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Ronan's report

Sunday March 11th 2012

We're quite fond of fishing huts in the UK. You see quite a few alongside England's chalk-streams, usually on the more exclusive and expensive beats. There are hundreds of them along the major salmon rivers of Scotland; in some places you get them every half-mile.

Some of these things are amazing: Stone-built and tile roofed, with built-in kitchens and plumbed-in toilets, comfy sofas and drinks cabinets. I'm really not keen on these luxurious edifices, speaking as they do of privilege and exclusion. And anywhere you have to take your waders off before entering can't really be classed as a fishing hut in my humble opinion.

Your average hut though, is usually much more shed-like, slightly musty and damp, with wooden benches, garden chairs and calor gas stoves; notice boards with fading fuzzy pictures of smiles and trophy fish.

These are places for catches to be bragged about, excuses to be tested, and truths to be exaggerated. Places for gossip and slander, jokes and confessions. What's said in the hut stays in the hut. With good company a fishing hut is a perfect punctuation in a long day's fishing.

However if the company is less than perfect, beware. Being stuck in a hut with the wrong person can be torture. The already compact space shrinks in, the walls move inwards until you can see every fibre in the wood and count every nail and knot; the windows shrink cutting out the light and the view; hope vanishes and time does that strange thing where the period you're in the hut stretches out interminably, and yet the afternoon's fishing seems to be vanishing at triple speed.

Being confined in close quarters alongside someone with whom you might be said to grate, is probably one of the better incentives to leave a perfectly good cup of tea, pull on damp waders and wet gloves, brave the inclement conditions, and get out and fish.

Luckily this is the very rare exception to the rule.

I met a ghillie friend of mine on the Tay last week. He showed me around his beats, bouncing down rutted tracks and around mole-hill pocked fields in his small Landrover. We talked about the river and the named pools, the great catches they'd had and his hopes for the season ahead, and watched a few restless kelts lollop around the river.

The sky was clouding over, there was a chill, and a promise of snow in the air.

We adjourned to the hut.

With the kettle on, the two salmon anglers fishing the beat that day joined us. They were great lads, full of energy and enthusiasm having landed three fish during the morning, and happy to chat whilst refuelling on tea, sandwiches and chocolate for the afternoon onslaught.

I wasn't fishing, and whilst happy to chat was a little concerned that I may outstay my welcome and keep them from their fishing. Also I hadn't brought lunch and was thinking of heading off in search of sustenance of my own. That thought was sharply curtailed with the insistent offering of a freshly-made bacon sandwich complete with HP sauce, and a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

The clouds parted and the sun came out, the hut seemed spacious and airy, the windows poured in light and suddenly opened onto the smiling, shining river.


Pic Of Day

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