Fishing in Ireland a pleasant learning experience
Written by Oshkosh Northwestern   
Monday, 13 June 2005 01:49
?You?ll need these,? Gordon Dickenson said while handing me calf-high rubber boots from atop a pile of fishing gear. From the look of things, rubber boots were just one of many things needed for Irish ?coarse fishing,? which Dickenson and I would try that day on Lower Lough Erne.

We were parked at the Rossclare Jetty on the lake?s southeastern shore, and needed to walk a bit more than a third-mile to reach our fishing site.

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No problem. Dickenson grabbed the strap on his tackle box ? about the size and shape of a dormitory refrigerator ? and slung it over his back. Next he shouldered his two rod cases ? each about the size of a golf bag ? and studied my bulging daypack.

?What?s all that??

?Cameras, a sweater and rain gear,? I replied.

I understood Dickenson?s implication: Carry your pack if you want, but those two canvas bags by your feet are your responsibility. The smaller bag held a landing net and a collapsible hoop net for holding fish. The larger, much heavier bag resembled an oversized suitcase. But without wheels.

Not that wheels would be of use. I had landed in Ireland with my wife, Penny, and my parents, Ed and Winnie Durkin, four mornings before. It had rained steadily since, making Ireland a big squish of mud.

Even burdened as we were, Dickenson and I soon hiked into our destination and quickly rigged up for fishing. In general terms, Ireland offers two types of fishing: trout and salmon in the ?game? category, and nearly everything else in the ?coarse? category.

We were trying to catch fish known as bream, roach and bream/roach hybrids. The Irish also lump pike and perch into the coarse category, but one senses they deem them neither here nor there.

We used spinning rods, and fished with grubs and worms off the bottom or suspended under sliding ?floats,? a long, graceful version of our slip bobbers. Dickenson said we would keep our fish in the hoop net until quitting, and then assess our catch and release it.

Dickenson came highly recommended by his wife, Anne, one of my Durkin relatives. He is from England but has lived in Ireland since he came here ?on holiday? about 40 years ago to go fishing. He never returned, phoning in his resignation.

Dickenson spent his career as an instrument engineer, while establishing a reputation as one of Ireland?s top coarse anglers, even winning a national championship in the 1980s. Although he no longer competes in fishing ?festivals,? his skills remain.

We would be ?feeder fishing,? which means supplying lots of feed to attract the bream, roach and their hybrids. So, Dickenson grabbed a bowl, poured in red-dyed cereal-like mix, and then stirred in water, chopped worms and hundreds of rose-colored grubs.

Our sinkers were fitted with small plastic cages, into which we packed the feed mix. We then baited our hooks with small worms and a grub, and cast everything far into the lake. Repeatedly.

We caught many fish the next six hours, most of them perch of a size to please most Wisconsin anglers. Even so, Dickenson apologized. He told of times he filled his hoop baskets with 250 pounds of big bream and roach in less time.

Unfortunately, Ireland is enduring its own invasion of zebra mussels, which have made the water very clear, and kept the light-sensitive fish in deep water where they?re less accessible to shore anglers.

When it came time to release our catch, I suggested we keep the perch, but Dickenson looked at me with doubt, maybe suspicion.

I said Wisconsinites rank perch above salmon as tablefare, but he indicated that was our problem, not Ireland?s.

Finally, he let me keep only the perch that had died, which was about a dozen.

We had a compromise that secured my goal: My father would have a meal of fresh perch, surely a highlight of our trip.

Something told me, however, that we had revealed another American quirk to the Irish.
 
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