I wrote these sketches of fishing types a couple of years back. You may enjoy them. If on the other hand, you recognise yourself here – I mean every word!
Vidar travelled light, a packet of Marlboro, a cellular telephone and a book were the only items in the pockets of his tattered designer combats. He didn’t need a rod, there are lots of rods scattered around the world’s ‘destination’ fishing spots.
We met in a fishing house in Norway in the dying (but sumptuously atmospheric) days of the salmon-fishing season.
His phone was stuffed to the point of electronic meltdown with pictures of tarpon from Cuba, salmon from the Orkla and Gaula, and double-figure sea-trout bigger than anything you’ve ever seen.
Vidar was pretty laid-back: and he needed to be, for his plans were vague, but fishy nonetheless. For instance, after a snatched two days on the Gaula, he would fish through to the last day of August on another impossibly desirable location in Norway. If the salmon were running… if the rains came.
Oddly, Vidar didn’t look like a fisherman, with his pale features and darkened hair. The Euro-nightclub look. A post-modern gentleman of leisure, there was no discernible evidence he worked for a living.
But clearly he was (an angler) – the outsized screen of the Vidar “cell” offered ample evidence of that, with those scaley monsters in digital. But there was never the chance to accompany him to the river, because suddenly, 48 hours – and many drams of his housemates’ Bowmore later – he was gone.
Jimmy holds court throughout the peak autumn months of the salmon-fishing season at the bar of one of Thornhill’s famous fishing hotels. While he is always the indisputable bar expert (you cannot get a word in edgeways), no one has ever seen him actually practising what he so eloquently preaches among the pork scratchings and damp bar towels. Either that or he is committed exclusively to night fishing.
For Jim is not a small man, and it would be hard to miss him in any sort of daylight. He maintains his 6 1/2 ft bulk via a steady stream of Tenants lager, supplemented with Chinese take-away and chips at closing time.
Visiting rods, pleased with their only fish of the season, and in for a celebratory pint are perfect fodder for Jim.
“Any good lads?” he asks.
“Er yes, we had one up at Sanquhar,” they say, with a noticeable whiff of pride.
“What did you get it on?”, he asks, deadpan.
“Uh, spinner-well-Rapala?” says Jimmy, half raising his eyebrows as he swings round to his cohorts further down the mahogany: “Hey lads,” he says in a raised voice, “These boys were spinning.. Spinning?! Brian caught five today. Five, eh Brian lad? On worm…”
Jimmy swings back round, pauses, and fixes the visitors with a steady, but not unkind look.
“Well done lads,” he says. “Nice work.”
Nev is a lawyer, well was a lawyer until he retired 20 years ago in his forties to devote his life to salmon-fishing on Mirimachi, Tweed, Spey, Tay, in Iceland, Norway, TDF (okay, sea-trout), Kola.
It has to be salmon really, for Nev, so while a sea-trout is slapped down at the hut with a satisfied grimace, you know (because he tells you as a matter of fact) he’d rather a 5 lb grilse than a 5 lb sea-trout. As for brown trout, they are something you catch by mistake on a double-hander.
Nev likes gadgets, many of them appended to his Mercedes people-carrier, which is no ordinary 4×4. More like a mobile offshoot of Farlows complete with custom designed in-car lap top that furnishes him with the latest fish catches, some of them fish he has himself caught.
Nev follows fishing fashion as a matter of course, though has far too much fishing sense to become a slave to new angling kit.
Thus he was the first to load his reels with intermediate Wet2 sink-tips, and they always seemed to winkle him out an extra fish. And despite the advent of skagits and shooting heads, he has the confidence to load up his go-to Mach I to contribute to the important matter of his salmon tally.
For Nev is not uncompetititve. Not in relation to his decades-long fishing friendship with Robert. (He and Robert started fishing together, meeting at a Hugh Falkus spey-casting course in the early Nineties where the garrulous old legend laid into them with the F-word and got them hooked into a lifetime of fishing.) In fact there is nothing the two of them like better, apart from tying salmon flies, than going through the cottage catch book over the past 12 seasons, with tumblers of Grouse, comparing the ups and down of their intertwined salmon careers.
“Oh that was the July week you blanked at Hendersyde,” says Nev, “and I caught that 15-pounder” before being reminded by his friend that an autumn trip to the Ettrick yielded a “twenty” to the Robertian rod, but only a small coloured grilse to Nev.
Like all good anglers, Nev has an eye for the main chance and will winkle out a fish as if by magic from the pool you have just been fishing.
“Do you mind if I just try out this new 13-footer?” he asks of you with studied indifference and the pool you are tenanting for the evening session as the barbecue fires up, then appears almost embarrassed to pull a sea-liced five-pounder from the well-rested stream you were looking forward to covering.
But it’s all done with a great deal of charm, so you feel you’ve been robbed and yet have quite enjoyed the experience.