Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Fear & Loathing, Co Cavan

This could be a true story of two angling rogues who went on holiday, got into a little mischief but never hurt anyone, or alternatively it could be a load of nonsense, an urban myth if you like.  I like to think it’s a combination of the two but who cares?  I heard the tale at a drunken gathering of Pike fanatics, AKA the PAC convention Saturday night after show party and it made me laugh so I thought I’d share it.

Mr Green and Mr Red are lifelong friends who have shared a passion for Piking spanning four decades.  They’ve shared many memorable sessions both with rods on the bank and beers in the bar, many of their adventures have started with the former and finished with the latter.  This particular tale occurred in the mid-nineties when many European Pikers were making an annual pilgrimage to the great western loughs of Ireland.  Our colourful duo was typically slow off the mark and late on the scene.  They began their Irish adventures in the Midlands and gradually made their way west over the next few years.  Sadly by the time they felt ready to tackle the mighty western loughs the gill nets were in place.  This combined with the increasingly demanding females back home meant they never quite made it that far.

Living in the south east meant possibly the longest possible journey to Holyhead and with a weeks’ worth of fishing gear and a couple of spare sets of underwear crammed into a Peugeot 206 it was a potential grueller.  To pass the time Mr Red had acquired an ounce of high quality hashish, most of this was cunningly secreted around the car but there was just enough spare to pass the journey in a happy haze with Bob Marley’s “Songs of Freedom” the perfect accompaniment.  Not only were the two friends fond of a glass of beer or six they were also confirmed stoners.  The poor old Peugeot resembled Cheech & Chong’s van by the time Mr Green pulled into a lay by for a much needed slash.  It is not our place to judge the rights or wrongs of such actions; we merely recount the tale as it was told and repeat no person or pike was ever hurt.

And so, after the overnight ferry crossing and the normal routine of getting lost in Dublin the Peugeot eventually found its way out of the city in a Northerly direction and a couple of hours later arrived at its destination.  The Town was familiar to both Mr Green and Mr Red as they had explored the lakes and pubs in this area on a previous visit and found both agreeable.  After parting with some cash to secure the digs they opted to chill out and snooze beside a lake with bite alarms turned up loud!  The afternoon passed amidst a chorus of snoring and no Pike happened along to disturb their slumber.  The evening was spent in a pub of course, supping Irish Guinness, the finest beer in the world.  Acquaintances made on a previous holiday were renewed but the night didn’t get too messy.

The following morning was spent at another lake, this one a bit further down the valley, one where the two Pikers had caught a few fish on a previous visit.  Mr Green opened his account for the week with a couple of jacks but Mr Red failed to find any fish.  With limited bank access and unspectacular results they decided on a move to another water, stopping in town on the way for supplies.  The menu included fresh sausages from the local butchers.  Now every Irishman knows of a special lake full of big Pike and the butcher was no exception.  Mr Green was all for following the lead but grumpy Mr Red who was still blanking would have none of it.

So the two visited another lake where they had enjoyed previous success but again the fishing was poor.  For a while the two were entertained by the antics of a herd of cows in the field on the far side of the lake.  The cattle were repeatedly stampeding from one side of the field to the other and making a suitable racket as they did so.  This hardly made the afternoon a peaceful one but neither angler was disturbed by any Pike that afternoon so a restless Mr Green left the drowsy Mr Red in charge of the rods while he went for a wander.  Sometime later Mr Red opened his eyes to find the indicators still firmly in place and no sign of Mr Green so he did what he always did at times of confusion and rolled a joint.

Another doze and another joint later Mr Green finally reappeared beaming from ear to ear and holding a bulging carrier bag.  Mr Red yawned and stretched, looking at his friend quizzically he asked “What the fuck you got there then?”  The grin on Mr Green’s face broadened and with a sparkle in his eye he replied “Fungi”.  “What the fuck?” said Mr Red.  “Very special fungi…magic even” laughed Mr Green.  At this point the penny finally dropped and Mr Red joined in the laughter.  Things were about to get a little strange on this holiday.  The carrier bag was literally full of thousands of tiny thin stemmed fungi… which possibly explained the mad cows.
Back at the cottage Mr Red was beginning to have his doubts.  He wouldn’t know a Liberty cap from the liberty bell so wasn’t completely sure about the lumpy, foul smelling mushroom soup his friend had cooked up.  Mr Green necked his with no hesitation so Mr Red thought ‘in for a penny...’ and did the same.  Half an hour later while shaving, Mr Red noticed he’d managed to cut himself in several places and it was at this point he realised that he was feeling very, very strange.  He returned to the living room to see a wild eyed Mr Green laughing manically.
 “What’s up?” asked Mr Red  “I’m watching the cartoons in the curtains” replied Mr Green.
So Red found himself a comfortable chair, skinned up and settled back to enjoy the cartoons, caught Green’s eye and joined in the laughter.  Sure enough the curtains were alive with Tom & Jerry, Micky Mouse and just about every other cartoon character remembered from their youth.  Everything in the room looked completely different; there were waves in the carpet, the table was hovering and the walls were wobbling.

