John B Keane: Good trout fishing on the Feale, but alas Canavan’s dog

Last week and the week before two parties of trout anglers arrived in Listowel to do some trout fishing. They had heard reports that it was a good area for trout fishing. People up the country had told them that there were good-sized trout in the Feale. The first party of three spent one night, in the town, did a little fishing the following day but caught nothing and so departed somewhat disappointed.

Last week and the week before two parties of trout anglers arrived in Listowel to do some trout fishing. They had heard reports that it was a good area for trout fishing. People up the country had told them that there were good-sized trout in the Feale. The first party of three spent one night, in the town, did a little fishing the following day but caught nothing and so departed somewhat disappointed.

The second party was luckier. They had a friend in the town home on holiday from England. He was a trout angler one time himself. His name is John Dore, and he used to work in the Listowel Post Office before resigning for a position with the London Times.

Anyway, his friends arrived, and he directed them to Finuge, where they had two good days fishing for the smallish slob trout, erroneously called pink trout along the Feale. These slob trout quit the river in the middle of April and are not seen again until the following March. They weigh a maximum of a quarter of a pound, and are regular suckers for flies and small minnows, not forgetting Lane baits.

The fact that they disappear from the river in April has led many to believe that they are, in fact, young salmon, and not trout at all. This is not so. They are trout alright, and they belong only in rivers where there are great slobs in the estuaries. English visitors did very well, and were so delighted that they intend on coming for a fortnight next year.

Beyond Abbeyfeale

Seriously speaking, however, neither the Feale river, nor its tributaries, the Gale and Smearla, are good trout rivers by Irish standards. The trout are there in abundance, but they are small for the most part. In parts of the Gale, there is a dwarf or pygmy trout, and although fully matured, never grow more than eight or nine inches in length. The majority rarely attain six inches.

Of course there are white trout but these are June fish with the exception of the very rare spring and harvest trout which weigh up to three and a half pounds in weight. The average weight of the June white is about a half pound.

In the Feale from Listowel up to Abbeyfeale there is a small brown trout averaging about two and a half ounces and rarely exceeding four. These small trout are quite plentiful and extremely palatable.

Many maintain that they have no equal when fried. For trout of any consequence one must go beyond Abbeyfeale. There are certain streams in the Feale above Abbeyfeale where respectable brown trout of a ‘half’ pound and pound weight are fairly plentiful.

All in all it could be said then that there is reasonably good trout fishing in the Feale up to Abbeyfeale and better beyond it. Now what I am driving at is this. The sooner all the clubs along the Feale come together and form an alliance of all anglers and all angling interests the better it will be for themselves and for the river. A solid coordinated effort could work wonders.

On the map

The English visitors who came from London, incidentally, assured me that it was the best trout fishing they had ever come across. They told me there were friends of theirs who just would not believe them when they got home. The fact that these four and maybe others will come next year is a good omen. High time, however, all the clubs got together and provided potential angling tourists with copies of a detailed map of the Feale and Gale River.

This would be a fabulous attraction. The map would show pools and streams and the types of trout to be found therein. Guest houses and hotels in Listowel, Abbeyfeale, Ballybunion, Duagh, Rockchapel, Mountcollins, etcetera, could be shown.

I know what I’m talking about when I say that trout fishing on the feale could attract hundreds of English anglers every year. It’s just a matter of letting them know we’re on the map.

Banana the Snob

Canavan’s talking dog, the redoubtable Banana the Fifth, has disappeared. I can hear the hurrahs of his detractors already, and the cries of good riddance from unbelievers who have consistently failed to see the dog’s potential as a buffer state between men and the animal kingdom. Come to think of it, this is a good idea. It would help us know more about horses, asses and cows; how they feel and what they think of us human beings. The dog, himself, doesn’t think much of us, but then he was ever a cynic.

It was Mark Twain who said that man was the only animal which blushed. He qualified this statement by saying that man was the only animal with reason to blush. Personally speaking, I know exactly what Mark Twain was driving at. The dog holds views similar to Twain’s and not comparing the beast with the mortal, the dog’s views cannot be dismissed lightly in this instance.

Anyway, the dog is missing and there is a reward of five guineas for information leading to his whereabouts.

“Why guineas?” I asked Canavan. “Banana is a snob,” he said. “He’d like the idea of guineas, especially since he once said that if he was ever lost, 5,000 pounds should be offered to his finder.”

Seriously, however, the dog is missing and foul play, to say the least, is suspected. He was last seen on Holy Thursday, in the company of a well-known greyhound bitch.

Both were on their way towards Ballybunion. An admirer of the dog, eighty-year-old Jack Duggan, of Dirha West, maintains that the bitch was deliberately sent by the owners of a circus in an effort to lure the dog away. There may be something in what Jack says.

The reward money will be paid the moment a sighting of the dog is reported. He is three feet two inches tall and is highly heterogeneous, being the proud possessor of 13 different breeds. He is four feet four inches long and has sloe-dark eyes, which, to quote himself, are fatally attractive. In manner he is boastful and somewhat arrogant. He dislikes priests and religious, has nothing against postmen or Civic Guards, and when talking at length, his favourite subject is himself.

In colour he is mostly black with a brown face and a scar across his left cheek. Canavan and Jack Duggan believe that the dog could be almost anywhere right now, even Russia. “He will be welcome,” said Canavan sadly, “let it be night or day, morning or evening. He was a good dog, and if he had a fault itself he was no blackguard. He will be missed in Dirha, and from Cnocanore to Coolnaleen there is many the bitch with tears in her eyes this night.”

Canavan wiped a tear from his own eye as he spoke.

“You speak,” said I, “as if he was dead.”

“I fear the worst,” said he.

“Something tells me that we will never see that funny head of his again.”

As I left Dirha West and the sad faces of the dog’s many friends I was reminded of Shakespeare’s line: “There was an angel in our midst and we knew him not”.

Who knows but that the fears of his friends will be without foundation and that the familiar, jaunty figure will be seen once more on the Ballybunion Road.

God knows we will miss the topical comment the snide asides, the cynical retort and all the other little mannerisms which made him so totally different from other dogs.

Folk’s Home is almost a reality. The contract has been won by Thomas Gorman & Co., a local firm. He was the lowest of eleven tenders and his figure was thirty-four thousand, four hundred pounds.

It will take 6 months to build and it is hoped that the first occupants will cross its portals this coming October. Work will commence on Monday next.

The local committee, entirely voluntary, have gathered almost eleven thousand pounds, which is the amount of the proposed local contribution to the building. I understand they will need a further three thousand pounds of furnishing. I have no doubt that the people of Nth, Kerry will rise to the occasion. Two years ago the first church gate collection reached the record figure of eleven hundred pounds. I can’t think of few worthier causes.

More later

LISTOWEL Writers’ Week approaches but more about that later on.

The late-great John B. Keane was a Limerick leader columnist for over 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition April 17, 1971.