Monster Salmon

Mrs Flashbang has a bash

Mrs Flashbang has a bash

I am intrigued by a snippet in the editorial of the June edition of Trout & Salmon which alludes to a monster fish caught on the North Esk earlier this spring. The writer suggests the fish was 51 1/2in long and weighed between 50 and 60lbs. That is an enormous salmon. He then writes that the fisherman wanted no fuss or publicity and therefore there are no pictures. 

Salmon3.jpg

We would all respect his right to privacy but that wouldn't be my path. If I was lucky enough to catch the fish of a generation I'd be doing cartwheels naked up and down the High Street singing Painting The Clouds With Sunshine as I flip flopped over the cobblestones.

So why might the fisherman have kept his head down? Perhaps because he caught it spinning with a Devon minnow rather than on the fly? Or just the satisfaction of quietly catching, landing and releasing is enough for him, or her.

It deserves some fuss though. For therein lies inspiration for every rod who has stood in a cold river without a sniff of a fish all day, or even all week. We all like to think the 'big one,' could be on the end of the next cast. It never is so a deep reservoir of optimism is a prerequisite for salmon fisherman, even at the best of times. 

So good luck to the fellow. Inspiration for the rest of us, especially as that fish is still out there.

Home Alone

they arrived....

they arrived....

If you have ever suffered from abandonment issues worry not. You are neither unique nor are you alone.  I’ve been scraping by for the last five days myself. She left with a cheery wave last week to spend a week with her sister detoxing, (whatever that is), and promising to return, ‘glowing.’ ‘You could get out of a hot bath glowing,’ I muttered as she disappeared in a cloud of dust down the track.

So, it’s been just myself and the boys, (the dogs that is for the Crumble boys are well off and away doing their own thing). So we’ve been here on a boys-will-be-boys self-catering hell-raising week at the homestead. In a manner of speaking that is. Hell-raising in this instance is outrageous behaviour such as leaving the washing-up until the morning, leaving loo seats up all over the house all the time and listening to Radio 4 until I fall asleep.

As Mrs Flashbang was leaving she said, ‘I’ve left some things in the fridge for you.” That was a nice touch. Unfortunately, when I arrived home this evening I realised that all the ‘things,’ had been either eaten or binned because they were either unsuitably healthy or just morbidly tasteless. I had though, forgotten to go to the supermarket today. The resulting rummage around the cupboards and freezer was somewhat disheartening. Given there were things in the freezer labelled before the Internet was invented that was a big no-no. The cupboards revealed things previously unknown to me although I should be absolutely honest and say the last time I looked in there was around 1995. Really though, what in the flying fuck are Cannellini Beans, Bijoux Verts Lentils and Aduki Beans? Is she secretly trying to finish me off by covertly feeding me cat food? I can’t tell you how much my heart soared when I spotted a good old fashioned and honest tin of baked beans at the back. There it was, almost hidden in shame in the darkness when all of us boys know it should be at the front, gleaming with pride and shouting, ‘I’m a tin of baked beans and I’m proud of it.’

My Sabatier Cook's Knife. Bought in 1989 at Peter Jones. if she ever legs it, the Cook's Knife stays; (hopefully not embedded in my abdomen).

My Sabatier Cook's Knife. Bought in 1989 at Peter Jones. if she ever legs it, the Cook's Knife stays; (hopefully not embedded in my abdomen).

Then, the dilemma. Do I go for the failsafe backstop of beans-on-toast or do I risk the out of date chicken fillets in the fridge? “Well,’ I thought to myself, “I have two boys. They do scary, boy stuff all the time. I’m not going to let two chicken fillets that are two days after their sell-buy date turn me into a big Jessie. I need to look my boys in the eye.’ I did what every Dad on his own would do. I made the all time best ever-chicken sandwich, (or ‘stack,’ as us cool Dad’s know them).

Whilst I was chopping and cutting it took me back a wee bit to the days when I got seriously into cooking. When I was on my own it became slightly obsessive. I even did a couple of cookery courses and delighted in entertaining in what I like to think, became a culinary hotspot in Islington for good wine and food and all done from the smallest of kitchens. My flatmate at the time and I used to argue and bicker like two old queens over important matters like sauce consistency and the crispiness of our crunchy roast potatoes, (I’m a Delia man as far as they are concerned). The passion for cooking dissipated in time though, mostly because I married a better cook.

not the best chef in Islington

not the best chef in Islington

I do think, men tend to focus on single issue challenges, climb that particular mountain and then move on to the next. When for example, I rediscovered fly-fishing, which I had not done since my younger days I tore into it with passion, commitment and unrestrained enthusiasm. Having drained the bank balance somewhat, and having achieved a modicum of success I drifted away from fishing for trout in the chalk-streams and took on the bigger and more industrial challenge of salmon fishing. That had a whole lot more deleterious effect on the bank balance but the reward for success was commensurate with the challenge the Atlantic salmon present. Salmon fishing is just special and really, you do not have to catch a fish to benefit from the joy of chilling while standing in a river casting a fly, even badly, while embracing the peace and unending theatre of nature that surrounds you. It is so very cathartic.

