Merwin: When Irish Flies Are Smiling

mikewalsh

Tomorrow being St. Patrick's Day, I am reminded of a flyfishing tour of Ireland I took a few years back. There was a lot more Guinness consumed than trout or salmon, but it was still an interesting trip. The man laughing in this photo is Michael Walsh, a grand old guide who has spent a lifetime rowing a wooden boat and casting flies for brown trout on Loch Corrib. With his ruddy face, sparkling blue eyes, and silver hair, he was about as Irish as you can get.

Irish trout flies (shown below) tend to be more fully and brightly dressed than their American equivalents. A cast of two or three of these bushy wets on a long fine leader is tossed downwind of the drifting boat, then rapidly retrieved near the surface. The ideas is to get a reaction strike from trout lingering near underwater rocky shoals.

One thing I quickly learned was to not call my guide a "ghillie," which Americans use to mean fishing guide but which literally means "servant" in Ireland. As another old-time guide told me over an evening pint, "You can call me 'Hey, you," or you can call me 'sport,' or you can call me a guide, but don't you nay call me (expletive deleted) 'ghillie'".