Reflections on the river Suir

“Flow on lovely river – flow gently along ”
The river Suir threads its way through the lush lowlands of South Tipperary, as it does through the pathways of my memories. Growing up in Carrick – on – Suir the river was a constant presence in our young lives. As children it was our playground; bait fishing off the old bridge with worms, creamery offal, or lumps of meat from Frank Laurence’s butchery or doing death defying dives when the tide was in, much to the disapproval of the Sunday Mass goers.
Mastery of the art of fly fishing is the gift of the few and dry fly fishing, a skill shared only by the elite. As boys during balmy summer evenings we watched in awe the graceful fly casting of the old timers, masters of their craft. We tried to emulate them while avoiding their taunts, “you’re like John Duffy (circus ringmaster) cracking the whip”. Part of the skill of fly fishing included the tying of flies varying with the seasons and time of day. My idol was Mikey Tobin, master of all things to do with the river. He was expert in the use of the pole – a technique acquired from years of practice in manoeuvring the locally adapted river boat – the cot. This skill was ably demonstrated by his negotiation of the weir at low tide. The cot had to be fixed facing the flow of water and pushed as if tacking, before a final shove to shoot the torrent.
On summer evenings he would launch his cot, pole in one hand and fishing rod in the other. Sometimes, his wife Nellie sat up front, dressed in her summer finery, comfortably sitting on a cushion and sporting a parasol to shade her from the sun. What a picture; the boat being poled gently upriver, the swish of the line as it was fed out of a singing reel, the excitement of the strike, the arch of the rod, the run of the fish and the skilled play before netting a wriggling silver trout. Fishing upstream until they came to lkes and Mik s where they stopped for a pint and a mineral, then fishing down river, having the satisfaction of a day well spent and tomorrow’s dinner secured. Mickey wore a Fair Isle pullover and tied his flies using wool from the jumper to match whatever coloured bodied fly was on the water, one imagines that when winter came, there was little heat left in it.
At times, more adventurous escapades took us further upriver. One memory that demonstrates the trust that our parents bestowed on us stands out. On this occasion our mother drove my brother, Tom and I to Clonmel, from where we planned to swim the twelve miles downriver to Carrick. We set off at a great pace until we came to Poulakerry where tiredness overtook us. We had a brainwave, we would make a raft frori, reeds. This worked very well for a while before it became waterlogged and had to be abandoned. There was nothing for it but to resort to swimming again,. When we eventually arrived at the Cottage Quay and within sight of home, we were met with 11 high tide. We ended up walking home on the towpath.
Seventy years on, I still fish the river Suir, grateful for the skills and stories passed on by the old fishermen of my youth and thankful for the freedom allowed us by our parents to explore and enjoy this lovely river.