The Scottish Ghillie Career
By Jock Monteith 12th April 2021
Have you never wondered why someone would choose to earn a lowish basic wage throughout their full working career in a society where cash is king? A career on the salmon river is often not fully understood by fishing guests so here's a few angles to consider about the man who's hosting your day on the river.
Boyhood Salmon Fishing Dreams
Normally this insatiable lust for contact with God's finest marine creature and thoughts of a career on the river commences during the early boyhood years when any annual days on the salmon river are the highlight of the year and a welcome break from the normal perch, pike & trout duties. The salmon has an ability to conjure up epic fight scenes in any young man's head and remain there until these encounters are finally made a reality! This is where it starts for many of us if we care to admit the real route of this magnificent affliction!
Salmon Fishing Career Preparation
On a personal note after a fantastic ongoing introduction to the sport commencing in 1970 by true River Tay legend ghillie Willie Laird I remember buying a landing net in Cafaro Bros tackle shop in Glasgow at 11 years old knowing I'd need the net one day when I was a professional ghillie on the Tay. Maybe a bit young to be making decisions like that especially for a young kid but I knew there was no escape from this wonderful pursuit and trying to replicate what I'd witnessed in Willie Laird as a young boy.
Deep Thinking On The Salmon River
Many of the professional Scottish ghillies I'm fortunate to know are exceptionally deep thinkers which is probably a bi-product of being on a salmon river every day of life. There is no better natural arena that can take your mind into a completely different hemisphere for depth of thought and that is one of the many attractions of a career on the river. The river can however put you to sleep such is her magnificent movement so watch she doesn't completely hypnotise you! I recall a BBC Radio Scotland interview where my descriptive words 'river therapy' impressed the presenter more than anything else I had to say!
The Thrill Of Contact With The Underworld
The buzz of contact with a salmon that's sneaked up on you during the fishing day when you've least expected it is truly something brilliant too. There's nothing that focusses the human mind more than that decisive first tug on the salmon fly reel's drag which instantly floods your body with adrenalin and fires your senses into top gear. That thrill never ever goes away for a true salmon professional but the real buzz for them is seeing their guests responding to the same drug and the 'true' sense of satisfaction of that fish being successfully landed. These 'real' salmon encounter moments never fade such is their power and potency!
Respect Your Salmon Beat Ghillie
If you're a salmon beat owner and you see your returning guests are being well entertained, your riverbanks are beautifully manicured and the fishing hut is always looking braw then you've got the right man who respects his role in life and the profession he's chosen. These career men are the 'true face' of Scottish salmon fishing and not the AGM river board members who show up once a year to duck and 'waffle' their way out of answering important river management questions. While social media can and is used as the fishing diary by many these days there's something traditionally great too about still seeing the old catch record book coming out at 5pm.
Always Listen To Your Ghillie
Respect your ghillie and listen to his advice as best you can. Nothing ever beats the number one eyeball in Scottish salmon fishing except of course two of them! A few tactical riverside words from a professional ghillie who knows his beat like the back of his hand will often mean the difference between a fish or a blank so tune in with a good pair of ears. The river man who's hosting you is there first and foremost to give you the best chances of success so unless you're 100% content just being out on the river take on board his tactical suggestions and stick to them like glue!