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I was perusing some books locked away unseen in my storage unit, and I found a copy of ‘Trout in Norfolk’ by E. C. Keith, which was published in 1936. It is in great condition, and has the pristine look of a ‘first edition’. I know not when I procured it, or how, but maybe I was given it. It does not have my personal library stamp in it, either, so who knows? It talks extensively about the Wensum, Yare, Nar, Bure, Wissey, Whitewater, and, of course, the Ouse. It discusses through a series of anecdotes, the fishing quality of 75 years ago, and does so with an honesty which belies the myths of some who believe it was always better, then, in the past! It talks as fondly of roach, as it does of trout.

I loved the question posed on p154 – “Why is it that fishermen are so easily tempted by a tackle maker’s shop?” Life does not change! I can never exit a store without purchasing some leader, or some flies, or a book…in fact I think it would be unacceptable, and rather rude, not to.

Norfolk has a seam of chalk running through it,

and I was intrigued to read, also, excerpts from the Rangeley-Wilson compendium, ‘Chalkstream…Fishing the Perfect River’., which offers ideas about where, as well.

Separately, I would add that his is a really good book, (also anecdotal in content) published by Medlar (who also publish ‘Waterlog’) and whilst expert and knowledgeable, Charles is also President of the WTT and he cares, but he writes convincingly and worryingly in its Introduction, of the true extent of just how much river qualities have changed through man’s interventions in the latter years of the last century. It is a thought provoking read and salutary in its warnings.

In the event, my search for Norfolk opportunity was conducted via the typical ‘where to’ websites, and both ‘fishandfly’ and ‘flyfishingvenues’ referred to Bintry Mill, a fishery visited by John Wilson (can someone stop him laughing?) and John Bailey, too, in those much repeated series on ‘Discovery Shed’. So I already have a picture of the possible.

I uncovered the name of Terry Lawton, and wrote to him describing my mission, and asked for his advice, as I knew that the Wensum has trout, but had discovered on the Salmon & Trout Association website that members could access water on the Bure at the National Trust’s Bickling Hall property, but I wondered where a ‘local’ would suggest I try.

I did not know until he responded that he is Secretary to Bintry Mill Trout Fishery, and he (“you have set yourself an interesting challenge”) kindly invited me to be his guest on his water.

May 2011 – the Wensum (the “Test of Norfolk”)

Meandering through Norfolk’s country lanes from my overnight in Dereham, I discovered that whilst SatNav helps, to those of us from a pre-techno era, instinct normally suffices, and did. And besides which, technology makes us lazy. Just one glimpse of a corner of the roof of the Mill, and from a quarter of a mile away, and I knew I was there

…not that I thought I would never find it…but satellite pictures from Google do not necessarily resemble the grounded reality!

Parking Tonka Too, I was approached by a friendly chap, whose opening was – “you didn’t get that tan in this country”…too true, but being outdoors in this remarkable April makes it difficult to remain pastel, no matter what you do. He was Paul Seaman, whose family has owned the Mill and its environs since 1906. His space is SSSI and SPA designated…and is truly special. Knowing who I was to meet, he gave me a short and proud tour and history lesson which confirmed that this reach of the Wensum flowed over the northernmost seam of chalk which lies diagonally across Anglia, and cuts, by him, into the hillside by his farm to expose more nesting opportunities, reveal crustacean remains in the chalk which were plain to see. His stretch of the river is leased to the 50 members of the Bintry Mill Fishing Club, and has the steepest gradient on the Wensum producing flows which make it an ideal trout habitat. Below the mill race the river twists and turns through woodland

and meadow, over tractor track and around fallen branches, has riffle and gravelly runs, pockets and glides, and contains wild and stocked fish. And the Club also has a beat lower down at Yarrow Farm, which is more Wylye like.

Terry was an inspirational host. Passionate about his fishery, determined that it is managed carefully, alert to the wildlife within it, and protective of his head of wild fish .It is always interesting to fish with an angler who readily identifies fly life, as he does, and he has put this keen eye to good use in writings, and I notice that his latest book, “The Upstream Wet Fly” is reviewed in the June edition of Trout & Salmon.

His observant nature prompted some interesting conversation. Steering me toward a rising fish, soon after our mid-morning arrival, I cast an Adams which prompted a splashing take. “Sometimes”, he declared,” we endow fish with human characteristics…and the noise (of the splash) probably frightens them, which is why they don’t rise again for a while”…umm!

“And why expend so much energy and not take the fly?” I responded. Maybe they know instinctively that the Mays are coming and their annual banquet bonanza is imminent!!

Some fish moved when the winds abated and the air temperature rose. And they stopped as the winds returned, but not before I tempted a lovely eight inch wild fish

on a #22 Adams, then a fry, too small to know better, and a stocked fish of a couple of pounds,

to be able to ‘net’ Norfolk.

We fished the lower beat in the afternoon and I lost a larger (stocked?) fish, and Terry caught a small wild fish from no more than twelve feet away from where I was casting, no doubt belying another myth!

A memorable day….thank you, Terry.

…….Afterwards, I drove to Brancaster, to the country home of Tim and Liz How, for the June meeting of the Reed Dining Club. It was a splendid evening, and in their letter of thanks to Tim and Liz, from two members there were the following paragraphs, which might amuse!

Post script 1 – (WLP)…. “It was a great shame to have missed Antonio Mair this morning as he left so early to do his extraordinary (fishing)  journey from Brancaster Staithe to Bury St. Edmunds to Stamford Lincs.  I did hear one of the girls say that it was a frightening sight at 7.30 a.m. seeing “The Great Permatan with the Grey Mullet” in a state of undress, floundering from bedroom to bathroom.  And just a little cod-piece covering his tiny prawn  (or is it a tadpole ?) and his wide bream …….   Even worse I had fixed it with Liz that he would have some kippers for breakfast…… and I was perched nearby with a camera to record the moment when Battersea and Brancaster were as one, but he skated off early, carping under his breath as he dabbed at the make up around his eyes ….

Well that’s enough of all that old pollocks !”

Post script 2 – (MP)…. “Good luck Tony on your fishing challenge …you seem to be moving on from plaice to plaice with a real sense of porpoise”