Home Thoughts From Abroad

There was a gentle rain that first evening in Pemberton as I sat on the veranda in the fading light, tying flies and dreaming of fishing trips past. I especially remembered those fish caught in mountain streams in the West. Small trout that danced on the water in anger when hooked and swam away with a derisive wave of the tail when released. And big trout from the Midland Lakes, trout that never showed on the surface until it was time for the net. But most of all, those wonderful trout from the River Boyne, with bellies the colour of butter, like pirouetting rainbows they leaped against the setting sun.
What I wouldn’t give to be sitting on the banks of that great river now. To sit with my back to Bective House with its sombre grey-stone exterior and to face the skeletal ruins of that ancient abbey where 800-year-old ghosts guard its naked walls. I could sit for hours in that spot listening to the water as it bubbled over the weir. I was standing below Mary Lavin’s house early one morning. There was a crashing noise on the opposite bank. A stag appeared, its antlers catching on the lower branches as it ran. A pigeon took to the sky disturbed by the noisy stag. A hawk circled above and when it spotted its prey, dived and took the pigeon in its claws. It disappeared again as quickly.
My thoughts were disturbed by the sound of footsteps on gravel. He came towards me, water dripping from his Akubra hat. He carried an old cane fly rod. His weather-beaten faced smiled at me. We sat on the veranda and spoke initially of flies and rivers and trout, both captured and lost. He was eighty-five years old and migrated to Australia in 1939. He lived a life of regret. After sixty years in Western Australia he still called Ireland home. I was amazed at his capacity to remember his birthplace in perfect detail. He spoke longingly of his beloved Lough Corrib and its famous trout. Big, deep-bodied fish that lived on the bottom of the lake and only came to the surface when the Mayfly danced its final sequence. “Then they would come up,” he said, “mighty trout, with their short snouts and fat yellow bellies. The splash, the lifting of the rod and the line running across the water like an express train, that’s what I miss.” He mused. “Did you ever go back,” I queried. He shook his head. “not even for a holiday.” “Why?” I asked. “I was afraid that it would be somehow different and nobody would know me.” “You regret coming to Australia?” I inquired. “I don’t regret coming here. I’ve had a good life in this country. A wonderful wife, now gone, children, grandchildren and a nice home. No, I don’t regret coming to Australia,” he paused briefly, “but I do regret leaving Ireland.” “I don’t understand.” I said. “It’s simple,“ he answered. “The feeling for home is a seed planted at conception and it never leaves you. Australia is just not home to me.” He left and I sat there thinking. I saw a little of myself in him. Maybe in forty years’ time I would be that same person, regretful and sad. I promised myself, that next year I would go back to Ireland and fish the rivers and lakes of my boyhood. If things have changed, well so be it, at least I will have laid that ghost to rest.