The 2018 annual fishing holiday had a difficult and complex inception spanning several pages of WhatsApp discussion, much Outlook perusing and a bit of green card acquisition. I’ve catalogued the problems before so I won’t cover old ground too much. Suffice to say it’s a monumental struggle trying to assemble a team of ready, willing and able participants to go on a week’s holiday out of a pool of middle aged pen pushers mired in middle aged responsibilities. By the time we are ready to book there seems to be only one cottage available for the week in question, it’s in Inchnadamph and it’s strangely cheap. Why is it so cheap? There must be a reason?!
Thursday 13th June
Guards! Knights! Squires! Prepare for battle! Glittering in the summer sun, the Freelander roared into life and, if soundtracked then surely to the sound of O’Fortuna, we set off on the start of a thousand mile odyssey into the heart of the Scottish Highlands. We exited my street, turned left, and had travelled all of 200 yards before the a call went out for a stop at the Go Outdoors we were about to pass. We had lasted all of 30 seconds.
There followed a half an hour of full on trousers pulled up to chest, hands clasped behind back middle-aged fuckery as we perused air beds and mattresses. I myself narrowly escaped impulse buying a Deluxe Outwell inflatable camping mattress before snapping out of it and summoning the troops back to Stu’s Silver Arrow of Truth. Onward ho! Ah fuck I’ve forgotten my Leatherman, back to my house. Might as well have a piss whilst I’m here. Ooh that’s better. Watch out for the dot of shame old man. Right off we go again.
There are definitely benefits to having 3 in the car, more banter makes the journey go quicker and before you know it we were pulling into Angling Active for some tackle spends. Another hour is lost before we can extract ourselves. I congratulate myself for having only spent about £20 in there whilst Stu has forked out £100s of pounds on a new float tube outfit and a load of other shit. My smugness is short lived as I realise I haven’t brought my life-jacket despite lots of float tubing and boating missions on the agenda. Turn around, back inside, hand over £80. Now I own 2 lifejackets!
Glencoe is much moistings but we pitch tents at Red Squirrel and as ever Smithers is using my old Vango Spirit – he has been using it for about 8 years! We trudge down to the Clachaig which is pretty heaving for a Thursday and only just manage to get a table but then get on with the business of consuming few steady pints and a meal. Yeeah rock and roll.The walk back is even more moistings and the forcast predicts our entire stay in Glencoe is going to be accompanied by rain rain and more rain.
I rarely sleep right through at the best of times and under ‘canvas’ can be much worse (although I did have a stunning nights sleep on my Applecross solo where I was physically exhausted!). This time was no exception and I was up at 3am filling my 1 litre bottle of shame with 800mm of ‘apple juice’ then awoken again at 6:30 by pinging WhatsApp messages. What ho, it’s my chum Smithers and he’s in a fix.
Internally I run an idea up the flagpole of offering Smithers a space in my tent. I see him getting in, soaked. Me getting wet. All my stuff getting wet. And Smithers just there, in my tent. Being Smithers. I bring the idea back down the flagpole, fold it up and bin it.
Friday 15th June
I anticipated an angry Smithers on our hands but he’s remarkably chipper. We head into Glencoe to breakfast at the cafe and also meet Tom who set off super-early that morning to come join us and discover to our horror they no longer do a full Scottish breakfast! I don’t like change. Next stop Fort William where we march into Cotswold Outdoor where some sort of double-stacking offer means we get a pile of stuff for a cracking price, including a new tent for someone.
Now, our regular reader will know that Glencoe is normally a mere staging post for either Assynt or Gairloch on these annual fishing holidays. Red Squirrel, Clachaig, bed, Glencoe Cafe, Fort William, woosh gone. This year though, our longer stop enables some actual fly fishing in this beautiful part of Scotland and we decide to revisit a place we haven’t been to since our first Glencoe Misison back in 2006, namely Loch Nacha Lacha Ding Dong (sic) on Rannoch Moor.
It’s fairly windy and grey but there’s no hiding the beauty of this landscape, with the Black Mount forming that classic backdrop. 3 of us work our way along the Eastern shore but encounter few signs of trout which is a marked contrast to 2006 when we caught more fish in a couple of hours than we’d caught during the entire of the previous year’s fishing holiday!
