Friday 24 December 2010

A Happy Christmas to you All

I wanted to write something decent and proper as, quite frankly, you deserve it.
However, I have some vile flu thing and I am contemplating death. I amncontwmplating death on Christmas Eve which is no state to be in. Don't panic I'm not thinking of shuffling off this mortal coil myself however the flu is flinging some pretty good slings and arrows right now.
I miss the summer and a gentle rise. It can't be long now, can it? I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and great fishing in the new year.
In the meantime,I introduce the Rudolph:

Friday 3 December 2010

The First Fly: A Mohican Mayfly

As Tied by Himself

Deer Hair Mess

I made my first attempt at  Mohican Mayfly this week.  I chose this one partly because it looked easier than most. However, it’s main appeal  was that it was the only one where I had the full list of materials. I left my floo gloo in London which seems to mean that (skillessness aside) I can’t really tie many of the patterns.
So, foam and deer hair are not materials that I use often.  Making the tail into even segments was a nightmare. You need more fingers and hands than I currently possess. The result is an ugly lump of a fly that really offends me.  All credit to Mr Edwards, his instructions are easy to understand, if difficult to follow.
Foamy Mess
Tying this pattern made me think of what I really want in a mayfly.  To be blunt about it, I want poetry. The life of a mayfly is just so wonderful: a single day, to live, to love, to die.  A prized morsel adored by all sorts of creatures, especially trout. On certain days they fill the skies, wisping and floating like strands of candy floss.  As they emerge and later fall, they send fish into a sort of madness. The river boils with frenzied eating.   Last year I saw a snow white mayfly.  It was as if everything good and everything pure in this sullied world was embodied in that one single insect. I am going to assume it had a tragic end.
Finished Mess
 I am not sure that fishing on those sorts of days should really be about tactics anymore. It’s simple fishing, I find a Turrel’s “rats condom” pattern most successful. There’s nothing gentle about it. It’s like dating with rohypnol.
So, I’ve been working on a pattern that takes fly fishing’s gentle art as far as it can. I love the way that rivers can get dusted with mayflies and feathers in early summer.  One a yummy, trouty treat, the other discarded bird waste.  So, I have made a fly constructed entirely from duck feathers, teased and pinched into ephemeral form. Deception via gentle manipulation.  I am pretty sure that these will cast horribly and fall apart should a trout ever fall for this feathery mimic.  Style over substance? I hope so.
Snowy Mayfly
Hook: TMC103bl # 15
Thread: Uni 8/0 pale yellow
Hackle: White CDC
Wing: Lemon wood duck feather medium
Abdomen: Mix of Yellow, brown and white CDC dubbing
Tail: Lemon wood duck feather medium

Monday 29 November 2010

A Folly into Foolishness

It feels like quite a long time since I wrote anything. I do not make any apologies for it. I have had to work rather harder than I would wish and have been out just enough to stop me from being a total saddo. I also have had a huge case of writer’s block. Unfortunately, there is no publisher to chivvy me along or pay me for that matter. It’s actually been so bad that I have got rather desperate.  Inspiration has been found in rather a twee movie called Julie and Julia. It tells the true life story of a woman who has a crummy job.  She makes her life rather more interesting by laying down the gauntlet to follow through the five hundred or so recipes written by Julia Child in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

 She writes a blog as she goes. And, as if in a fairy tale, someone publishes it and they make a movie about it with Meryl Streep in. It’s ok as these films go. The Meryl Streep bits are better than whatever soppy girl played the bloggess. The blog is rather good, though it is a bit repetitive. I also find it rather hard to believe she could make pastry but had never boiled an egg before the whole project began.  Her husband must also be a very nice man. No man I have ever spent any amount of time with or indeed have ever known, would tolerate that quantity of dodgy quiches for supper.
I decided that perhaps there was a way of mimicking this success story, whilst giving it a fishy twist. I also desperately need something to do.  I miss the river, I miss the sunshine. I am really cold. Flyfisherlady Terrace is under six inches of snow. My best friend has just got engaged and consequently I am dieting. There's something rather tragic about a fat, single lass at a wedding. I don't want to end up crying behind the marquee shovelling stolen wedding cake down me like a bulimic. 
I bought myself a copy of Oliver Edward’s “Fly Tying Masterclass”. These are beautifully illustrated patterns for the advanced tyer.  They also make rather lovely semi-realistic flies. Not quite Art on Hook, but a sloppier, marvellous Yorkshire version.
It is really complicated, I don’t understand the names of most of the chapters “Heptagenid Nymph” and the” Ryachophilia Larva” are ones which stick out. I honestly don't think I can do it. 
So, the challenge: All twenty patterns from Ollie Edwards by the end of March, in no particular order. Oh and b*****ks to it. A good dress size down as well. Ha! What have I got myself into? 
So without further ado, I shall do my best to do as Edwards says. “Just follow the sequence drawings, fix the route in your mind, have the correct materials to hand and- with a little practice- you’ll produce flies identical to the ones in my box”. Hmmm….

Monday 8 November 2010

We don’t need another heroine. We just need waders that fit.

I received an email last week and I have been pondering it ever since. I was asked, "Are you trying to place yourself as a role model for female anglers everywhere?" Crikey.
I am bad at keeping to budgets, horribly messy and leap frog between one self-induced chaotic crisis to the next. I don't deal with customer service departments very well. I am terrible at dating and recently I seem to be quite taken with ridiculously unattainable and inappropriate men. As an angler, my casting is pretty rubbish (but getting better) and I catch very few fish. Not a sensible model to follow to say the least! 
So, I got to thinking*," Why do female Anglers need Role Models?".
Granted, there are fewer of us but why does that mean we need something to orbit, flit around and worship? Fishing isn't something done against the odds, it's not winning a Nobel Prize and it isn't climbing Everest. Spending a day pottering on the riverbank is hardly an achievement. It's a nice day out. Competition fishing is different. I would love to know why there are separate Ladies' and Men's competitions. It's not as if they make Ladies fly-fishing rods. I do not want this to detract from the achievements of our lady competitors, particularly as all recent competitions seem to be won by British Women.
It would please me in so many ways to see a woman beat John Tyzack at his own game. I love the idea that some sparky femme would do this in disguise, preferably looking a little like Robin Hood in green tights. She would cast away all day, possibly wearing a fake moustache and probably looking a little camp but no one would be aware of her womanliness. Then, when the final whistle is blown, when she is announced as the winner she would slip off her disguise, revealing a sparkling frock and bursts into song, preferably something by Shirely Bassey. That would prove once and for all that the distinction is ridiculous.
There are other women who champion women's anglers. A particular favourite of mine is the Fisherbabe. She wears Victoria Secret under her waders apparently. She is a bit of a bombshell and argues that you can be girly and still fish. I do wonder who she is trying to please though. Being a brunette I have an inherent distrust of blondes and wonder if she is not too much of an unattainable model to follow. So I'll stick to Marks and Sparks thanks.
There seem to be some amazing lasses from the North East. Lucy Bowden and her Fly Fishing for Everyone Ladies' club and Ladies Fishing have created two female friendly clubs where women can be themselves and fish. So much of me wants to join. However, as I perceive there to be no inequality between men and female anglers I think I would be hypocritical of me to do so. Then again, I have an entire family to support my angling life. I can imagine for a lot of women turning to aging male anglers for advice and indeed spending hours in remote places with strange men could be quite frightening. So providing a safe environment for ladies to take up the sport is a huge achievement.
So, there are better women to follow than I. Ideally I would like to blend in. I understand that girls on the riverbank are a bit novel and we are bit different and I think this is a real shame. Anything that can be done to change this would be brilliant. I am not a female fly fishing messiah and I really don't want to be. I will do my bit for the female race of anglers though and state two things that every (fishing) woman wants.
  1. Waders that fit.
    Women's waders are either expensive or hard to find. I wear men's rubber waders and they are horrible. The crotch hangs between my knees and the chest part comes over my head. Not that I hope to attract anything but trout when I fish but there is no need for anyone to look this frightening.

