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Posts tagged ‘trout’

The Fish That Got Away All Because Of Dad

As a child, I wasn’t given much opportunity to demonstrate my breathtaking skill with a fishing rod.

My journey to expert angler commenced when my father took the family up to Curraghmore Lake, one of the dark pockets of water in the Magillycuddy Reeks. He also brought a fishing rod which was no doubt state of the art circa 1940.

I believe my mother and I were expected to pick flowers and/or watch admiringly from a rock, while Dad introduced his sons to the noble art of fishing. He probably envisioned bonding with his sons, you know: back-slapping, telling dirty jokes and smoking cigars while providing for his family.

In retrospect, the expedition was doomed. Dad’s really more a finger-pointer than a back-slapper, and he’s never told a joke any dirtier than mildly smutty, and not only does he not smoke but Eoin and Daire would have been about 7 and 3 years old respectively so the whole chomping cigars thing would have been somewhat inappropriate.

To seal his doom, I’ve never been much into picking flowers or, for that matter, being told what to do (these conditions persist to this day). So after about half an hour impatiently watching Dad, Eoin and Daire, I demanded a go.

Dad finally succumbed when I threatened to cry.

We stood on a large rock overlooking the lake and Dad reluctantly handed over the rod. I cast inexpertly and the sullen waters of Curraghmore Lake swallowed the lure without a sound.

At this point I got a little flustered because I had no idea what I was supposed to do next. Dad was getting over-excited about winding in the reel, whatever THAT was. Also, because I was about 9, my attention span was pretty much fully occupied with whining.

Dad was snatching at the rod and I was grizzling something along the lines of, “Da-ad! Get o-off! It’s MY TURN.”

Dad barked, “Just- wind it in wind it in! You’ll get it STUCK!”

The line jerked, and I said something like, “Aww Dad it’s broke-e-en! This is stupid.”

And Dad issued one of those projectile TUT!s that are a skill acquired with children, and said, “Ach, now look what you’ve done. It’s stuck.”

Having finally located the windy thing, I was lack-lustrely turning it, when there was a splash and a fish flipped over the surface of the water.

“Look!” I screamed. The line whizzed.

“Give it here!” roared Dad and grappled the rod off me.

If he’d landed it, I’m sure the event would have been fully obscured by the mists of time and never referred to again. Happily (for me if not my long-suffering father) the story: ‘How Dad Lost My Fish’, or ‘The Fish That Got Away All Because Of Dad’, has passed into family legend. I try to reference it at least once during any reunion of one or more family members.

(My brothers are complicit in swearing it was the biggest fish in the whole of Ireland, possibly the world, possibly ever.)

Also see: the story of Trevor the Trout.

Husband and I are currently working on some family legends of our own.

Introduction to frozen water

090723 Logs

Although we emailed sporadically, and I met up with Helen when I passed through Dubai on the way to and from Ireland last year, the reality is we don’t know each other that well. Up to recently, all we had in common was a mutual appreciation for floating in briny water in a manner similar to giant gherkins.

Still, three months ago when Helen asked me to join her on a road trip during her week’s holiday from Dubai, I thought it was a marvellous idea. The open road, floaty skirts, the drowsy scent of pollen, floppy hats, sunglasses, takeaway coffee.

As the date approached, I got increasingly anxious. What if Helen and I ran out of conversation? What if we fell out over fuel? What if Helen bit Jed? What if my snoring kept her awake all night?

Happily, my fears had no basis in reality. On the Sunday morning, Helen’s friend Cathy saw us off with cheesy muffins and roasted pears with cinnamon.

In Tokoroa, we stopped briefly at the lookout point above the town, where Jed tested the limits of his digestive system with a MacDonald’s cheeseburger plus wrapping and an empty crisp packet.

We stayed with another two of Helen’s friends, Kim and Seamus, on their farm just south of Tokoroa. They have three boys, Kieran, Mossie and Padraic; a poster of the nine times tables on the bathroom door; and the ‘ladder of certain doom’ on the fridge. We spent the evening chatting over a bottle or several of wine.

Next morning, Helen and I drove on south, giving Jed a run at Huka Falls.

090723 Huka Falls

The Falls

090723 Helen and Jed

Helen and Jed

090723 Me and Jed

Me and Floppychops

We stopped in Taupo for lunch and a pair of walking boots for Helen (to wear). I also bought a Tongariro 260-T19 topo map, and a Kiwimaps New Zealand Compact Travellers Atlas with six large scale regional touring maps and nine city and town center maps. It was tremendously exciting to know my location.

