Have you ever driven on a winding road in pure darkness, where the headlights on your car light up the road far ahead, and that is almost all you can see, just that small patch of lit up road maybe 50 feet ahead of the car. It’s the early hours of the morning just past midnight, the roads are deserted everyone is tucked up in bed, the radio is on and I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to the music at that time on the radio, but it’s mellow, relaxing, your mind just seems to drift off, even the DJ seems to talk slower and in a deeper voice. Time just seems to stand still.
I was driving from London to Scotland to meet my uncle, and it was an 8 hour drive using what they call the A roads, these roads are the original ones that everyone used before the motorways were built, and as I’d just got my licence I preferred to drive on them , even though the journey was longer.
Now the reason for this journey was something my uncle Andy , he’s my mothers brother, had said to me when I was ten years old. I had asked him how he was able to get such fantastic results, how he was able to beat his competitors every time, how he was able to outperform all the others almost effortlessly.
To give you a little background, in Scotland they have these lochs, they are like lakes but very very deep, very similar to Scandinavian fjords, and over one hundred years ago three crofters saved the life of a Scottish nobleman, as a reward he gave these three men the rights to fish his loch for salmon, for four hours per week, and it was from seven until eleven every Sunday morning. They are allowed to keep all the salmon they catch and what they don’t eat they are allowed to sell. These rights have given the three family’s an excellent income over the years. The rights pass to the eldest son in each generation and my uncle Andy currently has the rights.
Each family member is allowed one small rowing boat which is four meters long and two meters wide. My uncle regularly catches around fifty salmon every week but the other two family’s usually catch between five and eight each. No one knows how my uncle does it, and no one has ever been able to find out. This is what I asked him all those years ago, thus the reason for this journey.
I had got a call on Saturday from my uncle saying that if I still wanted to know how he did it, then he would take me out on his rowing boat on Sunday morning and show me how it was done. To get there on time I travelled through the night.
The time was exactly five thirty as I pulled into the gravel drive I could hear the crunching of the stones under the tyres, there was my uncle loading up his van with fishing gear. ” You’re just on time for a cup of tea before we go”, he said.
We got to the loch just before seven and the mist was so thick around the loch, you could only see about ten feet in front of you, the grass was damp under foot as we pushed the rowing boat into the water. Suddenly from out of no where a voice boomed, ” if you are taking him on board with you, I’m coming too”, I was told by my uncle later that, it was the gamekeeper, he’d never been able to work out how my uncle had been catching all those salmon, and had been watching him carefully for years. ” Oh well you can come along but only if you guarantee to keep the secret, and you are going to have to be the one to row “, my uncle told him, the gamekeeper agreed.
We rowed out to a spot picked by my uncle where he told the gamekeeper to stop and pull the oars on board. My uncle stood up, I sat at one end of the boat, the gamekeeper at the other end and my uncle stood in the middle. “The secret of how I catch so many salmon that’s what you want to know, it’s something that people have wondered about for years, but no one except me knows, and it’s something I expect you both to keep to yourselves”. ” Do I use special bait? No”. “Do I go to a special place in the loch? No”. ” Do i use a special technique? Yes” He pulled out a stick of dynamite from his coat pocket, ” I light this “, he said as he lit the fuse. ” It has a thirty second fuse, exactly thirty seconds, I throw it into the water and the fuse keeps burning, it sinks about 15 feet and when it blows up it stuns the salmon, they float to the surface and we scoop them out of the water with these nets”
The gamekeeper’s face was bright red, he could hardly speak, he was choking on his own words ” you, you, you could be arrested for that, it’s illegal !” he bellowed. With that my uncle threw the stick of dynamite into his lap, ” there’s six seconds left on the fuse, are you going to argue, or are you going to fish,?” he replied.