MY MOST MEMORABLE fish is neither the largest, nor the greatest fighter, nor the most difficult, but without doubt is the one which gave me the greatest pleasure. John and I had fished together for the best part of 40 years. I was very much his junior in age and he was into his 90th year when we made our last trip together. At that stage he was pretty lame from a misspent youth playing good-class rugby and latterly had developed severe sight impairment. None of this blighted his enthusiasm to cast a fly and as usual on the Sunday morning, I drove us to the lake and set him up sitting comfortably on a shooting stick in his favourite spot. He was a beautiful caster and there were no obstructions for him to avoid, so placing 20 yards of line straight out in front of him took little effort. The weather was perfect, warm with a slight breeze and overcast sky. Midges were hatching and dancing on the water and so I tied on a size 14 Buzzer and wished him luck. I began fishing beside him and was soon into a nice rainbow. Having landed it I then checked on John, who had not had a touch. As we all know, the wily trout will often suck in the fly and eject it quickly without giving any indication of his presence. So, I stood beside him with my polaroids on scanning the water. His cast had landed about 15 yards from the bank and I spotted a large fish cruising upwind towards us about 10 yards out. I whispered “John, slow figure of eight and stop when I tell you.” As his fly reached the line of the fish, I whispered “Stop” and the fly slowly sank a few more inches below the surface. The trout moved toward the fly and opened his mouth. “Lift the rod!” I cried and then he was on with the fly firmly in the upper lip. John played the fish beautifully and after about 10 minutes brought it to the net. It was a wonderful deep-bellied wild brown of about 4lb. As I returned it to the water, the smile on John’s face had to be seen to be believed. “Come on then,” he said, “off to the pub for a pint. My round.” That was the last time we fished together as he passed away the following weekend. I am sure he died a happy man with the thought of that fish in his mind and a smile on his face. The reason why this was my most memorable fish was that I didn’t catch it; I merely loaned my eyes to my old friend to enable him to catch it and the pleasure of that last morning together will be with me forever.
John and his last trout.