2020 had its low points but it was also the year "salmon addict" Stewart Calligan caught his "fish of a lifetime"

My friend has just sent me a What’s App video entitled Best Moments in 2020.

2020 has had plenty of low points but for Stewart it has also marked a real high in his fishing career.
2020 has had plenty of low points but for Stewart it has also marked a real high in his fishing career.

I kept pressing the start triangle and nothing happened. Being slow on the uptake I slowly realised he was taking the mickey, there were NO best moments in 2020. Not true – lots of us have had best moments.

My Covid year best moments included catching my first ever salmon. This New Year’s article is about catching the big daddy of them all. After that first salmon I was hopelessly addicted.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

In the last week of the season, I was back at the Tweed for a two-day cancellation on the Tillmouth beat. This was just downstream from the Coldstream bridge and The Lees beat where I caught my first three salmon.

My ghillie, John Edey, took me in our separate cars down lanes and across fields to the ‘dripping stone’ beat a few miles downstream. He pointed out an ancient ghillie’s hut. I entered the stone hut and an old dog grate full of hot glowing logs was a welcome sight.

Fortified against the cold, wet afternoon we were out in the boat midstream, Spey casting a Hardy 10 wt fast sinking line from a Hardy Graphite 15 feet rod.

The peat ochre flood water was running off and was full of autumn leaves.

The idea was to cast, not across the river, but slightly downstream with the fly plopping gently onto the surface at the full extent of the line and tippet. Then it would swing four or five feet deep in an arc to the dangle. ‘Mending’ was required to slow the fly in prime water, i.e. where the salmon were likely to be.

We covered 30 yards of river by John letting the boat downstream about a yard a cast as one would do when wading.

Visualising the fly changing shape from swinging with the rivers flow, to the dangle and then beginning to ‘nose’ upstream as I retrieved the line, I felt resistance. Gently curving the rod, the fish hooked itself as it swam away.

After what seemed an eternity I began to reel in and then it went again. Will the hook hold fast, will the knots give or will it leap and remove the tension as this fish of a lifetime dominated the tussle?

Exhilarating and thrilling as this was, I knew full concentration was necessary. John had the boat to the side, anchored and up to his waist ready with the net.

He said a pound a minute to play a good fish and sure enough 20 minutes later he netted a fine cock salmon of nearly 20lbs.

Trembling as a daddy long-legged spider, I looked at a wonderful sight. Its well hooked jaw or kype saying, “Get me back in, I’ve spawning business to attend too.”