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Ronan's report

Sunday February 6th 2011

I was staying up at Ben's last week, casting and not-eating vegetables for a couple of days.

Sunday saw us meet a dozen or so other casters at the indoor athletic hall at Aberdeen's Sport Village. Wow. The hall was 135 metres long with a very high roof. Perfect for a bunch of nutters wielding fly rods. Much nicer than standing in a freezing field somewhere. It was great to meet some new faces and a few familiar ones too. And it's always fun to try out a bunch of rods and lines that you've never seen before. It was strange being in a sports centre though; who knew that there were so many healthy people in the world? If we go back we may have to invest in shell suits and isotonic drinks to blend in.

Tuesday was the opening day of the salmon fishing season on the Dee. We weren't fishing (I think Ben was meant to be working), but we did attend the opening ceremony. It's a bit of a tradition in Scotland. On the major salmon rivers they make a big thing of the kick-off.

Lots of bag-pipes and kilts, and even a marquee. And free tea, coffee, cake, and wonder-of-wonders, bacon rolls, and a wee dram. Bargain!

Another chance to meet people, and to check out the strange mix of types that get drawn to the river. There’s always a major tweed hatch at these bashes: Brogues, long socks, plus-fours, jacket and waistcoat, topped off with a flat cap. Awesome. Is this uniform unique to the UK?

The ghillies are there, patiently answering dumb questions from all directions and looking faintly uncomfortable – I think they're desperate to be on the river.

The local constabulary turned up. I don't know if they had their eye out for local poachers, but if they were "on operations" they managed to keep it low profile and did a great job of looking friendly and chatting amiably.

Then there are the hard-cores. These people generally turn out in some combination of fishing attire: Rain jacket, fleece, woolly hat, and if they're not actually wearing waders, then their trousers are at least still tucked into their socks. The bacon rolls take a hammering from this contingent.

Overall you get a real sense of a varied but tightly interlinked community. They may not completely share values and standards, but they all depend on each other, some for their living, others for their leisure. And at the centre of it all is the river and its fish.

The job of opening the season this year fell to news-reader Fiona Armstrong who made a nice speech before heading down to the river, chucking some single malt into the stream and making the first cast. There was polite applause from the one hundred or so people watching and then attention wandered as thoughts turned to the whiskey and bacon rolls up at the marquee.

Then we gradually became aware that Fiona was standing there with a bent rod. “Must be the bottom,” we all thought for a second or two. It was quite a shallow spot and it would be easy to catch the gravel. Then the rod bounced a few times – FISH!

Applause once again rippled down the pool as disbelief turned to genuine excitement. A fish! Two minutes into the new season! That has to be a good sign, eh?

Fiona expertly landed the fish. OK – it was a well-mended kelt. But hey, I bet no other celeb. has actually managed to land a fish during the ceremony before, and I wouldn’t put odds on it happening again real soon.

This capture had the obvious effect on the hard-cores. They immediately started looking twitchy, and made noises about "having to get back to their beats" to “make the most of the day”.

Ben and I didn't have any tackle with us and so made do with eating more bacon rolls. Got to keep those protein levels up for the new season, and hey I can eat some vegetables next week.



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