When I had office jobs I always had the urge to post a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on my office door when I jetted off for my summer holidays. I didn’t actually want to go fishing; I just wanted my holidays to mirror the warm, lazy, zen summer feeling that the image of ‘going fishing’ evokes. Just like Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Summertime’…..’Summertime and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high’ – those kind of cool, breezy, carefree times were what I dreamt of. My colleagues would envy me and I would feel a world away from my tedious, sedentary job.
Alas that was B.K. (before kids)! Now ‘Gone Fishing’ means just that……we’ve taken the kids fishing. No envious colleagues, just envious Mummies annoyed that they hadn’t thought of this novel activity first!
Growing up in the Emerald Isle where the fishing industry accounts for a sizeable chunk of the economy in terms of revenue and employment, one might be misled to think that we Irish were born with fishing rods in our hands instead of silver spoons in our mouths. NOT so. Having been raised close to the sea, lived in a town and within walking distance of the countryside, I seem to fall through all kinds of cultural and geographical gaps…..DH is of a similar ilk and needless to say, outdoors’ activities are not something pulsing through his veins.
So when DS1 begged us to take him fishing on this Irish summer holiday, we were instantly filled with fear. Images of sitting on cliff edges on the rim of the Atlantic Ocean screamed through my virgin fishing mind. I was having flashbacks to ‘The old man and the sea’, with the fish taking charge and burying me in the sea!
That was until my wise brother suggested what now seems the obvious – ‘why don’t you try the fish farm up the road? Guaranteed to catch something and the look of delight on their faces is worth every penny/euro/dirham/dollar!’
Fishing day came. It was a chilly, damp morning when we set off to Laragh in the depths of Ireland’s garden, Wicklow. As we drove deeper into the countryside, the clouds swooped in to mask our path to the fish farm. I was glad I had thought of bringing fleece wear in what was supposed to an Irish heatwave. Shivering, we waited patiently for the junior pondkeeper to arrive.
When he did, I asked for 3 rods and sufficient bait. The bait consisted of sweetcorn kernels and a brown, foul smelling mush that looked like poop but which DD insisted was chocolate cookie dough! I don’t know what terrified me more – the sharp fishing hooks or the thought of touching the poop bait. For a few uncomfortable seconds after receiving the equipment, I stood waiting for instructions on how to use the contraptions. Nothing. Refusing to accept I had to figure this out for myself (and possibly risk serious injury!) I asked the pondkeeper chap to demonstrate how we should safely use the equipment.
His simple tutorial led to a fish being caught in what seemed like record breaking time of sub 5 seconds. ‘At Euros 3.90 per fish caught, this could be a very expensive morning of entertainment’, I thought.
The first victim wriggled, wrangled and desperately tried to free itself from the incredibly sharp hook that now gauged its inner cheek. Once the pondkeeper got hold of it, he reached into his back pocket and whipped out a blunt looking piece of wood. Feeling woozy looking at the blood oozing from the poor fish’s mouth, I could not have prepared myself for what was about to happen next. Holding the fish in his left hand, his right hand wielding the wood; he began to beat the fish over the head until it was dead. Unmoved he placed the now officially ‘dead’ fish in a white plastic bag and flung it on the bench by our fishing spot.
By this point my stomach was lurching and even though I couldn’t watch the ‘finishing off’ of the fish, I berated myself for exposing my babies to such barbarity. Errr that was…until I peeled a squeamish eye open to spy on their reactions. Polar opposite reactions – they were fascinated, enthralled, captivated. Experiencing a life they have never seen.
‘Lemme try’ came the yelps that signalled the battle for the first one to try to catch a fish.
Without even a glance in my direction DH assumed control. I can hardly cope with a wobbly tooth, let alone a bloodied, squirming fish battling for its life.
For each child DH cast off with a kernel of corn as bait. In some cases his offer was immediately accepted and the fish tugged on the bait, became entrapped and were open to being reeled in by the least experienced of our posse. Steadily reeling their prey towards them there were enough grins to power a county’s grid. Shrieks of unbridled, toothless happiness reigned and ‘warriors’ were born.
Until the critter surfaced, struggling and fighting capture with every fibre of its being.
Then everyone fled. Scrambling for safer grounds, each child panicked and ran. Horrified and terrified of this fish beast, they ran screaming for the hills. DH was left holding the rod and the struggling fish dangling on the end of that rod. Nothing could deter him from his mission. Not even the supposed dead ‘fish in a plastic bag’ that was thrown on the bench…….until that Darwinian fish rolled off the bench in its plastic bag and scared the ‘bejaypers’ out of him…..
6 trout and 50 euros + one ripped hook finger later (the hilarity of it all – I hooked my finger!!) = a great day out!