In Ford’s 1952 classic, “The Quiet Man”, John Wayne, portraying Sean Thornton, goes back to his ancestral roots in Innisfree on the Mayo-Galway border in western Ireland. At the outset of the film, JW disembarks the train he arrived on in Castletown, not knowing that is Innisfree is five or more miles “…down the road…”. The local, who is looking him over, sees that he has neither camera aroond his neck (which would mark him as tourist) and what’s worse, no fishing rod! Getting past all the cordial speech, the local asks the title question of Wayne, “So tell me Yank, is it Troot or Salmon ye’re after?”
On this jaunt to the U.K., friend Bart, his wife Carol and Sister Sarah (still with no mules) and I returned to the excellent Rockbourne Trout Fishery, http://www.rockbournetroutfishery.co.uk/ , in Hampshire to wave our fly rods to and fro (mostly without the poetry described by an accomplished flyfisher’s casts) in search of Troot. And for uninformed, Rockbourne’s operation is NOT one of those places where they feed the fish by broadcasting shrimp pellets on the water, resulting in a boiling mass of fish that you could catch with a bare hook. You must fish.
One of Bart’s fish, a 3 +lb Rainbow
I modestly consider myself a fairly accomplished fisherman. I’ve caught virtually every species, multiple times, indigenous to North America, marine and freshwater alike. I’ve used Pepperidge Farm Gold Fish Crackers to catch baby tarpon in St. Kitts, on a Zebco 202 reel and a 5′ rod. I’ve caught and eaten fire barbecued piranha from the Rio San Juan between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and taken arm sized trout from streams a foot wide in the Ecuadorian Andes. I’ve flyfished for Browns and Brookies and Atlantic Salmon in Maine, bone fish in the Keys and Belize and too many more fish and places to mention. I’ve spent some time on the waters, and more often than not, successful not only in the enjoyment of the day, but caught a few fish.
This day at Rockbourne was not one of those days. I had a lot “follows”, a couple of missed strikes and hooked and lost no fewer than 5 fish. My only consolation, slight tho it might me was that I was using flies tied in…..wait for it………China. On these two fish, one of which, and no fish tale, was easily 7-8 lbs, the hook in the fly broke …completely off, leaving me with the fly still on the shank, but no hook. I’ve saved the flies for practice casting with The Bride (who didn’t go fishing this day, opting for a lie-in, as our Brit friends call sleeping late. Bottom line – I’ve about 25 Chinese flies for sale…really cheap!
Sister Sarah, with the very kind assistance from Simeon, the fisheriers manager at Rockbourne, not only caught her first trout, a very nice 3.5lb Rainbow, on a fly, but her first fish ever by any means.
It was Bart’s day, no doubt about it. We had each purchased, for GBP 40, a two fish ticket. 20 minutes after we started, Bart landed a 5 lb rainbow. on a black nymph with a flash of red in the very small tail. Bart’s first Rainbow Trout on a fly…5.5lb rainbow
His next catch, about 35 minutes later, was another really nice Rainbow in the same weight class
In all, Bart caught both his two fish ticket, -AND- both of mine. It was a little embarrassing, I’ll admit. Bart’s never really fly fished before and much less for trout, but my embarrassment was more than made up for by my pleasure that both he and Sarah did so well.
We traded our smallest fish, Sarah’s, for two packs of hot and cold smoked trout- which Rockbourne will routinely do as they smoke the trout right there. We gave a five-pounder to our hosts at Lois Barn Farm, where we rent the 200 y.o. pig sty (which is now anything but!). Then teaching Sister Sarah the whole fishing experience, butterflied one and broiled it with lemon, butter, garlic, salt and pepper. We also steaked one of the 5 lb fish and Bart turned the steaks in egg, rolled in Panko bread crumbs and quick sauteed on both sides til just crunchy – a very elegant Mrs. Paul’s! If you know Sarah, be sure to compliment her on learning to scale, gut, behead and remove the fins from a heavy, slippery fish!
I’m not worried about not landing any fish – as the saying goes, “some days the bear gets you, and some days, you get the trout”…or something like that. We’re off to Wales tomorrow..who knows, maybe that’ll be my day. My now fondest dream might even be realized if a Gaelic sort wanders up and asks, “Well tell me, Yank, is it Troot or Salmon ye’re after?”