After a while the cartoons needed a soundtrack so Mr Green, acting as DJ decided that some loud dance music was the order of the day.  Traversing the room to reach the stereo was much more difficult than it had any right to be and removing the CD from its case then getting it to play was ridiculous.  The effort was worthwhile as the music coming from the stereo (“Leftism” by Leftfield) not only hit the spot but was clearly visible oozing from the speakers in the form of millions of microscopic, multi-coloured particles and even the lamp was dancing.  These two characters were experienced trippers but this was something else!  To this day both are adamant that night was their best trip, with the possible exception of…

The terrible twosome would have been happy to spend a chilled out evening of blissful madness tripping in the cottage but things were about to take another unexpected turn.  Mr Green, being slightly less wrecked than Mr Red decided to make a brew and staggered towards the kitchen.  Just as he stood filling the kettle at the sink he was startled out of his socks by a loud bang on the kitchen window.  Mr Green screamed, Mr Red got a fit of the giggles and the kitchen door opened.  There stood John, the owner of the cottage who insisted on taking the pair for a drink at one of the many local pubs.  Now John was a very likeable bloke but was not a man who would ever get a job as a male model; thick curly hair, milk bottle glasses and bad acne.  John’s appearance did not prejudice the duo in the slightest but in their mind altered state he looked very, very funny.  Despite their protests, John would not take no for an answer and the two tripping Pikers found themselves staggering into shoes and wandering down the pub.
Mr Red and Mr Green could probably have just about handled a quiet drink in a near empty pub but instead found themselves crammed into “Flaherty’s” which had some kind of quiz night going on and was absolutely heaving.  Mr Red managed to squeeze through to the bar where he was only slightly surprised to find the row of bottles morphing and merging into one.  He could hardly utter any legible words so it was a relief when John hailed the barman and ordered three black pints.  Mr Green stood grinning and every time he caught the eye of his friend the two had a struggle to suppress a fit of the giggles.  They were never sure just how strange their behaviour was that evening or whether they were really receiving lots of strange looks or was it paranoia?  They blamed their obviously odd behaviour on fatigue and alcohol.  When safely back at the cottage, Mr Red skinned up again and asked “D’ya think we got away with it?”  He met the gaze of Mr Green and both collapsed once more under the weight of laughter.

For some reason these two dedicated Pikers were not at the lakeside to watch the sun rise the following morning.  Instead the sun was well up and shining too brightly for this bewildered pair.  Mr Green was determined they should follow the butcher’s tip and head for the lake in the hills.  Mr Red was positive this would be another wild goose chase but was too wrecked to come up with any reasonable objection so Mr Green held sway.  Mr Red sulked.
They eventually parked on a verge beside a gate and viewed the lake below them, approximately 60 acres with two large bays connected by a slightly narrower channel.  The water was mostly fringed with reeds with the odd bush and a few places where grass grew down to the water’s edge, probably kept clear by cattle needing a drink.  The two were lucky that one of these clear patches lay before them, not only that it was in a pretty good position on the edge of the narrow area.  The only trouble was the steep hill between the road and the water’s edge.  This would cause little problem on the way down but would be a grueller on the return.  A few minutes later the two, puffing and sweating, arrived at the water and began to tackle up.  Mr Red decided to cast a plumb rod around and was unhappy to find a maximum depth of a paltry three feet which did nothing to improve his mood.  “Bloody butcher” he said before slinging a couple of bait out and sitting down with a frown to commence the creation of yet another spliff.  Mr Green was more optimistic and put the kettle on with a smile.

