There's Murphy - whose family live there and whose guests we are - Dicky, BG and me. The Headford and District Anglers hold their annual competition on the Lough at this time of year and we were determined to take part. We planned our arrival for the day before the competition so that we'd have time to 'limber up' before the battle, but it wasn't a such a great idea. In the morning, when the time came to give our names in, Murphy was so limbered up that he could scarcely see.
I was sent off to register our team and to purchase, if possible, several dozen mayflies.
The little harbour at Greenfields was crowded with anglers telling lies to each other and failing to start grumpy outboard engines. They were fairly evenly divided between the traditional wet fly casters and the 'dirty dappers', both techniques being permitted under this year's competition rules. Needless to say, we were included in the latter group, although I had taken the precaution of bringing my fly rod, just in case.
The wet fly men fish with quite large flies of local design in casts of three and many of them practise what I was brought up to call the 'Loch Leven' style of casting. In this, the angler casts in front of the drifting boat and slowly raises the rod tip leaving the flies in the water as long as possible. With the rod almost vertical, he then flicks the line from the water and without a false cast, punches it out again.
Murphy thought it sounded like hard work and although BG wanted to try, we knew that he would certainly capsize the boat in the process. A large man, his clumsiness is legendary. On a previous expedition he stood on the Thermos before anybody had a chance to sample its contents and over the years, he's spilled his Guinness on everybody we've met in Ireland and some to whom we've not been introduced.
I waited in line to register in the anglers' shed. The competition secretary had got as far as writing down my name when his pen ran out. "Me biro's after running out." he said conversationally and carried on writing down the names of my companions by pressing very hard on the paper. This will only ever happen to you in Ireland.
While he was recording our entry he explained that the prizes this year would be for the weights of individual fish, and not for the numbers caught. This, he explained, was because "we don't want boats coming in here with rakes of small fish." By 'small' fish of course, he meant wild brown trout over a foot long and weighing up to two pounds - exactly the sort of catch that most English anglers would kill for.
Outside the shed I found a small boy out of the 1950's. He was wearing National Health spectacles, a prison haircut and grey shorts. In fact he looked a lot like I did at his age. He was carrying a box of seven dozen live mayflies that he'd collected in the surrounding fields and he wanted a pound a dozen for them. I bought the lot.
We headed for a drift out from the back of the island of Inchquin in exactly the weather required to win competitions - overcast, but warm with a steady fifteen knots of wind. This location had been specially selected because, in the pub the previous evening, a professional ghillie had specifically advised us against going there and as Murphy explained, ghillies protect the best waters for their clients by offering highly misleading information to casual punters. He knew a trick worth two of that.
We dapped in a deadly serious, concentrating sort of way, for two hours without rising a fish, before Murphy agreed to let us join the rest of the competition whose boats we could see in the distance.
The day improved steadily from then on, with everybody taking fish and missing more. Although none of them were spectacularly large we consistently landed beautiful, honey-coloured, fighting trout and BG even landed a small, silver sea trout about eight inches in length.
When we ran out of mayflies, amongst much recrimination about who was using more than their fair share and conflicting views as to how many mayflies should be used on one size twelve brass hook, we simply went ashore on one of Lough Corrib's many islands and picked some more. We took care only to choose the green, newly hatched variety of this unlikely insect, as the trout reject the ones that have turned black after twenty four hours out of the water. Or at least they do unless you can't find any other kind - and then they don't.
The weather had become progressively warmer during the day causing a truly prodigious hatch of flies which, in turn, presented us with a phenomenon that none of us had ever witnessed before. From a distance of a hundred yards or so, every tree seemed to present a double image by having a distinct, if smoky outline some yards downwind. Only on closer inspection, did it become apparent that this shifting silhouette was caused by the myriad of gnats hanging in the tree's wind shadow.
Late on, I boated a fish, after a fifteen minute scrap, that Dicky's elegant, Kensington High Street scales weighed in at three and a half pounds. Although full of congratulations, Murphy was quick to point out there would be little point in taking it to the prize-giving because the Lough regularly yielded fish up to seven pounds and the competition had been very well attended by regulars who really did know their way around the water.
Honestly, he said, without any sort of sour grapes at all, he felt that the best answer would be to go immediately to his sister's house, (she is known locally as Saint Anne because of her infinite patience with her brother) where the fish could be cooked and we could have the fresh trout with new potatoes. BG's eyes glazed over at the thought and Dicky immediately reached for his mobile phone.
Later that night, I met the man from Ennis who'd won the competition with a fish that was just over three pounds.