While the incredible 90 degree heat might have threatened to bring the many thousands attending to their knees in a state of exhaustion the event was a credit to the organisers who had to change venues at short notice because of F&M.

Then there was the personal thrill for me of a first time experience demonstrating wild trout fishing down on the lake at Fishermans Row. To do this I chatted about 'loch style' angling while being rowed about on the pond by none other than Gavin Brown, the gillie from the world famous Junction Pool of the Tweed. What an honour, almost as good as guesting at the Fair itself though it has to be said that conversations between us on past clients were much more dynamic when the microphone was switched off than when we had to sit and 'pretend' to be loch fishing!

The entire experience was exciting yet incredibly demanding, something I would not have missed for the world but needed several days to recover from! I have nothing but the greatest respect for top angling demonstrators like Michael Evans, Hywel Morgan and Charles Jardine who acted with the highest professionalism in what at times became a boiling cauldron surrounded by surreal heat haze.

From an angling writer's point of view the Game Fair provided a unique insight into the state of wild trout fishing across the country. Each day various fishing presenters would meet at a 'Fishermans Forum' to discuss aspects of the wild trout with members of the general public. I was lucky enough to be on panels which included amongst others Moc Morgan and Nica Pritchard (Wales), Des Taylor (Midlands) and those well travelled English gents John Bailey and Charles Jardine. Their views together with questions from the floor helped form some new perspectives on how our wild trout are faring UK wide.

As it turned out the browns of my own Caithness and Sutherland are actually faring rather well when compared with some other fish populations across the country. In Wales leeching from the old mines has caused trout numbers on certain rivers to crash, in the industrial Midlands almost everyone fishes for the more hardy rainbows rather than browns whether they want to or not, and in southern England many chalkstreams have suffered from ills like over stocking and water abstraction.

In real terms the Far North is lucky enough to have one of the highest densities of naturally reproducing wild and native trout in the whole of the UK, only parts of Ireland beat us in terms of trout numbers. And when we looked at the quality of fish habitat, Caithness and Sutherland again came out tops in terms of pristine trout environment. Yes we may have some problems with the disruption of spawning burns by agriculture and forestry interests but frankly these are minimal when compared with the over-developed lands of the south, where trout watercourses often face an uphill battle just to maintain the status quo.

Fishing pressure was another major problem affecting wild trout in the south, Moc Morgan remarked that the two biggest ills facing wild trout were the motor car and the deep freeze (we also had a long discussion about otter boards but I won't go into that!). Though in Caithness we see an increase in the numbers of anglers fishing during the months of May, June and July, the inaccessibility of some of our lochs means that angling pressure is normally concentrated around easier reached fisheries like Watten, Calder and St Johns. While we might moan these lochs are apparently busy, visitor numbers rank in the hundreds rather than the tens of thousands experienced in the south.

We also had some intriguing discussions at the Forum seminars on how best to care for our trout. The subject of barbless hooks was a particularly interesting one for, while I have lots of time for using these, fishing personas in the south are now declaring that barbless hooks can be more brutal on the fish by causing excessive bleeding. They now think that the trout swings about more on a debarbed hook as it struggles to free itself and therefore the hook puncture is made larger than when a trout is caught in the scissors on a barbed hook.

This may well be the case if trout always hook themselves lightly in the scissors, but it does not account for the fish taking the fly deep in the mouth or on the upper lip. This often happens here at mayfly time and it is often a difficult struggle to release a trout with the barb firmly embedded. Barbless hooks are a real boon. If you want to put back a fish under the water, simply slide your hand down the nylon toward the hook, feel for the body of the hook and reverse where it went in. It's a bit of a knack and needs practise but it's a great method for releasing trout you do not need for the table.

Catch and release was also a hot topic with many differing views on this from both panellists and audience. The view was held amongst many that catch and release is fine on stillwater rainbow fisheries. I strongly felt that fishery managers see C&R as a way of maintaining fish numbers and cutting down on the need to buy expensive trout for restocking purposes but others did not agree. Further debate followed on catch and release in wild fisheries and the consensus was reached that taking two for the pot was fine but excessive numbers bound for the deep freeze should be discouraged being done from greed rather than necessity.

Now safely returned to Caithness, it's time to cool off and contemplate how lucky we are to have so much fine trout angling right on our doorstep, in fact its time for a little quiet therapeutic fishing