  2. A little bit of cover.                                                                            River keepers of Britain, please consider that although most ladies are happy to take comfort stations outdoors they would appreciate the odd little thicket to do so without traumatising/thrilling those around them.
*Only women will understand this SATC reference

Friday 29 October 2010

Should we inflict our affliction on others?

My young cousin has a birthday this week. To my utter joy he has expressed an interest in fishing so I have tied him a few flies. I have tied him a few of my most successful flies of the season which I illustrate below.

1 The Griffiths Gnat
2 A Grey Duster
3 A Black Gnat
4 I recommended this to some fishermen on the Derbyshire Wye who rather sweetly called this a Polly's Persuader. It's not quite right to do so, I am sure this is a very old pattern. It's just some hare's mask and Grizzle Hackle

I am not sure getting a bunch of shoddily tied flies is a very nice present. However, if anyone tied me a box of flies I'd be really rather touched. It's the thought that counts after all. He has just started boarding school as well, so it would be very wrong not to accompany the flies with some chocolate and fizzy strawberry laces. He might be able to use these as currency. It's a weird present for a 13 year old boy to get and it might not do his social standing much good in the complex adolescent hierarchies. However, at boarding school you can buy friends with food.
A lot of me really wants the lad to take to fly fishing. A brief pause, however makes me wonder if I wish him ill. Flyfishing is a serious infection. Symptoms include:
  1. An inability to concentrate between April and late September.
  2. A twitch affecting both arms. Sufferers will involuntarily move their arms as if to cast, this may even include an odd double haul movement. In extreme cases the afflicted will wriggle their fingers rhythmically imitating a figure of eight retrieve.
  3. Verbal diarrhoea. When patients are asked about the last fishing trip they may ramble on incessantly and incoherently in angling clichés. Examples include: "It was this big", "I missed a lot of rises" "I struck too soon" "I did everything right but.."
The serious part of becoming a flyfisher is that your whole life becomes coloured by it. One's mind is clouded by past and future fishing trips. The mind can be traumatised by images of the opening a closing mouth of that trout you failed to catch. It is a life in constant turmoil. However, the flyfisherman may perhaps also acquire the welcome side effect of an inner calm wrought by hours contemplating nothing but fish and water. A life's work, stresses and achievement reduced to the moment when moist fishy lips clamp over, hook, fur and feather. I wish my cousin well indeed.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman...

I've just returned from a really lovely evening in..wait for it..Castleford!  I had good company and I seem to have impregnated myself with Chinese food. We went shopping in the designer outlet.  I bought a dress, a cardigan and a really lovely mug. It's Le Crueset. It's white and is made of lovely thick. It is just such a perfectly balanced design. It's homely and currently filled with a piping, milky Betty's Yorkhire Christmas tea.
I am slightly fetishistic when it comes to Le Crueset. I've never believed in wedding lists- surely it's rude to presume presents? However, the one thing I would put on one is a large casserole in volcanic orange. It's a classic, designed to produce stewed, meaty goodness for family and friends. For me, owning one of those is the final step into womanhood.
So, you should have guessed by now that I get rather excited by the girly consumables of clothing and cookware.
Yes, I am not beyond squealing at shoes as well. For women shoes are the ultimate "feel good" purchase.  They are universal, curvy girls and thin girls can all unite over the same pair of shoes. Though not all women can walk in all shoes.  Their portable, sculptural forms hide bunions, fungal infections and hammer toes in an instant. You can have bad hair, a bloaty belly, a spotty face but with a good pair of shoes your feet are no longer a problem.
I also enjoy a trip to the hairdresser.  I think I am slightly in love with mine. I have a large quantity of unrully hair. However after an hour with Frank, who will lovingly cut every strand of my hair and somehow arrange it into seductive dark locks, I feel amazing. I stride out on to Knightsbridge feeling like the sexiest, most beautiful woman there. That's something, because there are normally a lot of expensive hookers from the Eastern block about. This feeling doesn't come cheap.
I am also considering forking out on going internet dating. The fishing season is over and I need something to do.
Again, this is the normal sort of thing that your average girl in her late twenties has to pay for.  If you fish, it's a whole lot worse.  Men joke about being "tackle tarts" but at least they are not often tarts for shoes, cookware and nice undies.  Luckily, I avoid spending too much on nippers and rods and waistcoats, I don't get too excited about that sort of think. I do tie flies, though and that way darkness lies.  A short walk from my hairdressers in South Kensington there is a really great fishing shop, next to the tube I need to take to get home. Convenient, yet a final insult to my bank account. I get a bit dotty over dubbing and you can never have enough CDC, the expensive Petitjean kind. You see, I am also just as easily seduced by things that are designed to exite male fisherfolk. Being a flyfisherlady is tough. Men whine because of their partner's shoe habits and women lament their husbands ever growing collection of fishing gear.  I fit into both categories, I am doomed.  I am going to the British Fly Fair, should anyone see me there on the Saturday please tie my hands behind my back.

Monday 4 October 2010

On the discovery that I am indeed an insect. A result of reflecting on season's end.

