FISHING IN IRELAND
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
Siat,—Your correspondent, "M.," who wrote so pleasant a retrospect of angling in Ireland moves me to say that he is unduly pessimistic about the future chances. There is no reason why he should not fish the same bog-stream again —nor even that he should despair of seeing once more six salmon on the floor of a fishing hut. Such occasions never come often ; but last winter I heard reports from a river in Donegal—the Ownea, at Glenties—which I have often fished. My friend had got nine spring fish there in the day ; other men in the combine that rented it had at other times done even better. On that river and on others 1924 was a more than usually good year ; yet the destruction which undoubtedly went on from 1919 to 1922, when there was not much law in the country, had had time to take effect. At present the Civic Guard is doing what as "M." justly observes the R.I.C. in old days held to be "no part of their duties." They were ' often to be seen on the river bank—but not to stop fishing. A joyful memory rises in my mind of tramping through desolate mountains in Mayo under the guidance of a most expert poacher to a little river in high flood. On the bank, when we reached it, was a fishing hut, and rods projected from the but at all angles. Their owners revealed themselves as a sergeant and three constables sheltering from the rain which still fell. With perfect decorum they withdrew ; the rain ceased to fall ; my friend and I fished and the poacher carried back thirty pounds of big sea trout. It was the best day of my life ; and though we did not know it at the moment, we had no right to fish there. The policemen knew that they had not, and conscience made cowards of them.
Also, it is true that the Civic Guard are unarmed ; but I have just read a report of an occurrence in Kerry where they called in troops to assist them in dealing with poachers. who made violent resistance. The dealing was very drastic. And a Bill is on its way through our Parliament which proposes to increase the licence duty on nets, and to close, as fir as penalties can do it, the sale of illegally taken fish. In the good old days which " M." deplores the law was 'comic. My Mayo poacher was once returning from a river with a bag containing his net and fish ; a policeman stopped him (for some took a strenuous view of duty) and confiscated bag and net. The poacher, who knew his law (having been-a water bailiff), took the law of the policeman ; tualess -he were caught in the ' act of using the net his positioli was secure; and he recovered damages. Our own Parliament, which is really anxious to
improve fisheries and attract angling visitors, has no use for such a state of the law ; and it has both the time and will to legislate.
I dare say " M." is right and that the official guide to our fisheries (but please remark that our Government now thinks it worth while to issue an official guide) omits some of the best things. Last year an angler told me of a little water where he had got trout up to seven pounds with the dry fly. (I have forgotten the name of the stream but can recover it ; and if I remembered it now, it should not be disClosed.) Nobody fished there, he said ; and a man who lived near it told, me, when I catechised him later, that it held only pike. I am going to see about it. There are plenty of discoveries to be made. .It• is difficult to get trout fishing preserved because it has been and is almost everywhere regarded as a free right. But if " M." or the like of him will convince Irish farmers who own a river bank that a substantial rent can be had for that fishing, preservation will follow.
And as for the lack of accommodation—two hotels that I know of were destroyed ; I have not heard of others. I do not believe anybody will be stopped by lack of lodgings.
The only thing likely to set back Irish angling is the Shannon electricity scheme ; and that, I fear, must spoil the water above Limerick. But the tributaries which come in below- Feale, Deel and Maigue—ought to be better rivers than ever, and the Fergus in Clare may gain immensely. The little Mulcahir will remain good, and I believe that such an improve- ment in preservation as we are entitled to expect will leave the Shannon district as it was, or better. As for the country and the people, those who come back to it may well be surprised to find how little is changed. When I was last fishing, a year ago, and much perplexed how to get a heavy salmon to the gaff, a countryman came to my assistance, did the job neatly, and we discoursed pleasantly till the representative of my host was seen arriving. Then this good angel sheered off—not un- naturally, being a systematic poacher of that water, and a leader of the irregulars who had raided the house. But a sportsman, and a friendly one.—I am, Sir, &c., STEPHEN GwYNN.
P.S.—I was told the other day that a twenty-pound trout was taken this year in Corrib. I regret that a record that I held is swamped ; but it shows the results of Home Rule. No such trout was ever taken under the old regime.