Zen and the Art of Angling

Chapter 1

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5


What dreams are made of, a 2lb wild brownie. It was a Saturday in June 1966, I was free from school, able to enjoy what I loved doing best, an entire day fly fishing. Travelling light I wandered up stream from Cupar to Springfield Dam on the river Eden in the Howe of Fife, life was blissful. Long strands of weed wafted in the gentle flow while small white flowers broke the surface of the water, daisy chains in a sun speckled stream.

Trout were confidently sipping flies leaving small dimples and the occasional bubble on the surface of the water to mark their activity. I studied each rise intently looking for a fish worthy of a cast.

Suddenly I spotted a plump half pound trout, about average for the river, eagerly taking surface flies. I took a moment to study the water, the frequency of the feeding pattern, then a few more seconds to identify the species of fly the fish was feeding on. My Blue Dun, already attached and oiled with Mucilin, would be just the ticket.

With the stealthiest approach using bank side vegetation for cover I extended my fly line in false casts until I was in position for the final cast. The line sailed out depositing the fly 3 feet up stream from the feeding fish, nothing happened. The fly floated downstream but the fish ignored my offer.

My heart was thumping as I covered my prey again but there was still no offer from the fish. The third and last time, the fly landed perfectly. As it drifted over the lie the trout glided up from the weedy fronds, the white mouth opened flashing in the clear water, he sipped the fly in.

I struck, the fish was on, diving for safety in the weed beds that earlier had been so admired but were now my foe. My ten foot split cane rod arched, thrumming to the effort made by the lunging fish as it tried to escape me. Adrenalin coursed through my body, my mind raced. Keep the pressure on to turn the fish, break it free from the safe haven of the weedbed. At last it was in clear water, it leaped once, twice and again, would the hook hold? The net went out and the fish drew near. It was mine at last, a picture perfect trout of golden brown hues with red spots along its flank, my first fish of the day.

With blond hair tousled in the breeze, fishing rod in hand, a fish in the bag and one wader full of water, shaking hands and heart aflutter I squelched on in my quest for trout, just a teenage boy happy as Larry and in my element.

I honestly cannot remember a time when I was not fascinated by fishing. From my earliest years as a toddler I wanted to fish, dangling string on a stick in rain filled flowing gutters, filling the bath to overflowing and dreaming that leviathans lurked in the deeps. I guess fishing was in the blood. My grandfather, great uncle, uncle and mother were all keen fishers. Tales of days by rushing streams, of bending rods and flashing fish were my favourite bedtime tales.

No picnic, no weekend camping trip, no holiday was complete unless there was fishing nearby. Both my mother and father knew it was pointless to suggest a Butlins holiday, much as it would have been a welcome break for two hard pressed working parents. Not for me the childhood joys of the fun fair, my parents indulged me for they knew my passion for fishing had to be satisfied.Today, with more than half a century under my belt, I am just as passionate about the art of fly fishing. My heart still races when the fish are on the feed, when I hear the slurp of a big trout rising confidently or the crash of a salmon broaching as it surges upstream.

Why do I love fishing so much? Well I guess I could write a book about that. Firstly fishing is a sport for all, age doesn't matter, men and women are equals under the art of the angle. Fishing suited me as a boy it suits me as an adult. Angling has something for people of all capabilities and capacities. The angler takes from the sport that which he or she needs to achieve a degree of satisfaction.

Fly fishing in particular is totally absorbing for it not only constitutes a fine sport, non sedentary and mildly but constantly physical without being exhausting. It is an art and a science, a life long learning experience. Fly fishing offers you the freedom to release your mind from the rigours of life, offers companionship, excitement, moments of joy, moments of despair, moments of tranquillity, sights that bring a smile to your face no matter how you feel. What does fishing mean to me - it means a life worth living.