A better half, a bettered husband

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The Independent Online
When you've slept in a "hotel" that costs $1 a night, a readiness to complain does not come easily. But I have been forced to send a moaning missive to Harry Hodgson, owner of Currarevagh House in Oughterard, about a most unsatisfactory state of affairs during my recent holiday in Ireland.

For the past few years, I have stayed at this fine country house hotel every May and dabbled happily for trout. Everything has been beyond reproach. But this year! The problem is so serious that I may cancel next year's booking.

I've thought long and hard about this. If it was just me, I would put the whole thing down to the demented ramblings of a frustrated fisher. But my grievance is shared by other, similarly sensitive souls. In fact, one other guest, an eminent Dublin lawyer, left the place a broken man. I was only a little more fortunate myself.

The problem, as you might have guessed, is women. And I suppose I have only myself to blame for taking my wife in the first place. My excuse is that I was convinced she would rapidly bore of fish by day, fish by night. Quite the contrary. In the end, it was me who went off to bed early, leaving her to regale the room with tales of the day's prowess.

This has not been a problem in the past. I have travelled alone, fished with misogynists and dined with those who would have won the unequal battle between females and fishing. Riva described the place as having the atmosphere of a gentleman's club. And quite right too. But letting in women, especially those who catch more fish than their spouses, has changed the nature of failure.

There is a tradition at fishing hotels that the day's catch is displayed in the foyer, and the results recorded in a catch book. If you're a fishing anorak, this makes captivating reading. If you're a normal person, it's about as interesting as playing cricket without a bat or ball.

At supper, the successful are congratulated, the unsuccessful consoled. It's a fine tradition and one totally lacking in rivalry. After all, most success depends on the ghillies who guide the anglers to the fish. One group of four anglers had a competition but changed partners daily so that they all won in the end. But the presence of women wrecked all that.

Why, at one stage Riva even wanted to record our fish separately to show she had caught more than me! I had to remind her sharply of convention. It's the boat's catch that is recorded, not that of individuals. (In this way, it's assumed that the man has caught all the fish and the woman is there to pass out the sandwiches.) However, with extremely bad form, she greeted other returning boats with the news that the big fish on the platter were hers, and the ones hidden beneath their tails were mine. I could have forgiven one day, but three days running, catching more than the ghillie and I put together ... never mind the fact that I gave her tons of advice, the prime end of the boat, the juiciest mayflies and the best rod.

My reputation was partly redeemed by the largest fish of the week, a 3lb 13oz trout, but we left early that day so I couldn't point this out to others. Still, at least I caught a few. My lawyer friend was utterly distraught because his wife caught 12 trout one day, while he had nothing in the same boat. He still caught nothing even after she went home, saying the fishing was far too easy for her.

Riva, not content with telling non-fishing female guests how simple it all is, has been musing over other fishing widows who would be delighted to discover the cosy secret we've been hiding for years. Next year, I fear it will be me who stays behind to look after the children.

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