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.