SI Vault
Clive Gammon
September 29, 1975
Presentation of a Goat's Toe is proper parliamentary procedure for Hebrides salmon fishing, but tradition-defying anglers can occasionally gain acceptance
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September 29, 1975

Good Show On The House Of Lords

Presentation of a Goat's Toe is proper parliamentary procedure for Hebrides salmon fishing, but tradition-defying anglers can occasionally gain acceptance

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I was into my first salmon before the noise of the car had dwindled, an 11-pounder. In the rest of the morning I encountered four more fish. Two broke off on the strike, snapping the 3X leader as the fly was being retrieved fast. The other two I landed, both 10-pounders.

While the last salmon was being fought the wind shrieked even higher and drove the boat in on the shore, fortunately onto soft bog between the boulders. It was a miracle getting that fish out, and I was glad to see Williams arrive, silhouetted on the hilltop against the storm. There'd been no time or shelter to toast the fish I'd caught. Now we dragged the boat up and ate and drank in the lee of a low stone wall. Then, thankfully, I left Donal and Williams to it.

"Not fishing?" the minister inquired courteously as I sat in front of the fire later that afternoon. He'd come in early, dripping and fishless from Loch Roag. I explained, and confessed my catch which I'd left in the bottom of the boat. "Yes. I see," said the minister. He sought for some more positive cheery words but failed. I mentioned that it was time for me to fetch my friend. "Would you mind," said the minister, "if I came along with you?" I don't think he doubted my word about the salmon. He just craved to be where the action was.

And, theatrically, the moment we walked over the ridge of hill and looked down onto Bharp, we saw Williams' rod bent into a fish. For nearly half an hour we watched him play it in the wind and rain until Donal stood up in the boat and bent over with the net. It was a very red fish, around nine pounds, the fifth boated for the day.

Farson had also had a second day of triumph when he alone brought a salmon into the hotel. "That night," he records, "nobody offered me a drink. The hate had set in."

And, indeed, I thought we might have gone a little too far ourselves. The minister had clearly signed on as one of our party, exclaiming happily as, one by one, we hoisted our fish on the scales. But the commander, the cattle dealers, the doctor, how would they react? Farson, I'm afraid, must have run into a bad crowd. At the Lochboisdale Hotel, once the battle was over, there was a generous acceptance of the result, even when later on I confessed about the Goat's Toe.

In truth, this was much later on, when another victory had been won by the age-old method of strength in numbers. Our fellow anglers, admittedly stunned at first by the sight of five salmon laid out on the marble slab, had rallied, though I can't recall who it was that first suggested that we all go and try one in the cocktail bar. Until then Miss Morag had found it all too easy to put one or two lonely demoralized fishermen to flight. Faced with a crowd she crumbled, though she held out until the singing started. Then she slipped away and one of the bright-eyed girls from the dining room took her place. "Miss Morag didn't feel well," she explained.

It was even later when the four strangers walked into the bar, just off the car ferry. At that point, I recall, Donal himself was leading the singing of Will Ye No' Come Back Again? and Williams was trying to waltz with the doctor's wife. These men were clearly the new fishing intake. I beckoned them over to join our group. "I hope," I said to them, "that you've brought plenty of Goat's Toes with you."

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