R.Jocelyn photoRobert Jocelyn returned to Ireland in 1995. With his wife, Ann Henning Jocelyn, he set up the Doonreagan writers’ centre in Cashel, Connemara.

His books and lectures cover a wide range of historical subjects. Once a mountaineer he now sails his own Galway Hooker.


For Martin Drury

Like a hawk on an outcrop
Silently seeking his prey
I watch the river ahead
And wait.
Self-taught in Mourne mountain streams.

Before long trout again break surface,
Or turn back with the current,
Slaloming out
To more productive feeding grounds
Secure in their piscine underworld.

Noting possible under-hung boulders
And gouged-out banks, safe havens,
I surreptitiously lob a gentle stone to see
Where the trout dart for cover
And wait.

A careful approach upstream.
No sudden stampede.
The depth of the stream
No greater than a full arm’s length –

Suspending myself over the rocks
I slowly feel for the undercuts,
Inching up current
As threatened trout seek sanctuary
Tighter in against the overhangs.

The first touch the most delicate
Working forwards
Middle finger and thumb poised to vice-grip
Where the gills meet.
Then snatch

With full force snaffling
The squirming speckled body
Out and up against mine to secure it,
Gills and mouth working breathlessly.
Then to their next hiding place.

We build a fire on a flat rock
Slowly turning the skewered trout
Until done.

(Robert Jocelyn 2020)

John Montague wrote a poem called “The Trout” (Selected Poems, Wake Forest University Press. 1982) which he dedicated to the late Barrie Cooke, artist, and ardent fisherman. In it, he described how he “tickled” wild trout by slipping one hand below the trout and then clamping down from above with his other hand. I am not sure this is possible, but as John Montague is no longer with us I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and will enroll him as a posthumous member of the Ultimate Piscatorial Society. This poem is my version of “tickling” trout.
This ultimate piscatorial interlude was photographed in Northumberland when Martin Drury, later head of the English National Trust, and I decided to walk down the Pennine Way at Easter time in the late 1960s. To my knowledge, there are few, if any, such photographic recordings of this dying art. As good and as fresh a feast as we could ever have wished for. And for free!