This week brings a surprise offer to fish a friend’s rain-lashed river whilst he heads off to holiday in sunny Portugal. It is a kind thought. Yet, with the sea trout running, who in their right mind would choose the Algarve over the Annan?
When the salmon are jumping and the trout are nibbling, which sane person would opt for the Costa del Sol instead of the Spey?
Folk are strange. His loss is possibly my fishy gain. But if I do hook something I will have to deal with it on my own. My usual net-holder, the chief, is busy cataloguing photos for a magazine. He sends me off with a blessing, instructions on how to land a monster – and returns to trimming computer images.
I get into the car and drive. On reaching the water, rod and line are assembled and the scene is surveyed. It is a pretty part of the world and, for once, the day is dry. A sheep with two lambs graze happily on the grass. They dine in peace as today, I am dogless. Yes, the MacNaughties will be furious when they know. Fishing is their favourite thing in the whole wide world. Well, apart from walks and biscuits, that is…
A dragonfly skims the stream. In my tackle bag is a tuna sandwich for when hunger strikes, or fatigue hits. As I wade out into the water, stress slips away. Work and worries fall by the wayside.
Half an hour later and three old boys come into view. They are veteran anglers in ancient waxed jackets and battered waders. They are the real fishing deal and are presumably on their way to cast a line further downstream.
‘Now, young lady, what’s going on? What have you caught?’ The men with rugged angling faces peer down from the bank.
I accept the compliment. They are far a few between these days, and frankly, it has been a long time since I was thus referred to. In fact, the last time anyone called me a young lady was possibly during the European referendum. And I do not mean Brexit. I am talking about the one back in 1975.
Of course, we know that eyesight does not improve with age. But how gentlemanly can you get? We chat about fishing flies and the ones that got away, and one of them now stares more closely at me.
‘It is you – you are Fiona?’ I smile and assure him I am. The conversation continues, then they indicate they had better get moving. As backs turn I hear the words: ‘See, I told you it was Fiona Bruce…’
Two compliments in a morning! Not just young, but really, truly, famously young. Which I suppose makes up for a fishless day. Then that is angling: eternal hope and perpetual disappointment. When I do eventually get one, you – and the MacNaughties – will know about it…