Reul na Mara

Towing nets for 6-hours leaves a lot of time to sit around doing nothing, especially when the crew are all asleep. On this particular day, I sat alone in the galley, writing in my journal while watching ‘Jaws’.

‘Wednesday 14th November
Course – 101°

13.00 – I first tried fishing when I was about seven-years-old, it was during a family holiday in Peel, on the Isle of Man. I’d teamed-up with my brother to harass my dad until he eventually gave in and took us to the fishing tackle shop on the prom. As we left my grandmother’s house, my mum asked my dad for us not to be too late as we were going to the cinema later that day.
The ‘shop’, a converted garage, rented out push bikes and fishing gear and there was freezer by the door filled with ice-lollies and tubs of sand eels and worms. My dad hired one rod and bought a small pack of hooks; he insisted that we weren’t going to catch anything so we may as well share. The three of us walked along the prom and caught the rowing boat ferry across the harbour; at low tide, there was a rickety wooden walkway that they spanned the harbour entrance in sections with – it was a health and safety litigation waiting to happen, and you’d never get away with it these days, sadly.
My brother, Graham, carried the fishing rod, as big brothers do, and to be honest If I’d carried it, this story would be about how I’d blinded some unfortunate tourist while pretending to be a Samurai.
By the time we got to the end of the breakwater, my dad had told us, at least five times, that we probably weren’t going to catch anything – I realised, years later, that he wasn’t pessimistic or cynical, he was merely equipping us for disappointment.
Like most siblings, Graham and I had that ‘You cut, I choose.’ mentality – he’d carried the fishing rod, so I got first go, that’s how it worked. If it had just been the two of us, there’d have been no floating this deal, but fortunately, our father was there to mediate. The first cast was mine.
I didn’t even cast the baited hook out; I’d have followed the bait, hook, line and rod into the harbour, so it was just lowered straight down the side. My dad got midway through, “Right, you know you aren’t going….” when I felt the fish bite. We reeled in a large mackerel, well, large in the eyes of a seven-year-old.
That evening, my mum and dad took us to the cinema to see ‘Jaws’ – I was so traumatised by the unrealistic, plastic Great White that I refused to go anywhere near the sea for the rest of the summer.

17.00 – Ross has just come down to tell me that we’re heading back to Scrabster, it’ll be a 12-hour steam. When we get there, they’ll drop me off and I can drive Ross’s car back to Inverness. It looks like my adventure on the Reul na Mara is almost over’


  1. This is a really good set of pictures, Phil. Not ‚samey’ at all! Really had to look twice at the one with the single fish stuck in the net (here in the middle) when I saw it on Instagram. Thought it was a plastic bottle at first 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil, your work is an exercise in frustration and disappointment – I use the same cameras, same film stocks, identical lenses… but I can never get close to the look you achieve,. I love everything about your images and stories. I just wish I could get halfway to being where you are.

    What’s your secret? X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm… there is no ‘secret’ I’m afraid! I just instinctively know where to point a camera and when to take the photo… I suppose that comes with experience. Tbh, you should really be striving for your own ‘look’ rather than attempting to emulate that of another photographer- that’s what creates frustration and disappointment.

      Liked by 1 person

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