A sole fish left to restore

Mike Shepley
Mike Shepley

He might be a keen fisherman, but an Abbey St Bathans man spends just as much time with his eye on them away from rivers as he does beside them.

Mike Shepley is no stranger to big catches, often landing some particularly heavy fish with his rod but his passion for all things scaley has also branched out into his art.

Mike has just restored the third of a quartet of prize salmon he is working on.

Mike made the pages of ‘The Berwickshire News’ in 2011 after painstakingly restoring the first two fish but speaking back then he said he was in no doubt that the remaining two would prove most difficult.

This has proven to be the case but with one more finished Mike transported it back to its original home this week

When writer Mike wrote his first fishing-inspired book ‘Salmon’ in 1974 little did he believe he would see not one 40 pounder, but four leviathan salmon - all from the Thurso River and caught nearly 100 years ago.

The first fish on Mike’s ‘to do’ list was one that he’d laid eyes on before.

It had pride of place above the bar at The Ulbster Arms in Caithness when Mike arrived in the county as a young agricultural student in 1960.

Fast forward nearly 50 years and Mike made enquiries to Thurso fisheries manager Eddie McCarthy as to what had happened to the great fish.

And so started a multiple challenge to restore all four specimens to their former glory to be admired by the new generations of anglers who delight in fishing the river.

The first was completed in October 2010 and was hung in time to celebrate the river’s all-time record season of more than 3,000 salmon for the year.

Rather than going down the more well known route of taxidermy, Mike prefers to restore the casts.

But this isn’t just a case of adding a new lick of paint, as you’d expect from something that had adorned the walls of a pub for a number of years, there was plenty of wear and tear to contend with.

The good news is that after more than 100 hours of review, research and restoration, the third trophy travelled to Caithness this week in time for the closing days of the 2013 season.