I went fishing on Dovedale last Saturday. The sun was strong, highlighting the contrasting bright green and steely grey of the peaks. I found the fishing tough. I have grown up fishing luxuriant chalk streams in the warmth of high summer. The narrow rocky stream stuffed with shy, fretful fish is, of course, famous for being Izaak Walton’s local. As I knelt on a waterfall, being carefully coached by my tweed wearing companion, I was distinctly out of my comfort zone. Using thin line and casting nervously and perilously fearful of fatal drag, I hooked into an obliging trout and felt like I had won the lottery. Limestone fishing requires me to practise a more subtle art.

It was a wonderful day. As we retreated to our cars my companion and I chatted about love and life and pies and pasties- the stuff that really matters. Then, as the wind blew and yellowing leaves gently polluted the rivers flow I realised I had reached season’s end. Fishing is over for me, for now.

I am being encouraged to experiment and try my hand at some winter grayling fishing. I’m just not sure if I’m a lady lovin’ kinda gal. So I shall hang my rod up for now and focus on some serious vice time.

It’s been a hell of year. I caught my biggest ever river trout. It was such a gentle, relaxed take on the dry that I assumed it was a tiddler. Then it bore down and I was frightened. I called to my absent parents for help. They ignored my cries. I was alone, with a monster.  I had nothing except 2lb line and an 8ft 4wt rod to help me. I coaxed him in and caressed the 4lb beauty back into the depths. The experience left me shaking. I had to have little sit down and a little rest afterwards. I think it aged me a bit,  as I discovered a grey hair on my twenty eight year old head the following week.

As for the rest of the season, I have concentrated hard on becoming a better fisherman, practising my casting and trying to focus more on the task at hand. However, I am still liable to get distracted by some ducks or a pretty flower. When I fish I stop often, happy to gaze and absorb my surroundings. My Father says I am the laziest angler he knows. He is totally right of course but I doubt I shall do anything about it. I am inherently indolent.

My greatest discovery, if, dear readers, you can selflessly let me be self indulgent and selfishly reflect on my self and conclude that fly fishing for trout is an essential part of my very self.*  I have fished more this season than I have in years. A happy consequence of being unfettered by non interested partner. A season's fishing has left me renewed and refreshed ready for winter.

I was in the depths of a dark, dark place when I began this season. I’d spent the winter feeling like I was little more than a rejected, spat out nymph, refused by a stocked rainbow. (As I write this, I wonder if nymphs have feelings, or indeed a sense of humour?). As the weather brightened and I picked up my rod I remembered how to smile again. With each mastered cast and each tricky fish I caught, I realised that I was more like, well not quite a delicate olive, but a jolly, nice sedge- a nice meal for something wild, dancing on the ripples of a stream.

*Let me explain this ridiculous sentence. I have been reading Will Self novels recently and it is clearly influencing me.

Sunday 12 September 2010

The Trout and the Tie

I've just trudged up the River Ouse into town. It has poured down with rain. It was sunny as I left the house. I was trying to look academic and effortless in a linen shirt and trousers. I have been trying to do a little work. I am now soaked to the bone and in need of an army of people to put some effort into making me look less like a laundry heap in need of ironing. The odds of a romantic, American style café encounter are now slim. Needless to say I am not good when it comes to bad weather.

I am going to make the confession now that I am a fair-weather fisherlady. I hate fishing in the rain. It's cold and it makes fishing with a dry-fly very difficult. Your flies have a tendency to drown, the hatches slow down and the fish cling to the gravelly bottom. This isn't my major issue with the rain. I abhor the fact that my hair goes frizzy and wet. It puts me off my fishing because I know that I am looking a little bit grim. I know this could seem vain and shallow and to many it wouldn't matter but it does to me. I learnt it from my mother.

Ma is the best dressed lady I know. She is always elegant and coordinated and incredibly beautiful. She dresses with total precision and correctness. Her casting is exactly the same; disciplined and flawless. When fishing, she wears neat trousers and perfectly ironed cotton shirts. She sometimes accompanies this with a little suede waistcoat. Her creel is perfectly clean and not the horrible mess that mine always is. I am also pretty sure she reapplies her lipstick throughout the day. She returns her fish with the utmost care, talking to the fish in soft tones and coaxing and tickling them back to form. I will say this though about my mother. She keeps the messiest fly box of anyone I know. She would also upset any fly-dresser because she picks at her flies to make them look tatty. She swears they work better this way and ignores the careful tying and entomological research destroying all the flies she uses into blobs of fluff. At least once a year she will fall into the river. I have no idea how she manages this. It must be part of her magic.

So, when I fish, madly and bizarrely, I will always make sure my hair is clean, dried and straightened. I will always iron my shirt. I always put makeup on, quite often with a lot more care then I do for going to work or weddings. I will try and look sort of stylish and always start off clean. My mother and I both lament the lack of decent fishing clothes for ladies. Neither of us want to go on the river bank looking like we are about to fight a war in the Viet-Cong. We cobble together what we can to bring a little elegance to the river. Please don't think we are any less tough because we want to look decent. I am known for sitting in nettle strewn and brambly spots finding cover for stalking fish. My mother is often to be found lying on her belly in a muddy patch casting for fish with tricky overhangs.

My mother learnt the importance of looking good by the riverbank because of her uncle Jo who taught her to fish. By all accounts he was a wizard of a fisherman, conjuring trout out of nowhere. He always did two things before going fishing. Firstly, he would go to mass, shooting off immediately after the important bits to set out fishing. Secondly, he would always wear a tweed suit and tie. This was out of deep respect for the wild creatures he was catching. Fishing is a bit like being someone's supper guest. One makes an effort because you are in someone else's home. You are in the domain of a trout, put a tie on.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Fishing Trips IV: Of Bonefish and Boneheads..

I apologise for the delay.  I have been fishing.  I also have a stinking cold and I am typing under the influence of Beecham's finest.

I joined Eloy at the crack of dawn.  It was probably before dawn as it was still dark. Under the eerie half dawn/half moonlight I handed over dollar bills wrapped in an elastic band. It must have looked like a drug deal. The analogy isn't far off. Fishing is something, I need, crave, want. It keeps me up at night. It distracts me during the day. I get withdrawal symptoms. It affects my mind and controls my life. Well, sort of.
  His fishing shed was filled with all sorts of junk.  I worried that I might be given another horrible rod.  I was wrong and I held the light flexible 10ft rod. 

Baby Girl, what are you wearing on your feet?
You need something better, wear these.

He handed me a pair of rubber soled shoes.  A pair of cockroaches crawled out of the left one.  I prayed they hadn't been mating in there.  I kicked myself for not wearing the surfing shoes my dad got me. They were new, clean and shiny and not a haven for amorous insects. I thought we would be on a boat.
We were for a bit.  He moved out to an area between the islands, a shallow, calm area of sea.
I cleaned my shoes before popping them on and hopping out of the boat.  Eloy crouched low. He pointed at nothing. He somehow managed to whisper aggressively.

