Let me tell you about our fishing camp. My brother Sean and an old friend Mark convene each summer to fish some of the great limestone loughs of the west of Ireland. If you live a life of squalor and misery, you might picture our camp easily. It’s pretty upmarket if you normally sleep in a cardboard box under an embankment. But, if you are accustomed to snuggling under quilted eiderdown in a sumptuously appointed log cabin, you might want to look away now, or, if courageous enough to proceed, to have a stiff drink in your hand.

We set up camp on the shores of Lough Mask. This is remote and desolate country. The trees are sparse and the winds can be fierce and unrelenting. Weathered limestone bedrock breaks the surface and yields reluctantly to the shallow soil. It is hard to push a tent peg fully into the ground here. More than anything else, though, this country is wet.

In Ireland the boundary between the water and the land is as disputed as the one between the water and the sky. It is in this hazy and indistinct world, blanketed by drizzle, we appear each July and set up our two dome tents. For as long as we can negotiate absences from families and work, this will be our home.

One evening last year we returned to our tents to find them ringing wet. This surprised us because the day had been unusually breezy and dry. It turned out that cows had been pissing on them. While we were away pulling teams of wet flies before the noses of indifferent trout, cattle had come across our lodgings and decided that these would provide a convenient latrine for the entire herd.

It is easy to forget that chancing upon these unusual structures in their barren world may well have been the most exciting event that had ever occurred in the lives of these ponderous herbivores. I can only imagine what they might have said to each other.

“What the hell are these things?”

“Christ knows. I’ve never seen anything like them!”

“Are they alive?”

“They don’t seem to move or to make noise”

“What shall we do?”

“Let’s piss all over them!”

Of course we have learnt to be philosophical about such things. There are a number of methods for becoming wet and, over the years, we have mastered most of the techniques. In Ireland this is part of our cultural heritage and a primary reason we shun umbrellas despite the certainty of rain. But having our encampment saturated in such a novel way greatly increased our respect for these lowly animals.

I am very tempted to pour myself a drink now and tell you all about what we do and say at camp. But such reminiscences create a tremendous yearning to sit once again around our camp fire with a glass of wine in the company of those seasoned bullshitters. I will therefore desist. For the three of us, this is a treat which is strictly reserved for the summer.

Published under the title “Cowboys” Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Monthly, June 2011.