RONNIE Glass lives and breathes fishing and his dedication to the craft has finally seen him lift, for the first time in his 27-year competition angling career, the magnificent trophy that comes with being Scottish National Trout Fly Fishing Champion.
Ronnie, from Redden near Kelso, was crowned national champion after Saturday’s final of the championship, at the Lake of Menteith near Stirling.
The 60 finalists won their way to the last event through a series of elimination heats which started in April with 397 anglers.
All the heats and the final were run on a partial catch-and-release basis, with the first three trout retained and in the final, 2lb being awarded for each released fish.
The championship also doubled as the qualifier for the 2012 Home Internationals and Ronnie’s win will give him his 16th cap for the Scotland angling team.
On Saturday, Ronnie hauled in 12 trout for a total of 27lb 9.8oz. It was a close finish – his nearest rival, Allan Smith of Stormontfield Angling Club, took 12 trout for 25lb 3.2oz.
Ronnie has come close on a previous occasion, taking third spot in the national championship in 2004. He won the Scottish National Rivers Championship in 2008.
Other Borderers taking part this year included Hawick Angling Club’s Shane Kelly, who finished 18th, and Mick Tait of Kelso, 34th.
There was a bit of additional glory for the Borders angling community when Ronnie’s boatman for the day, Keith Renton from Leitholm, took the prize for best boatman.
For the past four years, Ronnie has been manager of the fishing department at outdoor wear and fishing tackle shop, Orvis, in Kelso.
“I have been fishing since I was a small lad, probably from about the age of six when my dad first took me out,” Ronnie told TheSouthern.
“We lived in Croft Road in Kelso, when there were lots of fishers living in the same street. There were three or four lads the same age as me and, as I grew up, we used to go fishing all the time.
“I applied for this job when it came up – it was too good a chance to miss, a fishing manager in my home town. And as a trout fisherman nearly all my life, it was a long-held ambition to be national champion, ever since I started competition fishing back in 1984. I am very chuffed to have won. To have finally achieved that dream after all these years is fantastic.”
Ronnie, who is chairman of Kelso and Coldstream angling associations, and of the Federation of Borders Angling Associations, explained that, although Orvis is primarily one of the country’s top trout tackle manufacturers and suppliers, his job for the company also requires an extensive knowledge of salmon fishing.
He told us: “Because the Tweed is mainly known as a salmon river, part of my job is to ensure we have all the tackle needed to supply salmon anglers.
“I also serve customers and advise the less experienced fishers on how to catch salmon or the tactics for a particular day, as it varies from time of year, with temperatures, river heights, and so on.”
Asked what it was about trout fishing that had kept him fascinated for all these years, Ronnie, who ties all his own flies, including those which helped win him the national title, says it is just a split-second moment.
He revealed: “For me it is all about the take, that moment when I have succeeded in deceiving a creature into taking something I have made myself, made it to look like an insect – or something else that attracts the fish as they don’t all have to imitate insects.
“The rest of it is immaterial. And I’m really keen that we’re now fishing more catch-and-release, where we use barbless hooks and return the fish for someone else to catch another day.”
Ronnie took a different tack when it came to fly choice for the final. “I actually went down the nymph route for the final. A lot of people fished blobs. My boat partner was using them and had lots of pulls but found the fish were shying away at the last minute.
“I was slowly fishing nymphs and they were locking on to me really quite hard and those fish are the sort more likely to come to the net.”
Although he does all his competition fishing these days on the Lake of Menteith or in the Carron Valley in central Scotland, Ronnie still loves to be out on the Tweed.
“I still do all my local fishing on the Tweed, although I was brought up on the Teviot”, he said..
Ronnie said his title-winning catch had included a beautiful 2lb brown trout.
And he admitted: “You know, I couldn’t even remember the last time I caught a decent brown trout on the lake.
“It’s almost always rainbows and blue trout. So to take a brown trout on day I became national champion, was quite a thrill.”
On a more sombre note, Ronnie agrees that this year’s trout fishing in the Borders seems to have been quite poor overall.
“It does tend to fluctuate,” he said. “At the moment, numbers seem to be at a low. There are plenty of small fish about and quite a number of big fish at the other end of the scale.
“But, being honest, I’d have to say this has probably been my worst river season ever.”
Ronnie and his wife, Trish, have a grown-up son and daughter and two granddaughters.
Ronnie has been an enthusiastic modeller for much of his life. He is steadily gaining a reputation for his stunning life-size hand-crafted and painted mounted models of fish caught by anglers.
Once upon a time, anglers would have their prize catches mounted. But these days, modern techniques means someone like Ronnie can create a mould of a fish and finish it off to be an exact imitation of the real thing.
“The models of fish really stemmed from when I used to do all my loch fishing at Coldingham,” he said.
“Coldingham Loch was one of the first places to put rainbows in and I really started catching rainbows, while the rest of Scotland was still on brown trout, especially at Loch Leven.
“Loch Leven in those days was the mecca for loch fishing. So I fished Coldingham a lot and Dr Ted Wyse, who ran Coldingham Loch, had a few casts of fish in the rod room. As a model-maker, the whole process intrigued me and I taught myself the techniques.”
One of Ronnie’s most recent works is the stunning trophy he has created for next month’s 150th anniversary of Selkirk Angling Association.
“I hope everyone likes it. Normally I don’t like my own work. I always think I could’ve done better. but I’m quite proud of that one”, he said.