I was thinking the other day that it must be nearly time for the mackerel to start running and thought about getting my fishing rod fixed. I am not an experienced fisher person. I bought the rod, a beach caster, about five or six years ago after a friend of mine had started to take me out fishing. One time we went out in his boat shark fishing on a long blue swell catching nothing but a wrasse, a deep-sea dweller that swells up alarmingly when dragged to the surface. Mostly we would go out around Dunmore East and Creadon Head and as often as not end up ankle-deep in jumping writhing mackerel and cod.
Back in Dunmore Harbour we would moor the boat and gut and fillet our catch. Even after cleaning up our work wasn’t done because a big part of fishing is the giving and we would make a tour of friends houses to deliver free fillets and get a drink or a cup of tea and a chat.
I fished once or twice from the Lady’s Slip in Tramore. One Saturday night I caught a bass and afterwards myself and a friend went for pints and ended up going to a club in our smelly fishing clothes and wellies to dance the night away. Bizarrely (or not) I have never been pursued by so many men as I was that night. I had the bass for my Sunday dinner the next day.
I haven’t touched the rod in a few years, I don’t have any fishing pals now and I am too embarrassed by my casting to go out alone. Mind you I haven’t needed to because around this time of year my neighbour starts dropping in plates of filleted fish that his uncle catches from his boat. Sure enough I had only barely had the thought of fish yesterday when there was bang on the door and a yell and I went to find the post and a plate of fish thrust into my hands, the beginning of my thanks brushed off over a shoulder as my benefactor galloped off. Three small fillets went straight into a pan with some Glenstal butter and another three kept back for today’s lunch. I ate them with salad and some left over Crooke Farm baby potatoes that I had fried up beside them.
I was never as mad about eating mackerel as many people in these parts are but with the passing years I find I am coming to love it. Part of it is the novelty of having the dinner pulled out of the sea outside my window but it is also that the catch is shared out in a community as food must have been shared out a long time ago. I have never met the man who catches my mackerel but I know he is happy for me to have it.
We have heard it too often now that community is dead, that no-one cares and its often probably true but at this time of year when we see the walkers and cyclists with their tackle heading along the cliff road to the rocks at the Guillamene (a name which means ‘little fish’ or sprats that the mackerel love) and the motorbikers with their rods strapped on their backs, and the cars too, heading out along the coast and the little boats bobbing on the cobalt water of the bay in the thickening evening light then we know the mackerel have come bringing with them not only the gift of food but a reminder of past times and a glimpse of a better world.