A one foot fly amidst the lily pads
Ad Swier - Holland
I'm out on that lake again. After a year of waiting, dreaming, hoping it would still be there. Just as I left it. It is not a big lake, not small either. It is just a water-covered slope formed some million years ago in the Burren. Deep in the west of Ireland. One should have walked the Burren to appreciate how beautiful it is, a barren windswept landscape really is. Its magnificent plant and animal life is almost unreal. Bee orchid, fragrant orchid, lesser butterfly orchid and the most spectacular of them all; the pyramidal-, and the fly orchid.
One might even see the Burnet rose, spring sandwort, bloody cranesbill and, here and there on old stone walls, the beautiful purple red of the fairy foxglove as well as many ferns. And...if one is very lucky, one might even meet a badger. So I am out on my lake again. I have a feeling in my stomach that's hard to explain. It's that feeling of having been away for far too long. The feeling of meeting an old friend again. The feeling of familiarity. Belly boating, ('float tubing') easy going. No rush, no feeling of urgency. Slow and easy, does the trick. It's better for your heart...and better for your fishing. Low in the water, as I am, I am almost invisible to the fish. I hardly make a sound. Lime stone water. Never have I seen water so bright and sparkling.
Slowly my feet paddle away beside the rushes and lily pads. Some are in blossom, others are deep below the surface. Bright greens and deep shadows. Every now and then a wood of pondweed appears. The better spots for pike. The edges of the deep standing lilies. There where the shivering darkness starts, is another hot spot, the truly unknown domain of everybody's dream fish. The huge pike, with moss on the head.
Here the fish wait for prey. For the shoals of Rudd, coming and going from the deep up into the shallows. October. Showers come and go, some with hail, some with blustering rain. In between these showers the sun comes out. I like this kind of weather. On the bank at the far end gold's and browns remind of autumn. A robin whistles. The pale yellow of the rushes in front. Reds and yellows of dying lily leaves. It is all there. And the sun shine spreads its spell, adding to an already exquisite scene.
Fishing for pike again. With bulky streamers. Noisy Dahlberg divers, and John Betts's Bullet Heads. With strong eight- or nine weight rods, fast- sinking lines or glass lines for the deep holes, floaters or sink tips for divers. You might say that fly fishing for pike is doing it the hard way. I would say it is no harder than, for instance, using live bait. But you have to fish with a different attitude. A different philosophy. Certainly live bait is easier and will bring you more fish. So will a well fished plug or spoon. I feel very strongly about catch and release. I like to release my fish as undamaged as possible. Therefore I always fish barbless. To search, study and try to read the water, and then to fish it with my own homebred creations. Dreamed together using hair, feathers and anything else I can lay my hands on in order to seduce my dream pike, is an experience to be treasured. I certainly dream a lot.
I like to believe that I tempt fish to take my streamer or leave it be. As I said, a live baiter will certainly catch more fish, but catching a lot of fish doesn't really interest me. I am far more interested in the way I catch my fish. For me that's satisfaction. Half an hour ago I missed a fish. No, that's not quite true, the fish really missed me. In the clear water and the pale sunlight, it followed the fly out of the rushes until it was an arms length away. Then, after it seemed to look at me for a couple of seconds (rather haughtily), it vanished again with a deep noisy boil and an even louder splash. Leaving me with a pounding heart and drops of water on my glasses. Good for the heart?...
It was a specimen of course, fish one misses (or looses) ought always to be specimens. So I carry on fishing. With high hopes and a strong spirit. I cast toward a deep hole at the end of the bed of rushes and then into the rushes themselves. The fly sinks. I fish it back with fast short jerks..... Now, at last, here's that long awaited thump. A smashing take. That car crash whack all of us long for. The fish moves fast, taking tens of metres from my helpless reel. It leaps...... It leaps again. High into the sunlit air, throwing sparkling water from its flanks. I try to keep the fish out of those rushes....He's already reached them. And everything comes to a standstill. I wait, pull the rod into as deep a bend as I dare.....Then he's out again so fast, you wouldn't believe it. He is under me before I even notice. I feel the line with my flippers. Turn as fast as I possibly can, lifting the rod in a strong-ever deepening bend.
The line is heavily jerked from my reel. Another furious leap displaying the flaming-red gills. Jaws wide open in the hope of shedding the foot-long yellow and red streamer. He falls heavily back into the lough and, after a few more minutes I am able to reach him. The obligatory photograph is taken and the fish is released. I hold it next to the belly boat, carefully running fresh, cool water through its gills to slowly resuscitate it. It gradually regains its strength until, with a short violent jerk, swims from my hands. I lean back, grinning as I clean my glasses...
A passer by, stopping the car in amazement, could not see much from the bank. Couldn't possibly hear his voice. For the waves and wind. The rush of a passing shower. If he could, he would notice the joy in his voice. Laughter. A high and shrill giggle, like a schoolboy on a day out. If he should take the trouble to look a bit closer with a pair of binoculars, he might even see it in his eyes. They would be laughing, too.
8275 AC ‘s-Heerenbroek,
Holland. 0031 38 3557564.