Whereas our first few trips to the River Annan had been hampered by our own rookie errors, the third time that we made the journey up North to our veritable mecca of fly-fishing was a far smoother, if not slightly more expensive, experience.
Before we’d embarked on our first fly-fishing holiday, I’d unfairly aligned the sport, with skiing and golf, as one of many upper-class hobbies that I was simply destined not to experience. All of us had come from working class backgrounds. Growing up on the grubby council estates of 1980s Essex, I’m always overcome with a feeling of pride when I think about how far us lads have come from there. My idea of leisure time growing up largely consisted of booting a tired football around and breaking glass windows – so it’s not hard to imagine why I thought fly-fishing in Scotland was perhaps a past time that I was not destined to enjoy.
Regardless of these pre-judgements in my mind, we made it to the River Annan, three Essex lads very much out of our own depth, struggling to land trout during the day and get some sleep in our poorly constructed tents by night.
Things have changed somewhat since those early days. We learnt these important lessons the hard way on our first few trips, allowing us to enjoy our later ones much more:
You only fish as well as you eat, at least that’s what we discovered on our third trip up to the River Annan. On our first trip we were subsisting off tins of beans and cereal bars, by the third trip we’d wised up and started eating out most nights.
There are a good variety of well-reviewed hotels around the local area, all of which offer great dinner menus. Whilst you might end up spending more money, we’ve found that a decent meal in the evening will guarantee that you’re on the top of your game the next day.
Although it might be tempting to knock back a bottle of wine (or two) with each fancy dinner that you consume, no one likes to spend a day hung over on the river.
When you’re fly-fishing you have to have quick reactions and sound strategy, you’ll have neither of these if you choose to over-indulge on drink every night at dinner. We’ve found that a couple of glasses are the upper limit of what you should drink if you need to be up early the next day.
Catching a monster 25lb trout is really much easier when you’ve had a good night sleep. On our first trip we really struggled to sleep each night, mostly because we’d completely failed to pitch our tents properly.
We had no trouble sleeping when we stayed at the spectacular Auchen Castle this year. Each night might have cost the same as half a year’s stay at a campsite, but the treatment we received from the staff made us glad that we’d spent the cash.
As with most things in life, the more you spend, the more you will get.
Obviously, it might not always be possible for you to spend exorbitant amounts of money on food or lodgings, but it is these touches of luxury that make the holiday that much better.