fishing lines: The boldest springer

When I was in Maine a couple of years ago, the local television station showed footage of a dog that landed salmon for his owner. When a hooked fish was close to the bank, the dog would plunge in and grab the salmon, retrieving it perfectly every time.

On the River Tay near Aberfeldy last year, I watched another smart dog. My ghillie had trained his border collie to fetch his landing net or his wading stick. It was even clever enough to distinguish which one he wanted. Tom was confident that the dog would have performed the salmon trick too, but didn't want it to get into bad habits. - I didn't dare tell him about my springer, Bracken.

Long-serving readers of this column will know something of his exploits. Only a few weeks ago, I met a reader who recalled something I wrote more than six years ago. This chap actually has the cutting pinned to his wall, and when he feels a little glum, he looks at it to cheer him up.

To be fair, this incident happened when Bracken was just a year old. Those who own springers will know that until they are about two, they are the canine equivalent of football hooligans. Well, I had been down the river for a spot of early-morning spinning, but had to quit because Bracken insisted on trying to retrieve the spinner. Wet and muddy as a hippo, he rounded off by rolling in cowpats.

I was walking Bracken home when he spotted an open door. Whoosh! He was gone. He not only ran into the house, but up the stairs, where a woman was in bed. He jumped on to the bed, and tried to lick her face. Holler as I might, he wouldn't come down. I had to go up the stairs, and pull him off the bed.

Bracken was my first encounter with springers. As if one wasn't enough, I foolishly took one of the puppies when Bracken went to stud. Ginger gave him an accomplice in his dastardly deeds, which included everything from eating my wife's surprise Valentine's Day box of chocolates (wrapping and all), to attacking the lining of the pond and all the water disappearing.

Where other people had dogs that sat quietly while they fished, I had one that did more to stop me fishing than any anti-angling protester. He took it as a personal challenge to escape from any restraining device, uprooting trees or chewing through them. Even those corkscrew devices, which will anchor a horse, Bracken managed to pull out or wrap his lead so tightly that I was forced to free him to stop him dying of strangulation. That was the aim of the game. Then he could sit on top of me, or tread on the rods, or steal my lunch: anything, in fact, to stop me fishing.

Where others use words like faithful, obedient, trusty, staunch or steadfast to describe their hounds, mine was sneaky, naughty, greedy, irresponsible, disobedient and perverse. Consequently, he was adored by all the village kids.

You may notice I said "was". Yesterday, I took him to the vet and left without him. Aged nearly 14, he was springer no more. Arthritis had left him shaking, his back legs had gone, his liver and kidneys were failing. For the past two months, I had watched him wasting away.

Incontinence had finally forced me to move him away from the warmth of the Aga to his outside kennels. But for the last three nights, his son, Ginger, had refused to sleep alone in the house, preferring to stay with his father, licking his face and whimpering occasionally as the old dog battled to stand up.

It's the first time I've had to cope with the death of a dog. The children, who grew up using Bracken as a never- complaining trampoline, are distraught. Ginger, who never howls, did so last night.

And I've lost the worst fishing companion I ever had.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot