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Searching for the freshwater bonefish

August has arrived and my tying bench has been evicted of it’s normal array of synthetic tying materials. An annual make-over has it sporting a retro, almost classic look now. The change is drastic both visually as well as spiritually as she now draws me to her rather than draws out of me the felling of having to do a chore. It’s neat for once. It’s inviting and I revel in the fact I am once again excited about tying.

The floor is now cluttered with such cuttings as arctic fox, bucktail, goat and pig bristle and not the slightest hint of an EP fiber can be seen. There’s organized piles of thread, floss, tinsel and wire. Three pairs of scissors lay in a row as if having been prepped for surgery. A 4th specialty curved pair lurks not too far away. There’s 4 bodkins all of a sudden. Dyed Badger hackle is front and centre in Orange, yellow and of course, ‘ Sunburst ‘. That special meld of red and yellow that I am sure could make a Florida Orange seem un-orange enough. Double irons have replaced stainless steel and long gone are the drab tans of bonefish wings and crab bodies. There’s not much artificial about this bench now.

Oh yes, it’s August alright.

The flights have long been purchased, the car ferry booked, the digs sorted. It’s now countdown time. Ten more days to go until I drive west through my native Wales to the spectacular rugged western heads and board the overnight ferry for Cork. I am Kerry bound. South Western Ireland is calling loudly but it’s the gentle whispers of the river laune I can’t wait to hear. Breens, O’Conner and beat three if there’s water. It won’t be long now until I cross the bridge in Killorglin and settle into Coffey’s rivers edge guest house. A quick chat with proprietors Finbar and Anne Coffey and then we settle into the adjacent and private anglers lodging. This is home for the next 8 nights. Rods are unwrapped from their travel tubes. Fly boxes are immediately stored in wading jackets and placed on a hanger with waders hanging below them. Wading boots placed neatly under the leg-ins of the waders. It’s almost as if the invisible man is silently standing there in the corner of the room. It only takes a glance between myself and my oldest mate and lifelong fishing partner Stuart Pitman and we know it’s that time. It’s that precise moment, without a word having to be said we are off out the door to march the town hill in our never ending quest at finding out why Guinness tastes so much better in Ireland. Pints are poured and we both sit back and savor the moment as the sweet dark nector streams and bubbles it’s way to a perfect head. It is at that exact moment we slide back in our chairs, tip our glass and accept what is now officially fact. We have at long last arrived in Ireland.

The early mornings can see the sea mist roll in from the cooler Atlantic waters and as the sun rises to challenge it for the day, the majestic Slieve Mish Mountains begin to appear on the horizon. On some mornings you can watch the slow but steady unveiling as the mist defiantly loses it’s battle. The moment of surrender quite defined and signaled by the ragged peaks emerging from their nightly slumber. At 2800 feet ascending straight up from the Eastern Atlantic they are now wide awake and on some days our third fishing companion,

Yep, It’s September alright !

A quick text to Laune anglers club Secretary Billy Downs and we are off to meet as usual on the banks of the river. Billy arrives with our weekly fishing permit along with his trademark walking stick. He can see the urgency in our eyes so pleasantries are kept to a minimum as he understands more than most. It’s a great arrangement as he is off like a flash himself. He’s a blurr and you can hear him long after his company ends. I am convinced his walking stick keeps the walkways and tracks clear on all 6 miles of the 3 beats from tide water to Killarney’s Lough Leane.. He’s a top man and a big influence on our return each year.

Stuart and I process Billy’s information and then take a hard look at the river. We want to calculate it’s flow and stepping into the water allows us the opportunity to feel it’s long awaited push. From there we decide on what fly lines and what size fly. It’s been an 11 month wait but finally I am stripping out line and about to make my first annual spey cast for Atlantic salmon.

Living and working in tropical climes I am provided opportunities to fly fish for a wide range of exotic saltwater gamefish and certainly consider a blessing has been bestowed upon me.. That said and I think a testament to how this wonderful world of fly fishing truly is, I am now captivated with anticipation for a week of angling that is in stark contrast to the often hurried angling experienced in the saltwater. The steel eyed and focused hunt is no longer required. The often intense mind set is laid to rest and as an angler I can for a change actually manage my time. I am not forced into making split second decisions. My quarry does not require that of me. The salmon in that respect is far less demanding a fish yet it’s regal nature deserves every bit of the same respect in order that I, as they say in Ireland ‘ meet a fish ‘. For a change I am in total control at all times. It’s a comforting feeling. The challenge of course is all too real and time will be required in order to meet a fish but I can attempt it at my own pace. I can manipulate time in order to make the experience that much more enjoyable.

If you meet fish then that is all the more rewarding but it is not the sole reason I am where I am. A days angling seems at times these days to be measured using such defined denominations as success and failure. The day itself is often overlooked with little thought or value given to the opportunity itself. It’s all too often nothing more than a vessel to carry such ugly things as ego and much of what the opportunity brings is becoming too deeply buried in the clutter of demands and unrealistic expectation. The chance just to be there is no longer enough for some. In contrast, for me, it is everything.

Day one glides onwards into day two where the excitement of arrival is surpassed by the comfort of knowing you have 6 more full days ahead of you. By the third day our gentle glide becomes a trot. Day four seems to canter us forward and while we both managed a few salmon as is so often the case the final day has somehow arrived at a full gallop.

Oh NO it’s October !!

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