by Scott Sadil
There’s something odd about the soup the waitress brings me at the Old Brew House, the real deal, as far as pubs go, recently renovated at the end of the stone quay in the fishing village of Abroath, just beyond the Firth of Tay.
I could have sworn she said something about sweet potatoes. But this looks a lot more like motor oil – and maybe the consistency of manure tea as it sloshes about in the bowl she sets before me.
Then again, maybe I didn’t hear her quite right. It wouldn’t be the first time I stumbled over a word or two while looking for fish in a foreign land. Okay, I know, they speak English in the United Kingdom. But I’m in Scotland, for gosh sakes, where now and then, I confess, I have a wee bit of trouble with the rich but not always comprehensible words that spill like frothy water in a babbling brook, or burn(pronounced barn), from a local’s tongue.
Or maybe, just maybe, she didn’t hear me correctly, my mouth buried, unlike nearly every other mouth in the country, beneath my KN95 mask.
Seems unlikely. I mean, like, dude, don’t English speakers everywhere understand my perfectly un-accented West Coast diction?
Still, when I head into a bottle shop, rare though the occasion might be, I’ve learned to simply point, rather than try to pronounce the name of a promising single malt.
Even a two-year-old learns to get what he or she needs.
I try to tell myself, anyway, I’m getting better. Before heading out to search for fish, I walked seventy miles, from Melrose, on the River Tweed, to the Holy Island or Lindisfarne. St.Cuthbert’s Way. Castles and old abbeys. Buccleuch Arms, Upper and Lower Dryburgh, chaffinches, blue-tits and rooks, the Eildon Hills, the Cheviots, Morebattle, the Crookedshaws and Primsidemill. Yeavering? Kirk Yetholm?
Go ahead, you try it and see how close you get.
The waitress returns. What? Another bowl, same as the first, this one with what indeed looks like something I’d call soup, an orangey gruel, with bits of parsley sprinkled on top. Guess that first bowl was my coffee.
Glad I didn’t say anything.
So it goes, as Dr. Vonnegut opined. Searching for fish in a foreign country is rarely as easy as simply fishing for them. No doubt that’s part of the fun. You do have to learn to deal with the inevitable oddities, confusion, sometimes even chaos and irrational twists and turns. My first day in Edinburgh, I got turned around bussing in from the airport, thinking we were headed west, not east, and I never could break free of my gut-level sense that north was south, south was north – embarassing when you tell someone, “That’s weird, I’ve never seen the sun set in the east before.”
Or what about no fishing for salmon on Sundays? That’s a new one for me. I was still mulling over the reasoning for such a law when, the next day, I stopped at the airport for a Covid test, required within 24 hours before flying back to the states. Results? Surprise:“You have tested positive.”
Follow the rules and I was stuck in Scotland another ten days.
Or fly to Canada and make your way across the border.
Legally, I should add.
Gray’s Angling Editor Scott Sadil is pleased to report, firsthand, that there are Atlantic salmon, in the River Tweed, as he writes.