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Guide’s Diary
Jim Hendrick’s client Pat Boyle from Donegal guest writes the diary this month as he muses on what really matters in fishing.

A

nother August, another eagerly anticipated trip to Wexford finally comes to pass. It seems like no time really since we were there last. Expectations were tempered by the fact that the previous week or so had seen the weather gods not being at all kind. We expected the Wednesday to be tight going, but hopes were higher for the Thursday and higher still for the Friday. Expectations were set accordingly and we determined to make the most of what was available. Wednesday turned out to be a testing time just in terms of finding water to fish in. Many marks were visited only to find them murky and unappealing, which wasn’t really a surprise. We did find one or two marks and fished reasonably hard, but it quickly became apparent that the fish were still scarce inshore and those that could be seen were dour and not keen to feed. Gerry Friel did take one fish on poppers, but try as I might on the fly rod – and
It’s important to appreciate each fish for the sport it offers.

against Jim’s counsel to drop the fly in favour of lures – I couldn’t interest a fish at all. Given that catching opportunities were thin anyway, I enjoyed my time with the fly rod all the more.

‘It’s A mAtter of openIng your senses to the possIbIlItIes.’
With the wind fairly consistently blowing onto my casting arm, I was forced to spend two days either back or under-handed casting off my left shoulder to get a line out. Since plugging and soft plastics were largely

82 Irish Angler November 2009

unsuccessful anyway, I don’t think I missed much in terms of fish. What was interesting was working with a really heavy sinking line, the first time I’ve been forced to do this. Fishing in fast, estuarine water, nothing else will really get a line down to the feeding zone. It turned out to be surprisingly hard work and bruising on the joints in my thumb. I resorted to a palm grip when casting in a conventional forward or back-cast style so that I still had an opposable thumb by the end of the day. Another lesson learned. Thursday saw water clarity improve and the winds lighter than the day before. Despite three sessions instead of the usual two, 16 hours of fishing saw one fish to Gerry’s popper, and I saw one fish flare at my fly before vanishing. Tough going indeed, but the forecast for Friday looked to be fine again and we called it a day on a rather upbeat note, all things considered, in the expectation that Friday would see the fish return more to form. Jim, unflappable under pressure, assured us that it’d all come right. Friday morning bright and early saw us on a reef with a cracking tide flow. Almost no wave action and no wind and altogether very pleasant and warm. This mark required hitting distance with accuracy, so I had to drop the fly rod in favour of a lure rod. A three-hour session saw almost 20 fish to maybe 8lb, very good fishing by any standards. We probably missed as many again. It’s definitely the most interesting mark I’ve ever come across. I’d have been happy to sit and just watch it develop over the tide, never mind fish it. Just being there was an experience in itself. An evening session at a favourite mark from last year saw a few more fish, one a possible specimen. Both Gerry and I dropped good fish on this mark as well. It happens! I was surprised, in hindsight, by how many fish we caught and that I didn’t really note how many fish were caught. It’s not that catching a fish is not a memorable experience in itself, regardless of the size of each fish. In fact, it would be disrespectful to the fish to suggest that each was not appreciated for the sport it offered. Oftentimes, smaller fish can and do punch well above their weight, while larger fish can be much more docile. And then I realised that I’ve reached a stage in my fishing life-cycle – a phrase I attribute to Roger Baker – where it’s the act of going fishing that I enjoy for itself. This was a rather unexpected epiphany because I had already realised long since that I enjoyed the act of angling for itself, it just came as a surprise to find that catching now played a very small part indeed in my overall satisfaction. Now, rather than focusing on a tally of fish, I can take more time to appreciate the scenery, to examine nature and to question why some environments are more conducive to offering up more fish, or bigger fish, than others. I’m much more attuned to the interplay between weather, wave, tide and current than the shiny finish on that latest must-have piece of tackle. And I think I’ve reached a point where I’m happy fishing for fishing’s sake as opposed to fishing with the expectation of catching every time. I think I’ve also matured as an angler and a person under Jim’s careful tutelage over the last few years and found my angling calling, as a fly angler, as it turns out. I think this lets me get a whole lot more out of the whole experience. The South East doesn’t have the scale of scenery that you might find in the West, say. What it does have are infinitely varied microenvironments. You have to be able to draw your gaze inwards somewhat and appreciate the interplay of rocky slopes and gullies, the boulder fields interspersed with gravelly patches, a billion tons of a sandbar growing from a dying cliff. Look closer still and you see a massive variety of rock colours and textures, kneaded, folded and twisted over time unimaginable and sculpted by the sea for aeons into bizarre and almost alien forms. All this decorated with a huge variety of seaweeds and topped with a curious selection of flotsam and jetsam and teeming with life. Throw in the sea jostling up against all these as the waves roll, currents run and tides cycle and you see scenery in a constant and pleasing flux, just at a different scale to what you might be used to thinking about scenery on. It’s a matter of opening your senses to the possibilities, just as you need to keep an open mind to various fishing techniques and equipment. It’s always a treat to get a look around Jim’s office/classroom. Apart from the latest and greatest tackle that most of us would probably never hear about otherwise, it’s always fascinating to see what’s on his bookshelves and DVD collection and to discuss developments in rods, lines and so on. It’s an insight into what he’s thinking. Obviously as a guide, he’s very much in tune

with the whole angling scene globally as it pertains to fly and lure angling and guiding developments. It’s like a glimpse into the man’s mind. It’s also interesting to watch Jim in action – be that casting a line, walking to a mark or just talking with him.

‘gerry muttered hIlArIously unkInd thoughts of A hendrIck Ancestor consortIng wIth A goAt.’
He has an economy of effort in all he does that’s really quite fascinating to observe. Wondering one day why he always seemed to out-pace me, I deliberately walked in his footsteps as he floated nimbly from rock to rock. I had guessed he just had a longer stride. But no, his is actually shorter than mine, just quicker. Gerry, struggling to keep pace, muttered hilariously unkind thoughts of a Hendrick ancestor consorting with a goat. And I think its great to have a sterling yardstick against which you can measure your progress and prowess as an angler, to take delight in knowing that you don’t yet know it all and that there is so much more to be discovered and so much you can improve on. Having returned home with the spiritual batteries recharged, lessons learnt and new possibilities opened up before us, we’re already plotting next year’s trip. It’s going to be quite different. Not only will it probably not be in the South East, it will feature a range of other species to be targeted, vastly different environments, techniques, and well, just be very different. Jim’s working on expanding his offering and would like us to try it out and it all sounds very intriguing indeed.
It’s the act of going fishing that Pat Boyle enjoys for itself.

November 2009 Irish Angler 83

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