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My first Salmon & some Caithness Trout

My long awaited trip to Sutherland and Caithness started alarmingly on Saturday with a heavy handed thump on my front door, you guessed it I slept in. Well , it was half two in the morning though. About five and a half hours later we were knocking on the door of Scott's pal's house in a Sutherland coastal village. We drank numerous cups of coffee while we waited on the village store opening so that we could purchase our permits to fish the river on the Monday. After collecting out tickets we headed for Watten and arrived about midday. An hour or so later we were stringing rods, making up casts and strapped them on to the rod holders on the car. It was a two minute drive down to the boat at the loch. We made for the east end of the loch I had a huge smile on my face as this was what I was so looking forward to. The three of us rose loads of fish to our bushy flies on the top dropper as we drifted down the loch in the ever increasing wind. Eventually I landed a fish , the first on the boat. It was a nice bright trout of just under a 1lb. It was fooled by my Loch Ordie. Tam and Scott soon followed suit and landed a nice wee fish each. Since no more fish were being caught it was decided that we would go back to the caravan for a bite to eat and try the Loch later but once we got back the weather took a turn for the worse as it absolutely poured down along with a very strong wind. We agreed not to bother going out again as the rain was absolutely torrential. We made a wise choice as it stayed on for the night. I sat and tied flies and read a few chapters of Bruce Sandison's very entertaining book, The Sporting gentleman's , gentleman which I picked up from a second hand book store in Thurso on the way from Sutherland to Watten. Sunday arrived and as there is No Fishing on Watten on the sabbath It was decided that we would all fish Scarmclate. On arrival at the loch the water appeared to be be very dirty,this was due to the loch being shallow and the strong winds the day before. We worked our way around the shore of the loch. We all caught nice wee trout despite the colouration of the Loch but they were no bigger than half a pound but were fun all the same. Back at the caravan Scott cooked dinner while Tam watched the tv, I tied up some more flies one of which was to play a major role on the river the next day.Monday morning arrived with a familiar thump on the bedroom door of the caravan,it was scott telling me to get up as breakfast was ready. I looked at my watch it was bloody half three in the morning. I stumbled through the caravan to the dining table and looked down on a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. I struggled with my breakfast but didn't say much as I was still half a sleep."C'mon big man get yersel the gither" said Scott insistently " We're leaving at the back o' four" By the time we travelled over to Sutherland I was wide awake. We sat in a nice spot above the estuary to see if there was any sign of fish coming into the system as we were not allowed onto the Angling Club's beat until six o'clock. We sat for an hour and were encouraged to see several fish coming in from the sea. We then drove down to the river parked up the car and walked to the top end of the beat as instructed by Scott's friend. I wasn't really expecting much as this was my first time salmon fishing and had to rely on hints and tips form Scott and his friend. The three of us entered the river, Scott went first I was in the middle and Tam followed me as we worked our way down river. As we waded down the excitement was building as salmon were leaping sporadically right in front of us as we fished down the river. After an hour or so I noticed that Scott who was ahead of me leaving the river and sitting on the bank I kept on fishing down until I was directly opposite him. He started talking to me when it happened , I felt the most gentle of takes. Now, as I had no experience of hooking and playing salmon I guess that it was instinct that took over as I struggled to keep control of the angry, leaping salmon. The heart stopping fight that ensued was nerve wracking but eventually I had the salmon under control and with assistance of Tam he netted the fish.It was a modest fish, a fresh grilse of about 2 3/4 lb with sea lice attached. I whooped with delight and took many photos of my first ever salmon which I fooled with a salmon fly that I had tied the night before at the caravan. Tam and Scott congratulated me then we were soon back in the river fishing our way down. After another hour or so it was suggested we leave the river and walk further down. Tam and Scott opted for a pool recommended to them by Scott's mate while I went off on my own further down to another area that has a reputation for holding fish. Then again much to my amazement I hooked into another salmon . This time the take was more violent and it went like a train almost immediately. Wow ! this was something else. I yelled back at my mates but they didn't hear me. The salmon nearly broke my knuckles as the handle of my reel revolved at some speed as I tried to adjust the drag. By now I was shaking like a leaf as the salmon leaped from the water to try and throw the hook. Eventually I started walking backwards to a shingle strip that splits the river. By now I