Highlands & Islands

Gillie wins prize for salmon caught on River Spean

John MacIssac and salmon caught on River Spean Image copyright John MacIsaac
Image caption John MacIssac and the salmon caught on River Spean

An angler told a friend "we're going to need a bigger net" after catching what turned out to a prize-winning salmon.

John MacIssac, a gillie on the River Lochy in Lochaber, caught the fish weighing between 38-41lb and about 47in long on the River Spean in September.

He was heading home when he decided to try his luck on the Spean in Lochaber.

His catch, which he returned to the river, has won him the annual FishPal Malloch Trophy for catching one the largest salmon caught on a fly in 2016.

The competition's committee picked Mr MacIssac's salmon from a shortlist of five entries, including three from women anglers, each of whom entered a salmon of more than 30lb.

Mr MacIsaac's entry fulfilled all the relevant criteria including best evidence, to win the 44-year-old prize run by the Tay Foundation.

He said: "I was on the point of going home at the end of the day when I decided to try a cast on the Spean as I had not fished there this year.

"My first cast splashed into the tail of the Long pool. The heavy fly I was using brought the fish to the surface where he hit the fly, turned and rolled. Now attached, the fish took a couple of runs during which I had the chance to see its belly - I then knew at once that it was very big fish.

"However, it was only when it came closer to me that I realised I was going to need some help. Fortunately the fish then dived and stayed deep, hardly moving, until assistance came."

'Dwarfed the net'

Mr MacIssac referenced the famous Jaws movie quote "you're gonna need a bigger boat" when his friend arrived at the river bank.

He said: "When Joe, my fellow gillie, arrived 25 minutes later with his net, I told him immediately 'we're going to need a bigger net'.

"The salmon's length and depth dwarfed the net. It was a very deep fish, with an adipose fin the size of an apple. I was not even able to get my hand around the tail."

The competition also has five joint junior trophy winners for salmon caught and safely released. They are:

  • Finlay Thomson, 18, who sent in six entries for fish caught in the River Nith in South Scotland and the River Fhorsa on the Isle of Lewis
  • Blaine Lyon, 14, for a salmon caught on the River Ness at Inverness. Blaine is also the Scottish Youth National Fly Fishing Champion
  • David Cameron, 14, for a fish on the River Spey
  • Harris Reid, nine, who his first-ever salmon one day after school on the River Clyde
  • Monroe Job, 12, for his first salmon which he caught at Delagyle on the River Spey

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