Friday 24 December 2010
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
|As Tied by Himself|
|Deer Hair Mess|
Monday 29 November 2010
Monday 8 November 2010
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Friday 29 October 2010
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.
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:
- An inability to concentrate between April and late September.
- 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.
- 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.."
Thursday 14 October 2010
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
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
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
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
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”
“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”
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
|A View of Fonthill Abbey from the Stone Quarry, by JMW Turner, (1799)|
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.
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
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|
|A bad photograph of a very badly tied fly|
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.
Sunday 1 August 2010
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday 22 June 2010
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
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
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
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.