A Deep-Water Experiment
Trout & Salmon|April 2017

Stan Headley hatches a plan to catch three species of fish in one day at Loch Calder in Caithness.

Stan Headley

IT ONLY BECOMES apparent that phases to a fly-fisherman’s life exist when you get to a certain age. The first phase, at an early age, is going fishing to catch a fish. More than one is a bonus. A memorable event in my very early teens saw me catch a wild brownie out of the River Eden in the centre of Cupar in Fife. It weighed about 12 oz, was caught on a tiny iron blue dun dry-fly, and I was so excited that I ran all the way to grannie’s house with it in my hand, only to realise a short time later that I had left my rod on the footpath beside the river.

The second phase is to catch lots of trout, and that saw me haunt the Harray Loch like an evil spirit. My great friend, Norman Irvine, and I spent every spare minute we could drifting the skerries, catching dozens of fish with an upper limit of about 1¾ lb, and more were never enough.

In this slaughter of the innocents we would occasionally come across a “monster”, which led me seamlessly into phase three – go out and get the biggest fish ever. Funnily enough, Norman was not dragged down that path to the same degree, but for me it was an irresistible urge.

Many people never leave this stage. In fact, all these phases can be the end of the road for many anglers. However, I have evolved into a phase four angler and that involves setting out with a distinct objective in mind, avoiding all distractions to prove or disprove a theory, or achieve something brand new. This involves leaving the well-trodden path and venturing into unknown (well, for me at least) territory. One of my first ventures into the phase four zone saw me on Loch Borralaidh in Sutherland on a bright, calm day. Instead of beating my head against a trout brick-wall I decided to try something that had been lurking deep in my mind for years – attempt to catch char from the Borralaidh abyss on Epoxy Buzzers. I stuck on an Airflo Fast-Glass line and a team of Buzzers, positioned myself so that I would very slowly drift inside the eastern edge of the abyss and – glory be – had a char on my first cast, went on to hook two more fish on the same cast, and then the cloud arrived and I went back to trout. Job done.

Other projects have included catching ferox on fly, luring sea-trout to static wet-flies and trying to get loch salmon to accept a dry-fly, and in that order they were very successful, occasionally successful and bloody difficult.

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