Monday, 20 July 2015


One of two 13lb salmon I managed to entice from the Pacific Ocean, 
thanks wholly to the skill and guidance of my friend...

It has to be said that I am a spectacularly bad fisherman, which is a great shame. As a pastime it would suit me down to the ground, as that’s where I like to be: on the ground.

Nothing pleases me more than time spent out in the open air, wrapped in verdant surroundings, glorying in the natural wonder that is the West of Ireland.

Fishing tempts me because it supplies an excuse to indulge myself in my favourite sport of spacing out, letting my mind go where it will.

Over the years I have dangled lines in all manner of water. I vainly cast a line into  the sea off New Zealand’s Coromandel peninsula, only to watch 6 year-old boys to my left and right pull up fish after fish with their hand lines. I fed the trout of Lough Anaserd, when I lived on its banks in Connemara, and as a teenager, I entertained the roach, bream and perch of Northwest London with my pathetic and fruitless efforts to catch them.

Whilst living in a house not 100 yards from the flag iris banks of Co. Mayo's Cloonaghmore River, I watched trout leap ostentatiously high in the air, not two feet from me. Once again I let my optimistic nature get the better of me.

How could I possibly live there and not fish? An hour later, with a bright orange float resting in the upper branches of a tree, I wrestled with hundreds of metres of tangled, knotted line. The hook had landed on my T-shirt and – ouch! –  no, it was worse than that.

Somehow I'd managed to hook my nipple. 

Great. Loads of dosh spent on fishing gear, long chats with the local experts in tackle shops to discover that I need this particular kit for my neighbouring stretch of river and while the fish take the piss by jumping and laughing, all I've succeeded in doing is polluting this bucolic environment and -  

OHMIGOD that HURTS so SO so much! - 

pierced the hook into one of my most sensitive bodily bits.

Even better, the Snapper chose this particular moment to come down and see how her He-Man was getting on with hunting dinner.
Fishermen in the village pubs had made it clear that I needed to start with a simple, cheap rod and reel. It was a matter of paying my dues, but I had my doubts.

The fine figure of a much younger scribbler 
 dangling a line in Australian waters, c. 1989. 

You see, I used to sell industrial chemicals for a firm that gave its salesmen ‘promotional giveaways’ to bribe customers. The more you sold, the better the ‘giveaways’ allocated to you. Needless to say, I sold only a paltry amount, and my ‘giveaway’ kit comprised a few broken bic biros and a half-eaten chicken sandwich.

Surely, as their least successful salesman, I needed the help of a large number of the best ‘giveaways’ around?

They didn’t see it like that. They just fired me, and now, several lifetimes later, I was applying my ‘Theory of Giveaways’ to my fishing struggle, concluding that it just felt wrong to be punching three squirty brown holes in a writhing worm, while the experienced fishermen were off using all the latest cool gear, wise flies and shiny lures.

I wanted to learn the right way to fish, with fly rod and centre pin reel and – oh damn and blast it! – while trying not to shear the nip off my nipple with the barb on the hook, I trod on and broke the handle off my reel on my first outing.

Screw this for a game of soldiers.

After more than three years in that house I finally caught a tiny trout, barely big enough to keep, which I rushed to the kitchen and ate within minutes. I savoured every butter fresh bite, but better than that was the barter.

I might not be much of a fisherman but I can scribble with the best of ‘em, and after helping a local couple with their planning permission appeal I found a box of home-grown lettuces, tomatoes and spring onions on my doorstep, beside a large parcel wrapped in silver foil.

A whole wild salmon! What a treat! No question of poaching or the like, Officer, because I have no idea who fished it. Just appeared on my doorstep, out of the blue. Must be the Little People, Officer. You know how they get this time of year.

When I lived in Northern California I went out for a day on a friend’s Boston Whaler. The two of us sailed 23 miles out into the Pacific Ocean and with the aid of my mate’s radar gizmos, we could tell where the fish were. Thanks to his skill and experience, we each caught two salmon over 13lb, and two was all our quota allowed, so we headed home.

Even though I walked tall into my apartment, a huge fish hanging off each hand, I couldn’t call the day an unqualified success. 

Usually almost obsessive about the dangers of sunburn and heatstroke, I’d forgotten to slather my face in sunblock when we left the shore at dawn.

That evening I was the guest from Hell at a dinner party, swaying and rolling around the room on jelly legs, with rigid brow and cheeks the colour of Ribena. The only part of my face that wasn’t damaged was my lips. Like an alien from Doctor Who, with a tiny mouth moving as I spoke, my face showed neither expression nor animation of any kind.

For the last few years I’ve lived less than 200 yards from the shores of Lough Corrib, yet my reel and rod are still unused. Seems so very wrong to be buying trout in the supermarket when there’s better fish much nearer to my home. I really should give it a go.

What harm can it do?

Floats in trees, lines in hedges, hooks in nipples, hmm, quite a lot of harm actually.

Maybe I’ll leave it to the experts and the 6 year-old children.

Charlie Adley

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