I KNOW there are many sporting enthusiasts who see the pursuit of their favourite activity as something akin to marital respite care.

It’s a laddish, buddy-buddy thing; a few hours, days or sometimes weeks with the Tartan Army foot soldiers, supporting the club XV on its annual tour of Ireland, putting out on the greens of the Algarve, testing the piste at Val d’Isere, cashing in some or all of the accrued domestic goodwill chips.

Partners on these excursions are generally excluded to enable the full range of boyish humour, behaviour and general adolescent excesses to be enjoyed without too much fear of feminine ridicule and condemnation.

I have enjoyed social rugby tours; long coach journeys filled with beer-fuelled joi de vivre, bravado and banter. And the minimal expenditure of effort on the turf. Return coach journeys filled with dozing, hungover individuals bearing the deathly pallor and pink eyes of the bacchanalian.

The fishing trips have been greater in number and much farther afield, and as a plea in mitigation m’lord, have entailed serious devotion to the sport. Unlike the debauched antics of a party of young Angus potato farmers in Orkney one summer whose extramural angling exploits in Kirkwall may be ogled by subscribing to my £25 a minute blog at http://www.extremeanglingexcesses.com.

I have never used a fishing excursion as a passport to solitude. I don’t find my own company much of a tonic for anything more than a few hours at a time. Talking to myself on the riverbank tends to generate exceedingly familiar replies, albeit ones which I do rely on with some faith.

On the other hand, a companion, even a novice, provokes stimulating thoughts, challenging ideas and introduces an element of competition into the entire proceedings.

My wife has always regarded my angling pursuits with a kind of mildly cynical amusement. True there have been undercurrents of sarcasm when the latest piece of paraphernalia is sneaked into the house under plain wrapper. “Do the fish know it’s a new fly reel?” I am occasionally asked. But a benign infatuation such as mine does unquestionably resolve birthday and Christmas present dilemmas forever.

While passions for fish and their capture may run high, reciprocal feelings among the prey seem certain to remain coolly submerged, which from the angling widow’s point of view is a plus. Better still, she knows that a random study of my angling photograph album, especially the candid shots of tired and emotional colleagues after long day on the bankside, reveals gaunt and grizzled men looking like inmates of some Siberian gulag and a noticeable absence of anyone resembling the likes of female celebrity anglers like Fiona Armstrong, Faith Brown or Diana Rigg.

Nonetheless, undaunted by previous abortive attempts to forge a husband and wife fly-fishing partnership, we took to the wilds of north-west Sutherland for a few days in early September recently.

The weather was, frankly, appalling. As we headed north from Ullapool, there was no sign of any of the majestic peaks like Suilven, Stack Polly, Ben Stack and Foinaven, indeed it was hard to see the roadside for the mist, rain and low cloud.

At Durness a walk to Faraidh Head meant enduring a sand storm of Saharan proportions and we retreated south the next day to the comforts of the Scourie Hotel, a site of pilgrimage among wild trout fishing devotees.

The hotel operates a novel allocation system for its guests to ensure fair distribution of the most favoured angling lochs each day. Our late arrival consigned us to the bottom of the rankings ladder and shortly after lunch we picked up the keys to a boat on a little roadside lochan just a few miles from the hotel.

Fly fishing is not learned in an afternoon. Nor in 50 years of afternoons; its enduring appeal, like golf perhaps, lies in the infinite combinations of weather, location, equipment, individuals, and luck on which success or failure turn.

I was anticipating delivering some simple casting instruction in the little boat well away from the bank and heathery vegetation. I envisaged two or three small trout, if we were lucky, attaching themselves to her line, allowing her to land them, a quick picture and returned safely to the water.

I had not, however, even after more anniversaries than I care to reveal, considered my wife’s rowing abilities. I should have suspected. “It’s like riding a bike,” I counselled. A poor simile. I already knew that Chris Hoy has nothing to fear from my wife’s cycling prowess.

A small glass-fibre boat in a steady breeze on a small loch with a couple of tiny islands means one thing; rowing is essential and regular. I was manacled to the rowlocks and we whistled down the water faster than you can say Ellen MacArthur.

And yes, during that short drift my novice angling partner did catch and land her first wild brown trout, a beautifully marked little specimen of about 5oz which she insisted was carefully returned, darting off into the shadows to grow to something more challenging, perhaps. Pictures were taken and smiles and much humour exchanged. Privately I congratulated my ghillie-ing.

I had not yet cast a line, the sky was greying ominously and my right arm was twitching nervously. It was time for the Steve Redgrave rowing course.

I demonstrated, pulling us well away from the shore. We changed seats. We spun round like a dervish in ever-decreasing circles until grounding once more on the rocks. Again we tried; again we pirouetted with much splashing of oars and unladylike language. We were both relieved this exercise was not taking place on Rouken Glen boating pond under the gaze of Sunday afternoon strollers.

During the next few hours we visited most shores and all of the islands – none of them intentionally – and wove a mesmerising track around the loch. But at the end of the day persistence and willpower had triumphed and she navigated the little boat neatly back to the jetty on her own. In my bag lay half-a-dozen wild brown trout of about 8 ozs.

The Ghillie Herself was born.

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