Having spent a while thinking of a trip to the river spey. I say a while. What I really mean is twenty years. My thought process for a change is a foot race between Triggers brain and a tortoise in cement slippers. On my home river the mighty river ribble I can flog my guts out fifty to one hundred times a year and maybe get four or five salmon in a season.
So, when opportunity knocked and I was unexpectedly offered a place on the spey for a week in April I had a choice to make. Choose life. Choose to engineer a gap in time. Choose to juggle family and work life. Choose to think big picture. Choose to break the wheel. Choose to hit reset. Choose to exit the membrane of the grind.
Take the High Road to Speyside
Tackle in the car. Six-hour drive. Glorious scenery, palpable excitement, radio football commentary, playlist inspiring a cocktail of pleasant day dreams. What a drive. Man, I loved it. I arrive at the Mash Tun in Aberlour. My friends and fellow members of the escape committee are outside and beaming with broad smiles. We walk to the bridge and within seconds we see fresh salmon leaping. Plural. Fact. I can’t believe it. On the ribble if I see five salmon in a season, I pinch myself. Here I’ve already seen double figures.
Our cottage was up the road in Archestown. Perfect in every way. Lovely rooms, parking, massive kitchen diner etc. You get the picture. I have booked half a rod – which means I share a rod with a mate. Mainly to keep the cost down but also, I don’t really want to fish for eight hours a day. Eight hours a day for five days….I’d be demented. Swapping every hour allows us both to stay fresh.
A spring salmon off the Spey (second cast!)
Ok – so bare with me. This is true. On my second cast with a fly on the river spey. I catch a gleaming fresh run atlantic salmon. As Roy Ayers sang Everybody Loves The Sunshine. Elated I sit out the rest of the day and have a few beers and sagely advise my much-maligned friend. While I do this, I also admire the landscape of this stunning river. The whole area is bathed in a special spring light that makes everything seem a touch brighter. From a world mechanised to mother nature luminous.
Our beat was split into two sections. Lower and higher. Our ghillie Davey rotated us each session. This worked superbly well. We covered the water worth fishing rather than wandering blindly. I’m a dab hand at wandering blindly. For the week we managed seven salmon to eighteen pounds. Ate out every night, had a few beers, lots of excitement and plenty of laughs.
20 years dreaming of the River Spey (a dream fulfilled)
I’m not sure why it took me twenty years to grasp this nettle. Don’t make my mistake. It’s a special place. Speyside is the perfect re-set button. Life can be like being trapped in a washing machine on spin cycle. In the wise words of The Spencer Davis Group – Gimme Some Lovin – I’m so glad we made it. You will be too.
James Gilbraith is an Author and passionate salmon angler on his home river in Lancashire the Ribble. His two books “Terminal Chancer” and “Hooked on Hope” are well worth reading. Ive just read for the second time “Hooked on Hope” – brilliant stuff. Laced with colourful characters, anecdotes and great stories, I was caught laughing out loud in public. This is a great book for anglers or mere normal humans. It even comes with a soundtrack!