THE SHETLAND Anglers Association bank team travelled to Caithness last weekend to compete for the inter-club trophy against Dounreay Fly Fishing Association (DFFA).
The event is one of the main highlights on the calendar of both associations with anglers from each club competing hard in each of their respective leagues in order to qualify for the team.
The Shetland team consisted of Barry Robertson (captain), Jeemie Sandison, Alastair Jamieson, Bobby Irvine, Billy Reid and Mark Sandison.
The weekend began with a practice day on the Thursday when the hosts took the visiting team to several different lochs in the area with varying degrees of success.
Alastair Jamieson, one of Shetland’s strongest all-round anglers, had a nice trout from the Dunnett Head lochs which set him up for the next two days’ competition angling.
One thing to emerge from this practice day, however, was the fact that the normally excellent Loch Watten was certainly not fishing at its best. As a result the draw for lochs for the competition itself was quickly modified to give those anglers ending up with Watten a different option if need be.
The Shetland team woke on Friday to a chilly north wind, hardly ideal angling conditions but very similar to what they’d left behind on the “Old Rock”, so they weren’t too disheartened.
With their Caithness partners picking them up for a 9am start competitors were soon shooting off to legendary trout fishing venues such as Lochs Toftingall, Stempster, Calder and the usually prolific Seilge and Na Courach.
A hard day’s fly fishing ensued in the strong northerly wind until the “lines up” time of 4pm. The pairings straggled back to the weigh-in at the Community Hotel in Halkirk with the six anglers who had made the trek into the hill lochs of Seilge and Na Courach taking slightly longer to return.
It was clear that the first day’s weigh-in was going to be a close thing. Both teams amazingly enough had 33 trout with Shetland team’s fish weighing in at 18.36lb, just ahead of the DFFA’s 17.26 lb.
Billy Reid had done well to keep within two fish of the DFFA trout catching machine Alan Porteous on Toftingall. On Seilge, another DFFA catching machine, Tony Chalmers, had made the most of a localised Mayfly hatch to put 10 fish in his bag for 5.03lb.
It should be noted at this point that Jeemie Sandison had decided to give the DFFA team a sporting chance by fishing all day with barbless hooks.
Both teams now retired to get their tactics right for the next day’s fishing. This was the first time ever that the Shetland team had been ahead at the halfway point while away in Caithness and each member knew that they would have to “fish their hearts out” on Saturday if they were to stand any chance at all of maintaining their slender lead. At the back of everyone’s mind, however, was the fact that top DFFA angler Alan Porteous would be on his favourite Loch Seilge.
Saturday dawned a miserable grey day with the strong wind stuck resolutely in the north. Might this be an omen for the Shetland boys? Again the start was at 9am but today the partnerships would swap over so that the other three pairings would get a crack at the hill lochs.
Everyone knew what was at stake as the day wore on, so with the various waters having been lashed to a frenzy it was 12 exhausted anglers who reeled in their lines at 4pm.
Up at Seilge Billy Reid waited for Mark Sandison to stumble round from the other side of the loch to greet him with the news that Alan Porteous had 15 fish. This was more than Billy (six) and Mark’s (four) combined total. Both anglers’ heads were now well down at this devastating blow and they cut a sorry looking sight as they trudged back over the heather.
However, as they reached the top of a rise they could see their captain Barry Robertson on top of the next hill waiting for his boys to come home. More importantly it was clear that Robertson was carrying a bag bulging with trout from Na Courach. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope and a little more spring in Sandison and Reid’s steps.
A quick count up of the number of trout coming from the two hill lochs showed that it was still reasonably close and would depend on how the other three men had done. And they didn’t disappoint. Jeemie Sandison and Alstair Jamieson, drawing on all their experience, had fished like heroes in Calder to give them bags of six fish for 3.35lb and five fish for 3.13lb respectively. Bobby Irvine had also put two fish in his bag during the last 15 minutes of the competition to give him three from Toftingall for 1.85lb.
At the weigh-in tension was understandably high and the usual jokes and banter were in short supply as it became clear that there was nothing in it. Unbelievably, as during the previous day, both teams had again come in with the same number of fish.
The Shetland total of 30 weighed in at 17.06lb, while the DFFA’s 30 came to 17.26 lb. When added to the previous day’s results this gave Shetland 63 fish for 36.78 lb compared to the DFFA’s 63 for 35.62lb. Our chaps had done it. There was an audible sigh of relief as hands were shaken all round.
At a reception in Thurso the Viking Shield for the heaviest basket over the two days was presented to Alan Porteous with his 21 fish for 11.60lb.
Alan was also presented with the Brian Hunter Memorial Trophy for the heaviest fish, a 1.10lb specimen from Toftingall. A clearly delighted Barry Robertson then stepped up to be presented with the inter-club trophy for the second year running by Jennifer Porteous.
Barry now becomes the only Shetland captain since the late Brian Hunter to lift the trophy on foreign soil, a remarkable achievement.
Barry congratulated Alan on his success and thanked the DFFA for their excellent hospitality, in particular Ken Macleod, Bill Robertson, Tony Chalmers and Alan Porteous for all their organisational efforts. Finally he congratulated his own team for their all-round team performance and never say die attitude.
It will now be up to the team to try to defend the trophy next year back home in Shetland.