A Man May Fish - Lough Corrib and Jamesie

Oughterard Newsletter

kingsmill Moore

Circa 1931. On the Island Of Inishool, with Malachy’s Island in the background. To the left is Kingsmill Moore, Senator, High Court Judge, fisherman and author. He is accompanied by Jamesie and Bill Donnellan, both of whom he mentioned in his famous book “A Man May Fish”.
Oughterard Heritage

We had been drifting steadily eastward with a freshening breeze and were now more than three miles from the pier. It was time to row back and two oarsmen were needed to force the boat through the waves. Jamesie put down his rod and took the spare oars, while I cast out from the moving boat. It was my turn to hook and lose a fish. As we drew close to the pier, the last rim of the sun dipped behind the hills and the shadows washed over the lake. I began to dismount my cast, but Jimmy stopped me. “The wind is softening, sir. Tis the right time to try the sand.”

 Reefs break the surface

A channel deep enough to take a small lake steamer twists down the centre of Oughterard bay. To the east of it stretch rocky shallows, to the west, between the channel and the shore, lies an expanse of sand brought down by the river. Over the sand the water is of an even depth of about six feet, save where a few shreds and snippets of reefs break the surface, and though rarely productive in day time, this was a favourite evening drift of Jamesie’s, whose style of fishing it suited. Here he picked up another fish which revived his good humour, always a little in abeyance when the rival rod was ahead of him.

Back at the hotel we weigh the fish, the six just exceeding thirteen pounds. Four of them, to Jamesie’s delight had been taken on Bumbles. “What did I tell ye, Sir? Now don’t I know the right class of a fly?” It had been a day typical of Corrib in September when the fish run large but are not very numerous…

Anyone fishing with Jamesie

…James was willing to be helpful, even forthcoming, in a discussion on flies, but when it came to the business of catching fish, he was a different man. He liked fishing, liked better to catch fish, but best of all he liked to show his superiority over rival boatmen. This was a necessity for his complete happiness. He would rather bring back a mediocre catch which was larger than that of any other boat, than a really good bagwhich only took second place. So far so good. Anyone fishing with Jamesie could be certain that he would leave nothing undone to get fish. But it did not end there. He craved also the personal triumph of beating the other rod in his own boat, and to make sure of this he was willing to use devious methods. He did draw a line. I have heard him refer with disapproval to leaving his companion’s fly-box behind or weakening his gut by the touch of a cigarette. Physical interference was a foul, but when it came to a contest of wits anything was permissible.

Like a traveling rat

It took me a couple of days to smell mischief. Most boatmen are only too glad to set the boat on along straight drift and leave it so. Not Jamesie. From the bow came a continual murmur of direction to Jimmy. “Pull a stroke Now” – Back her a couple “– “Pull easy, easy” – Back half a stroke” – and so on. This called for no particular comment. I knew that Jamesie had fished the lake for fifty years, and had an eye on him like a traveling rat. All parts of the shallow sliding past under the keel might look equally enticing to me, one part of the bay as good as the another, but to his observation, backed by experience and a most remarkable memory, there might be a significant difference. He was always recalling past victories. “Twenty throut did I get to my own rod on the shore of that island in an easht wind and a shining sun, and all of them on a Grey Monkey. It was the September of the year that the ould Queen died and maybe the throut were still in half mournin’.”

The late Kingsmill Moore was one of the most respected men in Ireland in the decades before his death. “A Man May Fish” has become a classic since it was first published in 1960. The work covers a lifetime of fishing for trout, sea trout, and salmon.


This page was added on 07/07/2011.

Comments about this page

  • Both Jamesie (Donnellan) and Jimmy (McDonagh) were from Billamore. Jimmy was my grandfather. He died in 1955.

    By Stephen MacDonagh (17/01/2023)

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