Chapter1: Michael Kilkenny’s Wake

Posted on February 26, 2013


Author’s Notes

Chapter 2

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As I’m currently ‘twixt employment opportunities, I’m making a real effort to write every day, which explains the sudden gush of content. I have an unbelievable backlog of content that I’ve simply never finished or posted. I started this story in 06/11 pumping out about 6,000 words in the first sitting, and although I had it mostly outlined, only this week went back and filled in the last few scenes (why is it always Act II?). At any rate, now that it is here,  I can finalize a chapter every few days and get them out.

It is an Irish farce/poaching story. Farces are hard! Plus I did a bunch of research on the story. It takes place at the Golden Age of fly fishing ~1937-38. One thing it really hinges on, but which I’ve yet to find an accurate answer for is the price of a pint of Guinness in Ireland at that time. Please see the Authors Notes on this story for an apologia.

Without further ado.

(P.S. the fly in the photo, an old-style salmon Spey fly, took the largest trout I ever caught. Go figure.)

 Michael Kilkenny’s Wake


Of Lasses and Leprechauns

Michael Kilkenny was a man resolute in constitution. Hardly a day he was not up by dawn. Well still at dawn, if the fishing was to be good. No evening hatch for himself, a man who blanched at the very thought of throwing his profile east against the heath. But the cool dawn when the piscivorous fellows were still on the prowl would find him rod in hand bent low against the horizon, casting an eye and perhaps a few bits of feather onto the most likely beats. Evening time – afternoon time if you were to be exact – was pub time, regular as Sunday Mass, and almost as pious too, he would be at the pub.

Sure and being almost as good with a rod as he was with a pint glass, he was a very famous man these parts about. They say the best thing about fishing is that once you have the rod, line, and a few bits of gear the rest is free. But those times away from the water did cost him dearly. The nights in the pub he might get a beer for a story, there being somewhat of a Robin Hood charm about a poacher, especially if he brings a bit o’ dinner around on Fridays. But the nights in the gaol were costly indeed, and much better he had not spent a penny on the rod for what the investment cost him in installments, if you know what I mean.

For his rugged constitution did cost him dearly. Many a man does not have the discipline to go back to the lifestyle after a few nights with the less fortunate. Some would say he was addicted not to the sport of catchin’ but to the sport of not being caught. There may be truth to that, for while once or twice even I think he may have passed on the drink in cold hard days, I’m not sure that since he was a wee boy acting ghillie to his da’ did he ever pass by a dark pool without sinister intent. If the salmon were not in, he would deign to stoop as low grilse, sea trout, or even one landlocked if he had to. It was a shame really, to see a man so low at times as to take a bream or other coarse fish and not so much as drop his head. “A carp has no imagination,” says he, “not like a trout. He’s muddling in the muck, eating what’s good, spitting out what ain’t. He’s not thinking ‘is that a favorite morsel?’ Hard to fool something with no imagination. But when you hook ‘un, hooey, what a ride! Like an ass what’s finally decided to get up an go –no stopping them.” Michael was a brave man, a hero maybe, but he had his demons, he did.

There was one night I do remember. There was ice on the breath and no likely fish around in the morning. The precursory circumstances being a bit fuzzy, Michael, Sean, meself and a few of the boyos was sitting around the fire with a fine clay pot of poitin.

Michael was mostly quiet, him just out of the county house for wayward men, and not knowing how an honest man could pay the fine to be sure.

I do not remember much of the stories but their fineness, and each being better than the last. Except for being long on leprechauns and short on lasses, you do not measure many a night as fine as that. But the leprechauns were mostly busy frosting the panes and we paid them no mind, until I swear one must’ve whispered directly to Sean’s ear.

“Did you hear,” says he “that the lord is taking off for the month of June.”

“Taking off?” says I.

“Ah, yes, to England. Some business to attend to.”

“And how be knowing you the affairs of the lordlord? Is it now that you are his secretary, and have you learned to write beyond your name?”

Seano puffed out his chest. “I know me letters and I’ve read a book or two.” His face began to get red and I could see his fists ball up like little roasted game hens, slick and meaty on his stool by the fire.

“No, ‘tis not the lord lord’s ear he has,” says Michael staring into the flames. “’Tis the maid’s. I’ve seen them in the morning so close together he comes home with flour on his cheek. I might be studying me a bit of Yeats myself, could I get so close.” Like that, Sean went from angry man to embarrassed boy, and we all let out a merry laugh.

“Here’s to the misses,” said Michael, “may they be young and many in the tavern, and few and far on the stream.” And what man, fisher or not, could fail to raise a glass to that.?

“That reminds me,” said Shamus, “of a lass I once knew.” He then proceeded to tell a tale that had the lass been a fish, every man would call him a liar for length and girth and time fought on the line run to the backing. But one man’s lie becomes the audience’s fantasy and we were all lost in our own installments of the story when a thought occurred to me.

“Michael, do be telling me not that you are thinking the lord’s absence might mean the better fishing for you.” My nephew Liam had recently received employment from the lord, and I did not want any bad blood between us had he to pinch Michael.

“Why does he persecute me so!” he wailed. “Surely he has never risen for the dawn. We could share that river and him never knowing I was on it if he didn’t pay people to spy on me. Look what he has done to me now. Not even enough for a potato and a pint, where should I be getting the money for the fine? It’s enough to turn an honest man to thieving!”

I think it is the measure of the Island that not one of us laughed at that. You have to be mad to be Irish, and we understand a man ruled by his passions and vices.

It was soon after that that my fair Betty came down from the loft and gave the boys the broom, chasing them out into Greenland’s teeth on the road to their own cold hearths, and me off to her delightful bosom.

To be continued, comments welcome, please.

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Posted in: Fly Fishing, Writing