CONVERSATIONS with your dentist are often a little one-sided.

“I’ve just bought my sons a fishing rod.”
“Aghh-ha.”
“Just a cheap job, they’re very keen.”
“Aghh-ha.”
“We’ve tried some casting with it, but I sort of wonder if, eh, you could give us some expert advice on techniques.”
“Aghhhhhh”
“Oh, sorry did that hurt?”

With a half-numb jaw and a mouth occupied by at least two fingers, several items of dental cutlery and a tube that sounds like a council drain cleaner, there is scope for only a strangled grunt from the chair. I have the feeling I am staring into the eyes of Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man.

So it was soon after, that our little group gathered on the side of a local pond armed with a fly rod – mine – a line and a small piece of cotton. Two energetic pre-teenage sons wrestled to see who would be first to throw the other into the water.

It had, of course, by this time become clear that the boys were about as interested in the art of fly fishing as my mother-in-law was in the future of the internet. My dentist, however, was unquestionably enthusiastic.

We discussed for a little while the rod, its characteristics and the theory of how it is possible to wave it back and forth while keeping airborne 20 metres of something akin to a very thin washing line.

I did several demonstrations to the party, now slightly enlarged with mums and toddlers, three pensioners and a mad, barking mongrel. The little piece of cotton attached to the end of the line in lieu of fly landed gently in the middle of the pond amid much weed and water lilies.

After we chased off the dog which had leapt into the water in pursuit of the piece of cotton, I handed over the rod. The dentist swished it back and forth. Zorro would have been impressed. “Why are we not using an actual fly?” he asked in a slighted tone at being given the beginner treatment. “You’ll see,” I replied.

Lift firmly, pause, cast forward, I instructed. Take it gently and smoothly.

Shots like a musket echoed round the park. The women gathered up their children, the dog began another paroxysm of barking. I sighed.

“It is not a whip,” I advised examining the frayed cotton on the end of the line. “And this is why we are not using a real fly yet.”

An hour later, our hopeful angler had graduated from Wild Bill Hickock through the intermediate stage of flying spaghetti and was able to cast a line, oh a good 5 metres or so.

Of course, the excitement of a new skill and the thrill of the chase demands some real-time activity and he was hopelessly hooked on the idea of fishing. I invited him for a day out.

Butterstone is a lovely Perthshire water, one of the five Blairgowrie lochs that lie just east of Dunkeld. Tree-fringed and 120 acres it offers reasonable shelter and plenty of room for the 25 or so boats. It is regularly stocked with a mixture of rainbow, brown and blue trout. It also contains a number of specimen pike.

I had always had reasonable success there over the years and, I figured, it would be a charming spot to have a relaxing and convivial day out with a fair chance of some luck for our beginner even if he ended up just dangling his rod over the side of the boat.

Luck, it transpired, was taking a day off. Sunshine is the enemy of the angler. Lots of brilliant sunshine, cloudless skies and lots of no wind are an axis of evil of which us fishy folk despair. Beautiful for hill walking, the beach, even digging the garden; hopeless for tempting that wary trout which can spot the shadow of a line even from the darkest depths where it is cooler and the oxygen levels higher.

The omens were not good. The loch had that glassy, brilliant stillness and high reflection where, at a distance, it was difficult to see the join between water and shore. The boat sat motionless. It was a day for casting out a long line of the type which sinks fast to the bottom, and then retrieving an imitation of some sub-aquatic beetle, larvae or nymph at various speeds. It was a day for quiet stealth, patience and maybe some meditation. Maybe a good book if things were really bad. It was not a day for impatient beginners.

The dentist was waving my treasured six-piece ‘smuggler’ rod with glee. Line flashed back and forth with abandon landing in the water, sometimes in front of the boat, sometimes behind, but frequently in heaps and with all the delicacy of a Buckie trawler’s net. We chatted. We toured the loch. The fish sulked.

Another angler approached. Overhead in graceful spirals wheeled an osprey, a visitor from the neighbouring Loch of the Lowes RSPB reserve, no doubt. It coasted down to about 100ft effortlessly riding the air currents, its striped head scanning the water this way and that. We turned our gaze skywards and sat enthralled.

Without warning it dipped, pulling in its wings and plunging recklessly towards the water perhaps 30 metres from the boat. As it fell the massive bird twisted and weaved tracking its prey in the water. Then at full speed it crashed into the loch, talons outstretched disappearing entirely for a second or so. We were awe-struck. I gaped transfixed without thought of reaching into my bag for the camera or binoculars.

With much noisy splashing it broke the surface and showing apparent complete disregard for the laws of nature took off, casting a shower of sparkling raindrops onto the surface. Huge unhurried wing beats carried it upwards. It its claws squirmed a trout of well over a pound, I guessed.

In two swift movements the bird moved the fish from a horizontal position to one where it was in line with its own body, cutting down wind resistance. It disappeared over the tree tops. Lunch was served. The dentist beamed as well he might. We’d just had a ringside seat at one of the greatest angling demonstrations around. And at least we had had some confirmation that there were actually some fish in the loch.

Instilled with fresh enthusiasm, he picked up the rod again. A few minutes later he broke my concentration: “I think I’ve hooked myself.”

Not for nothing do anglers wear thorn-proof jackets and a hat in all weathers. A wayward cast from a colleague, a chance gust, can result in a trout fly – or worse, a hook-laden spinner – landing in all sorts of unexpected corners.

I blinked as my boat-mate pointed to his head. A trickle of blood ran down his temple. The small fly had just missed his skip cap and embedded itself in his forehead on the hairline. It was well and truly sunk, right over the barb.

“Just pull it out,” he directed nonchalantly.

“You’re the surgeon,” I replied. ”

There are two ways of removing a barbed hook. Cut off the little ring end with a pair of pliers and pull the hook all the way through. Or, push up and down and backwards at the same time. Neither is very pleasant. I’d never had to do either before. I decided on Plan B. “Are we talking NHS or private treatment, here?” I asked.

 He smiled wanly.  “Hold very still; this will hurt.” He was a brave lad and the hook was extracted more easily than I had expected. “Would you like to take it home in a box?” I inquired. He managed another wry smile as I handed over a plaster to stop the blood ruining his designer shirt.

His first day’s angling drew to a close shortly after when there was a sudden splash and I glanced around to see him looking puzzled at the butt of the rod he was left holding; the top sections floated on the water a few feet from the boat. “It just flew off,” he said.

I pulled in the line, retrieved the rest of the rod and went to reattach it all. It quickly became obvious that the sections had parted company because one of the joints had completely fractured, probably due to his vigorous casting as the sections loosened. A new part – or more likely a complete new rod – beckoned.

He was happy to sit back, sunbathe and snooze while I fished on like a demon, determined that the osprey should not be the only victor that day. Five minutes before we were due to leave, I finally landed a 2.5lb rainbow trout trawled from the depths with a never-say-die lure and handed it over.

My dentist set off for home in his fancy sports car with a trophy to show his sons, scarred and sunburned, but possibly hooked for life. I was heading north for another outing – this time alone – nursing a broken rod, an empty basket and the prospect of a fish supper in Pitlochry for tea.

An appointment with the dentist is never cheap these days.

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