Fly fishing: Torrential rain, but what a catch on the loch

Roger Beck's fly of the month, the J&H Sedge, dressed by Stephen Cheetham
Roger Beck's fly of the month, the J&H Sedge, dressed by Stephen Cheetham
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THIS MONTH’S fly was invented by John Goddard and Cliff Henry, hence its name, and is intended to represent sedge flies.

It is made by tying bunches of deer hair onto a hook and then cutting to shape; it floats like a cork. In anything other than a gentle breeze, this fly is an absolute swine to cast; it is bulky, very light in weight and has the wind resistance of a haystack. For these reasons, I never use the G & H sedge, preferring the elk hair model.

Early July found me making my way north to the Hebrides via Sutherland. It rained. I don’t mean occasionally or showers; it rained solidly for a week.

Eventually I took the ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on the Isle of North Uist. My first port of call after disembarking was the house of my friend Philip. Our usual enthusiastic meeting on his drive was cancelled this year because it was raining. Again.

For the first time in a dozen years, no plans were made for fishing, on account of the rain. This was biblical rain encouraged on its way by a vicious north-east wind. Inclement is one word that I could have used but there are several others. I chose the others.

The following day was Sunday and there’s no fishing in the Hebrides on Sundays. Just as well really because the wind blew and it rained.

On Monday the sky had turned from slate grey to pale grey and the rain had eased off to a downpour; there was a hint of brightness to the South so I assembled a fishing rod.

Mid-morning, my phone announced the arrival of a text message from Philip: “Shall we risk it this afternoon?”

“Yes,” I replied.

As we launched the boat, the rain actually stopped and the temperature rose to an almost tropical 12 degrees.

The Loch is an unassuming patch of water amidst the machair land. It is almost choked with weed and is home to some truly enormous brown trout. These leviathans are rarely seen and very occasionally, one is caught. If I told you the name of the Loch I’d have to kill you.

The wind died away and we drifted slowly across the scarcely disturbed water’s surface. From the reeds there materialised a whole host of insects, the most obvious being some truly huge sedge flies roughly the size of corpulent sparrows. Most unusually swirls and splashes began to attract our attention as the fish made short work of any fly that alighted on the water.

You know where this is going don’t you?

I snipped the imitation stickleback from my line and began to ratch about in my fly box for a helicopter-sized elk hair sedge, knowing all the time that there wasn’t one. Eventually, in a dusty corner I came across a battered G & H sedge which must have been at least 20-years-old.

I cast it well away from the boat and proceeded to tweak the line in such a way that the fly appeared to be sprottling about on the surface.

Quite suddenly, a torpedo-like wake headed in the direction of the G & H, a pair of jaws materialised and simply engulfed the fly. Then, all hell broke loose and something the size of a Labrador pup hurled itself out of the Loch.

More by luck than by judgement, I steered the fish away from the weed beds and Philip slid the net under a truly magnificent brown trout. It weighed five pounds exactly, the biggest wild trout that I have ever caught.

And then, as we tied up the boat, it did of course start to rain...