The best fishing trips always start by reliving your last adventure and past exploits.
This invariably takes place around the support of a bar counter at your mates house, enjoying a refreshing beverage.
As the night wears on it’s impossible not to embellish as all great stories or anecdotes should be revived with artistic license. This naturally leads to boasts that are never idle and challenges made in jest, culminating in the gauntlet being thrown down.
The rules of engagement are hotly debated, dates are set and one bids goodnight with much needed purpose.
Such was my last gathering with seasoned fly fishers Rhuan Human and Stuart Van den Linden, who despite their prowess with a rod are very much my juniors and are quick to remind me of how long in the tooth I’m getting. I reciprocate by reminding them of their millennial status and that which I’ve forgotten they’ve yet to learn. And quite stupidly on my part, with a fire in my belly (read single malt) I decided to challenge them both to a days Trout fishing on WildFly waters with the biggest trout winning bragging rights for 2022.
Everyone was to fish from a V-Boat and to make this contest definitive, one had to tie a fly of your own design and fish this single pattern the entire day. A cameraman was to be in tow, to record any shenanigans and hopefully some action for the next WildFly TV show on Supersport.
It only dawned on me the following morning that I had foolishly also given them first choice of dam, which they were sure to capitalise on.
I arrived on my allotted water at a respectable hour to discover that recent rains had rendered the dam almost unfishable, the dirty water forcing my hand to select a gaudy fly pattern that resembled no earthly creature.
Within the first hour I was throwing in the towel and when paddling back shore had, what I think was a desperate fish, put a good bend in my rod. Remarkably I was on the board with a beautiful 57cm Rainbow Trout and watching the cameraman filming this on a drone, inspired a bit of skullduggery.
Convincing him to go on a scenic flight to the next valley, Stu and Rhuan soon came into view allowing me to see what they were up to…..and I immediately wished I hadn’t! Over the next 15 minutes I witnessed them caning the fish, landing numerous Trout which I could see were going to eclipse the benchmark I had set.
One should never begrudge another man’s good fortune on the fishing front, but I just couldn’t face these upstarts with my hat in hand. Ego is a terrible motivator.
So shouldering a little too much pressure I 4X4’d to a piece of water that I knew would at least be clean and set about casting in hope of some obliging Trout. It took a while before another really good fish was landed of the same size, this time a Brown Trout, but there was no compensation in our competition for a different species.
It was at this time that the cheeky blighters sent me a few pics of their trophy Trout, followed by one of them celebrating their catches at Notties pub. My thirst for a pint notwithstanding, it was their assumptive toast of victory that now drove me to stay on the water. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of decades when fishing in any friendly contest, it is that more casting does not help the cause. You actually have to slow everything down, ignore the angler, as it is only the fish you’re competing against.
And that’s when the first voice note arrived….bloody millennials! I have to admit the lads really knew how to mess with my head.
So, trying to keep some composure, I thought about my next move and picked my rod up to make the cast.
You never properly anticipate a strike and this one took me a few seconds to process what was happening. I knew it was a good fish, but only when it peeled line did the anxiety set in, realising that I had a beast on the end of my line. You rarely stay calm in these situations, it’s more akin to keeping a lid on the panic.
Focussing entirely on the fish, I couldn’t even tell you how long the fight dragged on for, all I really remember is the jubilation when I scooped it into the net in which it hardly fit.
We convened that evening to review the days produce and there was no hiding the young guns swagger as they sauntered into the pub, secure in the knowledge they had taught me a proper lesson.
Stuart had recorded his personal best of 62cm and of the 23 Trout they had notched up, not a single fish measured under half a meter, no wonder they were buying the drinks, exclaiming and celebrating.
Their’s was an outstanding fishing performance!