Half a Lifetime of Fishing Days and nights
by John Gray
that there are more than a few of you who, like me, have developed a
healthy addiction to that modern phenomenon known as "The Fishing
Forum".... a great way to spend a winter's night when you know you
should really be doing something more productive.... but still far more
worthwhile, far more entertaining than watching the telly! A curious
member of one such forum recently posed the question, "What was your
best ever fishing day?" Now this is the sort of forum post guaranteed to
evoke an enthusiastic response, the very stuff of internet forums....
oh, alright then, fora, for those of a pedantic disposition.
most of us, have a fine collection of fishing memories and I hope to
find room for many more before I'm done.
Even so, in asking
that we should choose just one special day out of a lifetime of such
special days, the questioner set a most challenging task. So, to assist in
this most pleasant of exercises, I poured, as a source of inspiration, a
generous glass of fine Scotch whisky.... Teachers Highland Cream if I
recall, for those who take an interest in such things.... and set about
the task in hand.
So where was I to
begin?.... a mild summer night with a steady breeze and a good
wave, fishing the "fly and bubble" from the shore of a Scottish loch,
lighting roll-ups from the dying embers of a smoky camp fire and waking,
shivering, in the cold light of dawn to a breakfast of tinned mandarin
oranges and cold cream of chicken soup?.... or a warm July afternoon
walk over a heather moor to a lonely west highland loch to take a fine
basket of wild trout that took a fancy for a size fourteen Cinnamon and
Gold.... a black August night on the River Endrick when I took
four sea trout in four casts, all from the same lie, the heaviest a fish
of eight pounds.... a moment on the river bank admiring the beauty of my
first salmon, a grilse of five pounds or so taken on a size two gold
Mepps spoon, again from the Endrick, on a falling spate.... a chance
evening encounter with a shining silver sewin in a secret pool on the
little River Cothi.... it registered nine pounds on Mrs Morgan's scales
the next morning.... ah yes, what other pastime could reward us with
such wonderful memories!
pleasant way, indeed, to pass a winter's evening.... sat by a roaring
fire, a warming glass of the finest amber stuff in hand, recalling past
glories. But wait, what's this? Other memories begin to intrude,
like a black cloud, on this rosy picture of the past.... twinges of
regret, disappointment, dejection.... of loss. Ah yes, there's no
getting away from it, some of the most vivid of our fishing memories are
of times when things didn't go quite according to plan.... and they will
come back, now and again, to haunt us. Now I, like all fishermen, have
lost my fair share of fish. Every so often, against the odds, a hooked
fish will win its frantic fight for freedom. Often there is little to be
done to prevent such losses. The fish simply get the better of you.... a
poor hook hold, a hidden snag, an acrobatic leap.... and they are gone.
Those lost fish are no great cause for regret, they are just part of the
game, par for the course.... you win some, you lose some. You shrug a
stoic shoulder and get back to the business in hand.... Well, maybe not
if you have just lost a ten pound sea trout at two in the morning of
your last night on the river after a hard and fishless week. Still, c'est la vie. No, it is the fish that should have been landed that are
truly regrettable, the fish lost through downright negligence, the ones
you can't put down to good old misfortune, the ones that take full
advantage of some unforgivable oversight, in preparation or planning, on
the part of the angler and escape to fight another day, leaving the
angler to curse his stupidity.
Most of us, I would guess, have some such sorry experiences indelibly
etched on our angling memories. How could I, for instance, ever forget
my elation, all those years ago, on hooking my first ever salmon - on a
Mepps spoon on the River Leven - and, moments later, my despair on
winding in a slack line with nothing but a curly bit at the end where my
ineptly tied knot had untied itself at the swivel.... or the giant sea
trout which long ago took my fly, fished unconventionally from the shore
of a once famous loch in the fading light of a summer evening, and
pulled a bit too hard against the tightly set clutch of the Mitchell
304, snapping the 5 pound Platil nylon like thread - even a careless
young poacher did not deserve such a painful punishment.... or the
sickening ping of the twelve pound cast as I applied an all too hasty
finger to the reel rim in a panic-induced attempt to halt that double
figure Endrick salmon in its headlong rush towards the face of the
dam.... or the unseen leviathan which rose from the murky depths of a
rocky Solway shoreline to take the mackerel strip fished from an old and
long neglected reel loaded with rotten nylon. To this day, I still
wonder what kind of monster that was.
many memories! I wouldn't change even the most painful of them.
But what, you might ask, is the best of all? Well, that's easy .... of
all my fishing memories there is none more exquisite, none more
indelibly etched in the memory, than that first illicit sea trout taken
on a summer night forty years ago from a river which was once the best
in the world.