The walk from the Long pool to Tilseth House was about 20 minutes at a steady pace, but about half an hour if, as I did, you stopped to eat the wild raspberries along the way.
I have never tasted raspberries like these, or seen wild ones in such quantity – everywhere. They were more than just a pukka food source – their perfect, wild seasonal sweetness was sublime and captivating. They seemed to promise success with the salmon – I fished hard, I suppose, certainly long, and caught fish on day one, day two and a perfect last morning fish. And all the time I was eating those magic raspberries.
Amid the bracken, the grassy forest tracks, by the side of the ice-clear Tilseth Run, the small crimson berries, beaded with droplets of light rain were everywhere. The ones on the return trip were grabbed more hurriedly (especially if I had a fish to carry!), but on outward journeys, shot through with salmon anticipation, I picked them with increasing reverence. The glowing redness of individual berries which caught my eye as I picked was the way I hoped my fly – over and above the others these fish had surely seen on their journey would appear in the runs of Long and the turbulent, brown tinted depths of Railway pools that beckoned.
Some raspberries just jumped out, initiating a grab that was absolutely involuntary, the hunter-gatherer instinct linked to a fast but deliberate move, like a fish taking a fly properly – some, not others. Yes I just knew the salmon would like certain of my fishing flies in the same way.
Confidence. Why? I don’t know. The vibrations were good? the karma was perfect? The force was strong? All I knew: keep the faith, tie up another leader, check your knots carefully, put on your best flies and fish well, and carefully. Tighten your reel drag, hold a bit of a loop, visualise the fly (flies, I fished a dropper too) through the layers of the stream, imagine the take before it happens. Even though the conditions were difficult in this last week of the Gaula season – the water unsettled but very low, the lowest levels recorded since the late 1960s apparently – I really thought I would catch fish.
And the raspberries tasted so good.