“Gotta keep moving” is the loch fisher’s mantra, especially when he’s not getting into fish so I slowly made my way down to the Southern end of the loch where it looked a lot calmer. Along the way I saw disgraceful amounts of litter, something which really knocked the edge off our 2006 experience and was doing so again to be honest. The pile below was off the scale. We always carry off litter when we’ve found it whilst fishing in the hills but this needs intervention on another level. The whole fucking place needs a full weekend of pure litter picking by a decent sized group – perhaps the locals can get something together?
Anyway, all that shit aside the good news was that the calmer water was indeed the place to be. Second cast and I was in! A perfect little Highland brownie opened the account for the 2018 annual fishing holiday and a few more followed for good measure. I lost myself in that little bay for a while and thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the Rannoch Moor vibe. Eventually it felt like time to go, what with it being bastard cold and windy and the Clachaig Inn calling for us to return. The other two had caught some trout as well which meant no one was stuck in ‘aaargh just one more cast’ mode.
There followed a good old session in the boozer where we were joined by attendee number 5 of this year’s mission, a man who I shall call Richard for that, dear reader, is his name. I don’t think Richard has appeared in the blog before? Perhaps all you need know is that his objectives on this and any other trip to Scotland are to bag Munros and drink lager. Nothing else matters. In a bizarre twist to proceedings Smithers, when introduced to Richard, ask him if he’s single. Jings crivens man, you’ve been away from your wife for less than 2 days!
Saturday 16th June
Breakfast at Glencoe cafe again, I recalibrate my expectations and settle for porridge and Golden Syrup – old skool! It hasn’t stopped raining since we arrived in Scotland but nevertheless myself, Richard and Tom are off to walk up some hills whilst Stu and Smithers fish Loch Wonderbra (sic). We are doing the Thunderbolt walk and it entails leaving one car at Ballachulish then driving t’other onto our starting point a couple of miles down the road in a forest car park.
As we begin the steady ascent the rain gets cranked up to 11 and the clouds come down to fuck shit up. Paths become rivers and waterproofs are getting tested bis zum max. I haven’t even got summit photos as it was pretty pointless in those conditions and it’s a real shame because there’s a couple of bits which would clearly look impressive with a bit of visibility. Naturally, as we began to lose height the rain stops and the cloud lifts – if only we’d set off half an hour earlier etc etc. We are however able to look down into Ballachulish and also over to the Glencoe valley
The descent is hard going and as each year passes I actually grow to prefer the ups to downs as going downhill holds more scope for arse over tit.
We head back to LZ Squirrel for a quick shower and change before driving into Fort William to meet the B team (who have had a hard day out on the loch with only a few fish to the boat) in the Grog and Gruel for a couple of beers then into Spice Tandoori for a slap up curry.
Sunday 17th June
I love ‘tenting’ as Smithers calls it, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using my relatively new Helsport tent which has withstood 2 and a half days of solid rain, but now I’m looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. Speaking of Smithers, him and Tom are off home today and Bartlett is off to bag a Munro somewhere but plans to meet us in Assynt later. This leaves myself and Stu to wind our way up to Inchnadamph. We plan to visit the tackle shop in Inverness but it’s Sunday, this revised timetable is playing havoc! We do however manage to hit Cotswold Outdoor just outside Inverness for more outdoor gear shopping. We do the usual Dingbat Tesco stop where a seagull gets up close and personal
On the drive up I’m unsure where I want to be. Maybe I’ll miss the diversity of the Torridons and its spectacular array of Munros in close proximity to each other. Have I done too much of Assynt over the years? Approaching Ledmore junction all concerns go out of the window I’m staring out of as Stac Pollaidh comes into view. As Stu says, it should have Pterodactyls circling round the top, it’s like a window into the past. Then Cul Beag, and Cul Mor, which looks like a collapsed volcano, followed by Suilven – a mountain that leaves you tongue out, eyes swivelling around sockets, carving inselbergs into your mashed potato. I think these sandstone giants have the most impact when the day is dull and flat. It makes them look like they are in a painting where the artist has exaggerated the contrast between foreground and background by giving a dark wash to the distant hills in order to gain a sense of perspective. I’m very pleased that after 11 years that view still gives me the fizz.
