Only a few miles from where I stand, ankle deep in the bubbling waters of the frosty River Tweed, is a battlefield that was stained by the blood of 10,000 Scotsmen.

In 1513, under the orders of King James IV, they marched headlong into an English army at Flodden Field in Northumberland, in the often violent border region between the countries. It proved a fateful and bloody day for the Scots, who were encircled by the better-armed English and mercilessly cut to pieces in what was a massacre.

Back at the river, the massacre I had been envisaging is progressing poorly. In fairness, I’m going into battle against a more crafty foe. This one isn’t going to charge me head-on, nor is it likely to leap out of the water and moon me, Braveheart-style. There are no spears, longbows or billsmen. My weapon is a fishing rod. My armour, rubber pants.

Yet the salmon I am chasing have obviously overlooked their date with destiny, choosing instead to swim around happily in the pristine Tweed as I while the hours away discussing life, love and fly designs with Bob the ghillie, who is overlooking my wildly inaccurate fly casting and kindly helping me untangle it when the line gets tangled in the bushes behind me.

It’s day two of my fishing trip to the Scottish Borders, an undulating region criss-crossed with swirling rivers, tiny towns and cosy pubs, which are perfect for sampling some of the local fish you failed to catch.

Any given journey along the Tweed or its tributaries, which forms the natural barrier between England and Scotland, will see you traverse back and forth from country to country over stonework bridges.

It’s an area that has remained a hidden gem for many visitors, who return year after year to the comforts of their favourite B&B. It’s out of the path of the Edinburgh-Glasgow-Highlands loop and while the rugged beauty of the Highlands could never be replicated, at just an hour’s drive from the bustle of Edinburgh, the Borders are literally a breath of fresh air.
Oh, and then there’s the fishing. The Tweed was earlier this year proclaimed the best salmon fishing river in the world, and its gleaming progeny are prized by anglers.

While Scotland is blessed with spectacular salmon and trout rivers countrywide, the Tweed is the daddy of them all. Come salmon season, which begins in February, picturesque towns such as Kelso and Coldstream begin to fill up with anglers keen to snap up a silver spring salmon. At the height of the fishing season in the summer months, the race to fish the Tweed’s banks heats up and securing some time on the most popular stretches, known as beats”, can be costly and competitive.
For some anglers, a fee of up to £500 for a day of fishing is a small price to pay for a prized catch.

For amateurs, tackling a less productive but likely just as beautiful part of the river can cost as little as £20 plus gear hire. Some of the beats are remote, and casting a fly among the spectacular scenery, with the flowing crystal river as your symphony, is hypnotising.

Which is lucky, incidentally, if you fail to catch anything. With my career fishing record of 178 expeditions, two fish and a plastic bag, I get the feeling the salmon were hardly shaking in fear.My new friend Bob was reassuring me that the beat I was fishing hadn’t been that productive so far this season, before showing me photos of humungous fish other people had caught in the exact spot.

As a ghillie, Bob acts as a guide and an instructor, patrolling his section of the river and teaching as he goes, or regulating fish numbers. The services of a ghillie come for free, although a customary tip of at least a tenner is a traditional way of thanking them for their tutelage.

The afternoon’s fishing soon comes to an unwelcome end, and two days of an early season assault on the Tweed has yielded no fish flesh for supper. Yet as I discovered, the beauty of fishing in the borders is even if the salmon don’t come to the party, simply getting back to nature in this pristine part of the world is all the bait you need to come back for more.”