A FISHING ADVENTURE
Written by Saskia Mary Kane
Photography by Patrick Tillard
A FISHING ADVENTURE
Written by Saskia Mary Kane
Photography by Patrick Tillard
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PERFECT STRANGERS
Arriving in the Highlands on Tuesday evening, surrounded only by birdsong and the music of running water from a small stream running through our camp, was paradise. It wasn’t long before the rest of The Hike Society group met up – a team of strangers and distant friends, all united by a love of the outdoors and chance to try our hands at something new and completely different. I suggested a 6.30am yoga session before setting out on our trip the next morning, but let me tell you, when I stepped outside at 6.25am to 6°C and dew on the ground I swiftly returned to my room and had a stretch as close to my radiator as I could get, very much hoping that nobody would come knocking on my door. Luckily, half the group had decided on a run down to the closest loch for a dip; the other half was still asleep.
At breakfast we laughed over how our morning plans had gone, before we wrapped up in our Columbia gear – and I armed myself with a blanket – and headed out to Glenmoriston. The drive past Loch Ness saw us pass into a wilder landscape, and those of us living in London had our foreheads pressed against the windows, not wanting to miss a thing. After arriving at the gates to the estate, our vehicles began the climb up the hill. Signs marked every 50m elevation gained above sea level. Each sign we passed added to a growing feeling of tranquility.
We clambered out of the cars and looked up to see that we were surrounded by wind turbines. These huge calm giants towered over us, standing peacefully in what otherwise appeared to be a wild landscape. To me, the combination of technology and nature seamlessly blending was something of a beautiful oxymoron.
We met our guides Wes and Kevin, and their dog Harry, who was so well trained that he showed little interest in getting to know any of us and instead stood loyally by his owner as he untangled fishing lines and loaded his backpack with the day’s necessities: boxes of flies and waders (which are not to be called wading pants, just waders). The gang was prepped for a big day off-grid as we went in search of wild brown trout – paying homage to the rich fishing heritage of Columbia.
"THE GANG WAS PREPPED FOR A BIG DAY OFF-GRID AS WE WENT IN SEARCH OF WILD BROWN TROUT – PAYING HOMAGE TO THE RICH FISHING HERITAGE OF COLUMBIA."
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JUST OVER THAT RIDGE
"THE THING IS, WITH SO MUCH TO LOOK AT AROUND US, WE WERE SELDOM LOOKING DOWN AT WHERE OUR FEET SHOULD BE GOING – THANK COLUMBIA FOR WATERPROOF SHOES."
Then we set off towards the loch, which we were told was ‘just over that ridge’ – and, reader, this was not entirely true. The sun warmed our backs as we hiked for around 30 minutes to reach our destination. Almost all of us avoided landing in a bog. The thing is, with so much to look at around us, we were seldom looking down at where our feet should be going – thank Columbia for waterproof shoes.
Climbing the peak of the last ridge before our loch gave us a shared sense of both calm and excitement. We’d grown to know each other quite well. An hour of conversation with strangers can feel daunting if you’re in a closed environment, but put those same strangers on a moor in the Highlands and you will find that conversation flows, sharing becomes easy, and the laughs are more genuine. Out here, strangers very quickly become friends.
After unloading the fishing gear, we split into groups with a guide each to teach us the basics. We began by learning exactly where to hold the rod to get the longest cast, and were taught how to do a ‘roll cast’ and a ‘D cast’; these took me a little longer to grasp, so I thought I’d stick with the easiest method and perfect that before moving on.
TIME FLYS
They say time passes quickly when you’re having fun. Let me tell you how quickly it passes when you’re learning a new skill. I’d asked for a time check and was surprised to discover that it was already midday. With no fish yet caught from the bank it seemed to be the perfect time to get the waders on – I had been excited for this since I'd first heard about the trip, so I quickly volunteered to be first to attempt it.
I found walking into the water, stepping into an environment that was again new, a humbling experience. Tang and Al continued to shout ‘Small steps!’ from the bank, and I was glad I listened to them. Wedging my feet under a rock when I’d finally made it to my spot made me feel a little more secure, as I swung my arm from 10 to 2 to cast out into the reeds.
We’d been fishing for a couple of hours, and – in sticking with a chronological account – now is perhaps the time to tell you that staying quiet is a crucial part of fishing. What not to do is scream ‘I’ve almost got one!’, as you will find that the fish susses you out, and you’ll be left empty handed. At 1.00pm we decided to brew tea on a camping stove, eat some of our picnic, and stop to make a game out of our rubbish and fishing nets. The desire to play, I think, is emphasised when you leave the busy city behind.
After chasing what seemed like only one or two trout in the whole loch, our guide recommended that we should move to another, and that perhaps a few of us should go ahead first as to reduce the noise level. This is where having experts with us really helped – the three who went off managed to catch one by the time we caught up, and we found them waiting for the net. Louis, one of our friends who had held back, was carrying this. When he ran over boggy and uneven terrain to get to them as quickly as possible, he provided us with one of the funniest memories of the day when he landed in a hidden bog. The splash, fall, and rebound were over in just three seconds, but the image will stay with me forever. The fish had slipped away when I reached the group, so we got back into our groove and began again.
GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL
A small stream running through the park connected the lochs. I went off with Kevin and Harry, and we approached the final loch of the day in a crouched stance and hushed tones. Arriving at a loch in complete silence allowed me to see just how much life was in there. Air bubbles covered the calm surface, and I was reminded that this was not my space – I was merely a passing visitor. I wanted to leave this place just as I had found it while learning as much from it as I could.
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Voices drifted from across the hills after we had been fishing for 10 minutes. I turned, waving like mad with one finger to my lips, trying to ensure that they approached with the same caution I had been taught – I was determined to catch something before the day was out.
‘Let’s give it another five minutes before heading back to the group,’ Kev suggested, and I soon realised that we were right to do so. He helped me cast a long line, handed me the rod, and I began to reel in. Something near my fly started to move. Keeping my earlier lesson close to heart, I stayed as quiet as possible. A few seconds later something bit. Controlling my urge to celebrate too early, I reeled and reeled, and as it got closer I saw the beautiful colours of the trout I had caught. I had done it! I had caught my first ever fish.
NOTHIN' BUT NET
We put it into the net and admired its colours. ‘It’s the best one you could have caught,’ my guide told me, and I don’t know if he was telling me this to be kind, but to me it felt true. With a good catch under my belt I skipped back to the group on the other side – and they informed me that I hadn’t been as quiet as I had thought.
It was time to begin our hike back to the car, which would take us for a well-deserved meal to celebrate the day. However, we’d walked quite a distance, and in multiple directions, so the exact location of the car park was now up for debate. On the way, perhaps spurred on by realising that in a few hours we’d all be back in our respective towns and cities, we stopped and played for a short while, showing off our gymnastic skills to each other. This added an extra 10 minutes, which meant that my estimation of a 15-minute hike was eventually a long way off!

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