Fishing with a magical sheen

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The Independent Online

Ireland. A country I had been meaning to fish for ages. All I ever heard was "you have to fish in Southern Ireland, you'll fall in love with it, wonderful scenery, blah blah blah." Most of this came from my fishing buddy Pete who talks of this part of the world with the same faraway look that usually accompanies the memory of his first sea trout.

Ireland. A country I had been meaning to fish for ages. All I ever heard was "you have to fish in Southern Ireland, you'll fall in love with it, wonderful scenery, blah blah blah." Most of this came from my fishing buddy Pete who talks of this part of the world with the same faraway look that usually accompanies the memory of his first sea trout.

I was staying at Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, again a place I had heard quite a bit about. The information that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts (separately) come to hide out here did not interest me one jot, what did was the fishing. Whether by default or design (they knew I was a keen fisherman) my room had splendiferous views of the magnificent Sheen river, all of which is owned by the hotel. On the night of our arrival there had been lots of rain (be warned, it does that a lot here) and the river was in flood. But the windowsills are very well thought out so that two people can sit on them and stare out of the huge windows at the river below.

This is a particularly fine pursuit accompanied by chocolates, which were waiting for us on arrival. The Sheen was a torrent of muddy water and foam as it tore over boulders; making for an awesome sight, and sound - it roared. As night falls the river is illuminated by flood light and becomes really magical. Would the river clear in time to get any fishing done during our brief stay? I did not really care, I am always torn between wanting to fish but also being secretly pleased when fishing conditions drive fishermen off the river, and I silently will the salmon a safe passage through. This probably doesn't make me a proper fisherman but then I am convinced I was a salmon in a former life, which is why I cannot eat them.

Because fishing on an empty stomach is no way to fish at all, the next morning I started the day with porridge and poached eggs and then an 8am rendezvous with Michael, the ghillie. The water was still quite coloured, although nothing compared to the cappuccino mix it had been the night before, so Michael thought it best to spin. Of course this is what I did, with a Flying C on the end of my line (it doesn't matter what the C stands for). Pete, being a bit of a purist, insisted on fly fishing.

I spent a very happy morning spinning away with absolutely no bites and I might as well tell you now that I caught nothing on this trip. In truth I did not expect to, but I am a simple soul and content with simply breathing in air that is made of oxygen, not carbon monoxide, and being on the water's edge. We walked up the river, past lots of horses (so be careful on that back cast!) to more falls. It started to get a bit special, the views were just breathtaking. I fished on for the rest of the afternoon, glad of my spinning rod because, especially further up, casting with a fly rod gets tricky. But then the midges (which I was not expecting) convinced me it was time to turn in for a very late lunch of roasted Jerusalem artichoke soup and a cheese sandwich.

There are 13 miles of fishing on the Sheen but in reality only the first two or three miles can be fished, after that it gets too narrow (although the salmon do go all the way up). The part of the river right by the hotel is one of the best beats to fish which means that it is easy to just pop out for an hour before breakfast/after dinner.

The season starts in mid March and finishes at the end of September. The salmon run starts in April, grilse start running home from late May- August and sea trout start showing their shy little faces from May. Although no salmon were caught this year until the 5 June. Since the hotel opened eight years ago the record for salmon is 14lbs 7ozs, not bad for this modest river. That one was caught just two years ago by one of the SFL porters (why does it make me happier knowing it went to a local?). The biggest brown trout, weighing 4lbs was caught this year, again by a local (probably called O'Sullivan since this is the Kerry "name").

Every year for the past few years, an elderly English couple have been coming here. She knits or reads by the river while he fishes. He is very successful and catches about one salmon a day. This year he also brought his son, and his 9 year old grandson with him. The grandson caught a 9lb salmon, the following day the son got a 4lb 7oz salmon the day after that the grandad caught a 2lb 6oz salmon. I think I'll join their fishing party next year.

Sheen Falls Lodge: 00353 644 1600. www.sheenfallslodge.ie

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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