These are dark days if you are a wild trout angler, both in reality if you live in Scotland and metaphorically. With the start of next season many months away there is little to do but reflect on the season past and make what preparations you can for the forthcoming one â€“ and in many ways rather than helping raise your spirits such preparations only serve to highlight the deprivation of oneâ€™s passion.
In reflecting on days past with rod in hand, my fishing diary comes into its own. In saving me from my rapidly failing memory, its roughly jotted notes easily transport me back to the lochside to relive days good and bad (but thankfully overwhelmingly good). I am sure that I am not alone in enjoying memories of good fishing days by the fireside with a dram during these winter nightsâ€¦
My diary notes that my 2011 season started on the 15th of April with a visit to one of my favourite local waters, Frandy in Upper Glendevon. Whilst this is a predominantly rainbow trout water, it sits on high moorland and has a head of modest brown trout to make it an attractive enough venue to a wild water enthusiast such as myself. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to experience all manner of natural spectacles whilst fishing Frandy â€“ with the sight of 10 kestrels all hovering over a small area of hillside being a highlight. However, this first trip of the season was a short 3 hour affair snuck into a busy weekend but I recorded a successful foray with 5 Rainbow and one Brown all to small black buzzers albeit my diary also noted that my old waders were in their death-throws and were leaking nicelyâ€¦not really ideal for April in Scotland.
A high spot of my angling year was my annual visit to the Wissey, a small intimate chalkstream which runs through the Army training area in Norfolk to engage in commando-style stalking of its resident brown trout with my angling pal Sean Elliott. I just love sight fishing for trout in such lush overgrown surroundings and having to improvise all manner of casts in order to cover fish holding station in crystal clear water. The fishing was tougher this year than last, but I managed to extract my best brown of the year, a 3lb cracker, from this delightful stream. This involved long minutes stalking the fish and then covering it with a wide range of leaded nymphs before managing to fool him with a large caddis creation which thankfully he could not resist. The ensuing fight will stay with me for many years as I struggled to control such a large fish with my 5-weight Hardy Smuggler and only just managed to prevent him making good his escape into the lush aquatic foliage on more than one occasion. I always seem to have fond memories of catches made where I have been very much not in control â€“ I suppose this has made me so much more relieved (and therefore ecstatic) when at last I have my quarry on the bank.
Other highlights have been documented already on this blog â€“ my two long-weekends and my full week, all in Assynt. Splendid wild fishing at its best.
I also had splendid days on Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire â€“ again in the company of Sean Elliott â€“ where I am sad to say he fished me off the planet! Despite apparently both fishing the same cast of buzzers, both on floating lines and both â€“ apparently with the same (lack of) retrieve â€“ I could not hold a candle to him and had to watch in jealous admiration as he took fish after fish, whilst I only picked up a token fish or two. And how Grafham Rainbow trout fight!! At an average size of two pounds and fighting fit, these fish certainly pull your string.
A particular highlight was an evening in June when at last the boys from the School Angling Club had the right conditions whereby they enjoyed great sport on Golden Loch in Fife. Having previously endured all manner of poor angling conditions on rain and windswept lochs in the local area, the boys were finally rewarded with â€˜an easy nightâ€™ when the trout decided to be generous. Difficult fishing it may not have been, nor for â€˜wildâ€™ fish â€“ but as I watched the boys taking the number of fish their talents rightly deserved, I cast my mind back to what I would have been like at that age and in similar circumstances â€“ and yes, I would most certainly have been smiling as much as they were! Being committed to getting as many youngsters into fishing as possible, this was in so many ways my best memory of the year. Well done boys!
And so, in summary and for the record, what was my 2011 season like? My final catch figures record that I enjoyed 29 days fishing for a tally of 325 brown trout (most comfortably under half a pound in weight), 36 rainbow trout and sadly no salmon or
pike â€“ but as my fishing is absolutely not about numbers of fish caught, I am happy to record that my memories of Assynt lochs and the intimate River Wissey certainly allow me to enjoy my fireside dram. A good year indeed. Do dheagh shlÃ inte!