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.