To be invited to dinner at the home of Marvin Chase is a special occasion in the life of a fisherman. Even a mediocre one like me.
I must say that old Marvin was a brilliant character; certainly the best fisherman in upstate New York, where I lived at the time.
And whats more, the most loquacious. A storyteller without equal. On that particular night, I prayed to the God of fishermen that Marvin would grace us with at least one of his stories. So, like the schemer that I am, I baited him as follows:
“Ah, Marvin, fishing, FISHING… If you only knew the number of times that I returned home empty-handed, when I lost fish who were praying for my lures… who wanted to grab them. How many times I felt like the worst fisherman in the world. How often I wanted to snap my rod in pieces and use it for tooth-picks!”
“Fleche, my friend, let me tell you a story. It was… well, it was a long time ago… Along with four of my friends from New York, we rented a castle in the Spey Valley, the high valley. What a magnificent spring for salmon fishing in Scotland it was!
OK, It cost us a small fortune, in addition to the dumb castle there were two guides and two jeeps, but we couldn’t care less. The river was, and still is, mythic; to wet our silk in those waters was among our greatest dreams.
Can you imagine it? One week of salmon fishing on the Spey?? It’s a little like saying in the 60’s that you’re going to spend one week in bed with Brigitte Bardot and have Claudia Cardinale thrown into the bargain!
But wait, hang on to your hat.
The week was almost at an end and not one of us had caught the least salmon. Nothing! not one strike.
And I assure that we tried everything. Even the most atypical of techniques, the greatest variety of flies: the Jock Scotts, some Dee Specials, the Green kings. Our guides were sweating with rage. Nothing, nada, zilch!
The last evening, shamefaced, we climbed into our jeeps and headed back to the chateau. And, what do we see on the path? I give you a thousand in one, you’ll never guess. We see a bloody otter.
OK, I know… that’s not exceptional in itself, but there where it really hurts is that, in it’s jaws the animal was carrying an enormous salmon. Well, I can tell you, without exchanging one word we started chasing that damned otter. In the jeeps and on foot! Running after him in waders! We were so frightening that the otter took off, leaving his prey behind. At last, we had one! OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly legal, but damn it, who cared… we were returning with a salmon.
Later at the castle, pretending to have caught the monster, we took the salmon to the cook. He looked at us with an amused eye and pointed to the flank of the beast where there were, visibly, the teeth marks of an otter.
Talk about looking stupid!