We arrived in Turangi in the early afternoon and checked out our accommodation: a spacious two-bedroom chalet for $120 at Creel Lodge next to the Tongariro River. The bathroom door featured a map of recommended trout pools along the Tongariro River. It really inspired my bowels – although not as much as the nine times tables.

I had brought two mountain bikes on the rack on the back of the Hilux Surf. After check-in, we returned to Reception to ask about the biking trail to the Pillars of Hercules.

“Where does the trail start?” I asked.

“No idea,” said Richard.

“But it’s on the Creel Lodge website.”

“Really? What does it say?”

“Er. Two hour bike ride, easy grade, fifteen to twenty minutes drive from Turangi Village.”

“Sounds lovely. Be sure to let us know how you get on.”

I whipped out my topo map and located the Pillars of Hercules. We drove about 10km south on the SH1, then turned left onto Kaimanawa Road. We parked 2km up the road, and biked up a logging trail that ran to the south west. Considering Helen had never set arse on a mountain bike, she did exceptionally well.

090723 Helen gets to grip with biking

Helen gets to grips with biking

090723 Coffee break

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo (above) that the cold was bitter in the late afternoon. It was a gradual uphill route, and a section of the trail was overgrown, so we soon warmed up. The puddles were all iced over – Jed’s first introduction to frozen water. He was understandably cautious about this this dangerous, unknown and potentially threatening new experience: galloping towards the puddles and leaping into the middle of them feet-first.

The path eventually gave onto a crazy Kiwi swingbridge, suspended hundreds of metres above the Tongariro River below. Jed was entirely dubious: he ventured out a few paces before scuttling back to firm ground, gaining a little more headway each time; then shot past me in the middle of the bridge to gain the far side where the whole process started again.

090723 Swing bridge

090723 Jed

090723 Pillars of Hercules

We carried on to the Urchin Camping Ground, then freewheeled down the main road back to the car.

The following day, we got up early and biked up Tree Trunk Gorge and north (this time) to the Pillars of Hercules again. In a bizarre phenomenon, although we returned to the car the same way, it seemed to be uphill in both directions.

We were on the road by midday. I am delighted to report that by the time we reached Auckland six hours later, far from running out of things to say, Helen and I had barely even started

090723 The way back

One of my finest moments

A friend of The Real Outlaws’ offered to take us out on Lake Te Anau in his boat this morning. The plan was to moor at the other side of the lake and take a trek up river to do some fishing.

I was not heartened by the blokes – packing their waders – advising me that I should expect to get my boots wet. In my opinion, there are very few sports that merit the sacrifice of toasty feet, and I’m just not that keen an angler yet. So I was pretty dubious. And the morning would have given a polar bear acute hypothermia. I was packed in six layers, daintily garnished with a scarf, hat and gloves – but the cold was still nibbling my bone marrow.

On my fourth cast, I got my lure caught under a rock.

Bafflingly, the men seemed to seize upon any opportunity to leap into sub-zero waters, as illustrated by a fishing trip two days ago where Andrew got wet up to his ARMPITS. (The theory appears to be that the greater the suffering, the better the experience – a bit like Catholicism, although perhaps more sensible). Anyway, discarding shoes and socks, I made a futile attempt to retrieve my lure, giving up when the water lapped playfully at my groin.

It was half an hour before I could feel my toes again – and only a painful tingle now and then at that.

The Goat Mistress and I left the real men to their crotch-dampening experiences, and made our arid way up river through The Bush. I was suffering a confidence crisis, having lost one lure and snagged my replacement several times. In fact, I had not had any luck during our fishing trips in Te Anau – I’d got to the stage where I didn’t even know whether I’d recognise a fish chomping away on the end of my line. Agent of Death liked to say I was their “Jonah” (as in: “You’re our bladdy Jonah, you are”).

Obviously, I came back strongly, accusing him of pawning me off with a substandard fishing reel (it squeaked) and crappy mono-chromatic lures. But internally, I was seriously questioning my whole angling career.

And then along came Trevor.

We were kicking our way through a particularly overgrown section of Bush, when The Goat Mistress said, “Oh, there might be a good fishing pool here,” and inexplicably set off punching her way through a great mass of impenetrable foliage.