Neither angler managed to complete their task before an alarm sounded, Mr Red had a fast take on a Herring whacked as far as possible.  He connected and started heaving a Pike towards the bank.  “Feels like a jack “; he said and almost smiled before the fish shook the hooks loose.  Mr Red’s bout of swearing was quite restrained under the circumstances.  The Herring was whacked out again and both returned to their chairs.  Mr Red had just skilfully inserted the roach when the same alarm sounded again.  Once again he wound down and set the hooks and had the rod slammed down as a good fish took line straight away, then launched itself airborne.  Mr Red kept in touch but the Pike leapt for a second time, shaking its head and throwing the hooks.  This time his swearing was fully unrestrained.

Once he’d calmed down a little Mr Red said “That was a good un, big double…”
“Maybe a twenty” said Mr Green
“That helps, thanks” replied Mr Red in a pained voice.  After a long silence Mr Green said “Best you light that Joint”.

From that point the day got much better, Mr Red finally managed to bank a fish, a small one but the monkey was off his back.  Mr Green joined in the action too and takes came regularly throughout the day.  Most action came to rods cast as far as possible into slightly deeper water but the occasional fish picked up baits placed close to the numerous weed beds closer to their bank.  There were no monsters but several good doubles graced their nets and both were in good heart.  By the time they staggered coughing and wheezing back up the hill their tally was fifteen Pike but both were sure the leaping Pike that Mr Red had lost was a few pounds heavier than any they’d managed to land.
This gave the pair of Pikers a confidence boost and from that point on their fishing luck improved.  They sensibly resisted the lure of that massive bag of mushrooms and even more sensibly decided to rest the lake in the hills for a day or two.  An hour’s drive to the mighty Lough Allen saw a nice fish for Mr Red then a day in a boat on another lake saw both catching plenty on lures and trolled baits.  Both successful days were toasted with lots of Guinness in Flaherty’s where by now the regulars had forgotten their earlier oddness and welcomed them warmly.  To not flirt with the barmaid was considered the height of rudeness by Mr Red who tried to be polite as possible, to barmaids at least.  Back at the cottage the hash block took a hammering.
With one full day left Mr Red took no persuading to follow Mr Green’s suggestion that they spend it at the lake in the hills.  Being a superstitious soul Mr Green also suggested they repeat a winning formula and neck a load more mushrooms the night before and once again Mr Red eagerly agreed.  This trip did not reach the heights of the first but they giggled a lot, the music still oozed and they definitely didn’t go to the pub!  They even managed to crawl out of bed and get to the lake at first light the following day.

Once again the pair had a busy day with frequent takes but things were not as hectic as before.  As on the first day most takes came to long range baits, both managed double figure fish and both were thoroughly stoned.  A beautiful sunset was toasted with a final cup of tea then the pair reluctantly began packing up.  Green set about the task quickly but Red hates this job and is always very slow.  So with most of his gear packed Mr Green stood holding his last rod while he waited for his friend to catch up.  “All I need is for the tip to tap and the line pull out of my fingers…” he said.
Mr Red’s sarcastic reply had barely died when Green exclaimed “Fucking hell...I’ve got a fucking take!”

“Fuck off!” laughed Red but his friend was serious and wound into a final Pike.
When we heard this tale both Green and Red had slightly different memories/versions of the various events but one of the things they were unanimous about; This Pike fought like hell.  It stripped yards of line off Green’s reel and threatened to dive into the thick reeds on numerous occasions.  At times it seemed impossible to land this fish but eventually it succumbed, Red made no mistake with the net and Green had a whacker!  She was unhooked by torchlight, weighed and photographed then returned where she swam away strongly.  The holiday was complete, it couldn’t get any better or could it?
That night Green and Red made a final trip to Flaherty’s where they received another warm welcome, particularly Red’s favourite barmaid.  During the course of the evening it became apparent she was more than friendly.  To use the words of Mr Red “She was dripping like a fucked fridge”.  In fact she was more than willing to accommodate both of the hairy arsed Pikers.  It may be because he had a girl back home or it may have been the thought of a sweaty Mr Red grinning like a loon.  Either way and to his credit Mr Green did not take the good lady up on her offer.  Mr Red is not so chivalrous…

Twenty four hours later Mr Red was still grinning and Mr Green had a broad smile too, not even the misery of the M6 could dampen their spirits.  Green drove, Red skinned up and both laughed regularly as they reminisced on the past week..  “What did you do with the Mushies?” Red asked.  “In the cool box..” said Green “…it’s the first time we’ve ever gone on holiday and come back with more drugs than we left with!”