Another example of a rabid obsession was the Annual Airfix Modelling competition at the boy’s prep school. I don’t think the Crumble boys had a losing year. They did the modelling but it was a great excuse for me to go and buy all the bits I wasn’t able to have as a kid. Front and centre was a paint spray gun. Oh how we all wanted one of those when I was young. You get a very nice effect with a spray gun rather than brushes. Your helicopter landing to pick up wounded soldiers on an LZ with flashing helicopter lights, a starlit sky and sound effects really comes to life with the spray painted cam work and the desert floor moulded out of plasticast. Not that I took it seriously or anything.

Spitfire pilot being rescued in the Channel - very cool model. Think that was our finest modelling moment in the barn.

Spitfire pilot being rescued in the Channel - very cool model. Think that was our finest modelling moment in the barn.

So, what will be my next challenge? Do you know, I am not so very sure. I started the year with a whole bunch of resolutions, none of which are even close to being started never mind completed. We are at the time of year when I start to feel the old familiar tight knot in my stomach, when my mind begins to wander and I find it difficult to concentrate. Those same feelings you feel when you fall in love. I can sense those big salmon are coming to the end of their long journey from the feeding grounds and are heading to the Tweed. I find myself watching clips on YouTube and checking out salmon fly retailers, (not that, like all fisherman, I need any more flies), yet I have nothing booked.

Bliss

Bliss

Is this the year I break the dependency and move on? It is, with such weighty matters as these, that we gentleman must grapple whilst our wives disappear to apparently, detox. I fear I have no answer at present but at the very minimum, this rambling post has allowed me a break from my more weighty posts which I’ve been playing with about Dunkirk and St Valery and I do want to get those right, if not this.

Craigellachie Hotel

Craigellachie Hotel

Craigellachie Hotel

I recently stayed at the newly refurbished Craigellachie Hotel on Speyside. Under the new ownership of London based private club owner Piers Adams the hotel, which had reached the sad and forlorn stage with an indifferent reputation, is enjoying a fresh rush of investment and enthusiasm. That manifests itself throughout the operation, for it is a drilled operation, in a designer-evident interior rebuild, menu’s and service. All though, is not yet perfect.

Without wanting to be trite or sour one or two pretty fundamental issues quickly came to light on arrival. No television in the room, (“awaiting delivery” although a small one was later found),  only one bathrobe in the bedroom, sketchy and intermittent WiFi, ("persistent BT problem, we’re using a dongle,”) nowhere for guests to relax before dinner, (“the refurbished whisky bar will be opening soon), a fine 2 metre view of a skip from the “garden bedroom,” and a radio with Chris bloody Evans blaring away every morning at breakfast, (although the staff did kindly turn it off when I objected to listening to the traffic report from Uxbridge while enjoying my bangers & bacon.

The staff seem to have been almost entirely recruited from Glasgow. No doubt some hospitality consultant has stuck his oar in about the highlander and the highlander’s approach to service. They may or may not have a fair point but it’s a bit of a central belt cliché and it would be good to have more local staff to inculcate a local feel. Nonetheless, the well rehearsed staff are trained, hard working and anxious to please if somewhat uncertain when hit with something non standard but issues are dealt with very quickly and efficiently so. In fact, the guest ends up hoping for them that quick resolutions are found to small problems and that’s good because it creates a “can do, will please,” atmosphere from both sides.

There was no fine dining room when I stayed and I understand that options for that remain under consideration. Eating then was in the ground floor “Copper Dog,” which is best described as “gastro pub,” dining. Nothing wrong with that when done well and its done very well here. The menu is simple, fair value and in their words, (locally sourced, sustainable etc etc). The wine list mirrors the food and is perfectly acceptable. The average table is goiing to do far more damage to their credit card with over effusive ordering of obscure whiskies than they will with the wine. Dining there is very casual and very busy, (160 covers one night we were there which is pretty extraordinary locally). Indeed, the Copper Dog is so popular with locals that guests would be advised to book before arrival. Inviting the ghillies from the river can’t have harmed the cause and echo’s the inviting London cabbies to new clubs and restaurants thing to jack up referrals. On one evening a live country singer started belting out some songs of the seventies and initially I contemplated stabbing myself with my fork or applying for an emergency ASBO. Actually, a couple of hours later I’d made some new best friends with some bearded Austrians and was well on the way to drinking too much Aberlour and starting a new chapter of the Dead Country & Western Singers Appreciation Society.

