A five star cast for the Tweed Valley Hotel

Today we have a very special feature. Charlie Miller is well known by fly fishers as the host of the Tweed Valley Hotel in Walkerburn, a popular destination for salmon anglers for nearly half-a-century. David Pike chats with Charlie about his time as hotel owner along with his wife Joyce and their family.

Charlie Miller at Walkerburn and Juniper Bank.

A five star cast for the Tweed Valley Hotel

I can hear the sighs now – an outpouring of affection and fond memories at the mere mention of the Tweed Valley Hotel. Under the dedicated ownership of Charlie Miller and his wife Joyce it became a magnet for fly fishers everywhere. From all over the UK they homed in on the Tweed Valley Hotel every bit as unerringly as the salmon and trout who made their way back over thousands of miles to the river of their birth.

Strategically perched on a hillside at Walkerburn in the heart of the Scottish Borders, it overlooked the river that gave it its name; a haven with a brand of brothers atmosphere that reigned supreme as a number one choice for fishermen everywhere.

The bonhomie later extended to deer stalking and grouse shooting enthusiasts, but it was always the Tweed that drew the bulk of the bookings.

Jack Charlton was a regular at Tweed Valley Hotel, as was Willie Whitelaw MP and 007 actor Timothy Dalton. “We had a great clientele and a lot of happy times. Jack Charlton was here at the same time he was appointed manager of the Ireland team and before we knew it the press pack had decamped to Walkerburn.

“Willie Whitelaw was a real gentleman and he would thank everyone personally when he was leaving. While here his break was often interrupted by calls from Margaret Thatcher but that didn’t prevent him from enjoying the fishing,” said Charlie, now 91-years-old and still going strong.

His journey to the Borders and a life-long love for fly fishing started after he moved toTyneside to pursue a career in journalism where he worked on the Gateshead Post and then the Evening Chronicle in the 60’s.

“I started fishing the Tweed and in 1972 I stayed at the Tweed Valley Hotel. It was run by two brothers and I got wind of the fact that one of them wanted to sell up. We made them an offer and it was accepted, the start of a wonderful time running a 19-room hotel within walking distance of the Tweed. What more could you ask for,” said Charlie.

Charlie Miller
Charlie Miller outside the hotel in 1970s.

Between then and retirement the Tweed Valley Hotel was a top flight centre for fly fishing courses, taken by world champion fly cast Peter Anderson. They became educationally recognised certificate courses sponsored by Edinburgh Crystal. Not to be outdone Richard Prior set up courses for deer stalking and Charlie became an influential member of the South of Scotland Deer Society.

Charlie Miller

“It was a far cry from my days as a cub reporter on the Lytham Times newspaper. My spare time was spent sea fishing in those days but there’s nothing that can compare with fly fishing,” said Charlie who has a fishing fly named after him – the Charlie Miller – a variant of the Dusty Miller and presented to him as a birthday present from the family.

“We had loads of repeat business and fishermen, knowing rooms at the hotel were constantly in demand, would book up months in advance as they checked out, rather than be disappointed.
“It was a great time and a privilege to be part of it. Fishing for me is still the ideal way of switching off, listening to the noise of the water and in harmony with nature. I get down to the river as often as I can,” added Charlie.

After retiring, he and Joyce retained part of the hotel grounds at Walkerburn and built a new home that also, conveniently, overlooks the River Tweed.

And, not surprisingly, his son David, who worked as a chef at the family hotel, followed in his dad’s footsteps and is also an avid fly fisherman.

David took things a step further recently when he teamed up with fellow businessman Dave Foster to launch launch ​www.fishingmugs.co.uk

Lockdown opened the door to what has become a high flying success story for the Durham based entrepreneurs. As the business world slowed to walking pace because of the coronavirus emergency they moved into top gear with an innovative collaboration that has taken the fishing fraternity by storm.

Using the latest digital technology they are producing intricate high quality versions of favourite fishing flies for printing on drinking mugs.

Aimed at salmon and trout fishing enthusiasts, orders have been pouring in to fishingmugs.co.uk​​ from all over the UK and Europe and plans are now taking shape to expand the product range.

Sounds like the perfect catch for fishing fans.

Fly Tying Focus on Michael Rollinson

In our second ‘Fly Tying Focus’ feature, we caught up with Michael Rollinson from Yarm in North Yorkshire, who was taking time out from dressing flies for a well-earned fishing trip to the Tweed at Walkerburn in the Scottish Borders.

Michael rekindles his love of fishing

They say good things come in twos…and that’s certainly the case for Michael Rollinson. On the same day as he met his wife Marketa he came across a rod in a second hand shop that rekindled his love of fishing. He had lost touch with his favourite pastime whilst pursuing a career path in computer animation that took him to Newcastle’s Northumbria University, Manchester and London.

Michael Rollinson at Juniper Bank.

The chance find of a new fishing rod resulted in Michael turning the clock back.

“I started fishing on the Tees when I was eight and was really keen throughout my teens. Then studies came along and after getting an MA at Teesside University I then went on for BA (Hons) Design for Industry in 2003 and a Masters Degree at Newcastle.

