Last week I had the pleasure of returning to one of my favourite beats to fish, Wester Elchies on the River Spey. I was invited to fish by one of my very good friends who equally shares a passion for the beat going back many many years.
My friend and I have had the pleasure of fishing the beat on numerous occasions over the years and many a dram has been consumed whilst discussing tactics and recalling memories from previous trips. My friends brother made up the third person in our party and we were, as ever, looked after throughout by our now equally good friend and ghillie, Sam Bremner.
Sam is a great guy. Full of stories of previous encounters and always there to help you net your fish just when you think you are probably going to have to land your fish on your own – not easy in some of the pools on the beat.
This particular trip was unlike any other. My good friend has not been well in recent times and trips to the Spey are becoming more and more difficult to the point that he believes that our trip of last week will probably be his last. That’s both a horrible and sobering thought for someone you hold in such high regard and who you have enjoyed so many good times with together.
My friend has also been there for me as not just a good buddy but has helped mentor me in business over many years for which I have always been truly grateful. The 3 days seemed long in coming around and whilst we were there as always went too quickly, perhaps on this occasion because we all thought, but didn’t say, that this might be the last trip to the beat together.
The pools of Wester Elchies gives the angler many options to fish in both higher and lower water. Some pools are a delight to fish like the pool below which is called Pol Shuan.
And other are quite simply impossible such as this pool below called the Rhynd. I challenge anyone to come up with a pool that is more difficult to wade than the Rhynd, especially between the “Two Pigs” which are great big rocks some 40 feet apart and were apply named as the two pigs.
Sam will tell you that the tail of the pool is one of his favourites to fish and has been very productive over the years but not so for me despite trying to stick with it!
We arrived on the Sunday night and made the obligatory trip along the track to the hut to see how the water was looking as we eagerly awaited the first cast next day. The water was high but dropping slowly and was pretty peaty in colour although Sam as ever was Mr Positive assuring us that the river was in good order and that we would most certainly be in with a shout of a fish.
My friend and his brother chose to fish Pol Shaun first and I went down to the Boat pool which is a very productive pool on the beat and surrenders many a fish over the season. I arrived to witness a chap on the far bank already playing a fish which gave me great hope. The pool seemed to be full of fish and in particular a lot of smaller grilse leaping all over the place. The hot spot on the Wester Elchies side is right outside Sam’s house and as I approached it anticipation was high.
Boom – a great take on my smallish Cascade fly (photo above) and I was into a fish. Being a relatively small fish I decided that I could land this myself as the net was right behind me up against Sam’s garden fence. It’s quite a high bank in the Boat Pool but thankfully the fish slid over the rim of the net and I was delighted – what a great start to our trip!!
Later that morning I was again in front of Sam’s house when again I was into another fish! This time Sam was with me but the end result was not so good. Just as I was playing it towards the net in Sam’s hands the fly came loose and we stood looking at each other thinking – “how did that get off?” But it did and anyway, the “tug is the drug” for me and I was happy to have connected with yet another small fish.
Back at the hut and no further fish reported although my pals had also seen a fair number of fish which always keeps your spirits up. We fished on after lunch but nothing much else happened so it was decided on an end of day dram before heading back to the lodge and supper where the stories and tactics for the following day were top of our agendas.
Day 2 and my first cast in Delagyle pool right outside the top hut. I love that pool and from memory I think I have been successful in getting a fish (or even a kelt!) on every trip to the beat so anticipation was high. Sam stayed with me and after only half a dozen casts boom – a fish took my fly and I was able to photograph Sam holding it before it shot off on it’s journey upstream (see the photo above).
As much as i would have loved my friend to have connected with a fish it was not to be despite Sam and I trying our best to put him in the right places with the right flies etc. Amazingly, (or maybe not actually) my friend was not in the least bit upset he hadn’t got a fish as for him, just being there was absolutely what it was all about.
For me the sum total of my 3 days was 2 fish caught and 4 fish lost, 2 at the net! Perfectly acceptable few days fishing although I have to say the lasting memory of the trip is of course the thought that I won’t be sharing any new memories with my friend on the banks of Wester Elchies as his illness gets worse so I will just have to hold onto the many many memories I do have built up over all the years fishing together and when I am next back on the beat, Sam and I will of course raise a glass of Aberlour Malt Whisky and toast to Fishing and Friends – that’s what’s it’s all about after all and I for one am lucky to have had the opportunity to have met a man who will always be in my heart both on the river bank and indeed, at all times.
Cheers my friend!