Secrets of a past master

AFTER the exciting news of a reprieve for Esk sea trout I think it is a very good time to pass on the teaching which I received in the early sixties from my mentor Jimmy Martin from Cupar in Fife.

Jimmy fished the Middle Beat at Kinnaird on the first week of August and September every year and I cannot truly remember just when or how we met.

I was living at Balbirnie Mill on the Kinnard Estate and, with my fascination for angling, I spent a lot of time watching anglers from all over enjoy these times of plenty.

I quess people like us are destined to meet and, although there was forty years in age difference, we became close friends for nearly twenty years.

He was to be the inspiration for a lifetime of love for the sea trout, that rare fighter of the darkness hours, that challenge so rare in modern society, a lone hunter in the dark with the loneliness similar to that of the long distance runner.

For those not lucky enough to have fished the Kinnaird Middle Beat there is, at the top of beat where the water passes through two croys and tips over a submerged feature to favour the north bank, a fascinating 3/4 foot deep stream of some 100 yards in length.

Jimmy taught me that this was a no-go area in daylight and those who fish the stream in daytime will not report a lot of success. Fish just do not lie there all day, tending to favour the Willows just behind the croys, a favourite lie of the grilse).

In the impatience of my youth I was very often ready to take on the Willows too early but the hand of restraint settled on my shoulder and Jimmy put on the kettle and we would settle down to chat with his wife, who produced the scones and cakes often to bring a call from the bailiff or head keeper, who knew of her culinary skills.

When it was almost dark we would walk from the caravan the half mile to the top of the beat and sit down on the rustic bench which snuggles into the trees, a private place to watch the water and watch the transformation of the river.

Not a line was cast until we heard the whirr of the jumping trout and the heavy splash of the fish dropping back into the blackness of the night river. It was time to go.

I watched that man so many times cast blind into the darkness, trying just to miss the vegetation on the far bank and I now know he knew just when the fish would strike.

Years have taught me these lies and it sometimes annoys my companions when they fail to make contact. A word from the wise, observe and learn what I learned from a real master.

I would be only to delighted to think Jimmy’s expertise would not be lost and that he would approve.

Tight Lines,

By Bill Balfour.