Cast baby Girl. Cast as far as you can, to that spot.  Cast like you might die if you don't hit the spot.

It seemed a little dramatic. I cast. It wasn't far enough. I had no idea what I was casting too. Eloy explained that he was looking for glinty, silver flashes, the tails of feeding bonefish. They are very shy and you need to cast for miles to get them.
I felt very weird and a little under dressed for fishing being in a miniskirt, loose shirt and string bikini. Baby nurse sharks swam round my ankles. It felt a little alien.  However, as I got into the rhythm of wading through the sea grass, crouching low, casting hard I realised I was stalking.  It was just like sneaking along the riverbank under the cover of high reeds and nettles to cast to a fat brownie. Nettle stings and bramble scratches were replaced by sea leeches and the salty line cutting though my fingers as I retrieved.

Now Baby, baby, Now!

I cast, I struck. I had got one. Wikipedia tells me that pound for pound they are the fastest fish around.  In the shallows, they can't go down, they can only head out.  It zipped like a rocket, pulling my line out.  It was cartoonishly quick and strong.  It fought and I won.  Eloy pulled it out.  It seemed to me to be a silver-white sea grayling.  It was the prettiest fish I had ever seen.
We headed in.  Eloy headed out again with two member of the group to go spearfishing for a barbecue supper.  This was the idea of Tim, the Australian and a German called Ike. Man, he was a horrible piece of work.  I spent the afternoon lazing in hammock on a jetty sipping beer and trying to get my boyfriend to understand why it was so exciting.  My soporific haze was broken by the noise of their return. It was all very macho and uncivilised.  Ike came back and boasted to me, saying.

How many did you catch?
Just one. It was beautiful though.
I shot lots, I swam, and you just shoot and shoot, red ones, I didn't care.  It was so cool.

I lost it with him.  I shouted. He was showing off about killing for fun. This was totally unacceptable. In my view it was pure unthinking evil. As an angler, I have total respect for what I catch and deep love for where I catch them. If I kill, I kill quickly and cook it with love. If I return a fish it is with total haste and care.  He was slaughtering for fun. What was worse was that he was totally unapologetic for it.

It doesn't matter, it's just a fish. Why do you care?

 My boyfriend (now an ex) dragged me away, crying, stopping me before the situation got any worse and before it got  Fawlty Towers. It was one of the few occasions that we were in total agreement. Ike was an utter shit of a human being. I didn't speak to him for the rest of the holiday. I am not sure why I reacted so badly, and got so emotional. Maybe it was the contrast between the image I had of reef fish being speared and bleeding red everywhere and the memory of caressing that bonefish, so pure somehow in its whiteness. The image of poor wounded fish sinking to the ocean floor and my bonefish fleeing freely with a quick flick of its powerful tail and puff of white sand.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Fishing Trips III: Looking for Eloy

The weather has been rather miserable in Yorkshire recently and I have been thinking of sunnier times.

A few years back I went to Belize as part of a tour to Mexico. The trip was ostensibly to look at Mayan ruins. However, most of the trip was spent exploring the wilds and jungles of the Yucatan. By the time we had reached Belize, I had swum in ice cold underground rivers, seen shit throwing spider monkeys and tasted the most glorious toffee-like Guatemalan coffee whilst playing scrabble in a tree house. I had one overwhelming worry. I hadn’t done enough fishing. My highly giggle-making boat trip, where I had braved tampons and rednecks gave me a taste for salt-water fly fishing.

We arrived on Caye Caulker with our backpacks and our smelly selves assembled on golf buggies. I looked out onto the bright blue shallow seas and thought of fish. I looked out towards the town and spotted something fabulous- a man with a fly rod. I’m not sure if this is true, but I am sure I leapt off the golf buggy and started chasing him. I caught up with him, nearly splicing my flip-flopped feet in the process.

“You can fish here?”
“Yeah, been after bonies”,
“How do I arrange it?”
“Oh you need to speak to Eloy”
“Who is Eloy, and where do I find him”.
“Not sure, just ask”.

Now, Caye Caulker is part of a string of limestone islands and atolls on the Belizean barrier reef. Despite being in central America, the official language is English, the Queen is on the banknotes and the population consists largely of the Rastafarian descendents of slaves brought over by the English to cut Mahoghany. The rest of the population is Amish, but that’s another story. The whole island is rather like an advert for Lilt, it has a totally tropical taste.
We arrived at the hotel and my search for Eloy began. You have to imagine the native dialogue in a Caribbean accent. When I try to mimic it, I sound Welsh. I asked at the hotel reception.

“I’m searching for a man called Eloy, do you know where I can find him?”
“Oh he be aroun”
"jus’ keep walkin’’”

I walked towards the town. The houses are wooden affairs on stilts painted bright colours. Coconuts and fishing nets litter the streets. Chickens squawk and run about.

“I’m sorry, can you tell me where I can find Eloy?”
“Eloy the fisherman?”
“Eloy, he crazee, you fin’ him aroun”
“But where?”
“Oh, aroun’ town”

“I’m looking for Eloy”
“Eloy, the fisherman?”
“Yes”. I was getting a little exasperated, I had been walking through a very small town a rather long time
“You wanna catch bonies?”
“I’d like to go fly fishing yes”
“Follow me”

I followed the man down the only back alley in town. I was worried and clutched onto my travellers cheques and passports tightly. He knocked on a door marked Eloy’s Fishing Experiences. No one was in. I was a bit despondent. My raised hopes dashed and I had got rather bored of this Caribbean Kafka. Suddenly the man squawked like one of the shit-hrowing spider monkeys I had seen before.

Baby girl, I’m Eloy. You’ve asked nearly every man in this town! Everywhere I went they was saying there’s some English girl wanting to go fly-fishing” He squawked again, “You should see your face!”

I laughed hysterically with him. “So bonies on the fly, this I gotta see, I’ll take you the day after tomorrow, see me here at 5am”.

I was overjoyed and walked back looking out onto the flats. The next day I snorkelled with sharks and manatees, fishing tomorrow would be rather different from an English chalkstream.

