterways in a small cage.

The cage is a wire mesh attached to a frame and is a device used by poachers to trap trout and salmon. It's usually planted at the point where the river flows fastest and so the unsuspecting fish are swept into the narrow opening. The fish haven't much room to turn and find it difficult to plot their way out. It's a bit like being married to a bossy wife.

I could never rightly figure out how a salmon capable of swimming a thousand miles ends up at the exact spot where he was spawned, but the same fish cannot find his way out of a trap no bigger than two canary cages welded together.

For the first time, there was no sign of a shopping trolley in the river.

So it is we come to the second mystery of the Liffey. What has happened to the shopping trolleys? And why are young drunks not throwing abandoned trolleys over the wall? Gone with Bang Bang and the Royal.

This is, or should I say used to be, the white trout season in our silver River Feale.

Alas, the white trout are as scarce now as senators voting for their own demise. Some blame the big boats out at sea and more blame poachers.

My grandmother fed a big family from the river, back in the sunny summers when the fish gave themselves up. It was said you could walk from one side of the Feale to the other on the backs of the white trout without getting your feet wet.

This next bit is similar to a situation where some annoying b*****x lights up a fag in the car, sucks in like a Dyson, blows out the carcinogens he can't keep down and then asks passive-aggressively: 'You don't mind if I smoke?'

We're about half-way through the column at around this point. Is it alright to write about fishing, here in the sports pages?

Sky Sports show the fishing during the graveyard shift. But Sky also fit in online poker as a sport, which is a sitting-down game and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with sport and is just another form of exploitation.

Although I did witness a man sitting down on a fold-away canvas chair during a shore angling competition on the north shore of Ballybunion.

His rod was supported on a tubular fork, while he waited for the line to slacken. Every now and then he would glance over at the rod, back to his book and then there was a peep at the sky and a trawl of the waves.

It didn't seem much like a sport to me, but then again I suppose sulky jockeys and racing drivers sit down. Bobsleigh riders lie down and indoor bowlers walk slower than a man on his way to the electric chair.

Pigeon racing is widely recognised as a sport and all the pigeon trainers do is open the window of an attic. Although I suppose, in fairness to the pigeon fanciers, there's a lot of cleaning up to be done.

They are dirty birds. I was never gone on pigeons. It goes back to the day near the Serpentine in London, where the swimming leg of the Olympic triathlon took place.

I was 22 and in the company of a leggy girl from Australia who worshipped the water I walked on. The birds bombed my white T-shirt with excrement and the tall girl, whose young lad is probably a line-out jumper against the Lions, saw me for what I was. Mortal, and a vain pup, capable of using terrible language.

We wandered around Trafalgar Square on the day after the Munster-Harlequins game and when I asked an official with a cap what happened to the infestation of pigeons, he told me the council gathered them up in traps and had the cooers transported to a wood far away. Ethnic cleansing isn't always bad.

My dad used to bring me fishing when I was a kid for enjoyment and frying-pan filling.

I wasn't what you'd call a natural fisherman. My minnows, worms and mebs were always getting caught in the trees or were trapped under stones or the thick green moss that looked like a punk mermaid's flowing hair.

I foul-hooked a crow one time and he wasn't too pleased.

My dad cheered me up my saying if I was ever in a lifeboat for a long time I would be the man to catch sea birds for the dinner.

Fly fishing is as graceful as a ballet. Worm fishing needs no more skill than putting a stint into the worm. It's a sinking. Fly fishing is gliding. The worm fishers are the bottom feeders of the fishing fraternity.

An old-hand tried to teach me how to fly fish. "Throw out your line like you were a priest throwing holy water on a coffin," he said.

I cast my line and let go of the fishing pole. A 40-year-old, slender-as- a-pencil fly rod, was carried off in the rapids and then into the overhanging branch of a weeping willow, where it snapped in two.

Well, it wasn't my fault. I was 10 and I had never seen a priest throw holy water on a coffin.

Irish Independent

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