John Archibald enjoys a day to remember on the River Findhorn
There comes a time, even for a Bad Fisherman, when all aspects of the cosmos combine to present you with the perfect fishing day. Recently, for me, it was the River Findhorn.
Some friends had taken Dallas Lodge in Morayshire for a week and we – my wife and younger daughter plus Cleo our arthritic black lab and Colombo, a neighbour’s black lab that we were dog sitting – had been invited to join them.
A week’s sporting activities had been planned from fishing, golf and hill walking to capercaille spotting, boules and rounders. The weather and the midges had put paid to the boules and rounders, but the fishing was, of course, mandatory.
My host John and I had checked out the local salmon fishing opportunities and had concluded that a day on the Forres Angling Association stretch of the River Findhorn was called for.
The Findhorn was running low, probably too low for a decent chance of a salmon, but we reckoned that the forecast rain showers may just be enough to raise the water level a few inches in a day or two, which was all it would take.
The day dawned bright with a strong north wind blowing upstream and the river still low; not ideal, but hey, we were Bad Fisherman for whom hope springs eternal, there’s always one daft fish about and YOU NEVER KNOW!
Ken Walker in The Forres Tackle Shop, who issues the FAA water tickets, had advised us to try our luck starting from the Sonies pool at Bridge of Moy and to work downstream to the Sea Pool at Findhorn Bay. By 10am we were at the riverside casting the first fly of the day.
John had promised some of the other guests that he would join them for a game of golf in the afternoon, so by 1.30pm he was gone leaving me to enjoy this wonderful stretch of water all to myself.
Some salmon rivers, like the Tay, are huge, black, deep, fast-flowing monsters that occasionally claim the lives of fishermen. Some, like the Spey, are soft, whispering, and beguile you with their hidden charms.
The Findhorn, in its lower beats, is like a smaller version of the Spey; long sweeping pools skirted by broad sun-bleached reaches of pebble, birch trees and heathland adding a southern feel to the scene.
I had executed a near perfect Spey cast to the far bank when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, for I had heard one of nature’s most exciting noises; a large skein of geese in V formation, hundreds of feet above me as they approached Findhorn Bay, one of the UK’s largest geese staging posts.
It is a primeval noise, mirroring the perpetuity of nature and its annual rituals and migrations. Then another skein was heard, and spotted, even higher and larger than the first one. I was transfixed.
A gentle nudge on my leg brought me back to earth. It was Colombo reminding me that he was there. Old Cleo, a real water dog who likes nothing more than fishing for rocks from the river bed and building her own cairn of wet rocks, stood staring at me expectantly, up to her tummy in water, tail wagging.
I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the biggest, warmest, happy attack ever. This surely was the nearest to sheer bliss that a Bad Fisherman is likely to get. I returned to the Lodge that evening, my soul salved, cleansed and ready for the first G&T of the evening…
… and no, I didn’t catch a fish. But who cares?
More from John Archibald: