A tale from Hans Eckhart


My first Ilen Salmon

It was 10 of May 1996, low water again on the River Ilen. I should mention that it was my second fishing trip on the Ilen. The Ilen is a typical spate river, and in low water you have only a small chances of catching any fish because the current is too slow.
But by night, especially at the tail of a pool the prospects for a sea trout are good, if it is not too cold. This particular evening was much too cold!

As I met Peter, a local angler, at Hospital Pool, he gave me a tip: a few hundred yards further downstream there should be a good place for fly fishing.
But all these downstream pools are located in the tidal area. My watch showed 8 pm as I reached the junction of two currents above a big rock. I was fishing with my light # 6 sea trout rod and a 6 lbs cast with 3 flies.
At the height of the rock the currents flow together and build a small pool. At this place my line suddenly stopped. Immediately the fish did an initial run downstream. A sea trout? How big is this fish? Fortunately the fish stopped after thirty yards and came up further upstream.
When I recognised that I was playing a salmon I was worried because behind the rock the water is deep and so you can not follow a running fish.
I was sure that my chances were very small here! Stoically the salmon rested for a while in the current. After 20 minutes playing I got him for the first time into the still-water behind the rock. What a fish, certainly over 10lb in weight.
I had only a small net at hand, no chance for netting. The fish stayed at a respectful distance. A lot of questions: Is the fish well hooked? Will the knots hold on my cast?,
Can I prevent the salmon from running under the sunken tree at the bank? All these thoughts were in my head, but the most important one of all: Do not make any mistakes!,
Half an hour had passed, but I could not put sufficient pressure on him. There was nobody to help me. My hopeless situation was mirrored in the eyes of the bulls on the opposite bank.
The old man in Hemingway's story "The Old Man and the Sea" came to my mind and the thought "I wish the boy was here". I felt the high ti- de coming in with fast rising water.
I gave the fish more pressure and he rolled on the surface. As I got him nearby, I could not believe it. The highest fly was much too high for tailing the fish!
My only chance was my clip which I always carry with me. I had to cut the springer fly without any damage to the cast! So I held the rod very steep and after four attempts the trick succeeded.
Now I tried to tail the salmon, but it was too early. One more run. The second attempt brought success. Nearly forty minutes after I hooked him!

What a beautiful Irish springer with sea-lice, straight from sea, weighing almost 12lbs. The salmon took a very small shrimp fly No. 14 at the point. After the fish was killed I looked at him for a long time.
I went back to Peter before sunset. He was very pleased and congratulated me cordially. Thank you, Peter!


It is an honor for me to remember an old friend. Hope there is always a river nearby on his way.