An Irish Anglers World

Forgotten Angles

Isn’t it a small world, this time last year yours truly published an article which featured a favourite angling author namely Geoffrey Bucknall. A month or two later while browsing the internet GB, now in his eighties and living in North West England, came across the piece and was moved to correspond.  “I was browsing on my computer when I read your friendly article about my book, “Fishing Days”. I am now 85, and have recently finished my autobiography, ‘Alive on a Rainy Day.’ A sort of sequel to Fishing Days the narrative contains a few reminiscences about days in Ireland, my how we have all changed a lot since.

"Alive on a Rainy Day", by Geoffrey Bucknell

It is nice having a reader in Ireland as Fishing Days was rather an English book however the new one has got some nice Irish tales in it. I used to fish off Castle Townsend, had great fun with Arthur Taylor spinning with Redgills.  I also fished the River Barrow for big bream and in Lough Conn with Mike Tolan where I accidentally won the only fly fishing match I have ever fished in my life.  It’s all in the book.  I fished the Ilen at Skibbereen for sea trout and the Blackwater for roach near to Fermoy.

I once caught eleven salmon on the famous Ridge Pool fishing with dear old Jeff Hearn’s, lovely man, the Irish Government took six of them. I didn’t mind as I don’t like salmon to eat, much preferring haddock. Thank you Ashley for your lovely story about tench fishing, love to all the great folk in the Emerald Isle”. Salutations, from Geoff Bucknall.

Geoffrey Bucknall kindly sent me a copy of his autobiography, “Alive on a Rainy day”, part social commentary part fishing book, one is taken on a journey from war time southern England in the 1940’s to the present day, with angling always a backdrop to everyday life, from dodging V1 and V2 flying bombs to developing the Sundridge tackle company in the early 1970’s to happy retirement.

River Vartry, Mount Usher Gardens, Co. Wicklow, Ireland.

Unquestionably “Fishing Days” influenced this writers approach to rod and line fishing and subsequently angling writing. GB’s forte is to transport the reader into his world, always witty, somewhat quirky and very political, Geoffrey Bucknall explains fishing by doing rather than how to do, one is forced to listen and observe, a much better method of learning and way more entertaining.

Reading “Alive on a Rainy Day” transported this soldier back to formative times casting an upstream worm for wild trout on the rain fed streams which originate in the blanket bog high up on the Wicklow mountains. A practice rarely seen or used today, the methodology along with upstream Mepps fishing still has its place being as skilful, enjoyable, and productive an approach in the right hands as any form of fly fishing.

Way back when, the River Vartry held some lovely brown trout especially downstream of Ashford. Living in Kilcoole, a short hop along the back road to Rathnew, either in the early morning or late evening, would precede a couple of hours stealthily walking the banks and occasionally wading into position, prior to casting a line towards and into various likely pots and runs.

Wild brown trout on an upstream nymph.

Approaching quietly from behind a correctly shotted, relative to the prevailing current, red banded “brandling” worm, dug from the manure heap would be introduced into likely swims on a short line. Keeping control by raising the rod, usually a seven to eight foot light spinning wand married to a small fixed spool reel containing BS line, any forward pull signalling trouty interest would be countered with a smooth but sharp lifting action.

Not unlike Czech Nymphing, the worm could equally be replaced with a 0/1 or 1/0 Mepps, only in that instance a longer line could be utilised enabling deeper slacks along with the shallower faster runs to be fished and searched more effectively. While upstream lure fishing in this way it was not uncommon to observe a shadow darting out from under a bank followed by a simultaneous flash and tug on the line as a now hooked trout turned towards its lie.

Occasionally if the river was fining down after a flood, still slightly cloudy and a little high, a small swivel in tandem with a couple of split shot could be inserted about two foot above the Mepps with a view to sinking the lure a piece. Downstream fishing worked well under these conditions and it wasn’t unusual to connect with one of the larger resident browns or even a migratory sea trout or salmon.

Wild brown trout from a Co. Wicklow stream.

Such a day springs to mind fishing the River Derreen in the vicinity of Tullow. Casting a line at a forty five degree angle downstream and across, the copper teardrop 1/0 Mepps with red spots, a personal favourite, worked its way across the current, sinking slowly as it moved towards the near bank. Feeling the blade throbbing in the current yours truly began to manoeuvre the lure between two banks of ranunculus.

A weight came on the line causing the light spinning rod to curve over. Initially thinking weed the lure however kept on moving in conjunction with each turn of the reel handle. Then it happened, a jolt followed by a surface boil of water, foam and a silver spotted flank indelibly printed on the mind in that split second before the drag screamed.

Twenty seconds later it was over, the salmon hightailing downstream, unstoppable. Swoosh swoosh went its tail cutting through the water, a sensory experience this writer will never forget. Sight and sound, the great fish running into fast water beyond the tail of the pool then “ping”, four pound line being no match for a double figure springer fresh up from the Slaney.

Casting a dry fly.

Such is thread line spinning for brown trout, one cannot mix and match even in April when a spring salmon always could show. It’s all about sport and enabling the quarry to give of its best. A pound trout connected with shortly after the above incident would have been quickly despatched on salmon gear, whereas the light tackle utilised that day enabled a quality fish give a good account of itself.

Geoffrey Bucknall’s kind gesture got this writer thinking about past angling experiences. Fishing has moved on since then with new technologies and methods seemingly popping up like mushrooms, do the fish care? Today I happily fly fish casting an upstream dry, a downstream wet, or working a deep sunk tandem lure slowly of a summer night in the hope of outwitting a wily sea trout.

However my mind wanders back to a lad mitching school, casting an upstream worm after Powerscourt estate brownies then a few short years later walking with my daughter along the River Vartry flicking a Mepps into likely holes, the excitement of a good fish landed apparent in both sets of eyes. Fishing changes but we always have our memories and they can alert us to sporting and productive approaches long since forgotten. Thank you Geoffrey for the reminder, may you continue to cast a line and write with the best of them.

Ashley Hayden © May 2014