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"It could have hit a log," I suggested. Pat gave me a look. He knew as well as I did that waterlogged timber floating below the surface does not have the capacity to pull a three-pound trout away from a wire mount. He said nothing, but he cut the engine and picked up the oars again. From now on even the barren water was going to be taken seriously.
When we got to the nearest island we went ashore for lunch, dragging the boat up onto the pebbles and hunting around for driftwood to make a fire. When we had it blazing, Pat filled a smoke-blackened kettle with lake water and set it on top. "I'd rather be sitting here," he said, "than over beyond." He stubbed a thumb in the direction of another small island a couple of hundred yards to the south. It looked like a perfectly normal island to me. "What's wrong with it?" I asked him.
"There's a fella living over by Drumshanbo could tell you," he said. "He went in there one time, and he thought he'd take a souvenir back with him, one of them old skulls that's lyin' there in the shallow water."
"The skulls belonging to the old monks that used to be in it one time. Anyhow, the first morning after he brought it home didn't he fall downstairs and break his leg. And late that evening there was an awful rapping at the back door and nobody there when the missus went down. That went on for three nights, and then his brother-in-law put the skull in a plastic bag and he rowed over to the island and put it back where it came from. They were never disturbed after that."
For a while we sat silently, drinking the thick, dark tea and eating homemade bread and thick slices of ham. The wind had softened, and the waves no longer broke white. "You could get your big one this afternoon," said Pat, and I had the same intuitive feeling that the water had come alive.
"I'm going to try a plug," I told him, choosing a moment when he'd be feeling mellow. I fished out the long blue Swedish job and set the lip so that it would swim deep. "Try it," said Pat magnanimously, "but keep the spoon on the other rod."
As we rowed away from the island, I let out line and watched the plug bob away in our wake like a small lighthouse. I let it go 50 yards astern, then I tightened up. It dived purposefully. I sent the spoon over the side after it, and it couldn't have traveled a hundred yards before it was firmly taken by a pike a little bigger than the one we'd had in the morning.
"Didn't I tell you?" said Pat, slipping him back a while later. "You'll never beat the good old spoon."
I was just thinking out an answer to this as we rowed along with the lines out again when there was a heavy strike on the plug. "You'll never beat the good old plug!" I shouted as Pat got the oars in fast, took up the other rod and brought the spoon in.