Its a wee while ago now but still makes me laugh when I think about it....The Black Bottle Scotch Whisky Fly Casting Championship started out as a little bit of fun but soon became a very serious international competition.
It was during the Islay Festival of Malt and Music 2009, Bunnahabhain Distillery open day to be exact, that Burn Stewart distillers decided to arrang Highland Games for visitors to the distillery, punters could choose from wellie tossing, archery....and of course....fly casting. At 8.30am there was much amusement as the "Highland Games" arrived on the roof rack of a clapped out old Ford Escort Estate....no expense had been spared.
Two people are key to this story, both very good friends of mine, firstly, David Morris, a resident of Islay and mashman at Bunnahabhain Distillery, a brilliant and very
competitive angler, and secondly introducing Mr Kelting (aka Keltong), another brilliant angler, a chap lucky enough to have attended a school where fly fishing was part of the curriculum. Presice is a good way to describe his fishing technique. Chris is also a massive fan of good Single Malt Whisky, has a good nose and has chosen some of our best single casks for bottling, and he's always up for a laugh. So two good friends to have then...both fish, one makes whisky and the other helps me consume it.
Part of the "Highland Games" was the fly casting competition, the person to cast a fly the furthest during the day would win. You could tell from the start that it was going to be taken incredibly seriously as Chris and the various Davids, Johns and Georges knocking about the place started to try to find excuses not to have a go...in fear of defeat and the subsequent ribbing that would ensue from friends and colleauges alike. There was much at stake.
By 9am, the fly casting stand was ready, and because of the wind direction, we were to cast parallel to the sea shore towards the now set up archery targets, which, within seconds, Chris had proved had been set up too close. The first to pick up the rod, Chris started stripping line off the reel in preparation for casting, the man in charge wondered when Chris might stop, which he didn't for quite some time. He then made his cast, his line covering the targets, laying the fly to rest way in the distance. Now, up until about 2pm, this had been the best cast until David decided he could not resist any longer and had to have a go, promptly beating Chris by a further 6 inches and then both of them were blown out when a large German visitor took up the challenge and beat both of them. Well, there was talk of little else at the distillery, the situation looked grim. David decided he'd have another go but was so aggressive in his casting that he promptly broke the rod. Chris' time had come, he calmly took up the new rod, stripped a couple of miles of line off the reel and after his fourth false cast, the fly came to rest accompanied by cheers, laughter, and plentiful jeering.
And so, Chris, Black Bottle Scotch Whisky Fly Casting Champion 2009, was presented with a bottle of Black Bottle and a Bunnahabhain decanter and glasses. Needless to say that the picture of Chris with his prizes was a much used ribbing mechanic in the weeks to follow...
David had the last laugh though, when, the next day, he and I entered the Feis Ile open fishing competition at Loch Finlaggan, he won the prize for best total weight of fish, catching 33 fish in 4 hours (I caught 6) and the prize for the biggest fish.