One of the first requirements for fishing (called angling here- fishing is what is done commercially with nets in the sea) is a body of water containing fish. When we first arrived in Dublin and were walking around City Center, I spied three possible candidates.
First and largest is the River Liffey. Big, wide, deep, filthy. NEXT!
Next I noticed the Grand Canal flowing through the Southern part of City Center. Promising, with a few visible fish and a few people with fishing rods dotted along its banks. I later learned that parts of the Grand Canal are stocked and fished by an angling club, but these are mainly outside of town and a bit of a jaunt to access.
Near the Grand Canal I noticed a small stream passing under some of the city streets. From one bridge, I spied a fly fisherman in waders fishing this stream. "Could there really be trout in the middle of the city?" I asked my self. Hmm.
When we moved in to our new place, I noticed a similar-looking river (the same river, I found out later) just a few blocks away. Curious, I took a long walk along the bank in search of visible fish. I noticed a few small fish near the bridges in the city streets, but couldn't get a positive species ID. As I got farther from the busy roads, I began to see sights like this:
These must hold some kind of fish, clearly. In these pools and in even more picturesque urban countryside scenes, I did see some of the beautiful speckled backs of trout. On further exploration, I saw a sign, "River Dodder, managed by Dodder Angling Assoc., permits available at tackle shops." Hmmm.
Follow the jump for the rest of the story and more pictures.
Further evidence of the Association was found in a stock truck pulling up to the bank and pumping in some farm-raised fish. Clearly this would require some investigation. On the internet (at the public library) I found the Dodder Association. This club pays not only for stocking the river, but also conducts conservation and river cleaning projects for a small yearly fee. The Dodder, apparently, hosts wild and stocked Brown Trout, wild Sea Trout, wild Eels, and hosts and annual run of spawning Atlantic Salmon. Happy to pay the fee, I hopped down to the nearest tackle shop to get some gear and a Dodder Association membership.
Baumann's Hardware/Pet Store/Tackle Shop proved to have everything I needed. I was unable to bring my fishing rods with me to Ireland, as they didn't fit in any of our suitcases, even when disassembled. I did bring my fishing tackle kit, but I just needed the rod and reel. The tackle shop had a relatively basic spinning setup and happily sold me a permit. The shopkeeper (like everyone) pegged me as American immediately and asked about my fishing experience in America. He, like other Irish anglers, was very interested in the romantic fantasy of fishing in the Mighty Mississippi.
"Did you ever see those huge catfish they have there?"
"What about those huge sturgeon?"
"Must have been great!"
"What kind of rigs and methods did you use?"
"Really? Chicken livers?"
"You eat a lot of the fish you catch?"
The last question gave me pause. All of the internet regulations I had read about angling in Ireland included the keeping and eating of game fish. Just as in America, there are species, size, and possession limits for most common fish.
"Almost no one keeps fish around here, man. It's legal, but if some of the guys see you keeping fish, they might say something to you. The [Eastern European racist slur redacted] keep everything they catch, and that really makes a lot of local boys mad. Besides, aren't perch and trout really bony?"
Strange to hear, and I must have seemed like a barbarian to this person, coming from rural America and butchering my own wild fish. Just a different cultural practice, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from fishing and keeping (within legal limits, of course) the fish I caught.
My first fishing trip to the River Dodder was later that same day. I had brought some spinners with me and was determined to give them a try. I made my way to the pool pictured above and started casting. After a stretch of unsuccessful casting, a friendly local angler approached me, clearly a foreigner, and asked how I was doing. He listened to my story, asked more questions about the Mighty Mississippi, and took a look at my gear.
"You'll have a hard time with spinners in this pool, try some of these live maggots, they work well here. Take a handful. Let me see your hooks, do you have a really small hook? Those are all too big, here, take some of my hooks and try it with the maggots."
Let me recap- this generous stranger approached me, gave me bait, and gave me hooks. Did I mention he and I were perfect strangers? What nice people here. He was on his way home, so I put the handful of maggots in a candy wrapper I found in the grass (one of the only times I have been happy to see litter) and rigged up. It wasn't long before I had caught a very small brown trout. The afternoon was getting on, so I decided to give it a few more minutes. Those few minutes were all I needed to catch this guy:
Fifteen inches of Brown Trout goodness! Not having a cooler with my, I had to carry this beast on my stringer on a busy sidewalk all the way home. No problem. In the photo above, see it pictured with the only tool I have for fish cleaning here. I had to leave my filet knife at home, so thrift store scissors it is!
Here we see the end result, rubbed in butter and lemon juice and baked in foil. We are both hoping, after this meal, for much fishing success in the future!