December has just started and I realise I have never written, as I had planned, about the way another month ended. That month is not the November that has just slipped by but the October that preceded it. The last couple of hours of daylight were, for me, the highlight of the whole month.

This was the last fishing day of Paul Reddish and my little Valencia excursion. We had earlier in the day explored the beautiful Río Mijares and had caught several of a rare and lovely species of nase. We then followed the river further upstream and, without realising, it ventured into the province of Aragon.

Rivers usually get skinnier as you move upstream any significant distance and so it surprised us that the river was pretty substantial up above the Embalse de Sichar. It was beautiful too. We came across a very fine pool which looked like it would be prime habitat for the Mediterranean barbel, the golden grail that we had been chasing but had eluded us.

We both had fished the pool for a little while before Paul wandered downstream to explore. I decided to remain at the pool and fish a nymph deep under an indicator but, drift after drift, it floated back towards me without even a flutter. There was nothing cooking.

Shortly after Paul returned to tell me he had taken a fish that slipped back into the water before he had a very good look at it and that he had also taken a trout. And so, excited by the prospect of similar adventures I swapped the nymph for a little dry and wandered a little way upstream to fish it.

I have fished some very pretty places but the one I stumbled upon a short walk upstream takes some beating. The river was squeezed into its channel by huge rocks. A few fish could be seen to be rising but thought them to be small, more nase perhaps.

I drifted my little dry through a seam close to large rocks and, with little light remaining, I hooked a spirited fish. When I finally beached it I discovered that it was a trout as silvery and mystical as the one in Yeats´poem “The Song of Wandering Aengus.” I happen to know that poem well as I promised to sing it to Catriona at our wedding. I´m not much of a singer and the prospect of singing the poem unaccompanied had scared the shit out of me! But I figured, correctly as it happens, that the beauty of the lyrics of the poem itself would allow me to get away with a pretty ugly rendition of it. If you are familiar with this poem you may remember the little silver trout that is hooked on a berry and which subsequently transforms into a beautiful woman who promptly vanishes. My own little silver trout didn´t quite pull off that particular stunt and soon I had him beached in the grass at the river margin.

This was a wild trout as far as I can tell and was unusually silvery. Paul subsequently carried out some research and sent me the following information later in an email:

“Just found this paper which strongly suggests the trout we caught are wild fish. They sampled trout in the Linares and Villahermosa streams (both tributaries of the Rio Mijares) and found no alleles that would have come from stocked trout. Also the author found the trout were  of the Mediterranean strain (subspecies?).”

In simple terms this translates as saying that the trout we caught were the real deal. They were wild fish, long and deeply connected to the country around us. It may well be that in ancient times, in ages of bitter cold, Neanderthals my have seen these fish or even caught them.

Having parted company on the river Paul and I reconvened at the car. It was close to darkness. As we broke our rods down a large silhouette passed over us noiselessly and we agreed that it was likely an eagle owl.

I can´t imagine I could ever expect a month to finish in a more lovely way: a pristine pool, a beautiful wild trout caught and returned, and overhead, in the fading light, the silent flight of the giant owl heading out to hunt.

It occurred to me that before I sign off on this little post that it might be nice to include Yeats´lovely poem in case you have not seen it, or would like to be reminded of the reason this guy received a Nobel prize in literature!



The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
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Here is Pablo fishing our “barbel” pool. If there are barbel in it they did not reveal themselves to us!

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How beautiful is this?! The trout took my fly in the seam of water close to the bank opposite.

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The fish is very silvery. This is not a great photograph I´m afraid because my camera decided to retire for want of charged battery and I took this snap with my phone. The lateral line seems unusually pronounced and the head seems relatively small.

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A little silver trout!