“In June the trout of Tincup Lake can be taken on a dry fly”

Simon Maitland was a passionate and expert angler. Tincup Lake in the Yukon Territory of Northern Canada was a fishing heaven to him, but his other obsession - that of intelligence gathering in the age of the Cold War – led him into situations beyond his control:

“Size (of Russian weapons) could often be determined from shadow lengths: comparing the shadows of known objects in the photo - people, doorways, vehicles – with those of the missile and perhaps the vehicle carrying it. Internal dispositions could be deduced from visible skin joints, intakes, access panels, antennae covers and aerodynamic configuration... The whole process was an exercise in detection, deduction and speculation that fascinated him.”

This obsession started when he lived in Prague in the 1950s as the son of a British diplomat:

“Simon could hardly believe what was happening to him: he was in a car, travelling through an Iron Curtain country and being tailed by secret police – and just two days ago he had been in the normality of his grandparents’ London flat. His school friends would never believe him, but then he knew that they were never to be told.

Along his life’s journey to Tincup, Simon works in Austria and falls for a local girl who may not be quite as she seems:

“Can you stand and move away, Mr Maitland?” a nearby voice said in heavily accented English. Two figures moved quickly past him… both had automatic pistols fitted with long tubular silencers in their hands.”

And his eventual savage death in the Yukon wilderness may also not be as straightforward as it appears. 

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-51-0  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 235
Genre: Fiction


Author: Christopher Masterman
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2012
Language: English


Travelling to Tincup is partially fiction but mainly factual - although some places, times and all names have been changed. It has psychological undertones and elements of mystery and menace.

It charts the life and death of an Englishman, Simon Maitland, who was introduced to the Cold War world of intelligence-gathering at an early age and who subsequently developed an obsessive though amateur interest in that shadowy craft. He was also a passionate angler, and his two main interests eventually interact to set the scene – at Tincup Fishing Lodge in Canada’s northerly territory of The Yukon - for his death in 1995.

The book is mainly in the form of a narrative written by an acquaintance of Simon who reconstructs the story from the latter’s diaries. Action shifts between England, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Canada. The settings and social environments used in the book are all authentic as are the descriptions of military equipment and intelligence-gathering methods. There is a love story at the core of the narrative. Fact blends seamlessly with fiction and every seemingly random, unrelated event in the earlier chapters of the book has a relevance to the eventual outcome.



Simon should have died a natural death, just as he should have lived an ordinary life. That he did neither could possibly be put down to either circumstances or happenstances, but I believe the true reason was obsession or perhaps compulsion – the distinction between the two behaviours is fine and may be influenced by the observer’s own point of view.

I was Simon’s observer, but I have deliberately excluded myself from most of this story of his because, as physicists know well, the act of observing can alter the state of the observed.

After his death I came into possession of a manuscript, or rather a collection of incomplete writings, that indicate that Simon was preparing to write a book – a biography perhaps, or a story, except that much of what he wrote I knew to be true. What I didn’t know, and still do not know, is how much was fiction.

Some of the writing was in the form of diary-like notes, other parts comprised fully-fledged chapters of a book, and still others almost random thoughts on his life, and times, and people he had known. Perhaps he wrote solely for his own eyes – as an act of catharsis or confession.

And then there was Brigitte, whom he loved and yet (in his mind only, perhaps) betrayed. He wrote copiously about her and I must admit that I, too, fell for her as I transposed his notes.

From these writings of his and from my own observations I have constructed this book. Some of the chapters are in the first person, narrated by Simon; I lifted them directly from his manuscripts and, apart from some minor editing, they are exactly as he wrote them and reveal much of his character. The final chapter, however, was devised entirely by me.

James Symes

Chapter 1



There is no doubt that Simon had a passion for trout and salmon fishing. The seed of this passion was planted in the mind of a 13-year-old boy fishing a river behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s. The seed germinated during his boarding school days in Norfolk, and by the time he left that school it had bloomed into a passion that became one of the main drivers for the remainder of his life. At times, as when he was concentrating on his career, the passion went dormant, like plants during the long Yukon winter. But just like those plants when bathed by the concentrated sunshine of the long, North Canadian summer days, his love of fly fishing always flourished given the right opportunities. And such opportunity arose when he moved into semi-retirement in Canada and discovered Tincup Lake in the Yukon.

The other driver in Simon’s life seems to have been an irresistible attraction to the world of espionage and intelligence gathering. Again, this attraction started for him while he was living behind the Iron Curtain as the child of a British diplomat. Unwittingly, one presumes, his father planted this seed, never imagining where it might lead his son. It shouldn’t have led anywhere. This attraction – a fatal fascination – led Simon into situations where he had no business to be. And as each situation arose he could have said, “No, I’ll not be a party to this.” But he didn’t. This driver of his life was more than a passion; it became a compulsive obsession. Its emergence was probably a near inevitable outcome of Simon’s character which was obsessive in other ways: a meticulous attention to detail, a compulsion to make lists, and an extraordinary ability to analyse, dissect and solve complex engineering and other problems. These characteristics served Simon well in his chosen field of work but, ultimately, poorly in his life.

Paradoxically, in his life and post-mortem, Simon seems often to have come across as rather over self-controlled and passionless – seemingly lacking in emotion – a ‘Cold Fish’ perhaps. But this apparent passivity arose from the necessity – to his mind at least – to keep much of what he had learned as a schoolboy and practiced as a young engineer locked away inside his head. He could not discuss these character-forming experiences with any of his friends, or his wife, or his lovers. His way of sharing them was to commit them to his private papers. 

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