Monday 16 August 2010

On Arrogance

I’ve been having a brilliant summer’s fishing. In May, I was surrounded by a surfeit of buttery mayflies and cheatingly, fish would hurl themselves at my fly. In June, I used increasingly small flies and the fish loved them. In July, I mastered Heart Break Corner on the Wye. This season I have been catching fish when no one else could. I have also begun to dispatch sagely advice to others. “You see up here, northerly fish are frightened by the large flies used in the south. Fish using smaller flies”. This success has been coupled with a surprising amount of people clicking on and tuning in to read this. I had a period of two weeks where at least three people would email congratulations and compliments to me. Fishermen asked me on dates. Quite frankly, it all went to my head a bit. In my swollen mind I was a river goddess, the babe of the beck, the true lady of the stream. How very wrong I was and how bloody stupid.
 I had a casting lesson a couple of weeks ago with a man you have to take very seriously. Not only, is David Griffiths kind, but he also has a kind of dancing magic in his eyes which lets you know he is a piscatorial pied piper. Frank Sawyer taught him how to fish with nymphs. He was lucky enough to have been an army officer on the Wessex Avon, where Frank Sawyer was river keeper. Apparently, he would say things to David like, “Did you see his mouth move?” “Did you see the tail flick?” David claims that he never saw anything that was pointed out to him. I don’t believe this but it seems to add weight to Charles Ritz’s assessment of Frank Sawyer as being in possession of the fisherman’s sixth sense and the creator of the “acme” of the nymph fishing method.Despite David’s modesty, he knows a thing or two about fishing. When he casts it is with seeming ease and total control. He makes it all look so easy that you know it must be very difficult.
A View of Fonthill Abbey from the Stone Quarry, by JMW Turner, (1799)
I was taught on his fishing platforms, set in one of William Beckford’s lakes. The whole area is tainted with the presence of the great Regency collector, author and once “the richest commoner in England”. He squandered his money on fine art and the building of the outlandish Fonthill Abbey. It was James Wyatt’s greatest building. So great, in fact, that it collapsed in on itself. All that remains are the outsized urns on the gateway to the Fonthill estate. The lake itself is huge and magnificent, surrounded by hills peppered with grottoes which locals say bore witness to Beckford’s occultism. To use a great eighteenth century phrase, it’s sublime.
I assumed confidently that my lesson would be a sharpening up of my technique. However, after an hour with David I learned that, 1) my loops are too large; 2) I bring my rod too far forward; 3) I have an undisciplined wrist. Overall I discovered that I am a bit brutal and I lack finesse. Most importantly, and thanks to David, I know how to correct it all. By the end of the hour I think I was getting a little bit better.
My Father
I went fishing with my father for the rest of the day. He is a superb fisherman, lacking a little bit of grace in his execution but deadly with it. He will always catch fish and he always wears a bow tie. He also loves the rivers he fishes, wishing that he was rich enough that he could buy them all to ensure that they will be well cared for. 
I spent the day unsure of my fishing. My casting arm had betrayed me. I missed rises. With trying to cast using an entirely new technique, I had far too much to think about to fish properly. I let myself be overly distracted by the wildflowers, frogs and insects surrounding me. It was an excuse. I had lost my fishing mojo, and for the first time this year, I didn’t catch a single fish. Admittedly, it was a difficult day with little insect life about and hardly any rising fish to be seen. Still, the babe of the beck was beaten.

It was the snap in the line that I needed. I realised that if I am to be any good at all I need to work at my fishing. I need to practise. I need to train. I need to treat fishing like any other sport. I know someone who is a very serious and successful climber. Climbing is his only priority and he drinks odd, brightly coloured liquids that he concocts from powders. He has deformed his body by relentless training. I think this is a little excessive. He once completed a six mile run and then refused a patisserie cake from Bettys on the grounds that he didn’t want to undo the good work he had done. In my opinion that kind of exertion means that you are deserving of cake and probably can get away with eating two. I shan’t get that serious because, a) I am not mad; b) luckily fishing isn’t competitive c) Bettys make a very good fruitcake. I shall however, adhere to his oft repeated maxim, “you don’t get strong by accident” and keep up casting practice using new techniques taught to me by David.
Seeing such a great fisherman brought me down a peg or three. I thought of my father who thinks less about his own fishing and more about the rivers that he fishes. I realised that true greatness means not bragging about wins or making a fuss about how you get so brilliant. It’s a gentle knowing accompanied by great modesty and humility. My arrogance, more than my poor casting confirms me as average. I conclude happily that I am no river goddess but a flyfisherlady.

Author's Comments
My Father would very much like to have it made clear that the reason why he was excited by catching a two pound rainbow is that it was a wild rainbow trout. These are exceedingly rare in Britain and the ones on the River Wye are characterized by the white tips on their fins.
Please also find some links which will give you some background information on this week's blog.
William Beckford
Frank Sawyer
Also here is a link to David Griffiths' Website
The Turner Watercolour at Fonthill is copyright of Leeds Museums and Galleries. They have a wonderful collection of eighteenth century watercolours. If you want to read about more curiosities of their collections read their blog The Secret Lives of Objects.

Monday 2 August 2010

Fishing Trips II: Love at First Wye

Back in May I was sent to Derbyshire on a study trip. I saw six country houses in three days and ate as many Bakewell tarts. It was exhausting, believe it or not, staring intently at furniture and arguing over who made it with venerable experts is rather wearing.

The highlight of the trip for me had to be Haddon Hall. Not because of the painted medieval chapel with its ancient stools. Not for the rare tapestries hanging off the walls, glistening with gold and silver thread. Neither for the myriad of courtyards dappled with wisteria, the stonework charmingly askew. For me it was the river. It ran clear under a charming stone bridge. I spotted a rise and anything clever I may have had to say about the seventeenth century interior disappeared like the insect the trout had gobbled.

We had supper in the café. I kept looking back to the river. I ate my fourth Bakewell tart of the trip hurriedly. I took an extended loo break and took off my high heels and ran to look at the river again. With the castle in the background and the brief, illicit nature of my visit I felt like this was a piscator’s Romeo and Juliet. After the trip I took a detour to Rowsley, I walked up the river. I fell in love, I had to go back.
What I saw in May
I waited until the end of July and I was joined by my mother and father, it was a birthday treat. I was hugely restless and arrived at the Peacock hotel early. I lugged my fly tying kit with me and quietly spread fur and feathers all over the place. I tried to tie something called an LTD sedge. I failed and made a huge mess.
A bad photograph of a very badly tied fly
My parents arrived and we chuckled together before heading into Bakewell Town and gawped at the massive wild rainbows made huge by tourist bread. At supper we spoke of nothing but fishing. We went to sleep full and little tipsy. I am sure, that like me, both my mother and father dreamed of trout.

I woke up early restless and tied some more flies. We were being taken by Jan the river keeper. I think we flummoxed him a little. There were three of us for starters. As a family we also bicker and tease each other a lot. I was quite intimidated by him at first because he is very tall and I am rather short.

