On the River Barrow

My Bavarian buddy arrived in a fussy little rental Skoda which, he told me from listening to it complain on the way from Dublin, had a problem with the main bearing. It wasn’t terminal, at the moment anyway, he added. We drove out to a local lake, inspected that, then, the next day, drove down to the further reaches of the local town river.’ Fishing rules and licences were discussed, then fish and bait.

The following day we drove down to Carlow and the Barrow. In a well-stocked fishing tackle shop, he bought a few bits and pieces from the Lithuanian running the shop. Then, in the teeming rain, we headed back home.

No fishing, no fish. Plenty of rain though. I had seen my friend, a couple of years years earlier, bag three trout in his own local river, within the space of half an hour. Two days later, the fruitless fishing really got going. 

We drove down to Graiguenamanagh, across bits of rural Kilkenny. Norman country, with rivers, decent land and abbeys and castles. The Normans were never too eager to plant the bog. In a café by the river, we caféed quietly as I listened to three late life Dubliners, long relocated here, chewing the cud/fat/scone. When two of them had left, myself and the rump of the group chatted. He was a sixties’ Dub. We reminisced about Dublin and, the pre-recession/pre-Northern Troubles days. Before the ’73 oil crisis and the Dublin bombings of May ’74 (whose 50th anniversary was this week).

The Dublin  man thought for a moment. ‘There was this group I liked. Sort of hippies.’

‘Dr Strangely Strange?’

‘That’s them! And the album…I played it all the time.’

‘Kip of the Serenes?’

‘I had the needle wore out playing it.’

We parted amicably a while later. Myself and my friend headed for the broad reaches of the Barrow. I was the gillie, carrying the fishing net and a couple of other bits and pieces. I watched a cormorant scud across the cold water, near the further bank as my friend assembled rod and bait.

Pike was the objective but nothing of any sort was biting. Or even nibbling. After a pleasant trot along the river bank, rain finally finished play and we headed back to the car. Down in St Mullins, a while later, I snoozed in the car – fishing is very relaxing – while my friend joined a few more along the river bank. One of them pulled in a few fish. Apparently, it was as much about bait as casting and the rest. We drove back slowly across the lovely countryside a while later. I was quite unbothered by the fact that Pike wouldn’t be served up for supper. (I wasn’t really looking forward to it anyway – all the bones. It had nothing to do with the bad name the Pike has, locally. The Pike’s low-life, bottom feeder, rubbish eating reputation, apparently, is nonsense).

We ate a hearty salad with cheese and store-bought prawn and good bread and a glass of wine. Then, in the evening, we went down to the smaller local to not talk about fishing anymore.

‘I think you need different bait here. It’s not like German rivers.’


I opened the door to the pub and we stepped in, all fishing forgotten about