Tickling the Trout

I stood on the bridge at the bottom of the town today. As I looked down at the swirling waters below, the jungle of sycamores sallies and firs start to fade away………..The sleek green grassy slopes slowly emerge…… and —-it is more than fifty years ago!

The bridge over the Bunowen river in Louisburgh

The boulders {rocks} are more plentiful but less ordered than now and more scattered; right across the river. Here and there a bigger one rises 2 or 3 feet over the water. The others just a little over the surface are perfect for skipping across the river as we youngsters search for signs of the white trout. It is the end of June or the first days of July, the sun is moving slowly towards Caramore hill and the tide is starting to back away to the sea at the mouth of the Bunowen.

As the tide backs the shoal of trout make a run to reach the freshwater in order to continue their journey to the spawning beds in the upper reaches. First they must run our gauntlet. Their silver sides flash whenever the sun’s rays reflect on them.  We watch as they rush to the shelter of the “beds”, under or to the sides of the rocks, or to the sanctuary of the ledges under the bridge.

I jump the parapet and rush down the grassy slope and make for the “blue rock” ,which is submerged just off the main current and where I have seen three swaying bodies in its shadows. I tread the water cautiously; shod in new brown crepe soled sandals. On reaching the back of the rock I kneel carefully on top. The surface is about 2 inches below the level of the water and very slippery. Barely moving I peer over the edge. All movement must now be almost imperceptible. They are still there and the outside one is the biggest.—-well over a pound maybe a pound and a quarter!

View from the bridge

Slowly very slowly I slip my hand into the water careful not to make a ripple. Inch by inch my fingers move towards the moving tail as it gently wags from side to side. Slowly and easily;….I know that any sudden movement will result in a lightning disappearance. I hardly dare breathe, and my heartbeat quickens. Gently ever so gently I let the tail quiver against my opened palm. Very lightly I start to tickle the side of the unsuspecting trout with the tips of my fingers. I gradually let them slide slowly upwards and the tail now starts to wag softly against my open hand. I purposely move the fingers lightly caress the hard sleek body. The trout responds and appears to move to and fro against my hand.  No rush yet… it’s not time!!! A few more passes!!

Now slowly onwards and upwards….and my fingers are on both sides. The trap is closing. Almost there! But not yet! My fingers ever so lightly stroke below the gills. The trout still seems almost calm. My thumb is on one side. I’m ready….

I bring my finger and thumb closer and now press quickly and hard as I bring thumb and finger together through the gills.

The magnificent silver fish threshes and splashes and I fight to hold on. I can see and feel my arm ripple. Gradually the movements subside and finally stop. My heartbeat begins to return to normal.

The struggle is over ……..Later after some “words” about the state of  my new sandals there will be pan fried trout for tea!

JMN 07 10


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