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 clich├ęs. 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.