I’m feeling in a particularly contemplative and reminiscent mood this evening.. I say evening, but it’s 2 in the morning and I’m fed up of working. I just dug up some old photos and video clips, back in the days when it didn’t rain every day and I actually went fishing.
One trip really sticks in the memory. It was July 2006, and my brother and I went on a three day fishing extravaganza in the south of Scotland. We fished a nice river (didn’t catch much), then a remote wee hill loch, with a simply gorgeous wee outflow burn. I have one video clip in particular which brings back a crystal sharp memory every time I watch it. My brother had gone ahead in search of a nice pool further up the burn whilst I fumbled about with a map or a headtorch or a piece of string or something similarly useful. As I came around a bend in the track I noticed his bag, but not him. I crept around the large boulders at the top of the mini-gorge, and found him crouched down at the side of the most stunning pool you could imagine.
The sun was shining, the water was ever so slightly whisky-tinted, and it gurgled and bubbled and slipped over the rocky pool head and into the main amphitheater. As I watched, he flicked his leader gently towards the pool inflow. Despite its bright deer hair wing, it was impossible to see the sedge among the bubbles and white water, and my eyes darted maniacally around the riffle. Suddenly there was a mini explosion, like a passing bird had dropped a stone (or something else) into the pool. He tightened the line, and a trout flew four feet back toward him, before summersaulting back into the pool. Somehow it had stayed on the hook, and he quickly played (hmm…possible pushing it there) the golden spotted brownie back to the net. The idea of a net might seem a bit absurd (it was), but it did allow us to sit back for a few moments of infantile jubilation whilst we gawped at the beauty of the trout. It was about 5 inches long. But in the setting it made our smiles at least that wide.
Thinking back on that day, I’ve come to the conclusion that it defines almost everything that is good about fly fishing. We were in a stunning setting, deep in the southern uplands, surrounded by sweeping hills that glowed green in the warm sunlight. The sound of the burn was like a thousand tinkling wind chimes, all singing together a song of quiet contentment. Trout darted around the pools at the slightest shadow, but with a few minutes rest regained their innocent confidence. There was nobody else there, just a couple of brothers sat ogling in disbelief at the simplest of things, a tiny fish shining in the rippled water.
I’m under no illusion that all of fly fishing is like that day, with its zen calm and eery silence, shared brotherhood and wild smiles. I don’t even think it should be, for if it was always like that I think I’d be bored before long. But I do think there was something in those moments that, if lost or forgotten, would spell the end of a truly lasting enjoyment of the whole thing. I have the strongest of inklings that the day I loose the excitement of those hours, a pounding heart at the sight of the next pool, is the day I need to stop fishing.