We pick up the keys from the lodge where the manager informs us a group of University students are staying on some sort of field trip. Female voices drift out of the communal lounge area and I glimpse over at Stu to see a bead of sweat run down his forehead as he performs an ‘awkward collar pull’. We head over to our cottage which, all things considered is not bad for the money. True, it’s a bit rough round the edges compared to some of the veritable palaces we’ve stayed at in the past but it’s in a stunning location.
I spend a few minutes outside draping my tent on some chairs to try dry it out then head inside to drape everything else I own inside the cottage to dry out. Bartlett joins us in the evening as we lay into our pizza and beer supply whilst watching England beat Tunisia. Marvellous. The slight dampener was finding 2 ticks buried in my leg as I climbed into my pit at bedtime, thankfully I had the titty twister with me. I’m guessing I picked them up whilst out in the long grass putting my tent out.
Monday 18th June
This is still a fishing blog, right?
Into Lochinver to get our weekly permits. The bad news is that the Tourist Information has gone! The good news is that there’s a new, multi-purpose man-shop in town where you can buy anything a man could ever want <namely hardware, paints, outdoor clothing, tools, fishing equipment ….and fishing permits>. Our plan today is to fish a loch near Clachtoll which is easy to get to as you can drive most of the way, especially if you have a 4×4. However Stu gets carried away with this notion and rather than pulling into a nice easy parking spot decides to try get his Land Rover another 100 yards closer which would save us maybe a minute of walking but the necessary manoeuvring into an awkward spot takes a good 15 minutes of burning clutch, tortured wheel bearings and high revs to achieve.
A short walk gets us to our afternoon session loch. It is only about 400 yards long, and is getting battered by a mean wind gusting up to about 40mph (BIG waves breaking down on Clachtoll) but it it actually looks the sort of place you could get into a decent fish
Plus, when the sun comes out this loch looks bloody lovely! These 2 photos show just how much difference blue skies and sunshine make to a place.
To fish one particularly promising bay I have to do some reverse casting, the method where passers-by initially think you’ve completely lost your mind. But it pays off when something substantial wallops my fly and starts getting angry but then I get angrier as said trout spits my hook. I think this was our only proper offer at this loch apart from some tiddlers close in to the bank. Definitely a place to come back to on the right evening though. Back to the car, more prolonged manoeuvring then a very short drive to a roadside loch we feel is worth having a chuck at. After about 10 casts each we sack it off – too windy and too weedy! – and move on to our 3rd venue of the day, Loch Assynt for a spot of bank fishing.
Tuesday 19th June
It’s high Summer but it’s bloody cold in the cottage. I don’t want to get out from under my duvet! How these Highlanders used to get through Winter in their little crofts without modern accoutrements I don’t know. Somehow I bravely battle on and get out of bed to start the day with first breakfast. Today’s plan is to go fish a couple of the lochs up in the hills not far from us, lochs I haven’t fished for 8 years and am looking forward to seeing again. I make the sandwiches then it’s time for second breakfast – I do love these leisurely holiday mornings – before finally leaving the cottage at about 12:30. It’s actually a nice day out there apart from the nonseasonal temperature and the wind and the hour long walk up to the first loch is an enjoyable trip
down up memory lane.
The track skirts the edge of this first loch and certainly in terms of aesthetics we had caught it on a better day than when we came 8 years ago. It was tempting to start fishing but the plan had always been to crack on a bit further and fish another loch further into the hills.
A stiff pull got us to where we wanted to be and initially conditions didn’t seem too bad other than the fact it was cold. Bit of sunshine, occasional blue sky, yeah I’m feeling this.
However, once we had stopped moving and sat around eating some fodder then tackling up it became apparent it was pretty much bastard freezing. To the point where I deployed all clothing I had with me including hat and gloves – ahh truly a Highland Summer when the gloves come out! Fishing was not easy because the wind was swirling from all directions as (presumably) it bounced off the coire walls and it was one of those where you’d wait for a lull, cast out and watch a ferocious gust grab the line to deposit it in a heap 5 yards out in front of you. I could hear Stu further along the bank shouting and carrying on like an angry tramp as he too fought against the elements. There were no fish showing, and without the slightest knock to give you confidence you end up trawling your fly box for inspiration. A fly is chosen, the pulse races as you realise THIS is the one, how did you not think of this earlier! On it goes, first cast is put out straight and true, the retrieve is infused with subtle variance to give life to one’s imitation. Slow, slow, figure of eight, figure of eight, strip….pause…pause..strip etc. Second cast you realise aah ok, actually, what’s needed here is consistency to give a fish a pattern to follow and provide confidence. Sink and draw, sink and draw, sink and draw. Third cast, 2 pulls then crushing despair and hopelessness grip you as you realise this isn’t going to work, you’re useless at this aren’t you. May as well throw your fucking rod in now and go home. Bastard fishing! Fuck you.Fuck everything!
