Brosna - Shannon - Feale - Erne - Bundrowes - Lough Melvin - Drowes - Sligo - Ballysadare - Owenmore- Burrishoole - Claregalway - Galway - Ballynahinch - Lough Furnace-Lough Feeagh-Bunowen-Doo Lough -Fin Lough-Bundorragha-Erriff-Tawnyard Lough- Screeb-Furnace-Maigue-Lee-Laune-Lough Leane -Flesk-Black water-Suir-Nore-Slaney-Boy ne- Glyde - Owenea-Gweebarra-Bann-Bush-Foyle- Strule-Derg-Mourne-Claudy-Teelin-Bunduff.
On a bright September morning, as I crouched on the bank of the Brosna, casting at a fish which was rising, rising, rising, suddenly I heard a musical voice, saying, " Well! I see you've found Adolphus!" Having risen and looked round, I beheld a very beautiful girl, in whose smiling dark eyes happy amusement rippled. The sunshine, falling through the leaves of a tree, shimmered over her. She was a startling vision, more like a fairy than an ordinary human being. For a few moments I could only stand looking at her, astonished; but soon, having collected my wits, I knew who she was. She must be the daughter of a man to whose house I was that day going, with my hostess, her aunt, whose dwelling was two miles off, to luncheon. I had been told to fish the river up to her father's lawn, and had done so. She had come out, in the gracious Irish way, to welcome me. "Adolphus?" I remarked. "Yes; Adolphus: the trout."" Then, with merriment, she explained that I had probably been misled. Uncle and Aunt were the best people in the world; but they lived mainly in London, only now and then in Ireland, and they did not know much about the river. There used to be many trout, and some salmon; but now there was only one fish in the Brosna for at least two miles below Ballycumber. That was Adolphus, rising there; and nobody could catch him. Even the poachers had given him up.
The Shannon At Killalob - Valentine and sons, Ltd.
This information, despite the piquancy of the circumstances amid which it was conveyed, seemed grotesque. Only one trout in the Brosna, which even from the railway I had seen to be a singularly handsome full-flowing river! Alack, the news, I soon learned, was true. There was order all over the country, but no law. No one so much as thought of trying to preserve game of any kind, finned or furred or feathered. Preserve game ? Any man who attempted such a thing would have his ricks burned and bullets through his windows. The Police ? They turned their attention to the subject only at the very rare times when they had absolutely nothing else to do, and then their interest in it was that of the open-minded student of a controverted question.
It would be a mistake to assume, as I did then, that this state of perfect order and no law must be characteristic only of the region in which I was fishing. A very extensive inquiry brings out the fact that it seems almost to be the rule in good-natured Ireland. Here and there, it is true, the reign of unreason takes some other mode. "It is awful,"1 writes Lord Rossmore, in County Monaghan, "the way the pike have ruined valuable waters in Ireland. The country people have actually brought pike and put them into trout lakes, as they can catch the pike but not the trout!11 The survey now to be made must be phrased sedately; but throughout most of it, I fear, signs of the Celtic spirit, destructive though fascinating gnome, will be not infrequent.
The Shannon is in a fairly satisfactory state. Mr. J. Odell Vinter, Cambridge, writes:-
"It is not easy to form any conclusion as to whether there is falling-off or improvement in the stock. My experience before 1900 was in respect to years 1893 and 1897. For those years the rod-fishing was exceedingly bad. Since 1900 I have been the tenant of two miles of the Clare side of the river from Killaloe downwards. 1900 and 1901, although the take of fish was better than in 1893 and 1897, were not good seasons for the rod. 1902 was a record year for heavy spring fish in May. The average weight of forty of the fish taken from both sides of the river at Killaloe was 22 lbs. In 1903 the spring fish were fewer and about a fourth less each in weight on the average. The peal fishing, however, was exceptionally good. 1904 was an average year for both spring and summer fish. 1905, owing to floods in the spring, was very poor for heavy fish; but the peal season was good. I think the Shannon is a somewhat exceptional river. Probably only a very small percentage of the fish which pass into Lough Derg ever return. The river itself has many good spawning grounds, and my belief is that but for these it would soon cease to be a salmon river of importance. The amount of protection by watching the streams in the spawning season is inadequate. On the whole, I should say the stock of fish has been somewhat larger since 1900 than it was for some years before that time; and I attribute this to greater diligence on the part of the watchers."
Mr. Frederick C. Henry, London, who fishes from the other side of the river at Killaloe, believes that there is a falling-off both in stock of fish and in sport. " The principal cause," he says, " is increased netting at the mouth. A secondary cause, which principally affects the sport, is the erection of the flood gates at the foot of Lough Derg. These gates are opened and shut without adequate reason, and cause sudden rises and falls, which ruin the fishing. I think, generally speaking, that there is a slight improvement in the public sense of the importance of enforcing laws against poaching; but there is still much to be desired in this respect."
Mr. F. W. Henry obliges me with a specific statement about the flood gates. "About twelve years ago," he writes, " there was a natural waterfall where Lough Derg drops into the Shannon at the Killaloe; but, in order to regulate the height of the water in the canal, the Board of Works built a weir instead. This had a very bad effect, from which the fishing is slowly but steadily recovering. It is now possible suddenly to raise the river as much as five or six feet by opening gates, and then by shutting them to make it fall to the same extent. In time of rain the water is frequently made to rise suddenly; which, as any one acquainted with fishing can realise, puts a stop to sport. The river sometimes goes up three feet in a morning; then the gates are shut, and it drops by night. The flood gives fish time to get up into Lough Derg from Killaloe, but not time to get from Castleconnel to Killaloe. The heavy fish killed on the Shannon are very many. A system of employing the professional fishermen as bailiffs during the winter months to watch the small streams where spawning goes on has, happily, come into vogue."