Wading Into Ireland

My first fish in Ireland - a Dodder River brown trout

I emerged from the Glenomena dormitory into the grey Dublin afternoon. The air was crisp for a late September day. The sky looked as it often does here, foreboding and on the verge of a downpour. Sporting a waterproof backpack with a pair of waders and boots buried within and a fly fishing rod strapped to the side, I excitedly marched off the University College Dublin campus and up Stillorgan road.

Thirty minutes later, I was standing on a bridge overlooking the Dodder River searching for the subtle flash of a fish tail or the sly sip of a feeding trout on the river’s surface. I quickly threw on my gear, assembled my fishing rod, and stepped into the stream’s cold, clear water. It had been more than a month since I had last experienced the euphoria of immersing myself into a trout stream and for the first time since arriving in Dublin twenty-seven days earlier, I felt at home.

Prior to hopping on an Aer Lingus flight bound for Dublin, I spent the previous six months driving 28,220 miles across the United States fly fishing and writing about threats to wild fish populations.  After six months of living on the road, I had grown accustomed to sleeping in my car or tent, not showering or shaving, and having the freedom to fish or do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. It was a far cry from my former life as a suit and tie wearing Senior Legislative Assistant on Capitol Hill and a much needed reprieve.

Another Dodder River brown trout

Seven days after ending that journey, I found myself on an entirely different journey in a very different environment. I had traded in my tent for a dorm room, my car for a bicycle, and my fly fishing stories for papers on participatory planning and genetic resources.  It was a surreal transition and one that has taken a little adjusting.

But on that dreary September afternoon, I was reminded of what had inspired me to move to Ireland to pursue a Master’s degree in environmental resource management. The Dodder is a far cry from the famed rivers I fished in Alaska, British Columbia, and nearly every state in the American West. The environs are far less sublime, and the fish are not the trophy-sized trout that consume every fly fisherman’s dreams. However, in many regards these trout and this river are far more spectacular.

Urban trout don’t really exist in the United States, save for in a few idyllic, wealthy towns scattered across the country. Many urban rivers once hosted wild trout populations, but pollution, dams, and a myriad of other environmental missteps have decimated these rivers and their fish populations. My former homewater in Washington D.C., Rock Creek, is such a river. However, Ireland is chock-full of urban rivers that boast healthy runs of Atlantic salmon and sea trout as well as robust populations of resident, native brown trout.

The abundance of urban salmonid rivers in Ireland is a direct result of the country’s successful efforts to mitigate pollution and properly manage these invaluable water resources. It is proof positive that it is possible to have high water quality in bustling cities with large populations. There are some fascinating lessons to be learned here about more effective water management practices and many beautiful fish to be caught. I can’t wait to spend the next year stalking and studying these amazing rivers.

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