Around the world in 80 (fish­ing) days

Country Life Every Week - - Reel Life -

HAV­ING sworn solemnly by St Zeno that I would ac­cept ev­ery fish­ing in­vi­ta­tion dur­ing my 61st year, I have been as good as my word and, dur­ing 2016, clocked up nigh on 80 days with rod in hand—for which I truly thank the Almighty (surely a COUN­TRY LIFE sub­scriber?).

I man­aged a record bone­fish tally (127) and more sal­mon than any sea­son for a decade, but which of my close en­coun­ters might qual­ify as fish of the year? Can­di­dates would in­clude a size­able blue shark, a 20lb Rus­sian springer and a no­table cock grayling.

I fluked a nice tar­pon in Cuba while blind-cast­ing my 12-weight into the glare and, on Ice­land’s Grimsa—work­ing a pair of tiny tung­sten-headed nymphs un­der a strike in­di­ca­tor—i hooked a lively sea trout that be­came en­tan­gled in weeds, snapped off the point fly it had taken and was landed with the drop­per em­bed­ded in its left pec­toral. At 7lb, that was both a mem­o­rable and an un­lucky spec­i­men.

An­other dra­matic hook-up oc­curred in March, on my fourth day at St François la­goon in the Sey­chelles. As our sk­iff’s keel sighed into the edge of the sand flat, I could see bone­fish tails scis­sor­ing the calm morn­ing sur­face for hun­dreds of yards ahead.

On a longish line, I flung my small Chartreuse Clouser at an es­pe­cially prom­i­nent bow wave and was im­me­di­ately con­nected. My Rip­tide chat­tered as the fish pow­ered away to­wards the drop-off, where I saw the pale gleam of a turn­ing flank—no bone­fish, but a mod­estly sized gi­ant trevally.

At this point, guide Rudi shouted ‘shark’ and there was a per­ilous con­vul­sion at the end of my fly­line, then slack­ness. The gi­ant trevally is a crea­ture so ag­gres­sive that it some­times even at­tacks an­glers’ wad­ing boots, but, this time, it had met its neme­sis.

I reeled in its torso, the rear por­tion sheared off in a cres­cent bite by some cruis­ing lemon shark. The geet’s mouth was still gulp­ing in alarm. It would have weighed per­haps 15lb and proved the only (three-quar­ters of) one landed by our party all week.

Later, we stopped at a re­mote islet where you could hand-feed a school of res­i­dent bone­fish. They rubbed against our arms like kit­tens and greed­ily nib­bled noo­dles and scraps of meat, suck­ing my fin­gers. Some of those bonies were huge, but cast­ing for them was ver­boten.

In ret­ro­spect, the two ‘top’ catches with which I was in­volved hap­pened rather nearer to home. In mid July, my fa­therin-law (The Doc­tor) and I were head­ing for the Lax­ford when a red stag pranced out across the A9 near Dru­mochter and nar­rowly missed my Dis­cov­ery.

‘Let’s see if we can spot a Mac­nab en route,’ sug­gested The Doc­tor, so we stopped at the Falls of Shin and spied our sal­mon, but failed in scout­ing for grouse.

How­ever, near Rog­art, I saw— feed­ing in­sou­ciantly on the verge along­side his darker com­pan­ions—a pure al­bino jack­daw. ‘Def­i­nitely an aus­pi­cious sign,’ we agreed and sped west to­wards the coast.

One of the pre­car­i­ous splen­dours of a spate river is that, given a lit­tle water, you never quite know what to ex­pect— around the next cor­ner, there might al­ways be an ad­vance guard of fresh fish run­ning up from the last tide. ‘It’s just a ques­tion of find­ing him,’ points out Robert the gil­lie prag­mat­i­cally, as our first pool pro­duces zero re­sponse. When we reach the Fern, I let The Doc­tor run it down first, then fol­low him with my cop­per­bod­ied Sun­ray Shadow.

At the neck, there is a line of boul­ders where fish some­times stop for a breather af­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing the rapids of the gorge be­low and, for once, I pitch my fly neatly into the slot where the stream buck­les off the stones. First strip—a boil. Next pull and a chrome-bright fish hur­tles into the run with my Owner sin­gle firmly in its scis­sors.

The Doc­tor falls silent as, even­tu­ally, I ease a broad-shoul­dered, fresh sal­mon over the net. On his cal­i­brated wad­ing stick—which, at that mo­ment, I sense he would like to wrap around my neck— it mea­sures 34in, about 15lb. ‘That’s taken the pres­sure off me,’ he sighs mourn­fully.

Next day, at the same pool, Robert arms The Doc­tor with a Sun­ray—‘i’m not re­ally a Sun­ray man,’ he protests, but, al­most at once, his lure dis­ap­pears in a de­li­cious sur­face swirl and a lively grilse is on. A look of ap­pre­hen­sion crosses the good Doc­tor’s face when he sees I’m the one to net it—‘be care­ful with that thing, lad,’ he mut­ters—but all goes har­mo­niously. ‘Well, you’re a Sun­ray man now,’ pro­claims Robert.

That af­ter­noon, I was walk­ing past him to the head of a run and The Doc­tor crowed: ‘Com­ing up to con­sult the ex­pert, eh?’ Reader, I throt­tled him.

‘There was a per­ilous con­vul­sion at the end of my fly­line

David Pro­fumo caught his first fish at the age of five, and, off the water, he’s a nov­el­ist and bi­og­ra­pher. He lives up a glen in Perthshire.

At the shark end: three-quar­ters of a gi­ant trevally still counts, right?

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