Try again, fail again, fish better

Cavanman's Diary

On my first day working in a tyre plant, when I was 15, someone sent me round to the back of the building for "the long weight". I wasn’t that slow but I was too polite and, keen to oblige, round I went.

“I’m looking for the long weight,” I announced to one of the older lads, who tried, in vain, to hide his delight, like a spider attempting to act all cool when a dopey fly wanders into its web.

“Okay, stay there and I’ll get it for you,” he said, winking ostentatiously to all and sundry. Sure enough, 15 minutes elapsed before he returned.

“Is that long enough for you? Har har.”

I went along with it. To be honest, I didn’t really mind - the way I looked at it, it was 15 minutes closer to home time – but as the years have gone on, I find it nearly impossible to just stand still for that length of time and do nothing. I’ve asked others and they report the same.

Mobile phones have done this to us. We refresh, scan, reload and click every few minutes to the point where we are addicted to the little rush that comes from new information or fresh correspondence. Our concentration spans are shorter than ever.

I read something a while back about a study in some American college or other. They brought individuals into a bare white room, with blank walls and sparse furniture; just a plain chair and a small table, undecorated.

On the table was a red button and a small note, which read “If you touch this, you will receive an electric shock.”

Then, the boffins left the room and the volunteer, like me at the back of the garage, was left to his or her own devices. The results of the experiment were amazing – with no stimulation, almost everyone eventually pressed the button. Many – mainly men – actually hit it repeatedly, which led the experts to infer that receiving a painful electric shock was preferable to boredom. Hilarious, really – but it’s mad to think that, all these years later, I have adopted long stretches of boredom as a hobby.

Yes, you read that correctly. Readers will be aware of my interest in pike fishing; well, the season is coming round again soon and I have been back out with a fellow angler on a few occasions in the last few weeks.

My accomplice is soon to depart overseas so wants to squeeze in as much fishing as possible. The problem is, we have caught little or no fish. We have just sat there, watching, hoping, cursing as, in the words of the Villagers, nothing arrives.

And it hasn’t been for want of trying. We have traversed the county. We landed at Ervey, outside Kingscourt, at the crack of dawn, when the water was alive with pike, taunting us as they attacked violently, scattering the smaller fish but showing no interest in anything we presented. If they were criminals and I was a prosecutor, I would say they were operating with impunity. It didn’t matter; the long rod of the law was a couple of steps behind.

At Gallon Lake in Killinkere, we scooted down the field to a jetty and, yes, we did land a couple of very small pike on copper spoons but, mostly, it was another futile afternoon.

We tried Lough Ramor, the pier, the Manor: Zilch. We hit some tried and trusted spots, the old reliable fallback options, around Redhills and Scotshouse: Zip.

At one stage, we took to driving around with the Sat Nav on, seeing could we spot a lake we didn’t know was there. That was how we ended up at Corglass, near Kilnaleck, where there is a lovely corner grown over with lilypads, which I imagine would be a pike’s idea of a five-star resort. Sadly, there were no vacancies.

We tried big lakes, small lakes, wide rivers and glorified drains. But the pike weren’t feeding and if they were, we lacked the skills to catch them.

(As an aside, one of the days, at a venue which shall remain nameless, we were lucky enough to encounter a fellow fisherman who told us some tall stories, which helped while away another hour on the shore.

What was his biggest pike? Thirty odd pounds, a monster. Had he ever seen a pine martin? Sure didn’t he catch one in a spare bedroom, rummaging through some drawers.

The best one was about a mink, which mounted a swan’s back like a jockey and when the bird was in flight high on the horizon, sliced its throat. Truth be told, no pun intended, we were sad to see him go.)

Still, we persisted. We tried spinning, we tried wobbling (an angling technique before you say anything smart). We threw out a dead bait on the bottom and we rigged up some floats. The result was the same – one-nil to the pikes.

Floating, I must say, was the worst. I felt like one of those mid-1980s' pilgrims who headed south on coaches to stare at statues and swore they saw them moving. If you gaze at something long enough, you’ll begin to hallucinate.

“Whisht! Is my float moving?” I would regularly cry, in hope. After a while, I would realise it was all in my imagination. Then, I’d get bored again and try to convince my comrade to get out of Dodge. No, he would argue, frustrated, you have no patience. Sit tight.

“No,” I’d say, “this place is no good”.

“We haven’t got out of the car yet,” he’d snap.

It was like Waiting for Godot, me Estragon to his Vladimir.

“I can’t go on like this,” says Estragon at one point.

“That’s what you think,” replies Vladimir.

Beckett, notoriously pessimistic, must have been a fisherman. It’s now the third week in September; there’s a nip in the air. The pike should be coming to life, one would imagine. Can we catch a few this week?

Try again, fail again, fish better. The long weight goes on...