However, eventually one of these inspired fly choices finally paid off! 1st cast with a size 12 Mallard & Claret and it gets taken with confidence by what’s clearly a decent sized fish. Bollocks I haven’t brought a net! I carefully draw my 1 1/2 pound wild brown to my pre-wetted hand and struggle to get a couple of photos before it zooms off leaving the fly embedded into my thumb! I can hardly complain though.
That was my only fish on this loch for the day, but in my book it’s a bloody pearler. I think Stu had one getting on for a similar size as well before he headed down to the lower loch which was more sheltered from the wind. I hung back as I realised I needed to deploy my “strong ultralight 6066 – T6 aluminium alloy, hardened to Rockwell C 70” trowel. Yes I now carry a turd trowel and so should you – leaving a big bum cigar out there is not cricket for all sorts of obvious reasons but a really important one is that when buried it can’t come back to life and attack you (further reading can be found in Dougal McTavish’s excellent 1884 work entitled “Troubled in the Heather”, a shocking account of a sustained attack on a remote Highland community by unburied stools).
The lower loch was slightly less inclement but we only hung around long enough to catch a few small fish before making our way back home.
Back at the cottage (with a cracking sunset) we cranked up the heating and broke out the beer and whisky, a late night ensued.
Wednesday 20th June
I drag my self out of bed at 9:40 am feeling tired and hungover. Bacon sandwiches are deployed. Today is my elective and originally I’d planned to go fish a loch in the vicinity of Canisp but the fug we are both in dictates a new plan. Stu wants to fish Cam but it’s my elective-day and I’ll fish Veyatie if I want to so we drive to the farm which runs tickets for Ledmore estate. It’s a sign of the popularity of fishing in Assynt that the operation has been upped significantly as we enter an outbuilding devoted entirely to it. We deposit the money for boat, engine, petrol and 2 anglers then head along to the where the boats are moored. I inspect the secure storage area where the engines are. Secure you say? So we’ll be needing a key then. Back in the Land Rover, back to the farm, back into the outbuilding. Where’s the key for Veyatie? I see no key. This is bloody ridiculous. We search high and low until Stu finds the biggest fob known to humanity with VEYATIE in big bold letters hanging right in front of our faces. Look at that picture, those are my legs. My fucking legs. It’s as big as a street sign!
Back to Veyatie. We must have spent 45 minutes faffing around getting the engine out and fitted, loading all our shit into the boat, tackling up, drinking tea etc. Veyatie is low, the exit channel is very shallow and we are concerned about hitting the prop but the oars are fastened to the boat so Stu gets out and pushes. This goes tragi-comically wrong and he gets soaked and once again loses his mind, throwing rocks into the loch whilst frothing at the mouth and swearing.
An hour is then spent motoring up to the far end of Veyatie before finally, FINALLY we start wetting lines. It was, as I note in my blog book, pretty much a re-run of 9 years ago in that you start hitting fish when your drift puts your flies about 10 yards out from a rocky outcrop. I also note that drifting the same bits of water more than once is no good, got to keep working new drifts. Following these principles we catch plenty of trout despite deteriorating conditions. And oh boy do they deteriorate, the wind is barrelling down the loch and a right old wave is developing which requires a little care and attention in where you point the bow.
Somewhere along the way the drogue decides to part company with us which makes drifts even more short lived. Once again my gloves come out. Bollocks to this, we decide we’ve done what was needed (catch and return a goodly amount of trout) and decide to turn it in. Back in the car we discover the air temp on this balmy Summer’s evening is 8 degrees.
My blog book tells me the evening consisted of seeing a deer in the garden, Pot Noodles and whisky followed by whisky.