He took us to meadows outside of the town and got each of us casting. He pointed me in the right direction. I can’t fish well with an audience and I got very flummoxed and nervous as he watched me and my glasses starting steaming up which was strange and off putting, then my line got in a tangle. Then we both started giggling so everything was fine. I lost my nerves was a good girl and did everything Jan told me to and hooked a beautiful, beautiful brown trout. It probably weighed about a pound. It was so lovely, I felt mean hurrying Jan along as he carefully pointed out its distinct Wye features. I just wanted it to go back safely.
My father caught a “bloody big rainbow” and I watched it splash my mother in the face as she netted it for him. I’ll hear about that fish for a long while I think.

We moved to another section of the Wye. I found a lovely corner with rising
fish. I had just changed my fly to a black gnat, when Jan came along.
“Ah, Heartbreak Corner, no one...” A splash and tug and I was into a feisty rainbow
“You were saying Jan...” “Well, I was going to say, that no one ever catches a fish from Heartbreak corner. There are always fish rising but no one manages it”. A smug smile crept over my face, a day later it’s still there I think.

Jan left us for the afternoon and I set about exploring. I was stunned by the sheer prettiness of the place. A wonderful river, fringed by pink flowers cutting through deep green hills is a dream come true.

My father caught a grayling and my mother settled on a spot and caught a rainbow or two and was really excited catching a hard fighting brown. I didn’t catch anything else. I didn’t care. It’s only the beginning of my Derbyshire affair.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Fishing Trips I

I was in Cancun, finding ways to while away the hours while my then boyfriend was at a conference. I spent three days lying and reading whilst enjoying the sun and the beach. I enjoyed sending the waiters, who wore pleasingly tight white shorts, scuttling up and down the beach to bring me useful things, like prawns and guacamole and margaritas.

A girl can tire such of things. So, at great expense I booked myself some fly fishing for tarpon and well, whatever else might come along. I waited outside the hotel at five in the morning. I was bundled into a white jeep and accompanied by three Americans. They soon proved to be Neanderthal in intellect as well as size. I assume that Neanderthals were wide.

“Wowee Bob we have a lady on board!”

“Looks like we do”


“I am here”. I thought grumpily as they continued to refer to me in the third person.

I was dressed for protecting myself from the beating Mexican sun. I wore a white shirt, long white skirt made of cheesecloth and a large brimmed hat. I suddenly felt very English and aware that the colonies could be frightening places.

“Wha, you goin’ flyfishin’? Kinda limits ya chances don’t it?”

I turned all prim and proper. “Yes, but there is a certain elegance about it don’t you think?”

“Mind those Tarpon they fight like I fuck. Hard and fast baby, hard and fast”.

The middle-aged man turned to his middle aged buddies and guffawed. It was a charmless and a somewhat unbelievable statement.

“I’ll bear that in mind, thank you”.

I was relieved that I wouldn’t be sharing a boat with them. I feared that I may get Viagra and testosterone poisoning.

My guide was a man named José, whose deep blue eyes just peeped through the wrinkles of his dark, leathery face. It soon became clear that he spoke very little English. I think I made myself understood by using a dodgy mixture of Italian, GCSE French and Year 9 Spanish.

I twigged that the company taking me out really wasn’t set up for fly fishing when I was handed perhaps the nastiest looking fishing rod I had ever seen, with the nastiest looking line.

We headed out towards the mangroves and I watched the sun rise. As it illuminated the coastal waters I was shocked by the changes in colour to pale blue, navy blue and pea green.

We went into a small inlet. The tree roots bored into the water like witches’ claws. I peered into the trees and saw monkeys and odd white birds. The water was eerily still and was a gluey brown.

I began to cast towards the trees. I might as well have been using one of the trees the rod was so heavy. Every third cast the rod tip fell into the water.
José put his fingers to his lips then spoke.
“I beg your pardon”
“Tampon!” I felt suddenly conscious of being in white and began to do female calculations in my head.
His odd exclamation of feminine hygiene products was explained as a massive movement broke the syrupy surface film. I felt massively relieved.
“Oh Tarpon” I whispered reverently.
I cast again, dragging the mouse-like surface lure across the water. A huge wake followed my line.
In the ten seconds that followed I was suddenly reminded of Jaws, I needed a bigger boat and a better rod. I knew these fish could reach eighty pounds. I looked at the scratched rod in my hand, I looked at the hurrying wake of water, I looked at the crappy rod and I flinched. I was scared. The mangrove waters went still again as the monster returned. It was rather exciting.
José and I both mopped our brows and enjoyed a soothing coca-cola.
I handed José the fly rod, wary of its power. I decided I wouldn’t like to conjure up any more beasts. I think José understood. I took up the spinning rod and caught a few fish. One was called a snook and looked like a trout had mated with a pike, the other looked like a dinner plate.
In the heat of the midday sun we returned to shore. I sat at the bow of the boat, holding my hat to the head as we sped along the striped waters. I fancied myself to be a bit like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen.
We reached the shore and José kissed me on the cheek. I was taken aback but he explained.
“First woman fishing. She fly rod”.
I smiled and thanked him. The silence was broken by the return of the middle-aged wannabe lotharios.

I listened to their boasts and watched them gesticulate madly with their fat arms as we jostled in the jeep. As we approached my hotel, one of them finally asked if I had caught anything.
“Oh, me I nearly caught a tampon”. I watched the confusion contort his pink face before stepping out of the jeep, blowing them all a kiss and giggling.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

A Viceful Existence

Arthur Ransome by John.T. Gilroy

I had an odd notion at the age of about thirteen and I think it has stuck with me. I believed that inorder to be a proper fly fisherman you have to be able to tie your own flies. I think this may have stemmed from being rather distracted at my uncle’s wedding by John T. Gilroy’s portrait of Arthur Ransome at his fly tying table. His serious face, lit from his tying lamp like a Rembrandt, is somehow cheery as his inspects a newly tied fly.

I decided to take it up and I think I can make a serious claim to have been the only 13 year old girl in Britain in 1997 to ask for fly-tying equipment for her birthday.

I remember stepping into Frames of Hendon with my mother. It smells dusty and sweet and is stuffed full of strange things that coarse fisherman seem to need. I was decked out with a simple vice and whatever tying stuff he had. The shop owner, who still looks the same as he did then, gave me a book on fly-tying. He is a very kind man and his shop, which thankfully is still going, continues to be fantastic. I have lost the book now but I remember it had a recipe for a fly made out of a fag butt.

