The unusual story of a fishing rod

By Jerry Keating

Some years ago while fishing the lakes of Killarney, I asked my fishing companion John ‘Chippy’ Condon if we could switch fishing rods for a few minutes. This we did and I found Chippy’s rod rather heavy in feel. I passed back his rod as I felt the rod was just a bit too heavy for lake fishing, so I decided to buy Chippy a new and lighter rod.

The following week when we went to Killarney, as Chippy was setting up his rod, I called him and said: “Hold on, I have a rod here, have a look at it and see what you think of it.”

Chippy examined the new rod closely and said it was beautiful. “Good, it’s yours!” I said, to which he replied, “You’re joking, how much do I owe you?” “No it’s yours. If you want to pay me, then give me back the rod!”

I think Chippy was in shock. We proceeded out to the lake. Chippy enjoyed the new rod and indeed, also caught a few trout, having a wonderful day.

Sad to say that Chippy passed away in 2013 and I was so sad to have lost my angling friend. I thought of our happy hours on the lakes of Killarney. His old friend, Battie O’Brien – the local boatman and angler – was shocked and saddened when I told him about Chippy’s death.

Jerry Keating (right) with John ‘Chippy’ Condon out fishing on Lough Leane, Killarney.

A few weeks after, Mary his wife, rang me to call up to their house and take anything I wanted of his fishing gear. I was not too happy about this, but Mary assured me the family were happy with this. I called to the house and Mary had all the gear laid out – so I took trout flies, including a boat seat which I had given him. The family insisted that I take the trout rod, which I did as I felt it would do my grandson. I was very uneasy doing so, but Mary was adamant that the family wanted me to have the angling gear because of my involvement with their father over all the years.

Some months later, I was speaking to Battie O’Brien and he told me he had broken his fishing rod. I said to him, “I guess you will have to get a new rod”, to which he made no comment. I began to sense he could not afford a new rod. Driving home that evening, I decided that who better would deserve Chippy’s rod. So, the following Thursday, I went to Killarney and met Battie and presented him with the rod. He did not want to take it, but I said to him, “Are you refusing chippy’s rod?” He took the rod and I am sure that he was holding back some tears.

He then proceeded to open up the rod and put it together and exclaimed, “My God, what a beautiful rod!”

I said to him that Chippy would be delighted that he would use it, as it would still fish the lakes in the hands of his old friend, Battie.

About a couple of week later, Battie told me he caught a salmon fishing off the mouth of the Flesk river, where it flows into the lake. He did manage to get the salmon into the net, and putting down the rod in the boat, he stood up and raised his two hands to the sky, shouting “Thank you Chippy!”

His partner in the boat asked who was this Chippy, to which Battie replied “you would not understand”.

John ‘Chippy’ Condon on the lakes in Killarney.

About two years later I was putting the boat back on the lake for the season, when a car pulled near me, from which a woman alighted.

“Hello Jerry, do you know me?” I did not know her. “I am Battie O’Brien’s wife”, at which point we shook hands. I then asked where he was, only for her to inform me that he passed away the previous Christmas, and they had not put the death notice on The Examiner. I said to her that I would have come down for the funeral, unfortunately they had no way of contacting me, not having my phone number.

She told me that before he was buried, they had placed Chippy’s rod into the coffin. I was shocked when I heard this – I thought it was a wonderful thing to have done. I then thought that Battie and Chippy would have a great chat about fishing on the lakes and of course, Battie catching the salmon with Chippy’s rod. I do hope the two of them are at peace in Heaven.

Certainly the rod I bought for Chippy in John Murphy’s shop in Cappoquin made some history.