Updated: Nov 6, 2018
Well it's been an incredibly busy summer, not just on the river but with school holidays and needing to keep the children occupied like millions of parents the world over. So, how did I manage to keep the little people occupied for so many long weeks?! Well, yes, you've guessed it, we went fishing.
When I was expecting my first child several people told me “Your life will never be the same, you won’t be able to go fishing….” I admit I’ve always been someone who, if told I can’t/won’t be able to do something, will jolly well find a way to do it. Two days before No.1 was born I was fishing and three days after he was born I was back out in my waders!
We’ve only gone onwards and upwards from there, visits to trout fisheries, stocked ponds and practice on the lawn at home and then on to the culmination of his efforts, seeing him casting a fly on The Spey this year has made me prouder than punch! Admittedly his casting prowess is somewhat limited to the “I’m fine, I can do it on my own mummy” technique when fishing with me. He possesses a style that is most definitely a little haphazard and inconsistent such that only a mother could love but what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for with enthusiasm! Thanks to the patience of many of my friends, who just happen to be ghillies, and a huge keenness on his part, I’m sure that No.1 son will become a fairly accomplished Speycaster and fisher in years to come.
Of course it helps that mine are outdoors types (how could they not be?!) and I fully appreciate that this not the case for a lot of parents, but for me there’s no better way to spend a few hours of quality time with the children. No television, no screen distractions, just good old fashioned fun. It helped that it’s been such a warm, dry summer, disastrous for the rivers but great for introducing little people to fishy delights.
A few hours at a pond with a picnic was a great way to pass the time but it wasn’t all bucolic bliss, we had a few clashes, mainly when after hours and hours I wanted to go home and No.1 decided he wanted to stay….cue big sulks and the blind promise that yes, of course we could come back tomorrow, and the next day….but the great thing for me is that not only are my children learning about the skills of casting and techniques to outwit their quarry but also about nature and the balance of that nature with conservation. We saw bugs galore, nymphs, butterflies, dragonflies, red squirrels, pine marten, buzzards, herons, dolphins, seals and numerous other creatures. We heard bird song and deer calls and that all too familiar cry of frustration from other fishers when fish were hooked and lost! The best way to lead the conservation battle for any species is to educate everyone of the threats that they face. The children saw a heron take his pick, they saw cormorants and gooseanders dive and dine with aplomb and experienced first-hand why we need to balance nature with a little human intervention occasionally. The best way to learn is to experience and the best way to do this with youngsters is to make it fun.
At the moment I am full to busting with pride and admiration for my eldest’s dedication. There have been several days when all I, and the ghillie, have wanted to do is retire to the hut for a wee respite but No.1 has insisted on staying out. One poor friend of mine was kept out in a boat for 2 and a half hours . . . . But, not only is this slightly shy, quiet boy learning so much about nature, conservation, the balance of predator control but also the skills of patience, accuracy, caution, safety and respect for ones quarry. There are also important social skills, he can hold his own in a fishing hut, keeping up conversation with “the grown ups”, even my youngest at the age of 2 astounded some guests who arrived at one beat by walking up to the them, introducing herself and asking if they were going fishing with mummy today?! The only local skill I’m holding off on passing on to them is tasting a dram or two of Speyside’s finest, that vital rite of passage can wait a year or two yet . . . .