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 cafĂ©. 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.