Fly Fishers' Republic

One Small Step

April 16, 2006

by Bruce Sandison

One Small Step

My wife, Ann, ‘The Manager’, and I invariably have a day at the end of September fishing for sea-trout on Loch Hope in North Sutherland. Last year, however, it looked as though the wind was going to defeat us. Nevertheless, after a careful examination of the forward weather forecast we decided to give it a go.

My first task on arrival at the mooring bay was to bail the boat. This took 30 minutes because the boat was full to the brim with storm water. I then returned to the car to pull on my waders. Which is when I discovered that I had brought Ann’s (size 7) rather than my own (size 12). I somehow managed to heave them on and minced delicately to the boat looking like an oversized, overweight Japanese Geisha girl.

I couldn’t really complain. After all, I had organised our fishing gear and loaded the car. I thought that it would have been kinder, though, if my fishing partner had commiserated with me, rather than falling about laughing at my predicament. Her only, less than supportive comment, was, ‘Don’t worry, dear, I am sure that you will be up and about again on all fours by tomorrow morning.’

Task two was to get the boat to the water. Easier said than done. The recent gales had blown it almost into the small birch wood that bordered the shore of the loch. But Ann was brilliant. Not so much because she is physically strong, although she is, but because she is very determined and a wonderful director of operations which was great news for my newly acquired hernia.

Having eventually got the boat afloat, I set up the electric outboard and returned to the car to collect the battery. This was the first time that I had encountered the wretched brute and, believe me, it weighed a ton. I staggered back to the water, arriving breathless and bent double. Thus, with everything sort of ship-shape, we eventually we made it across the loch to Beat 2 at the mouth of the Strathmore River where we began fishing.

Well, to be absolutely precise, I did, start fishing, that is, but only briefly. I had to stop to attend to my fishing partner’s cast. The naughty old wind had tangled it into a bird’s-nest, a not infrequent occurrence when we are fishing together. I generally find that it is easier and quicker to tie up a new cast, rather than waste good fishing opportunities trying to perform miracles.

By the time I had sorted it out, it was time to return to the top of the beat to begin another drift. Once there, I turned the boat broadside on to the wind, chucked out the drogue, made a first cast for my partner and handed her the rod. Unfortunately, however, I had forgotten to secure the drogue rope inboard and had to row furiously, upwind, landing net poised, in hot pursuit of the billowing parachute.

With all in order again I picked up my rod to start fishing; which is when I noticed that The Manager’s cast was, once more, in complete disarray. Smiling as brightly as I could, I took her rod and began the process of tying up another cast. But as I did so, we were being driven onshore and I pondered my options; bring in the drogue, raise the outboard motor to avoid damage to the propeller on rocks, abandon Ann’s tangled cast – which by this time had also caught me – row like hell to keep the boat offshore, or just pray?

I decided to abandon ship and threw myself over the side, collecting two boot-fulls of icy water in the process. I grabbed the bow and heaved the boat safely onto terra firma. I was soaking, my own line was snagged somewhere under the boat and my feet were killing me. ‘Well, done,’ said The Manager, ‘a perfect place for lunch.’

Did I mention that Ann had brought Hareton, her wretched Yorkshire terrier, with her? No, I didn’t, sorry. I managed to free him from the soggy drogue, and the landing net, and carried him ashore. He recovered his customary ill humour after wolfing down a boiled egg, and my finger will be better soon after he bit the hand that fed it to him.

In the afternoon the wind got really worked up and we decided to head home. If we hadn’t had the electric outboard we would never have made it across the storm-tossed loch. Even using the motor, I had to row like a galley slave to help it along whilst Ann steered. With the boat secure, I humped the dread battery back to the car.

But in spite of everything it was a wonderful day and we did manage to catch four sea-trout, all taken on a size 12 Ke-He. Ann caught four of them and I caught the rest. Mind you, if my feet hadn’t been clamped in a vice and my body chilled to the marrow, it might have been an entirely different story. Well, I think so.