Chris McCully chases spate-river salmon in Co Kerry.
IT WAS ON the Inny, a wonderful little spate river that bisects Co Kerry on its way to Waterville and the sea, that we almost invented a new salmon angling magazine. I was fishing down a long holding pool for the umpteenth time. The mind – what was left of it – was beginning to wander. What should we call it, this novel and mighty angling organ?
Bright Scales? Pretentious and absurd – no. Wild Angling? Three out of ten for self-regarding ambiguity – no. Total… Something? Maybe. The Total Fly-Rod? A bit 1990s, a bit Top Gear, so – no. Then I had it.
“Total Gonads,” I called over my shoulder to Gardiner, who was working down the pool behind me.
He thought for an instant. He’d obviously been watching my casting with a critical eye. “Total Gonads First Issue Special,” he announced to the Kerry winds. “Shamed by Your Spey Casting? Your Problems Solved by Our Team of Coneheads….”
The Inny is like many Irish and Scottish spate rivers in that there’s often limited space to back-cast. Even as Gardiner fell about laughing – he was laughing at my casting, not with it – I realised he’d hit on an essential angling truth: if you’re going to fish on the Inny or elsewhere for salmon then it’s useful to be a proficient fly-caster.
For years I’ve fudged it. On the occasions I’ve fished small spate rivers for salmon I’ve usually done so with a single-hander. Around me, and notably in Ireland, young salmon-fishers have turned up with double-handers and to a man and woman are able to cover the pools with enviably efficient varieties of cast–single and double speys, snap Ts, snake rolls. They fish with cliffs behind them and smile as they do it. They can cover every salmon-holding crease to the inch.
I won’t engage in too much hand-wringing about my lesser skill. I’m neither particularly good nor desperately bad. I can roll cast off both shoulders and after a fashion I can switch cast – something I taught myself in a tight place on the River Ilen, again in Kerry. I can even roll and switch cast with a change of direction. It helped that ten years ago I followed some fly-casting courses run by the European Fly Fishing Association. There was a basic and a more advanced course. I learned much and still have the relevant certificates somewhere.
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