Author, journalist and angler

Born: September 26, 1938;

Died: October 30, 2016

THE renowned angler and countryman Bruce Sandison, who has died aged 78, was a much admired and popular figure throughout the close-knit Scottish fishing community. He contributed to several angling publications, BBC Radio Scotland and wrote nine books. The latter included the definitive anglers' guide, The Rivers and Lochs of Scotland.

Mr Sandison was also acknowledged as the best informed angler to spend a day on a loch with and was always magnificent company. He loved just being in a river and recalled previous visits with an infectious glee.

The actor Paul Young fronted the BBC programme Hooked on Scotland with Mr Sandison on occasions. Young asked him, “Do you have some secret for when the trout are difficult to catch?” Back came the reply, “On a day like today when it’s a bit dour and the fish aren’t showing I give them a song. It has to be classical. A few bars of Handel’s Messiah and a fine rainbow trout was hooked.”

Bruce MacGregor Sandison was brought up in Edinburgh and rather confused his father as he was not interested in golf. His father was a keen member of Swanston and while at the Royal High School, the young Bruce Sandison displayed little interest in sport.

Fishing, however, was a different matter. He first fished the Water of Leith as a kid at Canonmills and, in time, fished Lyne Water, a tributary of the Tweed, where he caught his first brown trout.

It was a precious moment. He recalled, “Sixty years later, I still feel that same sense of excitement and wonder when I catch a trout, salmon or sea-trout.”

On leaving the Royal High School, Mr Sandison was commissioned into the Royal Army Services Corps and then worked on various farms. But he wanted to make angling his profession and from 1981 was acknowledged as an eminent writer on the sport.

He was The Scotsman’s angling correspondent for 20 years and held a similar post at the Aberdeen Press & Journal for 11 years. He became the recognised authority on fishing in Scotland and wrote for Trout & Salmon and Fly Fishing and Fly Tying. Mr Sandison twice won the prestigious Highlands and Islands Media Award, Feature Writer of the Year.

He often wrote for The Herald and memorably, in a 1994 series he introduced fly-fishing to those who had never cast a fly. It proved helpful and instructive to even the most seasoned angler. “Fly-fishing,” Mr Sandison enthused “introduces you to a world of boundless horizons, where over every hill and round every corner a new challenge beckons; the ordered calm of Loch Leven and Lake of Menteith; the majesty of Loch Katrine and the secret corners of the Upper Clyde; gently flowing Tweed, by Neidpath and Manor."

Mr Sandison’s epic undertaking to write River and Lochs of Scotland is considered the enthusiasts’ bible. He set himself a mammoth task - providing the angler with everything they needed to know about fishing in every river and loch in Scotland - including over 5,000 locations with how to gain access to the water, where best to fish and which flies to use.

He was much concerned about the future of wild salmon fishing and campaigned to preserve the sport. He was highly critical of the spread of salmon farms and warned of the perils of salmon farming – especially on rivers in the west coast. Mr Sandison founded the Salmon Farm Protest Group which lobbied governments to adopt a sustainable fish farming policy. He called for a ban on salmon farms at the mouths of salmon rivers and clear labelling on the chemicals used in the farms.

His A Dram and a Dream of Fishing was a delightful book in which Mr Sandison argues that fishing and whisky are inextricably linked and calls the north of Glasgow, “the bristling country”. He recommended Auchentoshan. “Its aroma is achieved by a unique triple distillation, a process that creates a dream-like malt," he said. “Loch Lomond is also dream-like: the most popular fly fishing drifts are at the shallow, south end.”

His love for the north of Scotland – especially Sutherland, Caithness and the Hebrides – was total. He loved the moors, the lochs and did much to encourage fishing and hill-walking throughout the community.

He was once asked which his four favourite lochs were. After much consideration he replied, “Lanlish (Durness), Helien (Caithness), Tangusdale (Barra) and Bealach Cornaidh (Assynt).” Then added, “What a joy fishing is.”

For many years he and his wife Ann lived near Tongue. They were married in 1961 and all their family are keen anglers. They set up the Sandison Family Fishing Association which remains very much part of the family’s life.