The End of the Road
Challenging winds have not quite kept me off the water for the last few weeks. There’s a few small, sheltered ponds I have been using but I have been staying away from the Corrib.
Today was very different. For one of the first times in weeks the inland sea that is Lough Corrib, all of 176 kilometres squared of it, was there for the taking. With winds being forecast as negligible it was promising to be a good day on the water. Reluctantly, the fishing gear was left at home in exchange for a picnic and some company on the water.
When we arrived at the lake I was immediately impressed with how hauntingly still the water was. The lake looked like a giant mirror, reflections perfectly sharp until the wake from the kayaks and the splashes from the paddles broke them up with the corduroy ripples they created. The low winter sun and hazy conditions giving the whole scene a washed out appearance.
We headed for the river that flows along the front of Ashford Castle, hoping to get some nice shots of this fantastic building. The river was high and pushing relatively fast, pumping water into the lough but we pressed on, well able to fight the currents. The castle had come into view and we could see that there was extensive renovation work being carried out, presumably to be completed before the summer. The ‘postcard’ photos will have to wait until then…..
After getting a few shots rattled off we headed out and weaved in and out around some of the islands before deciding to land for lunch. It was here that we made the discovery of a very poorly conditioned male salmon. The fish was just hanging in the water, inches from the bank and was suffering very badly from fungal infections. I wanted to have a closer look but I was convinced that he would bolt as soon as I got close to him.
The poor warrior could barely move as I approached. I was able to hem him in at the shoreline and scoop him out of the water for closer inspection. He was in a very bad way indeed with fungal outbreaks on many parts of his body. He also had leeches attached to his gills and vent area. Although close to death, I slipped him back into the water after a couple of seconds. There is a one in a million chance that he may make it back to the sea and I am ever the optimist. Besides, who am I to interfere with this cycle?
This fish has battled against all the odds since being born in these very waters. He has made it out to sea to feed and he has returned to the river to pass on his own genes. He has starved himself since re-entering fresh water and his long, lean appearance bears testament to this. He has spent his last fat and energy reserves battling his way upstream to fertilise eggs. In the end, the arduous journey is probably going to kill him. He has become so weak that he is now unable to ward off infection, moving so little that leeches have an opportunity to attach themselves to drain blood.
Nature in action. A life cycle in motion. Whether you fish for Salmo Salar or not, if you understand what is required of this creature and the effort that it makes to repeat its cycle on our planet then you cannot help but to marvel at its strength, will and determination. This poor warrior will almost certainly die within the next 48 hours but in his place he has left thousands of fertilised eggs. That is something worth dying for.