Thursday 21st June
Bartlett has gone. We are mincing around drinking tea. (I feel I should clarify that our usage of the word mincing is what Urban Dictionary defines as ” the act of procrastinating relentlessly, and taking way to long to complete a task” not the other usage which they describe thusly “To walk or sashe/shante in a very effeminate and/or swishy way. To walk as if wearing a pair of invisible high heels”. That would be what we call, on our fishing holidays. “Saturday night”. Anyway, we finally exit the cottage and drive out to Glen Canisp Lodge to fish the Glen Loch in our float tubes. I have the original Shakespeare one that me and Phil bought years ago and a pair of knackered old fins which I have to do a botch job on. Stu has a brand new (Guideline?) tube which comes with new fins but they’re not the best either. I waddle out first. Man it’s a long time since I did this and it feels weird, that moment of commitment where you just fall back into the water. It takes me a while to get back into the swing of things and matters are complicated by a cold wind rattling down the loch.
we delivered the bomb I finally set some drifts up in the jetty bay and settled into float tubing again but the fish were simply not on it. After a couple of hours I’d got one pretty diminutive trout to the tube and missed a few offers from what were clearly very small fish. I’d also discovered that there was a leak in the crotch of my waders (they are 10 years old!) so my entire poop deck was soaked and it had even spread up my back. I was actually very bloody cold! I made my way in whilst Stu was coming out after battling with his new fins and de-administered the tube and waders and started hammering my flask of tea to try warm up. I switched to bank fishing which turned out to be a pleasant way to spend another hour or so but did not result in any more trout apart from one daft little sod who should have known better . I did however see a chap in multi-colour circus pants sat on a rock, barefoot, whittling a spoon or something before disappearing into the trees.
We eventually sacked off the Glen Loch feeling a bit disappointed but the unusual lack of action was at least compensated by the undeniably stunning views. Instead, we drove to a much smaller loch that has a reputation for being dour but a good spot to catch a decent sized fish if you are lucky. We fished this place on our first visit to Assynt and we were not lucky. However, we did see one whacking great lump of a fish jump out of the water so we knew they were in there, it was just a question of working out how to catch them.
This time we met another angler as he was tackling up and it transpired he was a regular (and successful) visitor to this loch and many others in Assynt. He was very happy to give us a bit of advice which wasn’t actually rocket science. In fact it was advice we’d been given several times before for fishing these smaller lochs but something about the way he hammered it home made it stick this time and I made a mental note to try follow it to the letter. This meant keeping low on approach which is tricky when you are 6 foot 4 so I actually got down on my hands and knees and crawled the last few yards. There was none of this business back in the day at Swinsty and Fewston! I also stopped about 10 feet back from the water’s edge and my first casts were basically over heather with the fly (a big mayfly pattern) just dropping into the margins as our new friend made it clear fish could well be this close in. They probably were but I didn’t tempt any of them so moved slightly closer to the bank and put my fly (on a 17 foot leader) a bit further out. I One moment it was there and the next it wasn’t so I struck and was into a good solid lump. This was no scrappy little half pounder and it stayed down and dirty before changing tactics and zooming into the bank and trying to ditch me in the weeds. Thankfully I managed to scoop him out. As I say about many photos taken where I am holding something very precious to me, please remember I have big hands. This, for me, is a cracking fish for Assynt! I would also hazard a guess it’s a veteran as there appears to be a bit of damage around the mouth and gill plate.
I took too long getting the fish untangled from my net and taking photos for which I feel a bit shit about but he went back ok eventually – not ideal though, need to be a bit smarter about that next time. I did at least have the good manners to wander over to the angler who had freely given advice earlier and thank him for helping me catch my biggest Assynt trout so far!
I carried on fishing but when I glanced over to where Stu was I saw he had beached the tube and was marching around in angry circles. To complete the picture a flipper went sailing into the air above his head. Oh dear. I wandered over to find he was having some technical issues with the flippers and the wind and had generally had enough. A convenient time therefore to pack up and go back to the cottage for a slap-up tea of Pot Noodle and whisky.
Friday 22nd June
Last fishing day and we should be up super-early to make the most of it but we are barely out of our pits for 9:30. I have made careful note of my packed lunch prep in the blog notebook so feel compelled to relay it to you, dear reader. It seems I made 3 x cheese and Branston sandwiches, no detail on precise crisp/chocolates but you can be sure there was a lot and then 2 litres of water in my bladder, 1 bottle of Pepsi and 2 x bottles of Lucozade. More was needed though so we drove into Lochinver where I purchase a Lochinver Larder mince and onion pie.Stu is insistent we should park at Glencanisp Lodge for the start of our walk to some distant lochs whereas I insist that we should do the right thing and stop in the designated parking spot which adds about half a mile on. I win, even though I know that extra half a mile will be another 10 minutes of sore feet at the other end of today. What’s right is right, as they say.
