For some 'keepers getting allocated baby-sitting duty would definately be considered the short straw. I quite enjoy it. This morning I took 8 year old N out rabbit shooting. Earlier this week he called it his favourite thing in the whole world but today you wouldn't have guessed it.
It didn't help that it was a dreich morning, overcast with drizzle on a snell wind. I suspect his action-packed week was also catching up on him. Suffice to say that the shooting was extremely poor. Coupled with the rabbits playing cat-and-mouse (!) with us in the shelter of the sprots and brackens it made for a frustrating time.
When we returned to the lodge, the planned picnic was abandoned in favour of lunch in comfort and warmth. And who can blame them.
I returned mid-afternoon to be asked to take N and his 11 year old sister fishing. After last nights rain I reckoned the river would be perfect so I set up the rods for salmon. This was a bit of a gamble as I knew that their attention would wane if there wasn't the boost of catching the odd fingerling trout or salmon parr but I thought the conditions were too good to miss.
After an hour I was starting to regret the decision. They were starting to get bored and their fly casting was getting sloppier and sloppier. And this meant I was spending more and more time running up and down the river bank retrieving the flies from trees, thistles and rocks -but thankfully not ears, noses or siblings.
Fortuitously, I'd forseen this and had taken along a spinning rod as well. To keep interest up I also moved them on to the next 'lie' after only a few casts; "hit and run tactics" I call it but I quite like another expression a friend came up with recently. Shock and awe!
But even at this the kids were fast approaching 'critical mass'. At this point Providence threw me a lifeline and a salmon jumped right in front of us. That caught their attention!
As we'd already covered this fish with a rapala, I swapped it for a mepp spinner and with the very next cast the fish was on. I made sure N played this fish all by himself, only intervening by helping keep the rod up when the fish threatened to pull it out of his hands. A full quarter of an hour later and I tailed the fish out. A hen fish of about 7lbs and somewhat red, indicating it had certainly been in the river for a while. Normally I would recommend returning a fish like this but you only catch your first salmon once. Furthermore, I reckon if I'd thrown it back, N would have been right in after it.
All credit, 'I' was nothing but delighted at her brothers success and while he was preoccupied with cradling the fish and talking at a thousand words a minute, I had her cast over all the likely spots in the immediate vicinity.
As luck would have it, she hooked into a salmon within 10 minutes and another nail-biting quarter of an hour ensued. This time I didn't touch the rod and 'I' played the feisty fish out all by herself. Again, her first salmon and this time it was a cock fish, maybe a pound bigger than her brothers. Well done that lass!
I confess to having a twinge of concience at keeping this second fish but how could I deny her her share of the triumph. It would be fitting if these fish are used form the centrepiece of one of the lodges exceptional dinners and I,for one, would raise a glass to their captors.
When we returned to the lodge, the kids grabbed their fish and sprinted off into the house. I sincerely hope that they kept them off the furniture! As I packed the tackle away, Tom the butler came out and chatted. It turned out that their older brother had shot his first stag today.
It's a day that I hope will stay with them for the rest of their lives and on my way home I reflected on it and prayed that I'll be able to give my own wee boy the same experiences one day.