For St. Patrick’s Day – Go Fish!

A modern day angler latched on to an Irish Atlantic salmon. (photo by flyfishinginIreland.com)

On this St. Patrick’s Day, and every other St. Patrick’s Day in recent memory, if you check TV listings, there’s a good chance that on one or several channels, you’ll find yet another showing of the classic John Ford movie, “The Quiet Man.” It was made in 1952, and tells the story of Sean Thornton, an Irish-born retired boxer, played by John Wayne, who returns to Ireland to buy the family farm, and, of course, falls in love with the beautiful redhead, Mary Kate Danaher, played by Maureen O’Hara. The movie was filmed on location in County Mayo, on the northwestern coast of Ireland.

One of the characters in the movie is Father Lonergan, a Catholic priest played by American actor Ward Bond. Father Longergan is a dedicated fly-fisherman, and in a memorable scene, the priest has finally hooked a big salmon, only to lose it during an angry confrontation with Mary Kate. 

So, if you’re inspired to go fishing in Ireland, what will the traveling angler find? Assuming, of course, that one of these days Covid will be under control and international travel will, again, be feasible.

The traveling angler should find an angling paradise, if the Irish angling websites aren’t grossly exaggerating the opportunities.

The island nation, the western edge of Europe, is, first of all, a wet country, with a lot of rain. There are many lakes, rivers and small streams all across the country, and that includes Northern Ireland, as well as the Republic of Ireland, even in downtown Dublin. 

An Irish brown trout. Photo by flyfishinginIreland.com

The native trout of Ireland is the brown trout, with half a dozen subspecies or watershed variations on brown trout. Some brown trout go to sea and return to rivers and estuaries as big, well-fed, strong fish. Some lakes have an American import, rainbow trout. Atlantic salmon return to coastal rivers and tease anglers such as Father Lonergan.

Pike are another important sport fish in Ireland, and Ireland is known for large pike, that grow relatively quickly in the country’s mild climate. There is also a whole set of non-game native fish that have their devotees.

Of course, as the country is an island, the surrounding ocean waters open up another whole set of fishing opportunities.

There are many options for the traveling angler. If you want the luxury experience of full-service lodges and guided angling there are services that provide those amenities. 

If you’re on a smaller budget, do-it-yourself angling is also quite feasible. 

An Irish travel writer and angler, Eoin Bassett, in a 2013 Huffington Post story, says that the traveling angler can do quite well just by asking around for information. He says, “Start in the local tackle store. In Ireland these are more like private clubhouses. And if you’re a fellow angler you’re a member.” He goes on to say that if you’re visiting a town without a tackle store, stop at the local pub.

Keep in mind that access to rivers and streams is generally not free. However, it’s fairly easy to buy a day license from a local fishing club. Again, start at the local flyshop or pub to find local contacts.

Bassett also suggests to not worry too much. If you’re crossing over a bridge and decide to look down to see if any fish are feeding, and you just happen to have some time to kill and have angling equipment, just go fishing. The worst that can happen is that someone might come along and ask you to leave.

He tells of making one of those stops, and an elderly farmer came along to run him off. They actually have a pleasant conversation, ending with the farmer giving him some favorite flies and inviting him to fish his favorite pool. He told the farmer he saw feeding fish and couldn’t resist, and the farmer, a fellow angler, understood.

Incidentally, Ireland’s trout season begins today, on March 17, which seems altogether appropriate. Many Butte people make pilgrimages to Ireland to reconnect with their ancestral roots. Why not go fishing, too?

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