By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Dedicated fly anglers are eager to share their passion with fellow devotees. There’s a certain camaraderie that almost instantly transforms strangers into friends. I first met Eoin Fairgrieve when our mutual friend Reid Zoller asked me to show him the area waters while he was visiting Florida with his family. Zoller was busy that day, and wanted to make sure his friend got on the water. I enjoyed Eoin's company immediately, and the outing led to other adventures including a couple of days pursuing tarpon in Pine Island Sound.
Fairgrieve, a world renowned spey caster and instructor in Kelso, Scotland, is a self made man in the truest sense. Having neither a mother nor father that fished, Fairgrieve ended up working in a factory after high school. The life didn’t appeal to him, and when he was offered a job as a boatman at Makerspound, a beat on the world famous salmon river, Tweed, he jumped at the chance. He worked hard for 10 years leading the wealthy anglers from England and Scotland to the river’s legendary Atlantic salmon. After work, he first learned and then perfected spey casting, eventually becoming the World Team Speycasting Champion.
When my wife, Christine, and I planned a trip to Ireland and Scotland last September, a trip to Kelso was on our itinerary. As we began to plan those five days in the Borders Region, Eoin assisted us in finding accommodations at the charming and historical Ednam House, whose magnificent gardens overlook the famous Tweed River (www.ednamhouse.com ). He also generously offered me a day of salmon fishing on the Teviot, a major tributary of the Tweed. Unfortunately, the rains were late and the river was low and fishing poorly. Fairgrieve didn’t miss a beat, offering to show me the area on one of his few days off. We toured Fairgrieve’s Centre of Excellence at the stunningly beautiful Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course. Here Fairgrieve has created a dedicated fly fishing and fly casting centre specializing in education and instruction of modern single and double-handed casting techniques. The Centre features a newly constructed classroom and retail facilities, disabled access platforms and educational information boards. In addition there’s a well-stocked teaching lake and education facility. Clients can also take advantage of private salmon fishing on the River Teviot and a brand new Loop Pro-Shop selling the 2007 range of tackle by Loop Tackle Design. I was deeply impressed by Fairgrieve's dedication to his craft as well as his commitment to teaching disadvantaged and physically challenged youth.
Spey casting is a style of fly fishing that features long, two-handed rods that are well designed for working the wide, fast flowing streams of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. I had only tried spey casting once, so I wasn’t going to miss a chance at a lesson from one of Europe’s great casters. As usual, Fairgrieve was a perfect gentleman and was patient as I struggled with this unique style of fly casting. I watched in awe as he created multiple spirals of fly line, keeping them airborne until he delivered the fly with pinpoint accuracy. After catching a few rainbow trout in the teaching lake with conventional fly tackle, we headed back to Kelso for lunch.
It was a beautiful autumn day, so we decided to buy a take-out lunch and see some of the countryside. There’s nothing like local knowledge, and Fairgrieve was intent on showing me the best of his beloved Scottish countryside. We lunched at Scott’s View overlooking the valley of the River Tweed. The outlook was the favorite view of Sir Walter Scott, the prolific Scottish historical novelist and poet. After lunch we visited a beat on the Tweed where one of Fairgrieve’s friends is a Gillie. While I didn’t get a chance to fish the Tweed (anglers paid up to $2,000 per day to fish a beat), having a cappuccino in the Gillie Shack and photographing anglers on the river was a terrific treat.
Later that afternoon Fairgrieve took me to his beat on the Teviot and let me fish as the setting sun cast a pastel pallet of colors on the sinuous river. Although I didn’t catch a salmon, the magic of twilight on that gentle river with its wildflower smells and insect songs was a balm for the soul. After coaching me on how to work a section of the river, the gentleman Scot walked down the river with his dog so that I could fully appreciate the song of the river.
Of all our travels, Scotland ranks high from its pastoral landscapes to its uncluttered culture and friendly people. It is a destination that we have already vowed to return to one day. For information on Eoin Fairgrieve’s Centre of Excellence and access to the fine line of Loop tackle, visit his web site at www.centre-of-excellence.co.uk