A fisherman out of water

Fishing lines
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The Independent Online
A friend who fishes on the River Kennet in Berkshire caught a 13lb 3oz barbel last year. This is the piscatorial equivalent of a 10- second 100 metres, and he was so delighted he sent pictures to the angling papers. As a result, he is no longer allowed to fish the water.

A syndicate rule plainly states that publicity is frowned upon and that any press coverage resulting in the water being identified will result in expulsion. Though he merely recorded the water as "a river near Reading", syndicate officials felt barbel experts would know it could not be the Thames, Loddon or Wye. So he was banned. Furthermore, several of his fishing companions, also syndicate members, no longer speak to him. I only hope the same fate does not befall me for what I am about to write, though I must admit that I have been given fair warning.

Personally, I can't see why anyone would worry just because I was tempted to casually mention the name of my fishing hotel. But when other guests at Currerevagh House in Oughterard, near Galway, heard I was a journalist of sorts, they threw up their hands in horror and said: "I hope you're not going to write about this place." They fear that publicity would result in hordes of people, particularly young Americans, flocking to the elegant old pile on the shores of Lough Corrib. It would mean a babble rather than a hum at dinner; boats for the daily trout-fishing being difficult to obtain and, worst of all, the awful prospect that regulars might not be able to get their favourite room.

Those who stay at Currerevagh are a strange lot. It has the feel of a country club rather than a country house, with people returning at the same time year after year. I hadn't been for two years but I was remembered by both regulars and the boatmen. With the latter, I had even acquired an element of notoriety by being the man who helped to burn down a whole island.

At lunchtime, the boatmen steer on to an island and take water out of the lough to make a wonderful cup of tea, brewed up in a blackened kettle over a fire of dry sticks. Unfortunately, my ghillie, John Molloy, got a little over-enthusiastic about his fire-making, and within minutes we were drinking our tea standing in the lough as flames leapt 20 feet into the sky. The island was still smouldering as I flew home two days later. I was delighted to discover last week that the island, previously an anonymous lump at the west end of Corrib, has been renamed Molloy's Island by locals.

It's incidents like this that make an annual pilgrimage to Connemara special. It's also the delight of staying somewhere that doesn't have identical chairs, curtains and people. I've counted 12 different carpets in Currerevagh. Then there's the tigerskin rug that decorates the grand stairwell, the room-numbering which sounds like one of those Mensa puzzles (What is the next number? 14-10-9-5-11...) and the food. It would be churlish to suggest sole in lemon butter did not follow a grapefruit souffle well; the important thing is that anglers should be allowed five-course dinners at all. A few weeks earlier, fishing on the Tay, I stayed at Farleyer House Hotel (there goes a few more friends) in Aberfeldy and enjoyed similar quality food. Hotels have cottoned on to the fact anglers do like a change from fish and chips or chicken in the basket.

In my defence, I can only say both hotels are remote and fairly difficult to find, especially in the dark. And the fishing? You've got to be kidding. I don't mind strangers visiting, but I'll be damned if they get a chance to tie up the best boatmen and the fishing, too.