The Dodder and the Big Fish

Heading down to the River Dodder as a child during the summer was one of my
favourite things to do. I would use a fishing net that was attached to a thin
bamboo pole. You could buy them in the local newsagents for around a £1 and
that would be it, you were set up for a fishing trip to the Dodder. The main prey
were lampreys, little catfish, sticklebacks and minnows. I had a knack for catching
them. With one hand I’d slowly place the edge of the net on the riverbed and with
the other hand I’d tap the fish on the head and it would shoot into the net.
Most days I’d arrived back at my house that evening with a bucket full of little
fish. I had no idea how to look after them; I was, after all only 9 or 10 years old at
the time. I would leave them in the bucket overnight only find the head and tail
on the back step the next morning. The local cats looked forward to me supplying
them with the evenings’ entertainment.
One day I went down to my usual spots on the river to try my luck and for
whatever reason I ended up on the far side of the river. Under the bridge at the
Old Bawn Road the river drops down by almost 30 feet over a series of short
waterfalls and I was under the last one where it flows out of the “Blacker” a pool of
water that some of the older kids jumped into from the upper wall. I could see
something big swimming in the water and I knew it wasn’t my usual quarry. The
sound of the water around me was deafening but I didn’t even notice. I lunged
my flimsy bamboo rod and net into the water a number of times and on the last
occasion out pops a brown trout jammed into the side of the net. I got such a
fright that I nearly fell into the river.
That fish must have thought how the hell did that little lad with his kid size net
catch me by surprise? I quickly put my prize into my bucket and scurried down
the bank to find a shallow spot to cross. I climbed up the steep hill and over the
field home. I passed some lads on the way and they enquired as to what I had in
the bucket. I shouted ‘a big fish’ and I ran the rest of the way home. There was
quite a stir in the house when my parents seen the fish. The camera was out and
a photo was taken with me holding the trout by its tail. My mother cut the fish in
half and grilled it there and then. I can’t remember what it was like to eat but I’ll
never forget that first taste of success.