October 2007

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Nine days of fishing. For anyone less than a guide or a professional trout bum, it’s a good stretch. For the first few days it’s a novelty, then it begins to feel strangely normal. Casting becomes more natural, presentation more consistent, fly choice oddly instinctive. It’s almost like finding an activity that draws on all one’s spirit, slowly moulding everything together to fit some kind of focussed purpose. When a ‘normal’ day involves nine hours at a desk, it’s a deeply satisfying purpose to feel, even if it lasts just a few days.

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The North is really about the lochs. There are thousands of them, scattered all across the land and each one with a particular character. It’s probably a good analogy to imagine the landscape as a giant bowl of curry. There are endless chunks of onion (the ‘typical’ lochs), punctuated by the occasional tomato (the ‘better’ lochs), and the odd rare and prized piece of tender lamb (the ‘special’ lochs). As with curry, it’s no use having just one ingredient: variety is truly the spice of life and the huge variety of Scottish lochs provides hope for a lifetime of interesting fishing. Lochs brim-full with pretty wee brownies desperate to eat a fly are sometimes exactly what is called for after a day fruitlessly chasing after the tenderest lamb. But on the days when the butcher is kind, a lifelong memory can be found in the glistening bronze flank of a 2lb belter. It’s all in the mix.
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I have a strange relationship with fly tying. On the one hand it has helped me to get more out of my fishing. I love seeing a trout sup down a little sherry spinner tied by my own two hands. It’s a special kind of satisfaction that just doesn’t exist with shop bought fluff. I have also found, however, that it sometimes has a tendency to drive me into a kind of unhealthy obsession. The most bizarre thing of all is that the obsession isn’t actually about tying flies.

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Organisation. Where would we be without the simple joy found in sorting stuff out, finding a proper place for every last widget? Fly tying is an absolute class A activity for those of us with a ‘sorting out’ fetish. The endless packets of dubbing, the myriad feathers and capes, the insane variety of hooks. Oh what joy! I am certain that I have a problem. I’m becoming the kind of fly tier that spends more time, a lot more time, sorting out fly tying paraphernalia than actually tying flies. Perhaps the worst thing of all though, the real bottom clencher, is that I rather suspect that I spend even more time just thinking about sorting out fly tying gear than even sorting the damn stuff out.

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I love reading fishing books. Even during the trout season I find a good fishing book can relax and excite me like no other written words. Somehow the process of fishing seems to lend itself very well to the art of the written word. There’s always a beginning, quite often a middle, and always some kind of end. Perhaps the most important thing though is that fishing can always be a journey. And there’s nothing like a good journey to strike imagination and hope into the mind of a reader.

One of the great things about internet fishing diaries and websites is the potential for discovering books, both new upstarts and old time gems. I’ve bought several books following recommendations from my pal Alistair over at the Urban Fly Fisher blog. One of my recent favourites is “Trout Madness” by Robert Traver.
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