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Issue 117 - The king of fish

Whisky Magazine Issue 117
February 2014


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The king of fish

There is no greater struggle than that of the fly fisher and salmon, as Seáneen Sullivan finds out

I feel like I am amidst an Enid Blyton story. We are perched on the bank of the Blackwater River eating a lunch of hard boiled eggs and roast chicken with chutney washed down with cups of strong tea from a stainless steel flask – Barry's of course, we are in Cork after all. Beyond the bank the surface of the river is a shimmering illusion, a taut veneer broken by whorls of shadowy current. Norman our ghillie carefully and deliberately assembles the rods, two the deep purple of a perfectly ripened plum, the other lumescent green. In a sturdy box he carries with care the flies, a carnivalesque explosion of feathers, threads and beads.

A short splosh of water catches my attention. "Probably a trout," sniffs Norman. "Do you ever fish for trout?" I ask. He pauses, before declining and I feel slightly foolish for asking. He speaks with passion about his craft. A quiet, purposed fervour. "Only for the king of fish" he pronounces. That is our quarry. We are here to fish salmon. The Blackwater's inky depths teem with them, nestled beneath the shifting surface. Watching the water, you can almost sense them. The river feels alive, brooding. We don our waders and head in.

There are three rules of fly fishing, explains Norman. The first is that gravity is downwards. There is a lot to remember. "Accelerate until vertical." "Make sure the line is taut before casting; slack is our great enemy." "When the line stops it will go in the direction where the rod has been pointing." When I lea...

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