“Oh shite not again,” I thought, but figured I’d better humour my Mother-In-Law.

“Look, that might be a good bet,” said The Goat Mistress, teetering on the brink of a short bank above a nondescript pool.

“Try in there,” she said, settling herself comfortably on the bank.

Well, I hadn’t got a lot else on at the time, so I resignedly unhooked my lure and made a couple of half-hearted casts into the pool. Agent of Death says if you’re going to catch a fish it will be within the first six casts. I was on the sixth and more concerned with how to suggest to The Goat Mistress that we find a big rock to sit on and contemplate lunch, when there was a tension on the line and, “Oh bugger,” I thought with a sinking feeling, “I’ve caught the bloody lure in the tree.”

I didn’t fancy wading in to unhook the damn thing – but wait! Was that a tug I felt?

“I think… I think I might have caught something,” I said to The Goat Mistress incredulously. “No… yes… no… yes, yes it might be… it might be… a FISH!”

I was trying to reel in the line and having some problems; the rod was jerking all over the show.

“Where is it?” The Goat Mistress shouted.

And then next thing, this WHALE broke the surface of the water. “Look!” I screamed, and tried to point, but the reel went berserk, so I figured I’d better keep a grip on it.

“Help! Help!” shrieked The Goat Mistress, presumably trying to attract the attention of The Real Men, of whom there was no sign. They were probably balancing on a rock somewhere in the deepest, fastest-flowing section of river.

“What do I do?” I bawled at poor Goat Mistress, whose only advice at that point was: “Keep the tup down! Keep the tup down!”

After further urgent exchanges, The Goat Mistress and I agreed that the best course of action would be to wear Trevor out.

“Give him his head when he struggles, and reel him in when he’s tired,” muttered The Goat Mistress, staring intently with narrowed eyes at the last place Trevor had been spotted.

Well, it was a long hard battle and I had no idea what I was doing. The hook must have been embedded fairly deep in poor Trevor’s mouth, because I gave him every opportunity to wriggle away to snap at minnows another day.

Eventually, after several minutes cursing and hauling, Trevor was within spitting distance of the bank and Goat Mistress’s patience snapped. Disregarding all consideration of dry feet, she splashed into the water, punched Trevor on the nose, grabbed him by the tail and hauled him up on the bank, where she kicked him – really fairly viciously – in the head.

The woman has a lot of latent aggression.

The hook was indeed wedged far down Trevor’s throat. Now, I’ve always baulked at the thought of extracting a lure from a fish’s mouth, but I exceeded all expectations (mine) by using a hunting knife to pick the hook out of Trevor’s gob.

Next thing, with remarkably good timing – for us – the Real Men appeared on the horizon, complete with soggy crotches and buckets of no fish.

“Hold it up by the gills!” hissed The Goat Mistress – which I did, ignoring the blood and general ick factor – “Not over the water!” As if Trevor hadn’t been busy negotiating the turbulent waters of the Pearly Gates for the last five minutes.

“Look what we got!” we sang, and I waved Trevor at The Real Men. Trevor, the great big hairy-arse brown trout, 5lbs of him (according to Agent of Death’s official weighing scales).

The Real Men looked soggily sullen.

Later, I was obliged to gut Trevor, which was a traumatic affair. My lying, cheating, no-good, low-down husband of mine said: “Don’t worry, Agent of Death’ll do most of it.” So we went out to the back of the truck, where Agent of Death stood fingering his hunting knife.

Freddy Kreuger could take lessons in horror from this man.

“Right,” said Agent of Death, when he’d pressed the knife into my trembling hand. “First, hold him upside down. UPSIDE DOWN. Yep, like that. Now, stick the point of the knife in his pie-‘ole.”

“Er, excuse me,” I said uncertainly. “His pie-‘ole?”

“The shitter,” said Agent of Death succinctly. He pointed.

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?” I asked, trying to keep the gag-reflex under control.

Agent of Death just sniggered, evilly.

“Oh, Trevor!” I lamented soundlessly.

And so I gutted poor Trevor, Agent of Death insisting on inspecting his stomach contents – “Ooh look! What’s this? He’s been a hungry boy.”

From the state of his kidneys I’d say Trevor might’ve had a bit of a drink problem, although otherwise, he was apparently in good condition. Light pink flesh – allegedly indicating a healthy diet of crustaceans.

Despite a shower and nail-inspection, I still have most of Trevor’s entrails under my finger-nails

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