There is a small burn (what we call a stream in Scotland) in Ayrshire where my friends and I cut our teeth with the fly rods many years ago. It is a small, rambling twisty little burn flowing through about four miles of rich farmland that had allowed us to learn so much in the past. Together with Jamie and Cameron Kennedy, Chris Jess and Owen Trevor we had learnt how to cast quickly, quietly and accurately with small dry flies to outwit the trout that fill the pools and narrows. I hadn’t fished here since I was a teenager and all these years later, provided with the chance to fish it again, I simply felt compelled to visit it again hoping that the trout that had been part of so many happy memories still lived in its dark flowing waters. I had fished it in the upper reaches only a few weeks earlier with my daughter Madeleine. It was here that she managed her very first wild trout on the fly, a simply wonderful moment for me to behold. She caught it on her first cast with a fly she had tied herself back in the spring in Vienna. She went on to catch another five that morning and would have gone on for more if she’d have had the chance but time was against us. However, I wanted to try the lower reaches of the burn where the trees cover much of it and the bigger boys like to hang out. For such a small burn (much if it you could nearly jump across) it is probably about one of the most demanding places I have ever fished as one bad cast sends every trout in the pool bolting for cover. This really is a one cast job with the first cast being a maker or a breaker.
Due to my lack of practice in such close confinement I managed to bungle the first four pools. Not a great start. I walked quietly down the bank to a tiny pool were I was sure I would have a better chance of presenting a fly properly. There is a break in the trees over a 10 metre stretch where a strong swirling current sweeps under an oak tree and leaves a long slow pool before shallowing off at the bottom under and old dead tree. A perfect place for large trout to hold up. Casting upstream with a size 16 elk hair sedge brought instant success from the ever present and ever hungry baby brownies that live here. I landed six small eight inch trout from the first six casts as I slowly moved up towards the oak tree. As I was about to make cast number seven I saw a large dark shadow appear right underneath the oak leaves. I stopped and watched as to make sure that I wouldn’t spook this one. I waited and waited until it rose again, practically touching the leaves as it did so. This would really be a case of “one cast and get it right” so with all my nerves tingling I sent the sedge upstream into the left side of the swirly water. The sedge drifted down towards the tree and just as it was approaching the leaves it was engulfed and a truly memorable battle commenced. The trout went berserk stripping the loose line from my fingers as it dived under the branches. Maintaining steady pressure on it soon had it out only to watch it shoot down the narrow stretch and vanishing at unstoppable speed under the old dead tree at the bottom of the pool. “What on earth could I do now?” I was asking myself as it tore off heading for the biggest snag in the whole of Ayrshire! I dipped the rod tip and held on for dear life as the fish tried again and again to find something to tangle the two pound leader on. After two nerve wracking minutes of steady pressure I had managed to force it back upstream and finally saw it re-enter the pool again. With one last lunge towards the oak tree it was beaten and brought over the waiting net.
A beautiful trout of just over a pound lay before me and all those boyhood joys came flooding back to me. It was quickly photographed before swimming back to its tree house swim. It probably still swims there just now wondering what the hell happened when it chose that one sedge too many and I hope it continues to swim there for a good while longer.