Peter had contacted me several months ago about coming over on a fishing holiday and including the Griese in his itinerary. I though “this man is mad! It’ll never happen” but true to his word Peter kept up a steady stream of emails asking questions about the river and the bug life and the best techniques for catching trout – and then finally informed me that he’d booked into Buddy & Evelyn Kavanagh’s B&B in Moone to arrive on the 25th May for a couple of days. Now the only fly that I am familiar with is Seamus’s famous “Whyckam Fancy” and my technique is very much from the “cast and hope for the best” school of angling. However after conferring with the Club Sage (Seamus) I was told that it was down to me to uphold the honour of our Club and at the very least buy the poor misguided american a pint!
And so it came to pass that I accidently answered my phone on Friday morning – I thought that it was a call from work – only to hear this american accent saying that he was just leaving Carlow and would be arriving just before lunch. As I was staring at a diary that had 3 solid hours of conference calls followed by an afternoon of dealing with the latest project crisis and chasing up unpaid invoices – was there ever any doubt what I would do? I told Peter that he’d just made a grown man very happy and that I’d meet him at Buddy’s around 12:30.
Just so that you know in advance that the story has a happy ending – Peter is the one on the right after a hard afternoon fishing.
At this stage I have to come clean and say that it was an absolute pleasure meeting Peter and spending the next 2 days fishing with him. He stopped and talked with everyone and was a credit to the angling community. His enthusiasm for fishing was infectious and young and old, male and female, townies or countryfolk – he made time for everyone and talked until they moved on. I was amazed that he spent so much time over the course of the week actually fishing!
The man really made me rethink my cynical view of the world (OK – America) – it is far too easy to generalise when you’re just getting your information from the press.
However back to the fishing!
We kitted up (spiffing new chest waders for Peter and leaky old thigh waders for me) and went along to Moone Bridge to take a look at the river downstream – thinking that we’d end up there later on. It’s a nice stretch and I wanted Peter to have something to look forward to as we planned to do the scenic Kilkea Castle as a starter. I’d left messages for the local farmer/landowner just to make sure that everything was OK. We parked up and walked down to the river – admiring the opportunities and planning out where we’d go. At this stage we were joined by a couple of cows – who seemed pretty friendly. As is by magic a small herd materialised out of nowhere – and on closer inspection we noticed that they were heifers, increasingly ‘friendly’ heifers. Fair enough – it’s their field – but we’d come back later and settle into some fish. As we turned to go Peter felt a nudge in his back and it now seemed that our four legged friends had decided they would hurry us along a bit. There now followed an anxious walk back to the gate – backwards – keeping our attention on these beasts – clearly they were in training for the Bull Run in Pamplona! I’m sure that this made a great impression on Peter – our first attempt on the Griese leading to defeat and retreat…
Next up – Kilkea Castle – what could possibly go wrong here? Well, thankfully nothing – apart from Peter discovering stinging nettles – apparently they don’t exist in America (he did discover that rubbing Dock Leaves onto the affected parts doesn’t work – he did not get much consolation from people telling him that they make nice soup and wine…). I’m afraid I was so enjoying my own fishing (great host that I was!) that I completely forgot to take any photographs at Kilkea. Peter has promised that when he’s out of hospital (stings and rashes department) he’ll send on his shots for me to post up. Again – I have to say that we had a great time – every golfer was friendly, chatty and pleased to see us. It’s a wonderful location (see other posts) but tough fishing – there is so little cover and the fish didn’t seem to be interested – even my Whyckan Fancy failed! But – there are loads of fish there and we saw fish to 1.5 lbs.
Peter got talking to a passing golfer and I eventually joined the conversation – hoping to rescue Peter so that he could actually do some fishing. As it turned out it was a local landowner who owned the land upstream from Kilkea Castle. We had a good chat and he suggested that we try out his stretch when we had exhausted ourselves at Kilkea Castle. Mid afternoon we again jumped in the car and drove out of the Castle grounds and around the corner to the bridge. We kitted up again and walked down the steps alongside the bridge into a jungle! Peter was very kindly leading and once again managed to find all the stinging nettles… once through this barrier there was a pleasant walk upstream along the left bank looking for likely spots to try our skills. The breeze had got up and we quickly realised that perhaps walking up the right bank would have been better as the wind was coming straight at us… accurately casting short distances into a stiff, swirling breeze made for quite interesting fishing – I learnt a few choice american expressions from Peter.
