After one barren trip too many, our editor Mark Hedges had fallen out of love with fishing. Could a trip to tackle the River Tweed in the company of his regular companion – 'The Judge' – rekindle his joy?
Could the curse be lifted? I had been given an incredibly smart, handmade fishing rod for my 50th birthday, but that landmark is more than four summers ago and, despite many weeks of salmon fishing in between, I had never landed a fish with it. It casts like a dream, but wherever I went, I blanked while others were smugly hauling in mighty fish.
The Judge and I decided to try our luck again at beautiful Ladykirk on Tweed – the member of the judiciary caught three double-digit fish there last year (I, of course, blanked). However, Ladykirk boasts some of the best returns in low-water years and, as that has been the demon on most of our recent fishing trips, we drove north with hearts full of hope.
You can’t catch anything unless you have a fly in the water and, as we tackled up, Mattie, the head gillie, perused my flybox for a suitably seductive fly. Disappointed, he requisitioned a dazzling yellow Cascade conehead from the Judge, who demanded a tenner for it. My hearing failed me at that point.
Mattie and I slipped out in a boat into the mid waters of the Tweed and, before long, there was a tug on my line. And another. However, there was nothing that connected me with a salmon. I felt like poor Tantalus and his eternal punishment. What spell had been cast on my rod?
Then, suddenly, I was on. I was connected with a fish, which rushed to the far side of the river like an out-of-control cocker spaniel. After a few minutes of frolicking, the salmon changed its mind and hurtled back at me. All was lost and the line went slack.
The Judge announced that, as the curse was lifted, he now wanted £100 for the fly. I doubted him even more on the former suggestion and, seeing my crestfallen face, he suggested that £50 would be OK.
I did catch one fish, however, a nice 9lb cock, and then another on his fly. I lost two more and then – hurrah – a lovely hen fish the following day.
I was in Nirvana. The Judge announced that the floodgates had opened for me.
For once, the wigged one was not so fortunate and, becoming increasingly morose as the trip wore on, he is, apparently, now planning to sell all his tackle on eBay. It’s been an idle threat after disappointing weeks for some number of years, though.
In truth, the two of us have fallen in love with fishing at this place. Lunch, gathered from the outstanding butchers R G Forman & Son (they also sell fishing tackle and flies at a fraction of the cost that the Judge charges), takes place in the former stone netting shiels.
We have, in other years, been very successful here; it’s a wonderful place to cast a line whatever the result. It’s so good, Ladykirk is the sort of place that should remain a secret.
We stayed in the beautiful Boathouse, opposite one of the beats, and were delightfully looked after by local chefs. The season after next will see more beats available to fishermen, making it one of Britain’s prime spots for a week on the river.
The Boathouse at Norham in Northumberland sleeps 10 and is available through Crabtree & Crabtree from £862.50 for a three-night stay. To book, telephone 01573 226711 or visit www.crabtreeandcrabtree.com. To book fishing at Ladykirk, visit www.fishpal.com.
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