Scotland and fishing. Synonymous words indeed.
My teenage grandson Stan, a keen fisherman, had come to stay. He was booked for local North Sea fishing trips but this year had his eye on more than mackerel and cod. He wanted to learn to fly-fish and was dreaming of carp, bream, roach, rudd, perch, brown trout and salmon. This challenge required careful thinking and planning. I’ve flown kites, ridden horses, cycled, and scuba dived but I’ve never fished in my life. Think lochs. Think salmon. Think boats. Think reels. Think licences. Think rivers and rights. Think big money.
So where to dip our novice rods? – The Kingdom of Fife, Tayside or Perth? Applehill, Butterstone, Frandy or Orchill? Sound local knowledge came from Arbroaths’ fishing tackle shop – Geordie’s Pond in Angus.
Think inexpensive. Think small stocked ponds. Think skylarks, and warblers. Think bragging and laughter. Think huge skies. Think fish. At £7 a day we were spoiled for choice.
We hatched a plan and on day two, with a packed lunch and plenty of sun tan lotion, we drove along the winding coastal road, past the turn off for the old fishing village of Auchmithie and along towards Lunan Bay. As we rounded a corner ‘Smiley Fish’ road-signs and arrows indicated we were close to our destination and fulfilling Stan’s ambition.
Our first glimpse of Janet was of an older woman skillfully whip-cracking her line backwards and forwards into the deep blue pond. She had poise and confidence. She claimed she’d recently returned from Tasmania where she’d won the silver medal at the Commonwealth fly-fish and was delighted at the prospect of sharing her joy of fly-fishing with an enthusiastic teenager.
Before I knew it I found a rod placed in my hand and I was part of the action. We began in a nearby field casting the lines without hooks. The tic-toc action of moving the rod rhythmically backward and forwards was mesmeric, and challenging. Too far back and the line hooked in the hawthorn. Mayhem! Too much effort and it landed in a heap at your feet. chaos! Carefully cast and with the right rhythm it landed straight ahead. Success!
Finally when our arms were getting weary we were allowed to graduate to the pond and, with great ceremony, hooks and glittering iridescent flies were attached to the lines. Using the same tic- toc technique we cast and observed the hooks taking the lines down beneath the rippling surface to lure any lurking fish.
The sun shone, clouds spun overhead and skies expanded into infinity.
The whistling, rhythmic sound of lines being cast was spellbinding and exhilarating. The subtle technique of moving the fly to attract the fishes’ attention totally absorbed us.
Local fishermen encouraged us with stories about monsters they’d caught and ones that got away; moorhens came to investigate and the hours slipped by.
Sadly that day the fish weren’t biting but somehow that didn’t matter. It was such a rewarding experience to learn a new skill and enjoy fishing with my grandson.
Janet retreated into her caravan and monitored our progress from a distance. We never actually saw her ‘silver medal’ and as one fisherman remarked drily “One can never be certain about things that people claim”. However, we still believed we were coached by a winner and the encouragement she gave to two novice fly fishers was outstanding.
As the sun finished its downward descent and the swifts started to gather I asked Stan, “What would you like to do tomorrow?” He looked at me in utter astonishment. “ Why, fly fish of course” he said and smiled with pure satisfaction.
So, we did.