Let’s get this straight right from the start – this is not a tale of internet dating for somebody in their 60’s. This is a tale of enlightenment and discovery – even after 37 years of marriage. So if your preference is for the subject matter of dating then best you cast your line elsewhere. On the other hand, if you’re a fisherman with a spouse or partner, then read on.
As I said we have been married for 37 years and so it was last August, on the occasion of my birthday and retiral from full-time employment, that our three kids gifted me a day’s fishing at the Lake of Menteith. My wife had recently discovered the delights and opportunities of Itison vouchers (google it) so having consulted our calendars (still busy despite the semi-retirement) we identified a date in September that meant we could book a night at the Lake of Menteith Hotel with afternoon tea and dinner and plan it so we could fish the following day. All was booked and so it was that, for the first time in 37 years my wife was planning to come join me and genuinely wanted to try her hand at fly fishing.
To be fair she had accompanied me on the odd occasion, one of which will be told in a future article called Cheesy Wotsits and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (all true), another when I just about drowned the guest of one of my customers after she (hence my wife’s presence) failed to step into the boat but rather onto the gunwale which promptly left the dock, as did she, unfortunately not into the boat (perhaps a future article)and another when we had to fend off a herd of over inquisitive stotts (bullocks) as we and a group of kids headed across a field in Glen Isla – but I digress.
This was the first time we had planned for her to spend a whole day fishing from a boat with a rod for herself and a plan to learn to cast a fly.
All went well(ish) as the week before the trip we were summoned down to Oxfordshire following the birth of our first grandchild who had to remain in hospital for a few days – we were needed to look after the dog (some of you will recognise this duty). But it was a great joy to be able to see our grandson despite the slight concern that we might not get back in time for the fishing trip (priorities slipping). I had foreseen it could be a close call so packed all the kit in the car so we could go direct to the Lake of Menteith (LoM) on our way home. Our grandson got home, and we left Oxfordshire on the Thursday with a plan to celebrate that evening, after enjoying our afternoon tea. Now it has to be said that the two previous afternoon tea’s we had enjoyed were at Gleneagles Hotel and Crieff Hydro Hotel – both of which were exceptional, and we thought that it was worth hurrying (terrible traffic) to get to the hotel before the 5pm finish of afternoon tea. We just made it – to find the tea consisted of a pot of tea or coffee and a scone with jam. Nothing more to be said. But I have to say we really enjoyed the dinner, watching the anglers on the loch (sorry lake), the post-dinner walk along the lakeshore and a thoroughly pleasant stay. Marvellous, we’ll do that again.
Next morning, we drove the 50 yards to the fishing car park where a frenzy of anglers, all kitted out with big boxes of tackle, many rods and much enthusiasm were piling into the boats and making their way across the lake. We waited until it had died down and made our approach to the staff who helped us find a boat (there was only one left), lifejackets, landing net and off we went. I had an 8 fish ticket and was encouraged by the conditions that we might get close to that number if all went well. If I’m honest, I was hoping rather than expecting that my wife would catch a fish. As we set off she remarked how funny it would be for the kids if she caught more than I – to which I did respond but have decided not to share that detail with you.
We tried a few drifts without any luck although we had seen a few of the other boats find fish. I have to admit to having been a competition angler in my late teens and early twenties and LoM was one of the venues for the Scottish team competitions so although I hadn’t fished LoM for years I felt I knew enough to select the right flies and tactics. After some time I finally hooked a fish of about 2 lbs. While playing it out I thought it would be a good chance for my wife to learn the art of netting someone else’s fish from a boat. I gave her a clear instruction that I would tell her when to put the net into the water and that I would bring the fish to her and on no account was she to make a stab for the fish. Once the fish was played out and I had pulled it above the net she should then lift it thereby netting the fish and avoiding the chance of snagging the nylon or other flies on the cast and committing the cardinal sin of losing someone else’s fish. That fish still lives in the Lake of Menteith as far as I am aware.
What actually happened was that I played the fish out and she followed my instruction to lower the net and to hold it in one position while I brought the fish to the net. As the fish came over the net I was a bit slow in realising that she was waiting for me to issue the next instruction i.e. to lift it, at which point the fly pinged from the fish’s mouth. It was as startled as I was, looked around a bit then took off as I said to her lift it, lift it now, quickly….but it had gone. This was neither my wife’s fault nor mine – this was why they call it fishing and not catching. So, we sat down, picked up the rod and carried on. It’s hard to convince anyone, not least my wife and you readers, that I did not blame her for losing that fish – but the truth is it wasn’t her fault, nor mine, it’s just how it is – I’ve lost quite a few fish at the net and suspect you have too.
And then it happened. Quite nonchalantly she announced that she had one on and she did. I have to admit surprise but also absolute delight as she set about playing that fish, with some verbal assistance on when to tighten, when to let it run, keep the rod up, push it out away from the boat, let it run, pull it in, hold the rod up and so on until eventually it was played out and came quietly to the net to be scooped up by yours truly. The first fish in the boat on that day and it was for her, my delighted and overjoyed wife, and no one was happier than I was. It really meant a lot to her to be able to have cast her own fly, hook and land a fish – a great achievement.
And so, I would urge all of the men who for years have gone about their fishing without their wives to try encouraging them to join you and share with them the experiences that you have enjoyed. We will now plan to fish quite a few times together over the coming season and I hope that we can share many more fishy tales.