Alastair Robertson: The river wasn't just high, it was a torrent

Every year at this time I resolve to put in extra effort on the brown trout. There are lots of them in the rivers, unlike salmon, and no one cares how many you catch.

Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod
Alastair Robertson. Picture: Donald Macleod

There was a warm spell with us in the middle of March of about three days when midges started hatching and appearing in clusters between the white Nevada rose and holly bush outside the kitchen window.

It is admittedly the most sheltered spot in the whole of the north of Scotland so the midges were being lulled into a false sense of security. But there they were, and the sun shone and daughter’s boyfriend, who knows about these things, thought that the temperature had risen to such an extraordinary level that flies might start hatching and the brownies begin stirring from their comatose cold weather state and take an interest in things appearing from the mud or settling on the surface.

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So I discussed this with the dogs, Crumpet and Waffle, being the only two people in the household with whom it is possible to have a sensible conversation on the question of sporting activities. And, after a certain amount of snuffing of the air, we all agreed it was worth giving the brownies a whirl.

Which we did, after rifling through the cupboard in the downstairs loo for casts and flies and bits and pieces, since my son has gone and locked up all the good stuff because he doesn’t trust me to put it all back neatly the way he likes it.


So we set off on a Saturday at about 11am. And it was half sunny and I had in the back of my mind phrases like “the midday rise” when brownies crash constantly onto the fly as heat and light converge perfectly to induce a hatch of fly. I once caught five brownies, all well over half a pound, in quick succession and in high dirty water on the Sligachan in Skye.

I told the two dogs this but they were standing on the dashboard watching a cock pheasant.

When we got to the river it wasn’t just high, it was a raging brown torrent which I hadn’t anticipated and it rather put me off.

Even so we flicked the line down the edge of eddies and slack water close into the bank with a green nymphy thing without any wings which was meant to sink to the bottom and look like look a scrummy pupa (or is it larva?) emerging from the river bed.


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But the dogs chased four ducks, dug for mice and came back with the leg of a long dead sheep. Yum yum.