It’s a good couple of hours slog in to the first loch and when we get there we are greeted by a biting cold wind and leaden skies. This isn’t how it normally is here, where’s the gentle warm breeze and rising fish?! All clothing is deployed, even the gloves are out again, followed by a good glug of Yorkshire’s finest before picking a side each and getting some fishing done. .
The fish are not on it today at all though and I work hard for my one small but pristine wild brown trout. Every big Scotland fishing blog I reach a point where I have to just remind myself, and you lot, to just take a look at these creatures and get your head round those incredible markings! Better still, lets get metaphysical . Take a further step back and try fathom the concept that billions of years ago a nothingness became everything, proceeded to (amongst many, many other things!) assemble some random debris into a planet, somehow give it life and evolve it from single cell organisms to something as specialised as a brown trout or an incredibly complex being which can propel itself up and down mountains with just a few pies in the firebox. Next time you are out wild camping and it’s a clear night, gawp up at the stars and get thinking about this shit, I mean really think about it. You’ll go down a right fucking rabbit hole!
Time to move on now, as it was then. We say goodbye to a loch that wasn’t in the mood for us today and head up and over to another one which I’ve fished before but Stu hasn’t. Last time I was here I caught nothing. Last time Phil (remember him?!) was here he caught a whopper. The time Phil was here before that he caught a whopper. Not just any whopper but the same whopper!
Along the way we pass a fascinating bit of geology which I must have passed before and yet have no recollection of it.
This is Torridonian sandstone (check out those layers!) so is at least a billion years old and it used to be over a mile deep round here but then the glaciers came and gouged most of it away, so when you look at a picture like the one below, you are seeing the leftover bits (that continue to get worn down by the elements)
Loch number 2 is quite small so I decided to stick to the advice that was given the previous day.
I crawled on my hands and knees in the soaking sphagnum < on my hands and knees in the soaking sphagnum – if ever there was a title for erotic fiction based in the Highlands that is it> and flicked out my tiny dry on its long leader, out into the margins. Needless to say, I caught nothing. Neither did Stu. But that is expected behaviour of this loch. Unless you are Phil. With an eye on the time and the nagging realisation of how far away from the car we were it was time to start heading back, via the previous loch for a last few casts. By the time we’d got there I’d had enough fishing for the day and just wanted to get back for a few drams but then we spied a couple of lads setting up their tents at the end of the loch so had a bit of banter with them. Can’t say I was too jealous of them, it was mighty cold!
When we got back to the car it was about 11:15pm. As we walked through the grounds of Glencanisp Lodge we spotted something ahead of us on the track. My brain couldn’t work out what it was seeing. Fox? Nope. Badger? Nope. What is it? What, in the highlands is cat shaped, about the size of a big muscular cat, tabby coloured, with a monumentally thick and fluffy tail ringed with bands? I think we’ve just seen a Scottish Wildcat!! I reckon that makes up for having to walk the extra 10 minutes at the end of a 15 mile round trip.
Saturday 23rd June
Saturday as always is the day we ritually wake up late and spend all morning flapping around with dishcloths and hoovers. Saturday is also the day of a nearly 10 hour drive home back to Leeds, sometimes in silence save for the of sound heavy sighs and crisp consumption. Despite it being an extended break this time it has still zoomed past at a ridiculous rate of knots. This one was annual fishing holiday number 22 and in a year dominated by fine weather and one of the hottest summers on record <Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot. We begin finding our men. We found them sometimes without their skins… and sometimes much, much worse.>we managed to find a week of exceptions. So what was the result of that? Fewer fish, yes, but I still managed to come away with a couple of my biggest ever Assynt trout so remember that next time you’re up there and the weather turns to shit :-).
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Assynt antics and comments on the blog are most welcome! Of course, closing out always brings up the thorny subject of next year – will this, in fact, be the last proper annual fishing holiday? I say this every year now and yet we keep pulling them out of the bag so who knows?!