I got myself another book, “Peter Deane’s Fly-Tying”. It taught me that using a bobbin holder was sinful and that I must only ever use a type of tying silk that is no longer in production and own a vice that can only be purchased in the States*. I struggled. I gave up. I don’t blame myself entirely; I think Mr Deane has a part to play. His book may not have been the best for beginners but he is an eminently cool figure. He had a wheel chair that could make 40mph on the flat! I fished on for another 12 years with a sense of being deficient. My inability to tie wasn’t a serious condition like cancer. It was more like a hormone deficiency that makes you a bit too hairy. I was not a “compleat angler” and I felt deeply uncomfortable. I should add here, that I don’t think that fly fishermen who can’t tie flies are deficient, nor that there is a direct causal link between hairiness and fly-tying. Charles Ritz couldn’t and he didn’t seem to be overtly in need of depilatory aid.

Thankfully, I could get over my inadequacies when I moved to Yorkshire and enrolled in evening classes in fly-tying. I loved going. I learnt how to tie and got seriously competitive about the whole thing. I came third in the end of term competition. I think I was robbed. I am still quite huffy and bitter about it. However, going to classes and tying my own flies made me feel like a grown up. For the first time I was in the company of fishermen (and ladies) who weren’t involved in my procreation. Not long afterwards, when I caught my first fish on a fly I had tied myself; I felt I had become a woman.

*For non tier amongst you nearly all current fly-tiers regard bobbin holders as essential. I was fooled by Mr Deane’s eccentricities and I admire him for it.

Sunday 11 July 2010

Casting Practice

Bored out of my brains a few Mondays ago I decided to walk along the river Ouse near my house and practice casting.  I should really remember that this is a fool hardy thing to do but I never learn.  I set out off to a large, open area and chucked out my three oranges.  These make beautiful, easily spottable and tasty targets. I set up my rod and began to cast. 
I raised a cautious eyebrow to the jeers, "Caught any big ones!".  "Don't think there are many fish in there".  "You can't be any good, you missed the river!" Oh, youth of Yorkshire you possess wit without measure.
A few fisherfolk stopped and we talked about the differences between coarse and fly fishing, the rod differences, the pros and cons etc. For me the choice to go flyfishing is simple: maggots are yucky, fur and feathers are pretty and don't wriggle. The chat was genial and jolly and helped me feel a little less of a twat.
I spent far too long talking to a boy on a bicycle.  His presence was ostensibly about fishing and then his real purpose was revealed when he called me "the most beautiful thing on the river" and asked me out for a drink.  I really wasn't interested. But I'm not a bitch and I'm highly susceptible to flattery. I also think that it took some guts to approach me. So I tentatitvely "agreed" and tried to give him a false number. The kinder thing would have been just to have said no but hindsight is a wonderful thing. I thought I was being so clever and started mixing up my real number. However, I was feeling rather flustered and was sort of distracted and anxious about the whole thing. He didn't help things by going all wierd on me and asking for a cuddle. He read back the number to me, and without thinking, I stupidly corrected it! I think by my hasty exit he realised I wasn't that interested. I think carp behave like I did a lot towards fisherman. In then sense of saying one thing and mean another and nibbling boilies without biting them. I don't think trout don't often send mixed messages, they are far more straight forward.  He hasn't rung but in a way he is the winner. I can never, ever go out to practice along the river again. I might just catch something nasty.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Just Call me Fizz..deux

It could have been because it had been such a stressful effort to get to the riverbank, or it could have been because the evening was warm, and (this shall especially apply to the line flinging fishermen amongst you) especially calm, but the night's fishing was magical.

The watery blanket of the river was being gently punctured by rises. I knew I would catch fish.  I remembered my father explaining to me as a very young girl about something called smutting.  Here trout sip the tiniest of newborn flies from the surface as they try and break free of the film to fly away and live.  I walked down the river and saw three rising fish. I tied on a size 22 poly-winged spinner.  Within three casts I caught a fish.  I worried for a second that my evening had peaked too soon.  I was wrong.
Buerre Noisette
The air pinked as the sun began to set and I walked upstream.  The light was fading so I removed my Polaroids. I heard a rise and spotted a moving bar the colour of beurre noisette (that's burnt butter to the less culinary minded). This was the fish that would make the horrid, trafficsome journey worth it.  I cast a fly over him.  I changed my fly three times and he remained uninterested.  Charles Ritz's stern, hotelier's words burned in my ears, "It's all in the presentation!" I changed my leader to a thin 2lb line, and tied on a minuscule Cul de Canard emerger.  With a praying sigh I cast, paying special attention to my timing.  I watched and waited and felt. I got him.

Landing that fin perfect fish would have been special enough for one evening. However, I was surrounded by bright, navy flashes of rushing swallows. I saw a young hare, a pair of water voles, an eel and maybe, just maybe a pygmy shrew ran over my welly. A perfect, calm marvel of an evening.

Although being alone of the river gives me time for introspection, I wonder sometimes that it might be better to have someone to experience these things with me. It seems selfish to have such beautiful hours all to yourself. The boy I was seeing decided that seeing me was not such a good idea. I am inclined to agree with him and I've taken it on the chin. It does show most harshly that I am not quite up there with Odette yet. I certainly do not possess enough charm yet to captivate Winston Churchill or a bespectacled boy, but certainly more than Lady Astor.

As I walked back on the riverbank, I met three gentleman. The youngest was about seventy five.  They wonderfully referred to themselves as "The Last of the Summer Wine Fishing Club". They had such camaraderie and had the kind of easy banter that only firm friends can. I felt envious and oddly, the sudden appearance of others confirmed my aloneness. They insisted on opening gates for me, even though it would have been far easier (and quicker) for me to extend them that courtesy. It struck me though, that they were of an age of the Odettes, Parkers and Mitfords, of Wrens, widows and Munition workers. Women who deserved enough respect to have a gate opened for them, and a seat given to them on a bus. I'm working on it.

My last minute, desperate and yet sucessful fishing trip has gone someway to emulate Madame Pol Roger.  In this though, and at the moment I can say like her that my great loves are "to garden, to go trout fishing and to decorate my houses".

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Just call me fizz...Part One

Odette Pol Roger is one of my idols. Great granddaughter of Sir Richard Wallace, who gave the Nation the Wallace collection, great friend of Winston Churchill and grande dame of the Pol Roger champagne family, she was also a fly fisherman. She frequently went to parties in Paris to encourage people to drink her family's champagne. After one such party she returned to her home overlooking the River Andelle and, "As the sun was coming up I was thinking of getting a bit of sleep when I looked down from my bedroom window and saw a huge trout in the stream which runs through the property. So I grabbed my rod and rushed down and caught him - still in my dinner gown. Well! Life must be enjoyed, no?"

