Northern Lines by Keith Williams
After extolling the virtues of living by a salmon river in my June column, I quickly found myself in a role reversal.
A fishing trip to Lewis had been booked in the fall of 2021 and was becoming more and more prominent in my diary as the day of departure approached. Gone is the luxury of knowing that if the conditions weren’t right, I could be back home in minutes, putting my efforts into something other than fishing.
Instead, I experienced all the doubts and neuroses that tend to plague anglers on vacation. Since the Hebrides are not famous for early salmon, would there be fish to catch in the rivers and lochs? Would the weather conditions be conducive to good fishing even if salmon were present? Online catch reports were eagerly scrutinized; weather forecasts viewed with more attention to detail than normal; and the messages exchanged with experts in the fishery.
In the end, I consoled myself with the thought that I was in no different position than the vast majority of people who fish salmon and indirectly pay my salary. I would just have to try my luck. Also, even though the fishing was not good, I was revisiting a place that I had always found restful and longed to revisit.
It turned out that I didn’t need to worry. Fresh salmon came into the system from the Atlantic with every tide, and the rainfall had put the river in good shape. After dinner the first night, a short walk up the river from the lodge was rewarded with a little grilse who caught a fly I had tied especially for the holidays. I had cast the fly half a dozen times or less.
Most vacation anglers would agree that the difference between catching two salmon and one on a trip is only one salmon, whereas the difference between catching nothing and one salmon tends more toward infinity. After making sure the potential for a sleepless week had been banished, I settled easily into the fishing rhythm of the familiar pools.
As I fished downstream towards the sea loch, I absorbed the splendor of my surroundings until, somewhat startled, a glance at my wristwatch informed me that it was rapidly approaching midnight. .
The evening set the tone for the rest of the week. All experienced members of the fishing team caught plenty of fish and most days were full of mishaps and stories of near misses.
Sometimes being a fisherman on vacation isn’t a bad thing after all.
Dr. Keith Williams, director of Kyle Fisheries.