"It was our fish, I'll swear it. When we got down to him the spoon had gone, but you could see the scar. The birds had been at him, and the smell was awful, but we shoved the lot into a plastic sack and brought it back to the village. The remains," said Pat reverently, "weighed 58 pounds."
"A new world-record northern pike," I mourned.
"World record, is it?" asked Mooney from behind his late breakfast. "We'd have that broke fast enough on Lough Allen if the boys would leave the trout alone for a bit and concentrate on the pike."
From his kitchen in Drumshanbo, Joe Mooney runs the County Leitrim Local Development Association, in intervals of tending to his real-estate business. Leitrim is a small, beautiful county, very green and soft, with curlew-haunted mountains and pike-haunted lakes, but it is far away from the Killarney-Gal-way Bay tourist track, which troubles Joe a great deal. That was why he hadn't hesitated when I'd called him the previous evening to ask about the pike-fishing prospects on Lough Allen. Naturally, he is also secretary of the Drumshanbo Angling Club.
"What time can you get over in the morning?" he shot at me.
It was all a little difficult, really. My quest for a big Irish pike was already running into trouble. I'd had a firm tip-off about a small, hundred-acre lough below the hills of County Sligo called Templehouse Lough. Unhappily, the night before I arrived a storm in the mountains had sent down thousands of gallons of floodwater that had turned the lake so rich a brown you couldn't see a spoonbait six inches under the surface. Already I'd fished Templehouse for four days, and the biggest pike I'd had was a four-pounder. But slowly it was clearing. Next day it could be just right.
"I'm not sure about tomorrow yet," I told Joe.
"I'll tell you what," he said. "I'll have Pat Reynolds in to meet you. He's the finest pike man in Ireland."
"I'll have to think about it," I said.
"Right," said Joe. "Call round to me in the morning. The yellow house opposite the church. Nine-thirty."