I am often asked what on Earth possessed an ever busy mother of two to pursue fishing with such vigorous determination. Normally I reply that an all consuming passion from around the age of 8 is hard to ignore and that marriage, motherhood, various house moves and authorship of two major Scottish trout fishing books have been but incidental to the cause (only kidding dear family!). - Since all fishermen, male or female, are usually considered by the unconverted to be completely loopy, my nearest and dearest have stoically put up with my exploits, quietly tipping off their friends in advance to please ignore mother if she comes in smelling of fish, dripping wet or burnt lobster red after a days angling on the local loch. `She goes fishing' they mutter apologetically and there is a communal shake of heads thereby implying I am way beyond help or saving!

With 16 years of intensive fly fishing in the northern highlands, home to the best wild trout in the UK, and over 20 seasons angling all round Scotland I feel extraordinarily privileged to have been able to enjoy it all, insane or not. I firmly believe whether you are male or female makes little or no difference to the fish at the other end of the line, however you would be surprised how often I am asked if women make better anglers than men. Usually I stutter a rather unsatisfactory answer like `Sometimes!' and retreat. Frankly I try and avoid being drawn into any sexist debate, after all, we are all anglers in the big fish pond and our gender should not matter.

Nevertheless I am occasionally forced to come up with some answers, especially when various daft theories are put forward like a male fish scenting a woman's pheromones and thereby rushing headlong to impale itself on the end of a fair ladies line rather than a cast made by a macho male angler. If ever there was a totally daft theory invented by men to explain away some exceptional ladies catches of large fish (notably salmon in the first half of the 20th century), this has got to be it! - Now I am not disputing the fact that male salmon scent a female salmons pheromones over considerable distances for this is scientific fact. But to try and imply female anglers catch the King of Fish because their gender is transmitted along line, nylon and artificial fly is stretching things way too far. Not that I quarrel with records like those of the redoubtable Miss Ballantine with her enormous 64lber from the Tay, still the largest Scottish salmon ever caught by rod and line, nor do I dispute that many other ladies have caught large trout or salmon in their time. The important thing to remember is that women were and still are a tiny minority in the male dominated angling world. Should a woman manage to catch a big fish she is almost always going to be noticed. Plenty of men capture exceptional fish in size or number but that's comparative old hat, if a lady does it, its big news!

However before you think I am deserting my female companions entirely, lady anglers do possess certain skills which are often not present in their male counterparts. These include an ability to throw a lighter, more deft line which presents the fly generally in a more subtle way to a rising fish. Some (though not all) men are more given to thrashing the water to a blind foam in the hope a fish will be silly enough to ignore their considerable disturbance of the water and take hold of their by now thoroughly ignored artificial. Presentation of flies so that they do not spook fish is vital especially in slow moving or still water and, because of their lesser physical bulk, experienced lady anglers nearly always have sweeter hands on a lightweight fly rod. Equally women will usually pay more attention to local advice and listen out more for snippets of local knowledge. Some men are more likely to carry on regardless and usually at illogical speed. The formidable ladies in those old black and white photographs holding up massive salmon undoubtedly gave close consideration to what their (male) gillie advised prior to starting fishing. Then as now some male anglers are still more likely to `Cast first and ask questions later'.

`Women lack the killer instinct and therefore are much less likely to `hunt' fish than their male companions' is often touted out as a lame excuse for not encouraging more ladies into the sport . However, records from the 1700's Statistical Accounts show that `men, women and children went to the hills to tend sheep in summer and there all enjoyed fishing the lochs and burns for trout'. These women killed fish for food without a moments hesitation and 300 years on so do I. And if a trout is surplus to my requirements for dinner then it goes back, equally if I know a water has a low density of fish I will happily return them. Women anglers actively enjoy hunting fish because it's a difficult challenge where the trout virtually always have the upper hand. But it's a hunt, not a mass slaughter and I will have no truck with anyone (male or female) who fishes only with the intention of mindlessly killing vast numbers of trout.

Fishing is after all the most relaxing yet demanding of sports, its unpredictability is its charm and the great escape it offers is hard to beat. Ladies are well able to enjoy it as much as men, occasionally we catch bigger fish and occasionally we do not. We might listen better and have more patience, often we have a defter touch and persevere longer while the men give up and depart to the pub. Hormones however have little or nothing to do with catching fish, that's up to the individual angler concerned