I learned to fly fish as a teen on the Usk, when as a pupil at Christ College in Brecon, I shared one of six tickets the school enjoyed on the town water. I remember that Jonathan Gout, already a fly fisher, was my encouragement, and my Father kitted me out with tackle purchased from a store adjacent to the town bridge. It is now a licensed café!
Fly fishing became a part of my life again after returning from a three year spell, living and working in the US in the late 80’s early 90’s. My elder son, Chris was dispatched to England to benefit from a secondary education there at Eastbourne College, and to engage with his brother Ross, I bought a canoe and light weight casting kit to fish for the Connecticut small mouth bass. I was quickly hooked, but for Ross, this was too slow a pastime, and the lure of soccer and baseball were two far greater attractions, and who could blame him?
On returning to the UK, and with no small mouth in prospect, it was back to trout! Lakes and reservoirs were easily accessible, and a great proving ground, until I discovered the excitement and variety of rivers.
Prior to 2005, or so, my experiences of them was limited to the Usk, to which I would return annually at about my birthday, with Colin and Suzie Brunton; a spell as a member of the Teise Angling Club in Kent, to which I had been introduced by Ralph Lindeyer, and then to the Salisbury & District AC, whose waters and beats, I have now enjoyed, at modest cost, for fifteen years.
I think the idea for widening my net came about when, after leaving full time, Executive employment in 2006, I listed in my CV (for I was intent in starting a new plural career, and now have) that amongst my hobbies was, rather pretentiously, “collecting rivers”
Perhaps I had been influenced, too, by watching the pure elation and humble reaction by Charles Rangeley-Wilson, in his stimulating piece of film in the “Accidental Angler” series on BBC, when he caught a trout inside the M25, near Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire. I should try that, I thought.
Up to that time, a cursory search of my memory revealed that I had fished in and caught trout in about seven counties. A web search (http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/Regions/England.html) revealed that there was, from time to time, a review of counties by the Regulatory Authorities, and the last and most recent was in 1998, and lists 46. So my target was significant. Scotland has 33, and Wales has 8 (22), too, but the remainder of those could wait, as I already had my first challenge…..England.
Early searches for new waters were facilitated by the internet, and it became apparent that mine was thought to be a novel idea, if not a first, and in capturing the imagination of some, produced an unexpected response. “Well you must write about it”, and “please mention our fishery”, and “of course there is no charge”.
I suppose that, initially, any writing was to be about the location and the fish.
But it soon became apparent that any writing would be more about people.
Our beautiful pastime is characterised by generosity of spirit; curiosity, interest and support; the giving of time and a sense of adventure; and a complete love for the environment and an insistence in protecting it; and much, much more.
And I have met some extraordinary folk, who all have a tale to tell, and some of those, I will, too. Many have stimulated and inspired me with their passion for wild life, our extraordinary countryside, conservation, and wild fish. There have been the odd cynics, too, but such is life.
I dedicate my writings, in gratitude, to all who have, through email, directed me to others in my search for the next stream; and to all with whom I have spent, and have still to spend, time together on the riverbank. They all have my complete thanks.
At the start of this blog, I have ‘collected’ twenty two counties in England, and a handful in Wales and Scotland, so I have many in prospect. Some counties will be challenging (Bedfordshire and Nottinghamshire, to name but two) but, I have found there is as much fun to be had in the searching as in the fishing. And after all, what is the close season, for !?
Finally….I realise that my mission is a selfish one. But I hope that some will enjoy stories of my escapades, and that in some way, I will have contributed to our past time with my enthusiasm.