In this case ‘PC’ stands for ‘post Covid’. I contracted the dreaded lurgy last week. Thursday was the day it played its hand and I became quite ill that night, forcing the cancellation of two days on the loughs which I had been so looking forward to. Sleep was impossible, uncontrollable shakes were followed by burning sweats and the pain in my lungs was very worrying. A sense of weakness pervaded my thoughts, just lifting a hand required a determined effort on my part. I coughed and coughed, bringing up mucus and blood in vast quantities. Only for the fact it was the weekend and I knew there were no beds free in the local hospital I might have rushed up to A&E but instead I stuck it out at home. By Saturday morning I was worn out, gasping for breath, hadn’t eaten for a couple of days and was surviving on hot drinks alone. All in all I was pretty miserable. Then, as suddenly as the virus had struck it melted away leaving me washed out but otherwise OK. The coughing reduced in frequency and I stopped bringing up blood (it was probably just a burst blood vessel in my throat).
Sunday morning found me up early and feeling like I had to get something out of the weekend so I decided to nip off to the river Robe for a couple of hours. I know I am inviting a lecture about doing too much so soon after being ill but some fresh air on a river bank was going to be worth a hat full of pills to me. There is a short stretch I know that is twenty yards from where the car is parked and has a couple of fishable pools in very easy reach walking distance which would provide some welcome fishing that was not going to be too taxing. Of course I would not be in contact with anyone during this jaunt so posed no threat of spreading the virus. Hopping in the car I drive off down to where I park up near an old bridge without stopping. This part of the river is only very lightly fished as there are much more productive stretches close by, so there is little chance of meeting any other anglers.
I hopped out of the once parked near a gate to be greeted by a rush of lovely warm air. As I opened up the rear of the car I noticed a ball of line on the road. Surely that had not come from my car? I lifted it up and on inspection found a quick-release swivel attached to an end of the ten pound or so nylon. Nope, this was not mine and had been dropped by other anglers. Do try to be be tidy folks!
All I wanted was a couple of hours in the fresh air, any small trout would be a bonus. At this time of the year you can expect some stoneflies and olives to be hatching with the possibility of some Iron Blue Duns if you are lucky. A three fly cast of spiders are all I was going to use, just gently swinging them in the current. Lovely fishing this, so relaxing and therapeutic, just what someone getting over a short illness required.
A complete new leader was required so some time passed snipping and knotting until I had a pristine leader complete with a pair of droppers fashioned from 3 pound breaking strain mono. What three flies would I try first? I hold a deep affection for the old Plover and Hare’s Lug when there are small early stoneflies on the water. That golden plover feather seems to be the difference with this pattern. I chance a tiny Iron Blue in the middle as I find it will often tempt a springtime trout even if there are no naturals on the water. A Partridge and Orange, tied with a peacock herl thorax, occupies the tail position, an ever-reliable fly at this time of the season. And so I began casting across and letting the flies swing around in the current, just as out forefathers did with rods of greenheart and lines made of horse hair. I am guessing the time was around 11.30am on a beautiful spring day of sunshine and warmth. It felt damn good to be alive!
I fished down the first pool without a touch. This did not surprise me as I rarely catch a fish in this pool despite it looking absolutely perfect. The next pool looked equally good and sure enough a firm pluck at the flies signalled someone was at home here. That fish spat the fly out though and a few casts later I hung the leader up on a branch. I pulled until eventually the leader snapped and I had to re-tie the whole thing again. I was finding it hard to see the overhanging branches in such bright sunshine. With no leaves on the trees yet the skinny twigs are impossible to accurately judge. With the new leader I changed flies, tying an olive partridge spider on the bob, a snipe and claret in the middle and a PT nymph on the tail, all on size 14 hooks. The remainder of the pool was fished out without any more action and I proceeded downstream, crossing an electric fence on the way.
Having fished this stretch on and off for 14 years now I have a good idea of where the trout lie and just above a sunken rock in the middle of the river is a dependable spot. A brassy wink under the surface followed by a sharp tug and I was in to my first trout of 2022, a small lad that had fallen for the charms of the snipe and claret. ‘A snipe and what????’ I can hear you all saying. You see the snipe and purple (which seems to be everyone’s ‘go-to’ fly in the springtime) never gave me many fish. I’ve tried it many, many times but it just didn’t catch me the trout I thought it should. After some thinking about the conundrum I made a few snipe spiders but used Pearsalls Gossamer in claret for the body.
The next pool was harder to fish, what with over hanging branches galore and a high bank to fish off. Normally I get into the water here and wade downstream close to the bank, roll casting as I work my way down the river. Today I simply didn’t feel up to all that scrambling about so I was casting from on top of the bank when I saw a trout rise. Covering him brought an immediate response but I missed the fish when I struck. Some steps back upstream to give myself a better angle and then out shot my next well aimed cast – straight into a branch I had not noticed. SNAP! went the leader just above the tail fly and I had to re-tie it again.
Working my way downstream once again I rose and hooked a good trout which took some line as it dashed around the pool. Played out, it lay quietly six feet below me, a lovely fish of around a pound in weight. What to do? I really did not have the energy to scramble down the steep bank so I grabbed the leader and tried to lift the fish up. It fell off. That one had taken the nymph on the tail.
By now I was feeling tired and my lungs were on fire again. I elected to fish the next pool which was barely half a field from where I stood. With slow, heavy steps I made it to the edge of the water and began casting over the lies. So far the only natural flies I had observed were a solitary stonefly and half-a-dozen olives. The harsh sun beat down on the cold, low water. Far from ideal conditions but I had faith there would be more action. A fish rose under the far bank in a spot which must have been sponsored by a tackle company. By side casting and mending like a lunatic I could just present the fly into the small gap in the bushes and branches but this fish was too wily for me and in the end I left it in peace.
There is another lie which often gives up a trout at this time of the year near the middle of this pool but once again inch perfect casting is the order of the day. I started by casting well below the lie then with each successive cast coming a foot or so up river while at the same time tightening the loop to dodge under the canopy from the far bank. My concentration was fully rewarded by a sold tug and a lovely brownie danced around the pool, firmly attached to my PT on the tail. Delighted to land this one, I soon slipped him back into the river after a photo. No leviathan but trout like this from a difficult lie make me very happy. A gorgeous wild creature from a limestone river in the peace of the Irish countryside on a spring day – honestly, what more could a man ask for?
Taking stock of the situation I decided to call it a day. The next good pool was half-a-mile downstream across numerous fences and fields full of cattle. That was too much for me today and I knew it was time for me to retrace my steps. I would probably have made the trek downstream alright but coming back seemed to be asking too much of my poor battered lungs. For once, discretion took the better part of valour and I slowly trod the green grassy fields back to the waiting car. The effort to climb over the new metal gate near where I was parked sapped the last vestiges of my energy. Divested of jacket and waders I sat in the drivers seat and took a few minutes to compose myself before starting up and heading homeward.
I’ll accept that I probably should not have gone fishing today, that another day in bed would have allowed my body more time to recover. I would counter that the hour or so I spent in the fresh air possibly did me little harm and arguably some good. I am writing this post at home and feeling fine now after a bite to eat and a couple of hot drinks. I am very tired of course but I can sleep tonight. My angling is such an integral part of my earthly existence I honestly believe it is good for both body and soul.