Despite a few odds and ends of fishing paraphernalia on the walls, the hotel isn’t really a fisherman’s hotel in the style of Burt’s and the Townhouse in Melrose or the Ednam House in Kelso; at least not yet. Its somewhat understandable given many, if not the majority, of rods on the Spey rent houses or lodges, (many having done so in the same spot for generations), although they frequently eat out. The hotel’s real economic market is the Whisky Trail market. That is the earnest American, Japanese and European tourists tramping up and down Speyside visiting the distilleries, which are quite flash these days and fully geared up for the sector, and tasting. I could tell them that many of those distilleries add caramel colouring to the whisky to make it more appealing to what their eyes think a good whisky should look like but why spoil their fun.

Fiddichside Inn

Rods looking for a fisherman’s rest to repair to for a blether and dram really need go no further than the  Fiddichside Inn at the other end of the village. Run by Joe, an ex ghillie on the river, the place has been in his family for about 100 years. It’s small, with no music, no machines well actually, not much at all apart from the booze, Joe and a wealth of dubious tales of fish, fishing and fisherman. The Fiddich is easily, one of the top ten pubs in Britain and if you happen to have caught a salmon that day, probably the best pub in the world. Unfortunately, some dullard has added the Fiddich to a Whisky Trail app so you are actually just as likely to see the bearded Austrians there as you are at the Craig.

Back to the hotel and all in all, there is little significant criticism  and one can see they have the will and drive to iron out teething problems, “it’s not the problem, it’s how you react to it.” There is a lingering thought though that by booking over the web without knowing these niggly things one is somewhat oversold the value proposition. Mr Adams is no Mrs Carmichael (previous legendary proprietor of old), and they haven’t got it quite spot on but they will do and I expect in twelve months’ time, if not before, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get rooms there. It’s professionally managed and run, the Craigellachie now just needs to discover it’s own charm and soul and that only comes with time. There you go, who needs TripAdvisor?

The Twirl; Probably the best fishing knot in the world

We're nothing if not esoteric on this blog. There you go, Crumble's contribution to the sum of fishing knowledge; The Twirl. Invented by Darrel Martin of Fly, Rod and Reel magazine and shown to me by Ron Wilton, down at East Lodge on the Itchen.

Fishing In Gods Early Morning Sunshine

The other week I hurtled up to the Spey for a few days fishing with one of the Crumble Kids, having dropped the other off to go bimbling over the Cairngorm. The fishing was challenging, (when is it not?), given the low water. Still, if it's not low water it's humidity, air temperature, water temperature, no cloud cover or simply just fishing like a muppet. Anyway, young CK and I with unrestrained enthusiasm hit the water very early one morning. A modest grilse was all we had to show for our effort but dawn over the Spey was simply beautiful. Meanwhile, our famine was anothers feast. A beat downstream was pulling them out in scores. That will be the salmon for you. The Fishing Omerta precludes mention of the beat name, or indeed numbers, but salmon rods will anyway know where. 

It's A Fickle World

 

This time yesterday I was standing waist deep in the Tweed on a very nice private beat.  There were tons of salmon around but for reasons best known to their fickle selves were just not on the “take,” and remained difficult to catch all day.

Sometimes, it feels the same way about life these days.

 Fortunately, dinner and a few drams in The Townhouse in Melrose helped drive the fishing demons away. Shame it's not as portable as the fishing rods........... 

Salmon Fishing For Sale; River Tweed

 

 

I note that the Telegraph today has an article about a weeks fishing for sale on the Tweed at Tillmouth with six rods offered for £825,000. Evan Harris of the agents Sale & Partner describes it as the best week on the best beat on the best river in Europe. Well, Evan would wouldn't he. It's undoubtedly a prolific beat but can get a bit on the crowded side with 9 rods fishing at this time of year on a single bank and of course, it's open to question and debate which is the best beat on the river. Most Tweed fishermen would not automatically think of Tillmouth, especially given some beats don't even report their catches.

So, if you're a keen fisherman who can't quite cobble together £825,000 or, you don't have five friends, but would like some fishing on the Tweed in perpetuity then worry not, for I'm here to help.

I have a late September week at Lower Pavilion on the Middle Tweed beside Melrose. I've fished there for ten years and it's time to move on. With it comes a week in February, a week in July, one of the best huts on the Tweed and one and a half miles of double bank fishing overseen by Scott Povey who is just a terrific ghillie. Annual 5 year average for the beat is 235 salmon.

Pricing indication is low £20k's. Ping me at mc@mentalcrumble.com if you would like more detail.