Scotland Fly FishingIn mid-March, I traveled to Scotland for work. I thought that it would be a unique opportunity to fish the River Spey with a two-handed rod and possibly even catch Atlantic Salmon.Making the arrangements proved difficult. I sought help from Flies and Fins friends. Several provided contacts for guides – but none of the guides responded to my emails. Via Facebook, I received a tip from an Icelandic Fishing Lodge Meister in mid-February. I made contact with the suggested guide’s wife who books fishermen for beats on the River Spey. Contact was quite sporadic, since she only works a few hours per week. Upon arriving in Scotland I was especially lucky to contact her by phone and we had a lovely chat but it became clear that there were two major obstacles: 1) I would need to rent a car and drive to the River (I did not trust my jet-lagged abilities to stay on my “wrong” side of the road during the two-hour nighttime trip back to Glasgow from the river after a long day of fishing), and 2) I didn’t bring my equipment with me. I had the idea that one only fishes the Spey with a two-handed rod and I don’t have one…. I anticipated that a guide would be able to supply equipment. WRONG! So after a month and a half of trying to plan a day of fishing (beats are typically hired for several days to a week at a time, several rods may fish the same beat), I found myself planless, 2 days before my free day.I resorted to my computer and the broadband connection in my hotel room and searched for fly fishing in Scotland. Reading the available websites, I found one for Tweed Guide on the River Tweed in the South of Scotland, the region that borders England. I called, left a message and my call was returned within an hour. Bill Deal, the proprietor of Tweed Guide spoke with me and said that he needed to check a few things but that he thought he could work something out. Within 2 hours the plan was set.I realized that my hope of catching Atlantic Salmon was really quite foolish, since Salmon run predominantly during the Fall. Bill recommended that we focus on Grayling, a species with which I had no experience, so I said “Why Not?” My thoughts: “Do what the guide does best!” All I needed to do was hop on a train in Glasgow, catch a bus in Edinburgh to Galashiels and Bill would meet me there… Two and a half hours of public transportation… No problem! Bill would provide everything, waders, rods, reels, line, flies, lunch, afternoon tea, guidance, companionship, even a hat, but most importantly: ACCESS TO WATER. I met Bill at the Bus Stop in Galashiels. We climbed in his car and within 10 minutes we were pulling into the beat on the River Tweed. Although rivers in Scotland do not require fishermen to have a fishing license, permission of the owner is necessary. The River Tweed is no exception and the beat (~2 miles long with a beautiful tall bridge) at Tweedwood is overseen by a Kevin, a tall, jovial young ghilly wearing a wool cap to cover his clean-shaven head. Kevin speaks with a heavy brogue, and I am certain that had I understood him better, his phenomenal knowledge of the river and extensive experience would have been quite valuable and entertaining.Bill explained to me that we would be Czech Nymphing for grayling with a three nymph rig. One nymph (actually a pink scud) had a double-tungsten-bead head so it would really get down to the bottom. For this water, Bill explained that he preferred that the heavy scud be in the middle position with a larger attractor nymph 18 inches above the scud (toward the rod) and a small pheasant tail on the dropper below the scud. NO INDICATOR, rather the fisherman watches and feels for takes as the taught leader is high-sticked downstream with the scud bumping the bottom throughout. Bill encouraged me to allow the nymphs to swing below the drift area allowing them to suggest emergence of the nymphs. I worked this method for several hours and believed that I had several takes but I was too slow to react with an effective hook set.The day was filled with high-sticking and frequent bottom takes (occasions when a nymph would get wedged between a few rocks and would give the impression of a “take”). In order to avoid losing a fly, I would attempt to pull the nymph directly upstream and free it from its rocky lie. At one point, Bill waded out to my waist deep position to show me some flies and told me about his Polish fly tier from whom he purchases many flies. He switched my pheasant tail to a lovely #16 light green caddis nymph imitation with much fine detail that had impressed him with his Polish tiers skills. Once tied on (in the lowest position, below the scud), I resumed my high-stick, Czech nymphing, bouncing along the bottom with occasional hang-ups on the bottom. On the third swing, while letting the nymphs go downstream awaiting their “emergence,” I sensed another hang up. I increased the tension on the line ready to pull the nymph out of its rocky perch, when about 6 feet downstream from me a 30 inch fish jumped four feet straight up in the air. BAM!! All I could see was bright red and orange. Upon its re-entry, it headed into the downstream current and I started chasing it along the side staying in the waist-deep water semi-stumbling over the 4-6 in stones on the bottom as I let it take the line from the reel. Within 20 seconds it had me into my backing with no let up. I watched my line moving downstream at about a 45 degree angle downstream as I followed it. Then about even with me or slightly upstream of me on the other side of the main channel, a bright red and orange fish skyrocketed, 3 feet straight up, again, this time surprising me with its upstream location as I thought my line was heading downstream. (I actually thought that my fish had frightened another fish to jump.) With 40 feet of my backing off the reel, it dawned on me that that was my fish was headed upstream. The fish’s first run seemed over. I started cranking the reel to try to regain some of the backing when I felt the tension release and the fish was gone. All I could do was reel and reel and reel as my heart rate slowly returned to normal. When the line was back on the reel, we inspected the nymph rig. The light green #16 caddis nymph was gone, but the scud and the attractor were still there. Apparently, the colorful jumper had taken the caddis nymph.Bill explained that the fish was an Atlantic Salmon, probably a Kelt, a fish that had already spawned and could have been returning downstream. It’s bright red and orange ventral coloring reminded me of the spawning colors of brook trout on Long Island in October… but this fish was substantially larger than my new world brookies! Spring spawners, while less common than fall Salmon are unique and quite coveted. After spawning, some Atlantic Salmon return to the sea. Spring run fish always run in the Spring. This was the third salmon seen on the beat this spring.After my heart settled back inside my chest, we returned to the hut for lunch. Kevin, the ghilly, tried some Spey casting, as he hoped to hook the fish that I had lost just minutes before. The afternoon was filled with further toying with the Czech nymphing for several more hours and a short bout with Spey Casting. I didn’t land any fish. (I did snap a picture of a stuffed Grayling in a museum in Glasgow.) As the sun began to dip beneath the tips of the trees lining the river, we removed our waders, packed the car and headed back to the bus stop for my return to Edinburgh and Glasgow. I left with a smile on my face knowing that I had been connected to an Atlantic Salmon for about 45 seconds. I want to thank Bill Deal for his comraderie and for putting me on the Salmon. After all my difficulties booking a guide, he showed me a great time. I couldn’t help comparing my salmon adventure to the Steelhead videos and stories I have read on this site, especially video of Dave Severson (waterwhippa) a much younger angler, who is more agile and his successful extraction of a much larger fish from a much smaller stream. I add “one-half” of a new species to my list. But the whole memory will last forever. Greg, I now have a taste of Isaac Walton’s “King Of Fish.”