The Feale, flowing through County Limerick and County Kerry, has been falling off. Mr. C. Mark Montserrat, Kilmorna, attributes this mainly to the continuous destruction of fish and fry by poison. It was for many years customary to find the river poisoned with spurge, and occasionally lime was used. The injury was enormous. Another cause of the decline was the destruction of spawning fish in November and December. About three years ago the protection of the river was taken up by the newly-appointed Conservators. There has been no destruction of fish since; but it has required a large staff of bailiffs continually on the river to attain this end. Mr. Montserrat suggests that compensation should be exacted from the townlands adjoining the waters where fish have been destroyed. " In this district," he adds, "we have now a hatchery, and we trust that during the coming season our river may begin to regain its old popularity as one of the best in Ireland."
The Erne, in County Donegal, since the drainage of Lough Erne about sixteen years ago, has suffered a falling-off in its stock of fish. The season of 1905, however, was exceptionally good. That was deemed a symptom of recovery. The four miles of this beautiful river from Belleek to Ballyshannon are considered to be, during July, August, and September, one of the best waters in the north of Ireland. The Erne, carefully looked after by a Board of Conservators, is free from chemical or other pollution.
That statement, kindly sent by Mr. Joseph Thompson, Ballyshannon, is supplemented by an important note from Mr. John Swan, Manager of the Erne Fisheries. "There has," Mr. Thompson says, " been a great increase of drift-net fishing in the sea and at the mouth of the river. The drift nets capture more than half the salmon making for the various rivers on the north and west coasts of Ireland. This, as far as I know, is the only cause that can affect the Erne. There is very good sport on the Erne. It is one of the best fly-fishing rivers in Ireland."
The Bundrowes and Lough Melvin, between County Leitrim and County Fermanagh, are in an evil plight. Colonel Vernon, Clontarf Castle, County Dublin, writes:-
"I have fished the Bundrowes for the last two seasons. The river, to look at, is as good a bit of water as one can see; but, from all local accounts, between poaching and over-netting the angling both there and on Lough Melvin is thoroughly spoilt. I killed six or seven spring fish my first season; three the second season; and I have the place for the coming season. I am not a bad fisherman. I killed 100 clean fish one season on the Black water, County Cork, in February and March, and have fished in Ireland for over thirty years. I consider the Bundrowes to be one of the pleasantest rivers to fish, and the worst in which to catch anything."
The Drowse, running from Lough Melvin to Donegal Bay, yields brisk sport early in the year. Lord Clarina, who has fished it only one season, and that not quite recently, has it well looked after. He writes:-
" For the first fortnight I did not see a fish. I suspected that the river was being netted; put on a keeper and watchers; and found that there were three gangs of poachers at work. At the end of three months I had most of them caught, and their nets seized. It was not until March 3 that I landed my first fish, and from that date until June 28 I took fifty-three salmon, the heaviest of which weighed 19 lbs. The following may interest you :- On November 6, 1888, on the Pavilion water of the Tweed, which then belonged to the Honourable Mrs. Henry, I beat the record of that water, killing eleven salmon in a day-one before lunch, the remainder after. The weights were 19 lbs., 18 lbs., 18 lbs., 18 lbs., 16 lbs., 16 lbs., 16 lbs., 18 lbs., 13 lbs., 8 lbs., 7 lbs. All but one were taken on a fly tied by myself, a sort of Silver Grey."
The Sligo River, in some parts called the Gara-vogue, is peculiarly interesting. For what can here be told I am indebted to Colonel W. G. Wood-Martin, Cleveragh, well known as the historian of Sligo, who owns part of the stream. Since 1871 the opening day has been January 1. Scientific investigation had shown that the fish in the river run as early as November or December; indeed, fresh-run " spring" fish are sometimes seen about the middle of October.
" It seems surprising that the Sligo and the Bally-sadare rivers, in close proximity, should differ so much in their seasons. The principal run of fish in the Sligo is in January; in the Ballysadare in May. The Sligo flows with but a short channel from Lough Gill; and, as has been observed by a writer on the subject, rivers issuing from large lakes afford early salmon, the waters having been purified by deposition of waste matter. On the other hand, rivers swollen by melting snows in the spring months are later in producing fish, and yield their supply when the lake rivers are beginning to fail. Experts seem undecided as to the causes of this; but apparently the temperature of the water has considerable influence. The quantity of breeding fish in the Sligo is stated to be increasing. Angling for trout is stopped in April and May, during the descent of the salmon fry. There is a migration of smolts all the year; but it is heaviest in April, May, and June. The first grilse is taken in the Sligo about June, and in the Ballysadare in July. Salmon are taken with the grilse in the Sligo in June, and in the Ballysadare in July. The proportion of grilse to salmon in the Sligo is one to three, and in the Ballysadare fifteen to one. There are three distinct runs of fish from the sea in January, and runs in April, May, June, October, and November.
" St. Patrick's blessing of the stream, as given in Septima Vita, Lib. II. Colgar, Trias., Thaum., p. 140, xcviii., may be translated as follows:-
"'Going on his journey by the sea-shore of Northern Connaught, Patrick came to a river called Sligeach [Sligo]. There he wished to refresh his wearied body. He asked the fishermen to spread their nets wherever they pleased, and by aid of their art to provide some fish for a meal, by which he might relieve the present need of his body. They answered that, although it seemed difficult in winter, yet, in return for the favour of having such a guest, they would like to try it. They cast their net and caught a large salmon, which, with great joy, they brought to the man of God. He thanked them for their kind attention. He prayed for a blessing on them, and he blessed the river, praying, and while praying foretelling that fish would never fail in the river. The actual state of affairs has always afforded proof of this prophecy; for ever since that time the river so abounds in salmon that every time of the ' year fresh salmon are found in it.'