Probably the most stylish fishing story in the world. I rank Odette amongst the great twentieth century women. Dorothy Parker, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davies, the Mitford Sisters, instantly spring to mind. Strong characters blessed with one or all of acerbic wit, guile, fearlessness and charm.  To me, this is what being a woman is all about.  The ability to be elegant and to beguile and yet bet unfazed enough to don your wellies, hop in a river and courier for the French Resistance. That wonderful mixture of being charming, courageous and even a little feckless is something to which I aspire. I also think that particular vision of womanhood is something we might yet lose. I worry sometimes that femininity is often reduced to an ability to walk in high heels and finding a man to pay for them.  Then again I might just be scathing because I have thus far accomplished neither of those things..

Yesterday, I rang up to organise some fishing and was horrified to discover that if I didn't make it to the river bank that evening it would be July before I trudged a river.

Here was my Odette moment. I had to go straight from work. How brilliant is it to go from crouching over a desk to crouching behind and casting over reeds?  A crazed, desperate lust came over me and I zoomed home just as the clock ticked five.  I ran upstairs, swapped trousers, (it would have been far cooler to keep my little pumps and thin summer trousers on but my mother would have a fit) and grabbed my fishing crate.  I nearly killed my cycling, lycra-clad Spanish housemate as I sped down my street.  He thinks I am mad, "like all those English people, you are just odd".  I think he may be right.

I couldn't relax the whole way in the car, I was anxious, needful to cast and conscious that, although it was midsummer, I might only have a couple of precious hours. I swore at caravans, lorries and BMW drivers.  I was like a salmon, desperate and demented, determined on making its way to its own river to spawn. Well, not quite spawn but you understand my meaning. 

I screeched to the fishing-hut and fumbled putting up my rod, changing my leader with shaking fingers, sweating, smoking, running, panting.

And then, with the briefest glimpse of the river and the just-heard sploosh of a trout rising I could breathe again.  I stopped, I watched and I smelt.  I was home.

Thursday 3 June 2010

The game is the thing..

Sometimes it can all be just a bit too easy. It was the height of this year's Mayfly season. Chalk stream fisherman dream of days when the hazy, wet, warm air speckles with chubby, lacy-winged mayfly. Saturday was perfect. Pretty, grey insect forms patterned the skies like damasked flowers on a linen table cloth. The sound of the river rippling and the song of the birds were punctuated by the splashes and clashes of mad, hungry and desperate trout.  Pretty much straight away my line was loaded with a green mayfly pattern. Pretty much straight away I was into a fish, then another and other.  They were giving themselves away too easily. The fish were being slutty and I felt a little dirty. Because I could catch them so easily the sport had disappeared. It confirmed to me what I had always felt: I don't go fishing to catch fish. The reasons why I go are many and complicated. I can't even begin to list them, perhaps it's a bit like trying to unpack my soul.
I know, however, that each time I go I try and get a little bit better.  Casting is maybe one of the few things I could get quite good at.  I decided to make the wanton fish a little harder to get. I placed myself in a bower of willow and decided to roll cast to them. Ideally this should mean that my line unfurls forward from my rod. I concentrated on making the loading D-shaped loop and flicked out the line. I repeated again and again until, well not perfect, but satisfactory. The fish for once that day were not impressed enough to take my faux morsel.  I was, and whilst watching its latex tail float perkily I concluded that everything is so much better when you have to work for it.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Teasingly Close

The reason why I tend to fish chalkstreams is their clarity. I love the fact that they become a clear, moving, mirrored sheath through which I can view an entirely different underwater world. I think fishing intoxicates me because through the simple connection of fly, trout, line and rod the two worlds can collide with a splash and a tug. Suddenly the trout enters my dry landed realm and for a brief moment as we both gasp for breath we gaze, in awe and terrifed before each of us return to where we belong.
As a consequence, some of my most fulfilling relationships have been with fish.
On a river in the south somewhere there is a trout who I have lovingly called Albert. He lies tucked right in to the opposite bank, about six inches above his lie there is an overhanging, twiggy frond from some sort of tree or another. The current towards him is altered by an outlet of reeds. I have watched him feed on nymphs languidly. I have seen him with a deft fin-flick move others out of his way. I have heard him rise. I want him. I know him now.
His situation makes casting to him very difficult. You have to place your fly directly under the over hanging branch for the current to take it to him. Albert, like most men likes to have his food handed to him. I think I have only managed to direct this long, frighteningly precise cast twenty times over three years. He has only risen to my fly once and I choked. The adrenalin was too much and as he opened his mouth I struck too soon. As in all doomed relationships the timing just wasn't right.
However, I think I feel more for this fish more than any other and more than quite a lot of humans. I swear he knows it's me casting to him, the glint of white of his opening mouth reminds me of a welcoming, toothy grin. I smile back; knowing cheerily that some things just aren't meant to be.

Tuesday 27 April 2010


I didn't realise, when I wrote back in November, how apt comparing fishing with dating is. Nor could I have predicted that my return to actual dating would coincide with my first fishing trip of the season.
In preparing for anything there is the assessment of current kit. I was woefully unprepared for both ventures. I seem to only own three types of clothes, work clothes, wedding clothes and scruffy comfortable clothes. None of which have the kind of feminine allure needed for dating. A quick browse of my creel tells a similar story. Its winter relegation to the garden shed (hibernation I think I'll call it) meant that when I opened it I was welcomed by a flood of earwigs and silverfish. I would have liked to say I didn't shriek, however, I did and ran away, far away. I returned only after a bracing cigarette and soul strengthening cup of tea. When I eventually put a cautious hand inside I discovered tangled horrors of rotten tippet, spectacle wipes and what I believe might have once been a Scotch egg.
The only joy found in both of these scenarios is the opportunity for shopping. There is much pleasure found in replenshing the armoury. The racks of dresses, shelves of shoes, tippet and gleaming reels manage to feed my greed. My conscience satisfied or tricked into false comfort by weak arguments of necessity.
I returned to dating armed with red shoes and a hip skimming, cleavage enhancing top. I felt confident of my equipment yet a little anxious. I had the niggling thought, "What if I have forgotten how to do this?" I trusted in my clothes and shoes, convincing myself that I now have at least some of thejuicy appeal of a plump mayfly. The date went well. My initial trepidation disappeared as, like with casting, my body slowly began to remember it's natural rhythm. It began with a curry and ended with a kiss. I've been smiling all day.
I go fishing again on Monday. I'm remembering all the errors of the past season, thinking longingly of the ones that got away. I'm also steeling and coiling myself and my nerves in the comfort that only a new leader and freshly tied fly can bring, enough to let me dare to think: I'm ready and I'm gonna get you.