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McCaffrey On Fishing: Bob And The Salmon

Tim McCaffrey tells of the day he and his fishing friend Bob encountered the giant salmon.

Tim, who lives in Ireland, will be bringing us further fishing stories. Do look out for them!

Bob and I had been friends for thirty five years. We had an occasional falling out of course, but it always blew over quickly. We had grown up together and our friendship was solid, but there was a stronger more mercenary bond, between us. We needed each other.

A smallish river ran through a wooded valley no more than ten minutes walk from our houses and, every autumn a modest run of salmon appeared in this stream, making their way upriver, leaving its sluggish lower reaches, bound for the hills where there were deep rocky pools in which to hide until it was time to spawn.

It is an unwritten law of nature that a small stream produces small salmon, but occasionally, as in humans, something strange happens, perhaps a mutant gene, Whatever the reason an unusually large specimen occurs, and one of these forms the centrepiece of our story.

The salmon came as usual. The river being so small there were few fish, averaging perhaps six or seven pounds each. Our weapon was a spear, passed down through many generations, which I still have. We had two salmon in the bag and now it was Bob's turn to cast the spear.

He stood at the tail of the pool while I lobbed stones into the deep hoping to drive any salmon to within range of the spear. I heard Bob gasp. "God almighty look at this!'' he cried.

I ran to where he was, and there was the biggest salmon I had ever seen. It was perhaps thirty five pounds.

"For Gods sake Bob, shoot,'' I cried.

Bob was well over six foot, strong and athletic, A light rope was tied to the spear, and also to Bob's wrist. The great fish was about to turn back into the deep when Bob struck. The spear found its mark and the narrow stream erupted into a cauldren of spray as the salmon reacted in fury at such sudden pain.

The fish was strong. Combining its strength and weight it succeeded in tearing the spear from its back. It headed upstream. We knew it would encounter a long shallow stretch and anticipated that it would then turn and head downstream at lightning speed.

Now it was my turn with the spear. We could hear the big fish splashing wildly as it reached the shallows, then all went quiet. It was on its way downstream.

The fish made a bow wave as it entered the pool. I hurled the spear. This time it entered the fish's flank. Again there was a splashing and churning of water. Its strength had waned. It seemed there was a chance of landing the fish of a lifetime.

Alas, the spear did not hold. The huge salmon continued downstream, gathering speed with every second.

We tried all day to find that fish.

We tried all week, but we never saw it again.

Soon after that Bob gave up fishing, I kept at it for another thirty years.

I met Bob one Sunday some years ago. He was in his mid-thirties. Naturally the conversation turned to that huge salmon. Bob was in high spirits that day.

The next morning he died while walking down the street.

Bob will always be my friend.


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