I don’t like January. The weather is usually awful and there is little to no fishing. This January is shaping up to be like the others, making for a depressing few weeks. Ireland has been on the receiving end of near perpetual rain after that cold spell before Christmas, leaving us squelching through puddles and in a state of constant moaning. That I was as sick as a small hospital over the Christmas break did not help either. For me personally there have been other changes, ones that will make the coming season very different.
That interim job down in Offaly which was due to end soon morphed into the offer of a permanent contract. The role is interesting and makes full use of my skills so I have dipped my quill into the blue-black ink and signed up. The full ramifications of this foolish act have yet to unfold, but my days as a ghillie are going to be severely curtailed in the immediate future. Whether to continue to live in Mayo or relocated to the midlands is a hot topic in the house and one which needs to be resolved soon. I honestly do not know what to do for the best, so some divine inspiration would be greatly appreciated at this juncture!
Where does that leave my plans for angling in 2023? My hopes of spending more time on the Corrib have gone up in smoke as have almost all of my other half-baked ideas for chasing trout in the west. Instead, the forgotten waterways which bisect the flat lands in the middle of Ireland will receive my attentions. There isn’t much of note within easy striking distance of where I work but I’ll find some spots to trot maggots or leger worms in the hope of catching silvery roach or slab-sided bream. I have begun the task of researching angling opportunities in the area and taking note of potential venues. The Brosna flows through Clara for example and there must be others close by. North county Offaly is hardly the epicentre of Irish angling but I am sure I will find places to wet a line after a hard day’s work.
All of this has presented me with yet another dichotomy, what am I going to do about my fly tying? With time on my hands some evenings I have been busy at the vice, churning out flies to beat the band. If I am making all these flies I need to use them and yet I am not going to be able to fish my usual waters. This is actually quite vexing as I am working of some designs which badly need to be tested out. Those variations on the Deerhair Sedge I have tied will have to be chucked at the fish to see if they work at some point. The same goes for the ‘improved’ hopper patterns which are piling up in a box.
It is not just my fishing and fly tying that are in a state of flux. My guitar playing has suffered near terminal loss of practice time. Writing has also suffered greatly and the publisher’s patience is wearing thin with me due to my tardiness in responding to their editing requests. Time, mercurial as always, slithers out of reach so easily for me now that I am working away from home. Weekends feel like they last on a couple of hours instead of two days. Freeing up an hour to practice on the three string or work on a new chapter is simply beyond me for now.
All of this confusion which is swirling around me just now does have an end point. Retirement is not forgotten, indeed it is actually in sharp focus as this job will be my last one. There are no certainties in this life but the plan to retire in the west of Ireland is still very firmly in place, I just slotted one more job in between now and then. That sweet a taste of retirement last summer still lingers and it suited me down to the ground. The practicalities of modern life mean working on a little bit longer makes a degree of sense so that is why I returned to the workplace.
January drags by. Buffeted by gales and stung by hail we stumble on, hoping that brighter days lie ahead. Our ‘new’ bank holiday in early February to celebrate St. Bridget* has quickly become very important to us here in Ireland. Somehow that small break of a long weekend at this time of the year helps us through the lean months, a stepping stone to the excitement of st. Patrick’s day in March. By that time there will be a stretch in the days and our national mood lifts noticeably. Who knows, I might have even sorted myself out by then and planned some fishing.
* This Christian holiday is actually grafted on to a much older one, the pagan festival of Imbolc. This was the traditional start of spring here in Ireland.