I was three hours into my first day of pike fishing in Ireland when I heard the best words that have been spoken to me since touching down in the Emerald Isle. As an 8-pound pike took a brief hiatus from peeling line off my reel to dance across the choppy water, David Byrne, Marketing/Angling Coordinator for Inland Fisheries Ireland, looked over at me and with his classic Irish accent nonchalantly muttered, “Oh, it’s a small one.”
The Irish are famous for their wry wit and propensity to employ healthy doses of sarcasm, but David wasn’t being sarcastic or witty. He was being entirely earnest because apparently in Ireland, an 8-pound pike on the fly, a trophy fish in the United States, is a routine and not particularly noteworthy occurrence. His statement left me more slack-jawed than the fish recklessly launching itself through the crisp November air.
Up until that brisk fall weekend, my biggest complaint about my time in Ireland had been that I had not immersed myself enough in my new home country’s rich culture and verdant lands. Regrettably I had confined myself far too often to my dorm room and buried myself too deeply in work. While the time I spent firmly affixed to my desk chair proved to be productive, it was ultimately robbing me of engaging with my Irish environs, both human and natural.
Two months of depriving myself of experiencing Ireland came to an abrupt end when I received an email from David inquiring if I would like to spend two days tossing flies for ferocious pike on Lough Ramor in County Cavan. It was an invitation I could not refuse.
A few days later as the early morning sun peeked over the buildings of campus, I hopped into David’s car, and we set off on my first Irish adventure. David’s immense knowledge and fantastic storytelling made for an entertaining and informative drive as we raced north through the countryside’s charming villages and picturesque lands. And every river crossed prompted a series of fantastic stories from David, who has dedicated his life to fishing, conserving, and promoting the seemingly endless number of rivers and lakes that carve up the otherwise green Irish landscape.
I had come to Ireland expecting good fishing and an interesting conservation story, but spending two days chatting with David as we chucked flies through Cavan’s howling winds illuminated that both the fish and story are far more amazing and compelling than I had previously imagined. I had unintentionally stumbled upon a fishery unique in its wildness, breadth, and quality. It’s a fishery that beckons me to traverse its clean and cool waters, and a fishery that will ensure I engage much more deeply with Ireland.
So now as I ready myself for my second and final semester in Ireland, my preparations have involved a series of emails to my new friend David about our plans to further explore Ireland’s incredible waters and delve more deeply into this intriguing conservation story. Any anxiety or stress about the mountain of schoolwork that will greet me in Ireland has been eradicated by the excitement I feel about the waters and adventures that await my return. Like the vibrant waters of Ireland, my body courses with life in anticipation for it all.