Although this site is primarily to promote My ideas on food and it’s influences on our culture, I do want to include some of my other interests, I have many that I feel are worthy of sharing.
Angling has been a passion of mine for over 35 years and although I understand the objections to it I feel it is much maligned in its purist form. People ask me why I sit for hours looking at a tiny float in the water? Well, in my opinion any human activity, when broken down into its separate most basic components could be construed has tedious and pointless.
Why listen to music? It’s a lot of air waves vibrating through your ear where it is reassembled by your brain to create harmony and melody! I know music is profoundly much more than this, but I hope you get my point.
You get out what you put in is my Mantra!!
Below is My account of one of my many trips to Scotland’s highlands in pursuit of peace, tranquillity and maybe some fish.
Catching Fish is really a side issue when the promise of such idyllic surroundings are my primary driving force, just to breathe the cool air on a still summer morning is pleasure enough.
My senses are invaded by the apparent scream of a bed side banshee, wailing into my mind like a dastardly imp. My eyes with burning ire open to see from whence this dissonance emanates. Clutching wildly as if to catch a fly in the dark I knock my alarm clock to the floor, in doing so I quell the banshee and all its rage.
Bolt upright now I am sitting in mild confusion, not sure why my alarm as sounded at 3 am on a Friday morning. I give a little stretch and a yawn, my eyes still blurry and hot, when a slow realisation rises, in doing so, the notion clicks in my head, I am going fishing in Scotland…! This thought immediately lifts my mood, I turn my feet onto the bedroom floor and prepare for my adventure.
After my morning ablutions (not very interesting and not worthy of embellishment) I present myself at the kettle….flick the switch and wait for the gurgling hiss of the element to start, a noise that is so common in my schedule that without it I’m sure I would cease to function. Whilst the beautiful, alluring kettle attempts to come up to a boil I move into the living room where my fishing tackle is neatly strewn ( has oxymoron’s go that’s almost poetic) across several surfaces. Bags, boxes, beds, seats, food and camping equipment abound, all with a distinct whiff of unkempt wilderness. After a brief visualisation of my equipment I discern the click of the friendly kettle and I return to it promptly. With a cling a clang a plop and a tinkle I prepare my strong coffee. When I turn from my position a chink of grey dull twilight permeates the gap in the kitchen blinds to signify the dawning of another summer day. This is why I love summer mornings, its light before sane people are awake! Only the early travellers are sharing this moment, it’s an interlard between wake and slumber that only few can comprehend.
Glancing at the clock, I see the time has moved on a pace 03:30 I need to get My gear into the car, so, with cup in hand I begin to move items of earthy smelling canvas and plastic to the front doorway.
Opening the door on such a morning always affords me a hedonistic thrill. It’s a simple child like awe and excitement born of being the only one about at this time, the peace and tranquillity is exquisite as anticipation hangs in the air like mist over a meadow.
Moving with stern precision I open the boot of my car, push the seats down and reorganise the seat belts. This packing requires geometric precision, every item has to be coordinated to interlock with an adjoining nook or cranny.
Rod bag goes in first. At 6 feet in length it takes prime location down the centre of the car just stopping at the gear lever. Next the tent is placed sympathetically to the left of the rods and my Ruck sack to the right. Other sundry items of lesser size are allowed some form of leeway, but, nonetheless are thoughtfully allocated appropriate homes. Lastly the most important items are placed atop the burgeoning mass. Food, whisky, bed and bait!
Time to Move!!
Keys in the ignition, clear the windows, pop the gum into my mouth and with a deft flick of my right hand the engine effuses like an asthmatic filly (1.4 Diesel) 82 miles to the gallon but the power of 4 lame horses!
Pulling out of the drive at this time of day is wonderful. The streets are silent and not a thing moves, even the birds are respectfully quiet as if to honour the mood of mild summer mornings and the potential held within.
This is a journey I have made countless times over the past 30 years, I know every inch of the route, every building, every undulation of the land even the heavy mist that lingers in the road side fields seems to be eternal and familiar, but, it never loses its charm. Now as I glide unnoticed through the streets of my town my mind is filled with thoughts of the day ahead. Soon the grey cast of twilight will give way to a full splendid glow of summer radiance allowing me to fully appreciate the sights before me. The foxes who return from their nocturnal foraging are compensation for the less inspiring 20 something guy who is wobbling along the footpath in semi clothed state, his progress seemingly hindered by gusts of wind that push him off course into fences, bushes and lamp posts. A police siren cuts the silence with its shrill tones, nevertheless, the calm is still palpable from the cocoon of my car.
20 minutes into my journey and I am approaching the motorway, those byways of such magnitude, they act as veins, pumping blood throughout the country, bringing life to a concrete world. It is when driving on the motorway in the small hours that I imagine how it was decades ago when high-speed thoroughfares were a new concept and cars were so thinly spread it was possible to glance but a handful over the course of a 100 mile journey.
