Tuesday 5 April 2011

Fishing Trips V: Return from the Monnow & Why Men Should Love their Wives

The return up North from the Monnow was a lazy journey.  I felt more relaxed about everything than I have done in ages. I stopped in Kington, which is certainly in my top ten of towns. There I snapped a rather bad image on my camera phone (real camera is drowned and out of action) of my favourite object. It's the sign from outside the local print shop. I have a bit of a typographic fetish and the spacing on this sign is just really perfect.

There is also a butcher there who makes his own cured air dried ham, Black Country style. It's the British version of Parma or Seranno ham. I bought some and some eggs laid by hens who have a ridiculously cosseted existence.
Two years previously I had been forbidden to go to Sportfish. So I went. Out of principle making V-signs in the air. Remarkably, I only purchased under fiver's worth of goods.  That was out of principle too.
Stopping at Worcester for sandwiches and tea and drinks with friends in Leeds I trundled home at midnight and woke my housemate. 
Today, I have been both fantastically lazy and gloriously domestic. I have baked a Black Country ham and egg pie in an attempt to seal in the wonderful Heredfordshire atmosphere I have enjoyed these past few days.
 It's ugly but delicious though I think I should add a little bit more water to the egg mixture and possibly some parsley. 

On an entirely dull and boring note I wiped down my waders, tidied my bedroom and have put on three loads of laundry today. As I was rinsing off my wading boots, it occurred to me that there was a good chance that most fishermen have wives and possibly various other lady friends in different forms who would be doing all of this for them. I don't mean to pander to stereotypes but it's just a fact that most domestic chores are done by women. The National Statistics Office says so.  So fishermen of  Britain, love your wives as they clean your underpants.
I also managed to sit down at the vice to try and solve a problem I had with sighting my fly. If you are short like me and wading, you can often be not far off the surface of the water and this makes spotting your dry fly tricky.  This means you misplace casts and miss rises. This is why parachute flies are so popular because they have a polyarn post. I have never managed to catch anything on a parachute fly so I don't like them. I also like fully hackled flies as I am convinced their messy silhouette attracts fish.
Call me old school if you like, however, I just really don't like seeing bright pink things on the river. It just doesn't feel right. However, to see, I think you need some pink. So here is a possible solution to trying to tie an old fashioned fly in a way that I can see it.

Anyway on that note, here my holiday ends. It's been wonderful. I am back to work tomorrow and dreading my inbox and pigeon hole and yet the fishing season has truly started.  So none of that malarkey seems to matter so much any more. The hope being that, now fully unwound, I can actually just get on with it, whilst thinking of fishing of course.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Fishing Trips V.ii.1: Mr Chips and the Monnow

I spent a large portion of the night before tying flies for the next day. The one's I made are all variations of things made with hare's ear. With these and the dregs of last year's flies I was able to put something together that was vaguely respectable.

The drive over from Hay to the Monnow is as beautiful a drive as you could possibly want. I got proper butterflies in my stomach I ate an apple to quench  my thirst. I regretted forgetting my water bottle for the rest of the day.
Meeting Mr Chips was brilliant. I made an instant townie faux pax by trying to pronounce the Welsh-spelt village phonetically. "le-lang-goo-wa".  

The Monnow, for a chalk girl like me, feels as if it is cut out of  rock. The flow feels as if it is a gush of blood from a knife dragged down the the arm of the mountain. There is something raw about the place but it doesn't frighten me. Think beef carpaccio rather than steak tartare.
I fished a duo over some inviting ripples and I hooked onto a fish on the third cast. I say the third cast but the other two were so rubbish that it should have been the first.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten how to play a fish and promptly lost it.
We spent the rest of the morning hunting rises. We spotted a huge fish from on high. It sat ominously in a new V-shaped ripple making thingy that had been made just the last week by the club. Dave explained the good work they all do on the Monnow and I felt privileged  and humbled to be fishing on this much loved water.
 I goaded Mr Chips to show me how it was done and he managed and with some panache.  As the wind came up and the grannom hatch disappeared for lunch we decided to join them.
Pork pie, champagne and tomatoes, a giggle or two and some insightful musing made for an ideal fishermen's repast.
We moved to a more sensibly named stretch of river. I half listened to Mr chips as he told some  story about the bridge which is apparently a little bit historic.  I apologise for not really paying attention but there were rising fish about.
Anyway we set down to catch them. Thankfully, I got one and I cooed over it in a distinctly girlish manner. Then Dave got another. Four wader-wearing figures came over the bridge. I was goaded into casting for my second. Then, just as soon as the audience assembled, I moved my kneeling knee slightly to the right to find nothing there, so I tumbled in.
I watched this assembled Monnow mafia flick lines expertly over this gentle gushing stretch of the river. They were in a different league to this damp flyfisherlady.
I was very glad when the word pub was mentioned some few minutes later. I sat there, cold, damp and bedraggled. I listened to their funny Monnow ways, in their funny Monnow language of raspberries, socials and brogues. I decided that it was a language I want to know a little bit better, so I decided that I ought to return Monnowards soon.

