Dereken Lake – July Evening

Our minds weren’t on the foot cocking, that sultry July afternoon; the air as still as the breaking dawn. Tomas remarked “it will be a perfect evening for Dereken; the perch will be in shoals there”. I was so enthused by this optimism, I began to gather speed with my wooden rake.
Worms were already gathered, soft rain having loosened the soil and made these wriggling creatures ready for the taking. We had hidden a jam jar full of them in the shade, under the great beech bush.
Mother called across the meadow tea is ready and we responded immediately to her announcement. It wasn’t just the buttered bread dipped in scallions, straight from the soil, and the dripping hot juicy rhubarb pie, it was the passport for our journey to the lake.
We carefully checked the simple bamboo canes making sure the gut hook was secure, and the homemade cork float was fit for action. Our journey took us West through the fields to Greenwood village, stopping there for the Lyons’ and Murphy’s’. We then took the sand road north for Reisk village – where the Grogans joined us; their house being the last dwelling before the lake. The master fishers Sloyan brothers whistled happily ahead. Passing a large clump of, gorse
round the corner and there gleamed Dereken, resplendent and pure in the evening sun.
Murmuring midges disturbed the stillness of the fragrant air, and a grey Heron peered across inquisitively from the tall bulrushes. Mild terrain ran down to the water’s edge, where six of us formed a jagged line; our banter full of optimistic foreboding. Two members of the group, being more adventurous, climbed a heathery turf bank, overlooking a point called “Reilly’s Hole” – where the fish reputedly were more abundant. Concentration was focused on the bobbing corks in anticipation of landing the first catch. Like the first score in a football match, our proud angler was hugely lauded on taking a magnificent perch skilfully to the grassy bank. We admired this wriggling captive creature with pride and pity, sensing his innate beauty.
To cool the nerves the “Ten Carrolls” cigarette pack was passed around followed by mouthfuls of fizzy cidona from the large brown flagon. The rich smell of tobacco, its blue smoke curling towards the sky, scattered the midges, now biting more acutely than the fish. There was not a trace of boredom or restlessness, our contentment was palpable.
Suddenly a gusty shout from the turf bank rang out “stand clear”!! It was Paddy landing a leaping young pike on to the withered heather. Immediately we abandoned our gear to inspect this magnificent speckled fish, heaping praise on Paddy, the astute angler. Personally I marvelled at his perfect set of teeth as he desperately tried to break free. There followed a sort of stunned silence, and an empathy showing no measure of cruelty to this magnificent specimen of nature. Paddy gazed gravely towards us saying “we don’t eat pike – maybe we should let him go”! So young, he could enjoy more happy years here. Spontaneously the responding cheers could be heard down in the lower lake at Cloonacurry. Then with a gleeful swish of his tail he darted through the reeds to relish his regained freedom.
Reflecting back on that magical evening with vivid and lovely emotions, the common bonds of friendship, simple knowledge, and empathy are still so memorable. Our way home took us through verdant meadows teeming with buttercups, wild rocket, dandelion, and daisies. The thrush’s final chirpings ushering the dusk, and the moon appearing over Feeney’s Hill.
Such paradise in the Craggy terrain of East Mayo