Hop on a train steaming from King’s Cross in the next month or so and, if you keep your eyes peeled and stay very still so as not to spook them, you are liable to see a rather unusual species of angler.
The common or garden salmon fisher is easy enough to spot. They move in groups, for they are sociable animals. They can also be distinguished by having a quite extraordinarily large amount of luggage to stow, extraordinarily tall tales to tell and an extraordinary appetite for claret.
The softly spoken visionary who is heading north in search of arctic char, however, is a different creature. Though not unfriendly, she keeps herself to herself. She may be reading a slim hardback; she may be looking out of the window, her wrist twitching from time to time as imagines the tiny electric jolt of a fish tentatively tugging at the end of her line. She will be travelling light and alone, with nought but a single duffle, a fishing bag and – depending on her individual idea of fun - a small trout or spinning rod.
The fish she seeks is equally unusual and equally mysterious.
Originating in the high Arctic and choosing to remain behind in Britain as the ice sheet retreated following the ice age, these strange salmonids can still be found here, cut off from the sea in a few of our highest, coldest and deepest lochs and lakes.
Their flesh has the delicate richness and (occasionally) pale pink hue associated with salmon or rainbow trout. But though they may be delicious, fun to catch and also abundant in some places, their distribution is sparse. And since many populations have been isolated for thousands of years, they often display unique characteristics, so we’d suggest putting the first few back (and checking the local regulations) before knocking breakfast on the head.
Other than that, we wish you tight lines and a midge free mission.