A rare gift
THE rhythm to fly-fishing—the swish of the rod, the pause and the hope—can transform me. Time turns as liquid as the flow. Last week, I was in this blissful state on the River Ballynahinch in Connemara, when I was disturbed by strange mewings and movement in a clump of tussocky grass beside me. I put down my rod and went to investigate and there, just 2ft in front of me, with its prick ears, chestnut coat and creamy yellow bib, was a young pine marten. It didn’t move, clearly under orders from its mother to stay put. The fishing had to wait.
Few UK mammals have been more brutally treated than the pine marten. Although it was once widespread, it was persecuted to near extinction by gamekeepers in the 19th century and the last one killed in the London region was shot in Epping Forest in 1883. Until two years ago, there had not been a verified sighting of a marten in England for a century.
The total population in Britain is estimated to be about 3,000, but, thanks to organisations such as the Vincent Wildlife Trust, there are some signs of a gentle recovery. I’m very lucky to have seen one in the wild—most people never will. Fishing is truly a giver of gifts. MH