finScribe founder, Caspar Bowes muses on the importance of capturing memories during a fishing trip to the River Thurso…
I am standing on the banks of the River Thurso, wondering why I never seem to find a salmon river flowing at a perfect height. It looks low. But then the Thurso always looks low. This part of far north Scotland has its own weather patterns and sits firmly under a rain shadow. I know from experience that those rain clouds blowing in from the Atlantic become utterly denuded of moisture by the time they arrive in the Thurso’s catchment. Rain arrives here from the east, the south, or the north, or not at all.
It's Sunday. We’ve just arrived. Rods have been set up and stashed in the rod room and we’ve wandered down to the water to get a feel for what’s in store for the week ahead: a bit of piscatorial soothsaying before we head back to the Ulbster Arms Hotel for the introduction of beer to palate.
Relying on memory
Fishing the Thurso’s dark waters is not unlike casting a line in Iceland. The landscape – treeless and vast – has a similar feel and, as in Iceland, the fishing generally entails nicking about in small pools, keeping out of sight, chopping and changing one’s method of attack.
As the river’s dark waters ease past beneath my feet, I cast my mind back to the previous vintage and the successes of my last visit. I had a fish right where I am currently standing. And there had been two others. Hmm. Had one been from Beat 9? And another: oh yes, from Loch More, of course. I’d been stripping a large muddler on a dropper with a small, dark, boar bristle double on the point and a fish had nailed that point fly. It had been the first from the loch that season. I felt the echo of that slight smugness one feels when one bags a first, or a biggest, or a most spectacular.
The importance of archiving treasured images
I sat down and pulled out my phone. I wonder whether everyone is as profligate as me when it comes to taking photographs with one’s mobile phone. Dog walking near home in Wiltshire I take a great many snaps of the landscape: as wide and vast and, in places, as treeless as Caithness, albeit much more rolling. I scroll through, looking for evidence of my catches of the year before. Then I scroll some more. Finally, some images of salmon. But no; those were, I’m pretty sure, North Tyne fish landed much later in the season.
At last, I roll through some photographs of a landscape that is clearly Scotland’s far north and alight on the image of a salmon. It’s the one from Loch More, lightly bronzed, the large expanse of the loch framing the background. Two pictures further on, there’s another fish. Now where had I caught that? It’s clearly a grilse…but from where? And what fly had it taken?
I have a phone full of photographs. And on my PC at home, a great many more, punctuated by fishing images. But I have long since lost track of successful flies, the conditions under which I met with success, the sizes of the fish landed.
This is nuts. It is the information age, after all. It cannot be out with the ken of mankind to make this stuff easier. There must be some sort of app for this kind of thing, surely?
Capturing the moment
My hunt for such took place that evening in the warmth of the hotel wi-fi. Apps I most certainly found, mostly American, but none of them did quite what I was after. Virtually all were overly complicated and social-media heavy.
Now, I am sure that I am not alone when I tell you that I have a hardback angling logbook. It was a kind gift for a birthday very many years ago. In fact, I have two: one utterly blank, the other with perhaps a dozen pages of script describing my early angling efforts. I am sorry to say, I know where neither is currently residing. You see, I stopped recording my fishing trips years ago. Memories are best recorded in situ, or as soon thereafter as is possible. Wait a few days and the recollections start to become fuzzy, accuracy increasingly tenuous. And motivation leaches away.
Germinating a new tech idea
Wind forward a year-and-a-half and I am sitting by another river, the waters of which are dark like those of the Thurso. I am on the North Tyne.
Between these two fishing sessions I have been spending time in Leicester; not, you will realise, much of an angling destination, rather one of the tech centres of the UK. I hunted down the finest app developers in the UK and have spent months in travelling to-and-from the Midlands, on seemingly endless Teams meetings, in a flurry of back-and-forth emails, the end result of which has been finScribe, a new logbook app for recreational anglers.
I reeled in from my final cast of the year, the culmination of a three-day trip in October. I’d spent two-and-a-half days thrashing the Tyne in increasing frustration at its reluctance to give me any evidence of the scaly denizens that I know are hidden in its blackness.
The Tyne is among the most maddening waterways I’ve ever fished. Over the many years I have fished it, I have seen it high and unfishable and so low that the edges of the riverbed are dry. I’ve arrived to find it running at the most perfect height, only to then discover all that lovely-looking water was, in fact, a release from the mighty Kielder Water: cold and bitter and in which the fish become super-dour and un-takeable.
And this morning’s fishing had something Groundhog Day about it. Cast and step; cast and step: hours when even a pull seemed out of the question. Then, after a bite for lunch, I had to drive my host to Newcastle airport, there to drop both his wife for a return trip to Norway, and his hire car.
A triumph with the very last fly of the season
We arrived back at the river just as dusk was falling. “Well,” I thought. “That’s another season over and done with”. And I attempted to cheer myself with thoughts of some of the season’s high points as I strapped on the last of my flies that was to be given a swim that year.
It turned out to be a Red Zelda, a fly I’d never fished before. And I fixed it in place with a large single iron: an item certainly never designed for the purpose, found rattling around an old box of mixed hooks somewhere in my waders. Confident I was not.
To cut down a longer story, that Red Zelda was snaffled in short order by not one, but two salmon… and two salmon in consecutive casts, at that.
Memories that live with you forever
I sat on the bank in one of those rare moods where one feels as though everything is utterly and completely right with the world. Smug? Maybe. But not nearly as smug as I was when I found out that they were the only fish caught on the river that day.
As I sat, I loaded up both catches onto finScribe: pictures of the fish, the fly, the pool, noting the sex of each, their weight, and a few comments on their capture.
My smugness slowly abated, but I still feel an echo of it every time I open finScribe and view those two fish. They will be with me forever.
A new premium version of the finScribe app has just been launched with a host of new features including extended storage for photos of your catches. Read more about it here or download from the App Store or Google Play