Tight lines

Keen fisherman Harry Huddleston reflects on his first catch

Harry with his dad, Peter, and his first fish

Harry with his dad, Peter, and his first fish

The instant I mastered the art of walking, my Dad took me down to the beat near our house almost religiously in the hopes of catching something that wasn’t riverweed.  He was possibly more enthusiastic than I at the time, as he drove me down in the pick-up on chilly evenings whilst my school-mates were watching TV. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; I just quickly lacked interest as it isn’t exactly and action-packed sport.

My father used to take me down to the Milne Graden beat in the Borders, where we used to live. I spent most of my time standing patiently on the rocky ledge protruding into the river, known as ‘the croys’, whilst fish occasionally rose and jumped in front of me, mockingly.  That was what distanced me from an emotional attachment to fishing at that age – the waiting and frustration. Being so close to a fish but so far away from catching it.

The Croys on the Milne Graden beat on the River Tweed

The Croys on the Milne Graden beat on the River Tweed


One particular evening changed the way I thought about fishing though. On a cool grey evening when I was five years old, Dad and I took some friends down to the river to try for a fish before they went home the next day. There were fish jumping all over when we got there, which made me eager to start casting straight away, however after about 20 minutes the fish seemed to just pack up and leave. We changed the lure to a  Zebra Toby and I gave a good cast in the pool in front of the croys.

As I wound in slowly, the rod tip suddenly lurched and I struggled to continue winding. My heart sank as my first thoughts were that the lure had become stuck on the bottom again because I was winding too slow. As I let Dad know that we would probably be having to spend the next ten minutes yanking the fishing rod to free the lure, the line began violently tugging the end of the rod, and within seconds a shiny silver salmon exploded out of the water and dramatically returned with a splash, hook in mouth. Having no previous experience of landing fish, I frantically began winding in and came dangerously close to losing it. After a ferocious battle for what seemed like a life-time, I managed to guide the five pound salmon into my Dad’s net without any hassle. And that is how I caught my first ever salmon at five years old.

Now, I would love to say that my friend also caught a fish and we went home and ate it for dinner, but it didn’t quite turn out like that. After the fuss and praise over landing the fish, we gave the Zebra Toby to my friend so that he could try to catch one, as the lure obviously worked. Being from the city and fishing for the first time, casting was still new to him. Now, when you do any sort of stationary activity in a field full of bullocks, you tend to gather an audience. Upon bringing the rod back behind him, he released his finger from the line and ended up doing a cracking cast in the wrong direction, managing to catch a half ton stack of moving beef. Needless to say, I never got to keep the lure.

Twelve years later, with fishing being a very frequent and enjoyable part of my life, catching my first salmon is something I’ll never forget. I lived in that house until the age of 12 and fished regularly with family and friends, often in the company of friend and boatman Andy Murray. I fish mostly now at Tweedmill with Doug Tait, where I have lost and caught a healthy number of fresh salmon, and I would recommend that beat to anybody as it is as nice fishing as any and beautiful scenery is not in short supply. I plan on growing old with this fond memory, still fishing strong.

Harry with ghillie Dougga McDonald

Harry with boatman Dougga McDonald

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