Fishing Trips V.iii  Monnow and Miss 

So as my real time blogging experiment continues, I'm sitting on the Monnow waiting for something to rise. I learned yesterday that on a flat stone river that "if it ain't rising there ain't no bloody point". So I've torn up a fag packet whilst regretting leaving my notebook in the car. I was meant to go out somewhere pleasant and buy something I don't need and drink an over priced cuppa somewhere quaint. Fishing seemed the more economically viable option. I also wanted to challenge myself a little. Wade unaided with the new little bits of knowledge I gleaned from yesterday. Most sensible fishermen would throw an nymph on. However, I lack sufficient skills to even try. I also don't really own any nymphs. 
So here I am waiting. It could be a while. I missed hooking into a rise early on today. Which annoys me as I think it would have made Mr Chips and the other masters proud had I managed it somehow.
I'm now using the foil of the packet. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that I must be bonkers. It's not even particularly warm. It is very pretty though. I love the fact that the soil is a s sort of primeval rusty red. I like the fact that it speckles itself over the flat stones. Apparently true Monnow trout have a red outline to their fins. I wonder if it's to reflect the red soily colour. Anyway, fishing in this way feels very natural.  That I should catch anything would be a deserving gift. 
You can't see the trout very often. A rise is all that will reveal itself. 
As a child of the chalk I find this disconcerting. I'm used to manipulating a spotted fish to rise, plugging at it with my assortment of flies until it relents.  Here, you just can't fight nature. You have to go with the flow. I'm going to have a little nap.

Saturday 2 April 2011

Fishing Trips V.ii Mr Chips and The Monnow

I wanted to say something clever and insightful. I wanted to be feeling invigorated posting glamorous pictures of Mr Chips and the pretty Monnow and writing things that are oh, so, bloody witty.
I had a lovely day. I shall write more tomorrow. However, my hands are stinging my cheeks are burning and I am so tired that even my fingers feel heavy. Fresh Air is a drug. Clearly, I've not been getting enough of it and this initial spring shot has knocked me for six.
I also fell in the river. I am a little bit damp and I need my sleep. I'll be smiling about today as I sleep, I promise. Good night all.

Friday 1 April 2011

Fishing Trips V.i Mr Chips and the Monnow

I am trying something new and giving you all real time updates on a little trip I am taking to the Monnow. I am meeting a headmaster, who shall be known here as Mr Chips.
I am down in the Beacons because of work. I went to film a very clever, rather excellent gentleman. He is a historic engineer, which means he recreates or fixes old things made out of metal, this can be as big as a steam engine or as innocuous as the handles on kitchen cupboards.  Apparently, as a twelve year old boy he used to make pocket money tying flies from a vice that he made himself by sneaking into the school technology workshop.  Brilliant.
I followed my sat nav with more trust in faith than I have in a lot of people, including some relatives. It took me (hallelujah!) to Hay on Wye, where I wandered about a bit. It's a book town, which means that the pharmacy sells books and the coffee shop sells reading glasses.
My lovely bed and breakfast, called the Bridge, really is on the bridge and its garden leads down to the banks of the Wye. There was an LDO hatch and I saw something rise.
Anyway, they call me Polly and I am to call the Catherine and Richard. You can hear their children playing in the house, so I feel very much a guest rather than a customer. This sense of being in a home is heightened by the fact that none of the doors have locks on them.
Anyway, they kindly let me use their dining room to catch up on my tying.
I bashed out a pile of things using rabbit face (Hare's Mask). Not nicely tied but quickly made and they should do the job. Well I think so. Mr Chips will no doubt tell me otherwise and I'll be a good girl and listen.
To be honest, I am really nervous. It's been ages since I have fished and I am a duffer anyway. Anyway, tomorrow will set the benchmark for the inevitable improvement that takes place over a season. It's like the start of term really. The only difference being that instead of new pencils and exercise books, it's flies and tippet.