75 minutes into my trip I have done around 70 miles and the scenery is already beginning to change. Left behind are the soft pastures that line the road side, gone are the cattle that graze on the sweet grass of dew laden green, giving way to sheep that climb, like untethered mountaineers up the sides of steeply slopping hillsides.
45 more miles and I will stop for a much needed coffee. I will stop at MY services, mine because I’ve visited them so many times I feel like I have bought them many times over!
As the sign for Southwaite services looms I feel a sense of relief, I can start to relax from the concentration of driving and begin to think about that coffee.
Pulling off the motorway, up the slip road and into the service area it is still evident that only a few folk are up & about at this hour, this suits me fine, and is partly why I choose to travel so early. Everything is simple, no queues, no screaming kids or indeed screaming adults, just a quiet coffee infused oasis that will be mine for 30 minutes.
My time at the services is divided between nursing a Latte (£2.99… yes, that’s right) and reading the subtitles on the news channel that is showing on the TV.
I get the impression from the loose nature of the spelling and grammar that the typist providing the subtitles may not be entirely happy about their early shift. After My pricey Latte goes down the hatch I migrate into the shop to look for a book. One Direction? Robbie Williams? Katie Price? These books are typical of the samples on offer and quite frankly I would rather poke my eyes out with Katie’s false tits than read any of this garbage.
I buy a bar of chocolate and prepare to move onto the next leg of my journey.
Sometimes I would venture as far as Loch Awe on the west coast of Scotland, some 325 miles, meaning another 3 hours driving, today however I’m heading for St Marys loch in the Border region, approximately 70 miles from here.
This section of the M6 Motorway, just north of Carlisle, is very scenic with large steep hills either side and hardy farm houses that appear as tiny specks in distant seclusion. Up in the distance to the left, a welcome sight appears, one that never ceases to please me..” Welcome to Scotland.”
Soon I’ll be looking for another road sign. Junction for Moffat, a tiny village that was once a stopping of point for literally thousands of tourists. When traveling throughout UK the A702 is a vital passage from England to Edinburgh. When staying in Moffat as I have done many times the local bar staff all lament the drop in trade, they apportion the blame to 9/11, claiming American tourists are simply choosing not to visit UK in anything like the number they once did.
170 miles complete and I exit onto the A702 slip road for Edinburgh / Moffat, leading to a series of roundabouts that are all prettily adorned with colourful flowers and shrubs.
Moffat itself is only a few miles away and the loch just some 12 miles beyond that, however, my journey will take another 45 minutes due to the winding snake-like nature of the road between Moffat and Selkirk on which St Mary’s Loch lies.
The A708 is the road that I will take towards Selkirk. I’ve been driving for 20 years and this road is one of the most uniquely stunning and unquestionably dangerous routes I’ve ever used. On Leaving the small quaint village behind I am confronted with a narrow passage of tarmac enclosed on either side by ancient dry stone walls. Over grown hedgerows partly hide the old green moss laden stone of the walls, giving a further sense of tight enclosure with little room for wandering concentration. When large vehicles approach in the distance I actually prepare to metaphorically breathe in, trying to narrow my car to avoid collision.
Spectacular views appear when the trees and shrubs clear to offer a temporary view across the shallow valley to my right.
As I progress, the valley gives way to imposing Hills of enormous grandeur. The road, like a stone snake bends and twists ahead of me as if to cut through this eternal scene. The steep hillsides cascade on each side like brushed green suede. The sun, only now appearing over these immense forms casts eternal shadows that are long and direct, they seem to point to my destination in the distance, just around the next fatal bend.
Arriving at the waterside is always a wonderful pleasure, the driving is done and the day is still ridiculously young. I hurriedly exit my car and begin to unpack My gear…Why I rush at this point is always a puzzle to me. I simply can’t relax when I see the water even though I’ll be here for the best part of two days.
Clambering down leafy slopes towards my chosen spot is always a challenge, but, I approach it like a mad man with little to live for. Sliding over pine needles 12 inches deep and bouncing off tree stumps, I find, is the best way forward.
OH WOW….! This spot is mesmerizing! I’m lucky to get it to myself..
My equipment, strategically set out for precision use, is all at hand. Some guys set their gear out haphazardly… I want it just so. Pike fishing is a specialist branch of the sport and requires a certain precision. All items of fish catching ilk are arranged within arms reach. Landing net, un-hooking mat, gloves, bait, all just there to touch. Now I am set up, and the waterside as returned to its original peaceful state I will open a book and switch my radio on.
The wait is on.
Below right are 2 more views of St Mary’s Loch
- I leave you with this thought….
Anglers up and down the country are the eyes and ears of our countryside, We are the police of our waterways who report any misdemeanours to relevant authorities. Without anglers who proactively observe our lochs, rivers and canals, all manner of aberration would occur leaving our green and pleasant land no more!!