Swing the Fly Issue 2.4 Spring 2015 - Page 59

British Columbia Dry Fly Steelhead

-Steve Turner Photo

Mike cheerfully reached his hand out to offer a handshake, completely oblivious to what he had just said.

 

The Scot sized Mike up, pressed his tough hand into Mike's and said simply, “I don't care Lad, I own eight miles of this river and I can do anythin’ I like."

7pm. Still Raining

Every river worth its salt has a boat ramp, a parking lot or a bar favored by its guides and fisherman. Each has a personality that reflects the river, its moods and the people who come to pay it respect. They are also places where you can expect lies, deceit, drunkenness, camaraderie and if you are lucky, invaluable intelligence on how the river is fishing. It was that way on a number of the great rivers of the American west and Mike was curious to know if his theory was going to hold in Scotland.

 

"Where can I get a drink?"

Fiona the night clerk, was surprised by the bluntness of the question and the American accent. "Oh, you’ll be wantin' The Gil," she offered.

"The Gil?" asked Mike

"Aye, the Pub's name is, 'The Gil.' 300 yards up the way on your left. A good selection of whisky, some beer, chip buttys and oohh they have a nice vindaloo. Alastair is the bar keep."

The Gil was born as a crofters shack in the mid-1700s. The one story building, wedged between the narrow gravel lane and the ocean loch, was made of cut stone, whitewashed on the outside with a low angle roof of slate tiles. It was compact, inviting and sturdy against the ever present wind. Tied up to a hitching post at the left of the doorway was the welcoming committee. Two excitable springers and a lazy yellow lab who Mike stopped and greeted with a, "Hey guys." To the right of the deeply set wooden front door, a small hand painted sign read, "Rods are permitted to stay outside." To facilitate this wish, the pub had provided a custom rod stand. Lined up on it were 8 Spey rods ranging from 12 to 16 feet in length. Before stepping into the

doorway, Mike went down the line and took an inventory of the rod names; Altimore, McKenzie, Monteith, Beuhla, Sage, Loomis, Thomas and Thomas, Bruce and Walker and the large arbor reels

from Hardy, Abel, Tibor, Loop, Ross, Peerless and Edward vom Hoff. At end of the line, sticking out from the rest, sat one 14ft salmon rod with a Hardy spinning reel and a gold spoon attached.

 

His goal for the evening was simply to get a drink and gather intelligence on the fly fishing. There was a boisterous vibe in the room and Mike quietly slid into a seat at the end of the bar to take it in. The room was warmed by a coal fire at one end and smelled of wet dog, riverbank and curry. The low ceiling was ribbed with ancient black beams and on the stone walls hung a variety of stags heads, stuffed salmon, grouse and a lone badger. Over the small musician’s stage, hung two flags, one an old flag of Scotland with the Gaelic words Alba gu bràth written across it and the other, an American Gadsden flag. A band was setting up for a session later in the evening and 4 tables held ghillies and the owners of the Spey rods outside.

The barkeep appeared and slipped a menu to Mike. "What would you like?"

"I need a beer. What do you have?”

The barkeep paused, taking in Mike's American accent and pointed to the row of taps with large hand pulls. “We've got Younger's Tartan Special, Belhaven Stout and Ale, Tennent's Special and Lager, McEwan's Export, Dark Island, Old Jock, Fosters and Kronenbourg 1664.”

Mike had no idea what to order but he felt the need to act like he knew what he was doing. "I'll have a chip butty and a Tartan Special." The barkeep came back with the Tartan Special, handed it to Mike. "Are you American?"

"Yes, I am. Are you Alastair?"

"Aye, so you were the one on the river today?

 

Acting somewhat surprised. "Yes, I guess that was me." Not knowing why Alastair would know this.

 

"Have you been to Scotland before?”

 

"No, I haven't. This is the first time." He did not want to let on that it was his first time out of the country.