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  • Lana Richardson

A surprise springer

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

In late March 2022, after fishing for almost 14 days since the salmon season began on most Scottish rivers in mid January, I finally bumped into my first fish of the year.

I was fishing on the river Borgie on the North coast of Scotland. With it being in Sutherland, the area I grew up in, I cant help but feel very at home there. The scenery which surrounds you whilst you fish is stunning and especially on the upper river you get a sense of total serenity, even when its freezing and blowing a gale in the spring time!

With it being the second last day of fishing I had before the end of the week and after fishing since Monday with no avail, I had now switched out of 'fishing mode' and I was just enjoying my week, getting the craic with my fishing buddies and having some time off work. There were definitely fresh spring fish around but as it was still early in the season they were few and far between, you needed a mixture of divine timing, luck and determination to come across one.

I usually like to go against the grain and be individual in my tactics, even just by way of experimentation and proving myself right or wrong, especially when the ‘go to’ set up doesn't seem to be working that day. I chose to set up my 11ft #6 switch rod with full floating line and a small black and orange cone head.

After fishing some upper river beats in the morning and not seeing anything apart from some golden eagles which flew right over head (very cool), later in the afternoon it was my turn to fish beat 1, the closest numbered beat to the sea. Even though the water I was about to fish had recently been covered and the chances of a fish for my week were beginning to look unlikely, something gave me a bit of enthusiasm and told me to thoroughly cover the pools below me. After being in relaxed casting trance and simply just enjoying myself all day so far, it was now time to apply myself and pay attention!

With my new found enthusiasm I started making my way down to beat 1, taking extra care to gently cover every inch of possible fishy water.

After making my way down most of the beat, I reached the weir at the top of the 'tank' pool. I crept out onto the rocks and stripped a short amount of line off of my reel, just enough to delicately plop my fly across to the other side of the fast moving white water. On my third cast the fly landed right to the other side of the steam into the boily slack water, I raised my rod and allowed the fly to dibble, the line was quickly caught by the current and the fly began its journey dancing lightly across the surface and towards the dangle. All of a sudden, a large flash of silver appeared just as the fly reached my side of the white water and my line came taught. There was definitely a brief pause and moment of realisation that I genuinely had a fish on and I was actually fishing to catch a fish!

I had to now get myself off of the weir and onto the bank at the side of the pool, which I had decided was the best place for landing the fish. Whilst I was navigating the rocks and trying to lift my line with fish attached over some birch trees the salmon conveniently decided to take off down the pool, which was great timing as it kept the line nice and tight for me whilst I was stumbling around and shaking with excitement and probably shock.

Picture taken by Colin Macleod, not your typical 'grip & grin'!

After a few minutes the fish started to tire and I managed to get it safely into the net, I was so glad I decided to take one with me as it always makes landing fish on your own much easier. I suddenly realised how big the salmon was, at 14lbs it was the biggest ‘spring’ salmon I had ever caught and oh boy was it beautiful...

After a quick picture in the net, I briefly held her in the water and she quickly recovered and made her way back into the pool to continue on her impressive journey.

It was very special day and moment which I won’t forget for a while. There is something about being on your own in an unexpected exciting situation like that which really makes you live it and appreciate it more. Saying that, I was totally delighted to share the news with the gang I was fishing with when i saw them again and its always an awesome feeling of comradeship sharing the story and excitement with others in your group.

Morale of the story... mix up your tactics, keep enthusiastic and you may be rewarded!

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