This is a typical stretch encountered – narrow, fast flowing & deep with plenty of plant growth in the water. The banks are over grown and steep making your approach difficult – a false step will having you pitching into the river! Plenty of overhanging trees and low hanging branches made ideal hiding spots for the trout – several times I saw large brownies dart out to grab insects/flys on the surface and dash back into the cover.
We both tried several spots up the river – again seeing several large trout up to 2 lbs but they were only intermittently rising and once again despite frequent changes of fly – we had no luck at all.
Peter in action….
Time was getting on – and with the fish clearly not playing ball we felt that we had earned a break. At this time I had a call from my wife (as in my excitement I had completely forgotten to call her as agreed when I met Peter several hours previously) checking that Peter and I were OK. More importantly – we were both invited to a BBQ later that evening when we’d finished fishing! So off we went again – Peter again checking that the stinging nettles still worked (they did) by testing them on the inside of his armpit this time. Strange people these americans. I thought that it was about time for some light refreshments and so we stopped at Moone High Cross Inn – a Guiness and a Smithwicks later and we were happily chatting away to Declan and his Belgium sheep dog Jacques. I have to say that we got more sense out of Jacques….
At this point we considered our options – more fishing along the Griese or maybe try a bit of rainbow fishing up at Rathcon Lake in Grangecon. Considering our success over the last 5 hours or so we concluded that it was a home win to the River Griese as once again it had refused to give up any fish – Peter was actually delighted with his fishing as towards the end he had started to get to see fish approaching his fly. As ever the joy of fly fishing doesn’t always come from actually catching something. Rathcon did sound attractive – I was certain that we’d catch fish as Dermot Page has both Rainbows and Brownies now stocked – and both fight very well.
However, with beer o’clock well and truly ringing we eventually settled on a drive back stopping to look at the river and enjoy the beautiful countryside and scenery. Ballitore Old Mill and weir looked particularly fishable – but common sense prevailed and we headed for the BBQ.
I won’t go into too much detail but a great evening followed with Ciaran and Maura being their usual great hosts/chefs/entertainment. It turned out to be a FISH BBQ – the only fish that Peter and I had seen out of water all day!
I stuck to the water (and chocolates). Please note that the glass of water in front of Peter remained untouched throughout the evening. Peter is seen below showing Maura his collection of stinging nettle rashes.
Maura and Peter below – making plans for Saturday night.
I dropped Peter off very late at the Kavanaghs – it could even have been the next day… Despite not drinking I still managed to drive into the wrong house – my sincere apologies to Buddy’s neighbours…
I couldn’t fish in the morning as Sinead was tied up and I was entertaining our 2 boys (getting up late, watching TV, playing XBox, etc. before popping out to Kilkullen for brunch). Peter and I had spoken the previous evening and he thought that he would try the Liffey. I suggested Ballymore Eustace but in the end he went with Buddy’s suggestion of fishing around the bridge at Kilkullen. Strangely enough I still had all my fishing stuff in the car so a session with Peter was again on the cards. As it turns out Peter was nursing a massive hangover and so had just started fishing himself when I caught up with him.
Who’s that under the bridge?
Ahh… thank god for zoom lens..
Someone else was fishing – and in a great spot!
At last – a river you can lay out some line in….
Using the rock as cover? or a place to sit and recover from the previous night?
Concentration – Surely that’s a fish?!
You might think that Peter is unhooking a trout….
But on closer inspection he’s just checking his investment portfolio….
My sincere thanks to Peter Churchill for a great time fishing and making friends. It was a great time and one that we’ll all treasure.
The planned saturday night out didn’t happen as there were several other sore heads (Sinead, Maura, Ciaran?) and Peter had to get up early for more fishing and a lengthy drive on the wrong side of the road up to Donegal. We did catch up by phone again before he flew back to the states on Tuesday and we promised to keep in touch. I’m looking forward a trip to the US seeing what REAL rivers are like…..