Fly-Fishing and Fly-Tying, August 2009
There is a special magic about the Island of South Uist. I know of no other place that so instantly captivates the soul. The sense of peace to be found there is as tangible as a soft hand caressing the brow; the sweet scent of wild flower-dressed machair lands, the haunting call of red-billed oystercatchers by calm loch shores, the blue-grey mountains of Hecla, Corradail and Beinn Mhor lining the eastern horizon, the silver and gold of summer evenings.
And for those stricken with the compulsion that is angling, some of the most wonderful fishing for salmon, trout and sea-trout to be found anywhere in the world. Clan Sandison first visited the island more than thirty years ago, on a family holiday and we have been returning ever since. My son Blair chose to work there, on the rocket range, and for a number of years he was secretary of the South Uist Angling Club. This is how he met Billy Felton, the subject of this book and one the island’s most colourful characters and an enduring friend.
Billy was a Sergeant Major in the Royal Artillery and was posted to Benbecula in 1981. When Billy retired from service to Queen and Country, he and his wife, Marion, settled at Iochdar at the north end of South Uist. They converted their home into a guesthouse and thus The Angler’s Retreat was born.
Since then, it has become famous as a centre of excellence for anglers, not only because of the warm welcome they receive, but also because it is run for anglers by one of the island’s most knowledgeable practitioners of that art.
To celebrate this excellence, guests who have enjoyed the Billy and Marion’s hospitality over the years have joined together to produce a perfect little gem of an angling book, Tales from The Angler’s Retreat. The books was the brainchild of two of Billy’s guests, Matthew Crampton from London and David Peutherer from Glasgow and they are to be congratulated for so handsomely enhancing the lexicon of angling literature, and for bringing into the public domain so many great stories and tales about Billy, Marion and their guests.
Some of the stories are hilarious, particularly those contributed by Mr James Paterson, an Angler’s Retreat regular, titled Billy and the Mobile Phone and Billy the surfer Dude. But the book is also a treasure-trove of practical, first-hand information and advice on fishing not only South Uist’s famous machair lochs, but also on how to tackle the surrounding hill lochs, some of which hold wild brown trout worthy of the glass case all anglers dream about hanging above their mantelpiece. This book is a must for all who love angling and for all who love wild fishing in wild places.