“Work took me to Manchester and London where I worked at several VFX (visual effects) houses. After finding the rod I started fly fishing again in 2012 and moved back north when I got a job as principal cinematic artist with Zerolight in Newcastle,” said Michael.

Now living in Yarm, Michael is happily reacquainted with his favourite fishing haunts on the Tyne, Tweed and the Till in Northumberland.

Along the way he has also developed a passion for fly tying and is enjoying a growing reputation for the quality of his work. “I tie all my own flies and have never taken a salmon on a fly that I haven’t tied myself,” he said. His favourites include Yokanda Gold, Red Francis, Willie Gunn, Sunray Shadow and Silver Stoat’s Tail and he is currently exploring the intricacies of Mikael Frodin’s patterns. “I hooked a salmon using a Green Samarai fly this season but lost it when it jumped and fish and hook parted ways. It is such a fascinating pastime and the flies make great Christmas boxes for fellow salmon anglers,” added Michael.

His expertise in fly tying is bringing in more orders all the time. He has a strong link to Bishop Auckland Angling Club through a friendship with the chairman Len Hird.

“I tie all my own flies and have never taken a salmon on a fly that I haven’t tied myself,”

Michael Rollinson with his fishing mugs at Juniper Bank.

And his craftsmanship has now found a new promotional platform; Michael’s exceptional flies now gracing mugs produced by https://fishingmugs.co.uk.


Why not check out Michael’s mugs in the store? Just tap on the link at the bottom of each photo to view the in-store listing.


Tell Us About Your Fly Tying

We’re on the lookout for flytiers of all ages from anywhere in the world to feature in our new ‘Fly Tying Focus’ section. Why not get in touch and tell us a bit about yourself, how long you’ve been tying flies and how you were inspired to get involved in the art? Send us a few photos of your flies and we’ll also show off your work for fellow fishers to admire. Don’t be shy, get in touch here to get the ball rolling.

Fly Tying Focus on Barry Grewcock

We are delighted to introduce this new ‘Fly Tying Focus’ feature to the Fishing Mugs website. In this section we are hoping to highlight articles on fly tying and the artists who create the fantastic fishing fly patterns that are widely available. To get things rolling we’ve asked a good friend and honorary member of the Fishing Mugs Team, Barry Grewcock to tell us a bit about himself and how he was lured into the fly tying art.

Barry Grewcock

Creating a classic cast of thousands

It was a family move to Scotland’s northern reaches that unlocked the lure of the fishing fly for Barry Grewcock. As a lad growing up in South Shields on Tyneside, the North Sea gave him his first fishing experiences. But whatever enjoyment the maritime environment provided, it paled against the wild landscapes of rivers and lochs around Thurso that offered superb fly fishing and opened the door to what would become a lifelong passion for fly tying.

Barry’s skills as a draughtsman saw him working in various parts of the UK and took him to South Africa for three years before locating to Thurso in the mid-70’s to work at the Dounreay nuclear power station.

“That’s when my interest in fly fishing began. The region provided the ideal setting in which to indulge my passion for the sport, something my sons Simon and Clive, together with daughter Paula shared.

“Clive was the first to start dressing flies and kept me supplied for years until he went off to college. I started to panic about where I could get decent flies and as a left-hander it made it more difficult to follow how he did it.

“Nevertheless, I persevered and eventually got the idea,” said Barry who now enjoys a fine reputation as a source of fishing flies.

His prowess improved when he came across a copy of Mikael Frodin’s book on classic salmon flies in a York bookshop.

“This really sparked my interest in beautiful creations and it helped me produce a few flies somewhere near to what they should be like. The Facebook website ‘Classic Salmon Flies’ was excellent for advice and constructive criticism and I owe a big thank you to friends on the website for help and guidance,” said Barry.

Over the course of 40 years he has collected patterns for over 5,000 classic salmon and sea trout flies and most have been included in three books he has produced since retiring and moving slightly southwards to Brora just south of Wick. They are The Classic Salmon and Sea Trout Compendium, The Fly Dresser’s Guide to Classic Salmon and Sea Trout Flies and Classic Feather Winged Flies for Salmon, Sea Trout, Grayling and Trout.

“It’s now many years since I fly fished but I still dress classic feather winged flies for friends and clients. Some of the flies are for fishing but a great majority now end up framed for display,” said Barry.

His creations have recently found a new canvas – bringing a splash of classic colour to mugs produced by fishingmugs.co.uk and generating a new wave of admiration from the fishing
fraternity.

“It has been a great pleasure for me to produce a series of flies to be used on the beautiful mugs produced by Juniper Bank Collections. I must say that the time and effort taken by David Miller and his team have really done my work proud.”

Barry Grewcock, 

Brora


Tell Us About Your Fly Tying

We’re on the lookout for flytiers of all ages from anywhere in the world to feature in our new ‘Fly Tying Focus’ section. Why not get in touch and tell us a bit about yourself, how long you’ve been tying flies and how you were inspired to get involved in the art? Send us a few photos of your flies and we’ll also show off your work for fellow fishers to admire. Don’t be shy, get in touch here to get the ball rolling.

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