Caught by the River

First Cast at the Loch of the Green Corrie

21st October 2009

by Andrew Greig.

(continued from yesterday..)
We were so eager, fresh to the place, wondering who was going to be first to catch that fish for Norman. A single fish, caught by any one of us, would fulfil the mission, but it would be good to be the one who caught it.
The first ten, the first twenty minutes passed. The sun came full out. We shrugged off our fleeces, tied them round waists and continued. Andy sighed and moved further along the bank; Peter stepped out onto a rock and cast further towards the still centre of the loch. Caught in a swirl of inattention, my cast tangled.
I knelt on the coarse grass, squinted at the pale fine line. Took off my glasses and looked closer – my father’s gesture, one I was starting to make more often, like that soft involuntary sound as I stood up or sat down.
I got lucky. It was only a fankle, not a bourach – the dowdy mid-fly and the radiant Blue Zulu had involuntary mated in a tangle of metaphors. I cut off the mid-fly. Keep it simple.
A cry from Andy.
I looked up in time to see the ripple spread.
‘Big one,’ Peter commented. I got my line out with fresh urgency. It helped to know there was something down there.
Another rise, this time not out in the middle where Peter was casting, but in close.
‘Tiddler,’ he commented.
Then another. I caught the flicker, then the small plop came in on the breeze. It was close in again, in the shallows on Andy’s side. He cursed quietly but we were all cheered by the action, and religiously shifted our casts to the shallow margins.
For a while, nothing much happened.
Busy casting, it took some time to realise the loch had gone dead. For an hour or more there had been no further rises. Not a bite, not a nibble for any of us.
Peter picked his way along the shore towards me.
‘It happens sometimes,’ he said. ‘If you don’t enjoy fishing when you don’t catch a fish, you shouldn’t be a fisherman.’
Andy shrugged and took his line in. We sprawled on the little promontory, ate flapjacks and drank tea, and looked at the loch. The sun came out again, the cool wind dropped. For a while we just lay and looked and no one said anything. We were, I believe, entirely happy.
(to be continued tomorrow).

“from Powerlines. adapted from a passage in Andrew Greig’s forthcoming book ‘At the Loch of the Green Corrie’ to be published by Quercus in Feb 2010”

Andrew Greig. A brief biography:

I was introduced to fly fishing by my friend Mal Duff, for whom it was his greatest passion after mountaineering. When he died on Everest, my apprenticeship was incomplete and still is. The great Scottish poet Norman MacCaig, a very accomplished fisherman, shortly before his death in 1996 asked me to fish on his behalf in his favourite place on Earth, the Loch of the Green Corrie in Assynt, Sutherland. ‘If you succeed, I shall be delighted. If you fail, then looking down from a place in which I do not believe, I shall be most amused.’ This quest led to several trips with friends to Assynt, which in turn has grown into a full-scale book incorporating fishing expeditions, elements of biography, memoir, history and geology, plus musings on friendship, poetry, mortality, love and malt whiskey. At the Loch of the Green Corrie, from which the following pieces are excerpted and slightly adapted, will be published by Quercus in 2010.

Andrew Greig is the author of six collections of poetry, the latest of which is This Life, This Life: New and Selected Poems, published by Bloodaxe Books. His six novels are That Summer, Electric Brae, The Return of John McNab, When They Lay Bare, In Another Light and Romanno Bridge. His latest work of non-fiction is Preferred Lies. He lives in Edinburgh and Orkney.