was struggling to keep the fish under control. My only experience of playing and landing salmon was from watching Paul Young and the like on dvd. Now I could appreciate how it felt. I must admit I was not exactly enjoying the fight as my only concern was to not lose the fish as it was a good deal bigger than my first salmon. I then thought I had it under control as it came to the surface at the shingle . I got a good look at it. It looked very fresh perhaps around the 8lb mark. Then as I got it to the edge it took of ferociously and broke my leader down at the fly. The same fly which I had tied the night before and the same fly that had caught my first ever salmon. I must admit the Good Lord's name was taken in vain as I recoiled and tried to take in what had just happened. I must have had that fish on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. Words cannot describe what that fight felt and how it felt to lose it. My mates must have seen the commotion down stream from them s they came down to see what was going on. The adrenalin was still pumping as I gave them a blow by blow account of what had actually happened. I sat on the shingle for a while until I eventually calmed down. Eventually the three of us started fish again but no other fish were touched. We all decided that it was time to take a break and headed back to the village to a lovely wee restaurant where we all had fish pie, which was just very apt. It was some feeling just sitting back relaxing with numerous cups of coffee and thinking of the experience of landing and losing those two salmon. I couldn't get it out of my head. After dinner we went back up to the place we sat at in the morning. I gazed out over to the sea watching the white surf rolling into the shore and just stared in wonderment at where those silver beauties had come from. Soon we were back at the river this time fishing another pool that was recommended to us. We fished from the far bank and fished it in the same order as we had done in the morning. soon the unimaginable occurred. I hooked into my third salmon of the day. This time it was another feisty take. The salmon took off like a rocket losing control as it leaped all over the place. I burned my fingers on the fly line such was the power of this salmon.Once again I was a quivering wreck as i tried to hold on for dear life to this fish. The worst feeling was when it jag, jag jagged and bored down. I thought it was going to break me but I eventually I manged to play the salmon out. Tam was by my side and netted the fish for me. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the size and beauty of this fish in the net. Scott estimated that this fish was about 7lb
The image of this beautiful creature will live with me forever. The picture I managed to get doesn't do the salmon any justice as this was the most beautiful fish I had ever seen, there again I maybe a little biased. I just sat on the bank for a while shaking like a leaf and repeating myself over and over again I just couldn't believe this was happening to me, this was something special.We then decided to have another go up at the area where I lost my second salmon. I had no further luck. In the last hour Tam actually hooked into a grilse and after playing it briefly it broke him as he tried to land it. Not long after that Tam got another take but his leader just slipped from his fly line immediately. To say Tam was sick is a bit of an understatement. Reluctantly our day had to end but wow! what a day I had. Monday the 18th of July 2011, the day I caught my first two salmon and sadly lost another will be remembered in the same way as I remember births , deaths and marriages in my family. Yes ! it is no exaggeration to compare these events and explain that it was that special. It was late when we arrived back at watten. I found it difficult to sleep but I eventually did as Tuesday morning eventually arrived. It was decided that we would have a lazy day and get out on Watten in the late afternoon. I hung around tying flies and reading Bruce's book. The wind was coming from the north west as we went afloat on Watten for the final time. Tam was first into the fish as he caught thee wee yins quite rapid. Then I had a tiddler too. Scott wasn't having much luck but was rising as many fish as Tam and I were. Then disaster struck. Tam snapped his rod as he pulled on his leader to adjust his flies. We had to go ashore and Scott went off to get a spare from the caravan. We were soon off again but Tam was notably pissed off and understandably so. The fishing proved to be difficult and although we all rose a few fish it wasn't until late on when I switched to a sink tip line and Scott to an intermediate that we eventually landed a few more fish. We stopped fishing fishing about half ten when it was very dull and getting dark. So that was that Watten had been a disappointment for us really as I had imagined it would have just been like last year, mind you I was warned by some friends that I had been extremely lucky last year as Watten can be very difficult at times. Anyway it didn't matter one jot to me as I had my best ever fishing experience on that Sutherland River. Fishing for trout is never going to be the same for me as the thought of those salmon will live for me forever. I will post some more pics later.


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