Logie Bruce Lockhart, who died in 2020, aged 98, was a renowned schoolmaster, a Scottish rugby international, soldier, journalist and the author of The Pleasures of Fishing in 1981. The following article was published in the May 1990 edition of Trout & Salmon.


SELFISH, UNSOCIABLE, unfriendly. I cannot bring myself to love the company of fellow anglers. They are, no doubt, lovable, peaceable, generous, modest lovers of the environment, with weatherbeaten tans and kind, crinkly eyes — if you take them individually. But they are not made to come together in shoals.

Someone once said of our British clergy that they are like manure: thinly spread over the countryside, they do a lot of good, but gathered together in heaps, they stink. Much the same is true of our fraternity. The solitary angler by river or lochside, escaping from job, worry, wife (or husband) and family, is without temptation, hence without vice.

Put him alongside others, where there is ill-defined priority for the best pool or the best part of the bank, where others are catching more fish, and where unwanted advice can be given and snide, underbreath comments can be overheard, and the Old Adam soon emerges.

Nor do his attractions increase when he forgathers, with other anglers, in a pub after the day's fishing. The weatherbeaten tan is soon revealed as the ruddiness of alcoholic broken veins, and the peaceable, modest lovers of the environment all too often forsake the truth in the exercise of crudely competitive one-upmanship.

To resent other people sharing our country's most lovely places is undemocratic, ungenerous and mean-minded. Yet resent them I do, although I know it to be unreasonable. For solitude is, for me as for many others, the essence of trout-fishing. A chosen friend to meet for lunch, or with whom to share a boat or exchange news once an hour, and on whom one can rely not to produce a transistor from the depths of his bag, or to leave sardine tins, beer cans and sandwich wrappings by the waterside; but no more. Who wants to talk? Some of us have spent nearly 40 years in jobs which require us to jabber and be jabbered at all day while the telephone rings incessantly. For us, escape is paramount. Escape from competition, escape from worry, escape from gossip about everyone's misfortunes, escape from talk about money, ill-health and disaster.

Loneliness may tempt you to give way to the inward chatter of negative thoughts: health worries, strained relationships or self-pity. But there is no loneliness, only blessed solitude, when you are hypnotised by the music of the waters and of the birds, lulled by the scent of pine needles, soothed by the colours of primroses and bluebells.

There is a magic in solitary fly-fishing, whether in Highland rivers and lochs, Yorkshire dales or southern streams. It has the unique power to banish gloom and doom. The waterside and its wildlife enchant your senses. The whirring, busy dipper, the elegant grey wagtail, the flashing kingfisher, the silent heron, the dabchick, the goosander and red-throated divers, the cormorants, buzzards and ravens, the water rats, stoats, squirrels and others are companions more reassuring and dignified than any human being in such a setting.

To think sad thoughts in such surroundings would be a form of blasphemy requiring deliberate bloody-mindedness. The planning, the skills and alert observation required are demanding enough, physically and mentally, to wrap you in the joys of absorption in harmony with your surroundings, without stress or exhaustion. Your mind is healed. No more does your inner voice nag away out of control: "Did I pay for the last consignment of oil? Is that pain under my ribs on the right side anything to do with my liver? Will the windowsill replacements cost over £300? If so, how can I get my bank balance back into credit by the end of the month? Why did I have a second helping last night when I need to lose a stone?"

In place of all that, you begin to congratulate yourself: "That was a beautifully timed cast. . . a little more shoot next time, and just this side of the current. Ah! That's it! What a pleasant burbling that blackcap is producing: I'm sure it's pitched lower than the one in my garden. Ah! That's a good, solid rise, mopping up the duns below that root. It'll be easy to mark — 20 yards upstream. I can get at it from the shingle on the left. No hurry, I mustn't disturb this next bit, it's lovely water. I wonder why snatches of melody always get stuck in my mind on a particular kind of day? Ta rum, ta rum, ta diddle di, diddle di, diddle di diddle di dee... fast movement, Seventh Symphony, isn't it? Diddle di. Damn, blast b... late on the strike, you God-forsaken clot!"

Yet even the disasters and the unheard oaths are powerless to stop the stream of contentedness and happiness. Only Man is vile, and his absence bliss, and I shall be less horrible and more tolerant towards my fellow human beings tomorrow for having escaped them today. And as for all those gregarious anglers who rejoice in companionship and competition, and who flock together in search of the big fish - blessings on them all. For it is thanks to their willingness to get together in large numbers, in readily-accessible places, that we who are mean, selfish and solitary can still escape.