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The Eco (Highlander) Warrior … Go Go “Ma”

I sometimes wonder why I ever got into fishing... I have won many competitions in my fishing career in team coarse fishing and a few for fly fishing but I suppose I will always have the memory of my first fish:-

Sitting on the banks of the Clyde just below Lanark and the big Lanark Hill, I was setup with rod and float tackle with a worm by my Dad. I waited and waited… then all of a sudden my float bobbed and then disappeared. Then as I lifted my rod, with the adrenalin pump my wellington boots gave way on the muddy bank. It was Boxing Day on a frosty morning so when I hit the flowing river my heart nearly stopped with the sharp hit of icy water. I grabbed for the roots on the grassy bank and managed to hold on until my big brother Charles pulled me out. Still holding on to the green fibre glass rod with a Mitchell 300 series reel, my concern was “what had I caught ….?” It was a 6oz Perch.

The bank became a hive of activity as my Dad’s footballing friends all grabbed me and stripped me to the bone. Then wrapped me in a mish-mash of different clothes, with the biggest pair of chest waders known to man… I must have looked a picture!

Busby, Shankley, Millar and Delaney with a helping of Charlie Tully's socks would literally be worth a fortune at auction today but all I remember is the Perch (My 1st Fish) …The Fire and the laughter of the whisky warmed boys from Kelly’s bar telling me they had saved my life to play football for Mossend Boys Guild. My mother was never told of the experience until many years later when I travelled from Belfast to my father’s funeral. Now there was a famous day out and a wake to make my Dad proud.

As I stood by the fire the squad caught some big river pike and chased me around telling me “the teeth would bite my arse”….great memories and the start of my love of fishing. However that’s not the only reason I fell in love with fishing. In my later years as a professional soldier I went fishing in many countries either as dawn broke or late into the night. My love for nature and in particular lake life at different times of the day, intrigued me. There is nothing better than travelling to a lake before dawn and setting up your rod in the dark under torch light.

The excitement and noise of feeding fish slurping flies from the surface or fighting with bigger fish for nose dug snails and worms, always left me with the expectation of a big bag of fish. When your eyes have just got accustomed to the dark, the sun starts to rise and the daylight slowly comes towards you.

I remember fishing a canal in Co Meath Southern Ireland through the night with the clearest of skies and very little light pollution. I saw a fast moving satellite travelling through the stars and with the rustling of the reeds from the far bank, a host of different animals’ eyes glistening in the dark at me. That is living ! It leaves you with the feeling of being somewhere special and as the years have passed I turn stones in the lakes or rivers to catch nymphs and hatching flies in a jar. I then take them home to tie flies that resemble them and take the artificial flies to the spot where I got the live ones to present them on a line… No better feeling than catching on a homemade fly. But the real love, that fishing has given me is an understanding of the eco structure of the fish, plant life and lakes. I suppose I should have done an MBA in Botany but that would have bored the knickers of me.

So it is no surprise that I love the Thai people and the way they take and give back to keep a cycle of life within their eco infrastructure and keep their water ways alive and kicking.

I found a lake 10 minutes away from my condo in Jomtien where I have a brilliant time fishing with my two new Thai friends. They are top class anglers, don’t speak a word of English (or Scottish 5555) love the spam sandwiches I make and the ice cold Leo I bring to the bank and it is there when I look around on each side of the lake that what I see humbles me.

For example the last time I was there the first thing to catch my eye was the appearance of a whole family heading towards the shade of a tree. Imagine my surprise when the “Ma” sat the family down and started to teach one of the younger boys to fish with a big stick with line attached. No doubt with a sharp hook and a piece of chicken skin as well… Ciggie in the mouth she embarrassed me by regularly pulling in pounders of Banin (Perch Like fish) and Tapian (Roach like silver fish). There was me with carbon fibre ledger rod and a Shimano Bait runner catching only tiddlers.  I just sat for an hour watching “Ma” prebait and cover the triangle (Killing zone Far Front, Inside Right and Left)... Then after 15 minutes pull in her family dinner… I thought to myself a lake would never be able to sustain the volume of Thai families fishing 7 days a week . Yet as I checked the water in front of me it was laden with minnows (A sure sign of an eco-friendly well stocked lake).. But how was this...was there a special fish viagra dropped in the water?

My question was soon answered when a couple of motorbike taxis arrived carrying women and kids laden with plastic bags. They moved to my right where I thought they were about to start fishing. Imagine my surprise when they began to say prayers and then empty the contents of their plastic bags, full of small fish, eels and frogs into the lake. No wonder this lake was as clear as any UK & NI environmental lake or river back home.

My admiration for the Thai people who make these pilgrimages is endless. They not only take from the lake to sustain their families’ lives with food but replenish what they take out…. Darwin would be proud of this country and the environmental values they hold.

I know why I love fishing… It’s the people, the special experiences, the fresh air, the peace of the day that allows you to meditate and the excitement of catching the unknown…. Hey… You want to see the one that got away 555555… That’s my gift back to the lake and my part of being ECO FRIENDLY.