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❱❱ Guide’s diary

Looking to keep the wolf from the door, Jim Hendrick takes up winter pike guiding, but can he handle the cold after all those summers on the beaches?

T

“That’s not what i was looking for.”

here’s ice in the bottom of the boat that’s an inch or more thick. I can see around 20 feet, at most, in front of me through the dense fog. Every now and then I hear ghostly voices that sometimes sound as if their owners are sitting next to me, while at other times they could be miles away. I have never experienced feeling so cold in my life ever. The air temperature measures minus 2°C and I have just been told that we would be trolling lures for the next hour or so. This piece of information, initially, filled me with a sense of optimism that can have only sourced itself in my somewhat fertile and vivid imagination. The momentary underwater vision of

a huge fish lunging after my tiger-striped lure gave me a short shot of adrenaline. For a short while this made me impervious to the cold and filled me with a small amount of hope. Just 20 minutes later I felt like I would be rather be peeling my fingernails back using a sharp lollipop stick. “Why don’t you diversify Jim? Offer a

summer guiding service based on bass and sea trout and other silver species, and then during winter you could guide for pike on the Midland lakes” said my boat partner Aengus O’Shaughnessy through the biting cold. Perfect! “We’ll work together during the winter and I’ll show you how to manage the boat and fishfinder, the safety aspects, fish handling, all of that stuff, no bother to ya.” It sounded great to me, at the time, and my enthusiasm knew no bounds as I looked forward to this new experience. The possibilities of learning something new and developing a new aspect of my business felt like it was a great idea. It was now 28 minutes since that first piece of information regarding trolling had been relayed to me and the icy cold continued to permeate my bones. I felt that some vital organs had already shut down, and I wondered how my companion smiled and went about his task with such eagerness. I noticed that a new foe had entered the fray. Its name was the northeast wind. “We might catch a fish or two now, Jim. It might have been a little too calmer earlier.” I re-adjusted myself minutely on the boat seat to keep the edge of the wind from cutting my face off, and made two attempts to speak coherently before finally asking quietly, “What time is it?” “Ah, tis early yet Jim. Only twenty past eleven. We’ll pull in at an island at half twelve to grab a bite to eat.”

50 Irish angler

a perfect winter piking day.

a catch like this will always give you a smile and help you forget about the cold for a few minutes.

Half twelve seemed so far away to me that the word ‘eternity’ couldn’t do the situation any justice. I found it hard to imagine how I could persevere for another minute never mind another 70 of them. Another vital organ shut down and the remaining parts of my body, that I could still feel, were jostling in a strange queue that was waiting for my brain to prioritise the switching-off sequence. Back in the heady sultry days of July this seemed like a really great idea, indeed the more I’d thought about it the better it had sounded. The short viable guiding season for bass lasted, realistically, for only around 25 weeks, and half of those are on neap tides, so guiding stopped every second week. Coming towards the end of October the long dark season of winter stretched towards me again and again. I had to do something to prevent myself from been overwhelmed by the scary spectre of depleting finances. Speaking of spectres, out of the shapeless fog there suddenly appeared another boat with two passengers, stuck to their seats as if some deadly paralytic disease prevented them from moving, I heard them ask, as they cruised slowly by, if we had had any luck. “Not yet!” shouted my lively shipmate as I watched them disappear – the ‘Flying Pikemen’, doomed to troll around the frosty lake forever. And that very sentence uttered from the stern of the boat filled me with a new sense of dread followed by two questions: How long was this going to take, and why did Aengus sound like he was enjoying himself? I couldn’t see Aengus’ face properly under his hood, but for one fleeting moment I thought I saw a glint of white teeth form a wide smile from within the shadows. His crooked hand grasped the tiller and we continued in endless slow circles. “I have to jump off the boat!” I shouted. “I need some lunch.” “No problem Jembob,” he responded lightheartedly. “We’ll go in for a while.” I thought I heard disappointment in his tone, but then he added cheerily, “At least we have all afternoon to look forward to.” This new pike-guiding idea was going to be tough...

Irish angler 51

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