The background

I remember the words of wisdom passed on to me by a certain Dave Scougal, a giant among trout anglers whose 18-stone bulk  and blunt approach to life gained at the sharp end of Edinburgh’s constabulary, hid startlingly delicate skills in fly-dressing and casting.

“You’ll no catch anything without yer flees in the water,” he remarked one evening as I struggled with yet another change of patterns and false-cast my line relentlessly into a Loch Leven dusk.

Loch Leven at dusk
‘ . . . I relentlessly false-cast into a Loch Leven dusk’

He had a couple of 2-pounders in the boat; I had none, testament to his four-fly leader, an 11-foot 6in rod and very short downwind casts.  Plus a lifetime’s experience of winkling out trout from every quarter of Scotland  in every season and all weather conditions.

It was a sound piece of advice from a master and I have never forgotten it.  Delicate of touch Dave most certainly was. However,  light of foot he was not. And one evening, his line inexplicably snagged round the boat engine, he bent over to untangle it and vanished headlong into the dark waters of Loch Leven with all the grace of a startled hippo.

He surfaced close to the boat, thrashing and spluttering, his wellingtons, oiled coat and overtrousers threatening to drag him to a watery grave.  Now weighing close to 20-stone, his first instinct was to grab the gunwhale of the boat, nearly catapulting me and our companion into the loch beside him.

“Calm down, Dave, you’re scaring the fish,” we implored him. It was a safe bet that any trout within a 100-yard radius of St Serf’s had already moved on.

With considerable difficulty we manoeuvred the drookit Dave over the stern of the boat to safety where he lay wheezing, coughing and shivering in the scuppers. Remarkably, his rod tip was protruding from the water and was retrieved. We fished on till his chattering teeth melted our hearts and we took him home before he developed hypothermia.

Angling’s not really
about fishing at all . . .

If you were to dissect this peculiar pastime of ours and calculate the actual amount of time actually spent with bait in the water as a proportion of the hours spent planning, shopping, theorising and debating, not to mention recounting and recollecting adventures near and far, the result I figure would show an inordinate imbalance.

Because angling’s not really about fishing at all, at least not the bit where the line end and water actually touch.  It is about people and places, wonderful insights into nature, both human and wild; it is about cameraderie, rivalries, luck and laughter.  It is about spirit and perseverance; it is about learning and it is about life.

That’s why Not Exactly Fishing is more about the off-stage incidents of my angling life rather than tussles with gigantic Grand Banks cod or superhuman squid in the Azores.

It was going to be a book, but frankly the decks are awash with angling memoirs.  And if I was lucky it might sell a few hundred copies before ending up on the remainder lists.  So you can enjoy it – or not as the case may be – here for free.

I’ll add a chapter as I often as I can.  And if there are any budding illustrators out there who can capture the essence of the whole thing with a few simple cartoon-type penstrokes, let me know. There’s not likely to be any money in it, but there might be a few laughs and maybe even a day out with the rod.

Chapters . . .

One Responses

  • The Not Exactly Fishing concept is totally fascinating, and so, so true! Angling provides us with our own communities. It’s not a sport. It’s a way of life!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *