Joseph Mary Mooney, ex-senator of the Irish Republic, looked up from the slice of toast he was plastering with vitamin-enriched spread. "Tell him about the big fella, Pat," he said.
A turf fire flickered brightly in Mooney's kitchen, though in the west of Ireland November is a soft, mild month; outside, in the woods around Drumshanbo village, the leaves were still green on the trees.
Pat Reynolds, silver-haired and sturdy, a master of the narrative art, hitched his chair forward. "Come here till I tell you," he said, and I leaned toward him as if hypnotized, though it was only mild narcosis brought on by the turf smoke and the strong tea that Mooney brewed.
"It was back in July he hooked him," Reynolds began. "An Englishman from Derby, or someplace, and he was using one of them copper spoons with a touch of blue to it. I was just rowing him along the shore of the first island out from the pier when this huge beast of a thing grabbed hold. It was 2½ hours before we had him beat, then didn't this bloody ijjit of an angler think he'd like a movin' film of his fish lying on his side in the water, waiting for the gaff." Pat took a long suck at his tea.
"I don't want to hear any more," I said, anguished.
"He was over half the length of the oar," Pat went on inexorably, "and he was lying there in the water near dead. Your man was trying to keep his head up while his missus took the pictures. He didn't jump, nor anything like that, but he just rolled over, and the wire leader broke at the swivel."
We sat in silence for a while, thinking of the great fish lost. "How big do you reckon he was, Pat?" I asked.
"I was coming to that," he said. "A week after, it would have been, I was out with this same man, and we got a good one, 24 pounds, and this time we went in to the shore to get the photographs. Then a farmer comes strolling down. 'Do you think that's a big one, lads?' says he.
" 'It's big enough for me,' says your man.
" 'Well, there's a bigger one nor that lying dead on my shore these last three or four days,' says the farmer, and off he walks.