Beasts of Eden

I had met Andy Murray on my trip to the House of Hardy earlier in the year and thought him splendid. This is a man who, like me, has dangled flies in the bath and then gone under water to see what they would look like to a fish. So, you can imagine, when the opportunity to actually fish with him presented itself I packed at speed.

I had met Andy Murray on my trip to the House of Hardy earlier in the year and thought him splendid. This is a man who, like me, has dangled flies in the bath and then gone under water to see what they would look like to a fish. So, you can imagine, when the opportunity to actually fish with him presented itself I packed at speed.

Although his official title is sales promotion manager I think of him as technical director because Andy knows everything there is to know about rods, reels, lines, fish and where to buy lunch. He is also involved in the production of all new bits of Hardy kit.

We were to fish the Eden Foot beat of the lower to middle Tweed, Kelso, in the Scottish borders. This is a river I realised I had never actually fished myself. I always felt like I had, because to salmon fishers the Tweed is king and so is talked of often. And also, my regular fishing buddy, Pete usually takes a week at this time of year to fish Tweed - those in the know drop the pronoun when talking about this river so don't show yourselves up.

Eden Foot is a gentle but high water beat which means it needs lots of rain to be fishing at its best. At the bottom of the beat the river narrows and the water is fast, so the salmon use up more energy swimming through it. This means that they tend to rest for a bit when they get to one of Eden Foot's six pools and this is when you can catch them. (There's very little hope of tempting a running salmon with a scrap of feathers, no matter how well tied, especially the male fish who are in a hurry to get laid.)

But Eden Foot was rather low on the day we visited, which meant less chance of a fish but that I could, if I had wanted to, wade right across the river. This opportunity does not present itself often to me, being only 5'2". I started off fishing with a 12 1/2ft Salar rod, which is a new 'cheaper' range that Hardy's have just introduced. Because I was wading and there were no trees near me, and because of wind conditions I did not need to Spey cast or double Spey cast, or double haul Spey cast off the left shoulder with a snake roll chaser. All very complicated manoevres which I am quite rubbish at.

I fished diligently for hours whilst Andy gently offered advice: make that forward cast snappier, use a tapping with the thumb movement, don't go so far back with your back cast. I was doing splendidly, covering water really effectively. There were no knots or tangles and therefore none of the tantrums that sometimes accompany my salmon fishing. I also realised that using a 14ft plus rod - which I usually do - is just too much rod for me to handle. But that day I felt that with every cast I had a good chance of a fish. Then, working my way through the Hut Pool, and urgently gossiping, I got A Nibble. There several yards downstream, was a salmon at the end of my line, gumming my Ally's Cascade Shrimp with its glitter tail.

But it only nosed it, deciding perhaps that it was too Christmasy to actually take. This though was bloody well enough for me. The excitement! Hats and scarves came off as I started to over heat. I cast again but nothing, there are few second chances with salmon.

Then it all started to fall to pieces. "Time for lunch eh?" said Andy between cigarettes. So we went back to the hut and I ate my bridie (a Scottish pastie) which I had selected especially as I like my picnics to be indigenous. Over lunch, Andy told me all about how you can fish Tweed, which is notoriously posh and expensive, for trout during the season (March-September) for the bargain price of only £3.50 a day. And that in low season you can fish for salmon for £25 a day on certain beats. You can get details from local tourist board offices, who produce a free leaflet called "The Complete Guide to Fishing in the Scottish Borders". (Remember though that you can't fish for migratory fish in Scotland on a Sunday.)

There are, apparently, spectacular hatches for brown trout on this part of the Tweed and you can fish for them on the dry fly. Something definitely worth exploring when the season re-opens next year.

After lunch, Andy let me have a go on his rod, a 13'4" Elite. I don't know if it was because I had taken a break or because the Elite is a top of the range rod and therefore smoothed out my faults a little better, but my casting really came together. I didn't catch anything, but then, especially with salmon fishing, that's not always the point.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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