Chapter 5: Poached Not Once, But Twice

Author’s Note:  Much “classic” fishing literature deals with poaching on Britain’s private waters. I find these stories to be marvelous good reads. Recently, I’ve been looking at flash fiction (<1200 words)  and read John Russel’s brilliant piece “Two Photographs by Walker Evans.”  I started thinking about a series of  flash pieces about photography.  And thus this story was born: a flash fly fishing photography story. I thought about it yesterday on the river and banged it out in about 3o minutes this morning. The title was a quote from a man in Boston who knew our landlady in Ireland, but I don’t want to tell that story for fear of spoiling the end.  As always, if you like it, or not, please leave a comment!

My parents’ wedding photo sat on the dresser for years. Something always struck me as a little off about it, but many old photos are that way. It wasn’t until recently when I was helping clean and I broke the frame that I realized why. The photo had been framed to hide the feet, because it looked like my parents were standing in a puddle. That was just too odd not to ask my dad what that was all about.

My mom is Irish. She’s the youngest child with five brothers. Her mother used to say kids was like puppies, ‘twas much easier to let the pack raise their own and if the boys raised my mom as a boy, well she had other things to worry about. Despite – or because of – that, mom grew up to be a stunning Irish beauty with porcelain skin, black hair, and blue eyes.

I think her wild spirit appealed to my dad’s American frontier sensibility when he met her on a fishing trip after the war “resting his soul.” He met her on the river and they fished together for a couple of days. He had no idea his “ghillie” was guiding him mostly on private lands for poached fish as in those days almost all of the fishing rights belonged to the land owners.

He went home and set himself up, but they kept in touch. It wasn’t long before he proposed. Because of her large family it made sense to have the wedding in Ireland. Back then, weddings were still large, formal, church events with people donning their best and showing up in donkey carts, tractors, and bicycles. Nobody had a car.

Mom was at the church getting dressed for the wedding when she heard the bridesmaids whispering up a storm. Not likely that anything else was going to take center stage at her wedding, my mom demanded to know what was going on. It seemed that the young American had heard that there was a tradition that on your wedding day, the groom had free access to the beats. This was why weddings were traditionally booked early – so the grooms couldn’t actually capitalize on the baron’s magnificence.

Well, my dad loves to game any system, so on a lark he got up early and was fishing the river by the bridge right where it came into town. It seems in his foolhardiness he had tied on some “American fly” and risen Ol’Charlie the brown trout that had lived in that pool all their young lives. Now the whole town, and all the wedding party, including the priest, was hanging from the bridge waiting to see how this would play out.

My mom was incensed. Not that he would take advantage of the loophole, but that he didn’t invite her along. Not even legally allowed to fish on her own wedding day! Now, what was she to do? She had to let the maids go, but she sure wasn’t going down there and play second to any trout! As graciously as possible she sent them along, under the auspices that it was their “sworn duty” to make sure my father, and the rest of them, were back to church on time. The maids went out the door one way and my mom stormed the other, towards the private garden to think.

And there on the wall, what did she see but a well-loved split cane rod and damp waders. This was such an odd thing that it stopped her mid-tirade. The only person who lived at the church was the Father, and in all of the bragging and boasting at the pub, she had never once heard him make mention of being a fisherman. Still pondering the mystery, she went out to the garden, following the path while deep in thought over her wedding conundrum. When she came to a little door in the wall she opened it and noted a very well-worn path to the river.

Saints be to George! She slapped her palm to her head, and ran back to the refectory. There she stripped right down to her bloomers, and snatched the waders and rod. She ran back out and almost fell down the path. Here she and her brothers all the time in the church doing penance for their poaching ways, and Father had a private poaching hole.

When she got to the river, it was on a bend, across from a hawthorn bracken that kept it out of site from the road on the other side. With a deep rock-walled run twixt here and the bridge, not a man in 50 years had ever spied this water but their devout pastor. So devoted to his parish was he that he stuck with them thick and thin and passed up several opportunities to move on to richer spots. Richer in money, poorer in fish, she thought.

With a poacher’s instinct and expert grace under pressure, mom flicked line out over the foaming water and laid in her fly right on a dark seam that hadn’t seen the sun since Creation. A salmon swallowed that up as sure as she was in her knickers and gave her a mighty fight.

Just as she was beaching the beauty, the church clock struck the half hour, and her in her skivvies and the town still all on the old stone bridge. She tried to scamper up the bank but could not manage the fish and the rod together with the muddy slope, so she dropped it into her waders and all but crawled up the bank and sprinted for the garden gate. She could hear the folks a’ stampeding down the cobblestones towards the church, and just had time to throw her dress on over her head, and waders, when the much abashed bridesmaids burst through the door.

And that’s how they got married: my mom in her waders with a eight pound salmon stuffed down the front, and my dad in his suit wet to the knees. She said she could hear him squishing down the aisle; he said he really knew he had chosen the right woman when he turned to kiss her and there were two sets of wet footprints.  They took the photo right after that. According to mom,  the reception was “as merry a wake.” To boot,  they served her favorite dish, “salmon poached not once, but twice.”

3 Responses “Chapter 5: Poached Not Once, But Twice” →

  1. Lawrence Waldman

    August 24, 2014

    Awesome story…wished I married such a sweet heart and had a like wedding….

    Like

    Reply
  2. Don’t we all, Lawrence?

    Like

    Reply
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  1. Writers on the Fly | gointothelight

    […] KILKENNY’S WAKE, AND POACHED NOT ONCE BUT TWICE = FF + Classic Poaching + Irish farce. You may have read Poached in the Journal. People still think […]

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