The Conversation Starter

I have heard snippets of these stories before but it is at times like these that one really
begins to take note.
The conversation opens around my memory of a black and white photograph that is now
only recently in my father’s possession. The photograph taken in 1969 depicts a man fishing
by the River Liffey at Island Bridge(1). The man is that of my grandfather whom I never met.
I am captivated by the image as the silhouette could be mistaken for that of my father.
I am surprised to learn that my father’s angling experiences all began on the day of his First
Holy Communion. Most children receive a set of rosary beads, a prayer book or jewellery on
this special occasion. I am sure my father did attain all these gifts but most importantly his
father presented him with his first fishing rod to mark the event. When he was as young as
ten years of age he would set off to Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare to fish on a section of
the River Liffey during the ‘evening rise’. Sometimes it would be a father and son
expedition. On other occasions it would be with his Uncle and cousin to fish for trout,
salmon and sprat. I had never heard of a sprat before and learn that it is a small marine fish
of the herring family.
The River Liffey was not the only destination of choice. Many hours would be spent on
Lough Sheelin, County Cavan. I am told my grandfather would hire a boat and boatman to
fish on the lake. This ritual spanned for almost a decade until the untimely death of my
My father continued to fish the River Liffey near Poulaphouca, County Wicklow. His
memory is of fishing late into the night, hearing the warning sound of the ‘hooter’
beaconing across the water to alert anglers to vacate the area. One had moments to heed
this sound before the reservoir water was released flushing aggressively downstream with
rapidly rising water levels. There were one or two close encounters I am told.
My mother bought my father his own fishing boat when they celebrated their twenty-fifth
Wedding Anniversary. He would continue to launch this boat again and again on the lake of
Lough Sheelin where I would also venture. The first launch is the most memorable. I recall
it as if it is was yesterday. I would sit at one end of the boat and my father the other. All
would be silent except for my thoughts as I willed for something exciting to happen. A good
cast perhaps, an even better one than the last. I so wanted him to be proud. It would be a
full days’ excursion and we would always be prepared. The light blue cooler box was always
full to get us through the long day. We would moor up on the little island and my dad would
1. The photograph was featured in the Irish Independent to mark the opening of the
Salmon season on the 1st January 1969.Page 1
take out the portable gas hob and frying pan to cook the sausages. I can hear them now
sizzling away, the smell making my mouth water. Lunch would be brief to allow for more
fishing time. I am still so proud of that initial boat launch, a little boastful in fact. Not many
daughters can say that they caught the first fish on their fathers fishing boat.
I look at the boat lying idyll now for no other reason than it has to cocoon with its owner. It
awaits the next adventure. The day when the tradition can continue and another
generation will get to experience
the wonderful world of fishing.
1. The photograph was featured in the Irish Independent to mark the opening of the
Salmon season on the 1st January 1969.Page 2