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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world