Cortland, Itchen, Loomis, Moreno Borriero, Peter Lipscombe, Rod Box, Tony Hayter, Worshipful Company of Brewers
Peter Lipscombe was a Director of Guinness plc when we first met. I was asked to join a team of seniors from his company, and from mine, GrandMet plc, who were tasked with recommending the name for the entity which the merged companies would become. Wolf Olins did the groundwork at considerable expense and shortlisted three names, and as in all cases, there was no point in doing so much work on this, because the new board would choose the name (and Wolf Olins, its justifications and explanations!), and so it happened, and was Diageo born.
The next time I came across Peter was after he had retired. In 2000 the Guinness brand was integrated within the ‘big spirits’ brands portfolio, of which I was commercial head in the UK. Not missing a trick, one of my Sales Directors, the most experienced Stephen Digby, and himself, a Past Master, quickly suggested that I become a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Brewers in the City of London. Peter had been, too, and was himself, Master in 1990-91.
I have just completed my ‘year’ as Master, during which, Peter, a very keen angler, and Wykehamist, invited me to fish on the School water in the middle of Winchester. A rare treat on a beat which is mentioned extensively in Tony Hayter’s book, ‘F M Halford and the Dry-Fly Revolution’, which chronicles the time and experiences Halford had on the same beats in the 1880’s (and I gave a copy to Peter, in thanks), so I, a Halfordian, accepted with relish!
September 2010 – the Itchen
In recognition of this famous water, it seemed appropriate to fish with Moreno’s bamboo rod www.mbrods.it which was paired with a 3-weight Cortland Sylk line (very soft and pliable, with little or no memory, and one of the best I have found) and the bronzed Loomis Eastfork reel, for colour coordination, you understand !
My trip down the Hog’s Back was quick, and I had time to pop into the Rod Box, (another wonderful fishing shop) in Kings Worthy, to stock up with some small PTNs (you cannot have enough at the end of the season), and then following Peter’s directions arrived as requested, but still early, and therefore in time to meet and introduce myself to River Keeper (for thirteen years), Mark Sankey.
We studied the water on the carrier nest to the School hut, and I listened intently to his advice on the ‘killer’ flies, as we watched juvenile wild fish moving just subsurface and coming up occasionally to emergers. And we watched a couple of several pounders keeping to themselves in the deeper waters…ummm! Dries, or wets?
Peter arrived and we discussed tactics.
We would fish upstream from the road bridge
before lunch, he a ‘leftie’ on the true left bank therefore, and me the opposite, a ‘rightie’. It was an interesting, and true chalk stream experience. This was stalking…and there were fish galore, but they detected the slightest movement from a serious distance and would scurry away in earnest leaving the inept (me!) with little to cast at…that is all but the pike, of which there were too many for comfort, but even they were a little leary, and a swirl and a muddy cloud showed that they, too, were off to a more comfortable lie. The sun was high, the light was bright, there was surprisingly little ranunculus, and therefore, cover, and the trout were wary. I searched for deeper water and currents where my movements would be unseen, and put on a pheasant tail nymph.
In time I found my spot, and took, first a grayling, and then a Wykehamist brown. (I emailed Moreno the pictures from bankside!)
I confess to being confused by these educated fish. Some larger specimens were completely un-phased by my presence, and of course, rejected my feeble attempts to lure them. But September can be a great month or a difficult one. Fly life was scarce….a few upwings, but little else, so subsurface was the way, but also, the barometer was flexing, and patience was important.
In the early afternoon, and in the lower beats, the quietness (silence) of the river was deafening.
But on a bend no more than 200m below the road I found a fish feeding under the branches of a large beech. I tried so many different dries and on every new one, he (?) came up and took a sniff, and did the same as the last time. And, conscious of the tightness of the situation, I was casting side arm, and magnificently, and presenting many flies right over his snout, with great skill, but still failed to impress, or induce a ‘take’. I was completely ignored. It did not help when Peter announced he had just taken his first fish, just yards above me!
We walked along the carrier, and I was reminded of Huddi’s river, the Arnarvatnsa in northern Iceland, it too, a carrier of a world famous river, the Laxa. Twenty five feet wide, flat calm with little noticeable flow, and therefore, little weed life, virtually no bankside cover to hide behind, so, easily spooked fish! So my chances nearer dusk would be improved.
At around 5pm we split up. Peter wandered back upstream to fish from the School playing fields (left) bank, and I persisted below the sluice, starting again where we had earlier, but very slowly because I was intending to fish through to darkness. I was diligent and carefully watching the water and still hoping to see some rising fish…some grayling were, but no trout until, and on arrival opposite my beech tree there he was, and a second smaller fish, too, still coming up and sipping. So I tried again, and again, and again. Guess what? Hhmmm!
After many (more) casts and just as I decided that he/she had won…this beautiful fish of 3 lbs or more, leapt out of the water in triumph….for he/she decided he/she had too !!!
And so to the carrier!
By 7 pm the light was fading. Rings and swirls appeared in the flat waters ahead of me.
Some were aggressive ‘plops’, some gentle ‘slurps’….typical trout and grayling rises. Supper was being delivered, and with predatory fears receding, they were ready to eat.
I moved upstream quickly and cast to rising fish. The joy of parachute flies is that you can see them. And because I failed all day to identify what was hatching, I resorted to the ubiquitous Klinkhammer, and the olive version did not let me down, and three grayling and one brown came to my net. And then it was dark.
Peter wrote me a nice note –
Just to say, thanks again very much for the book. Having taken a closer look, the photo of ‘Old Barge’ is indeed where we fished yesterday (about as far up the main river as you reached). I am much looking forward to dipping into the history. Thanks also for lunch. Sorry the day was not very productive – on reflection I think the fish had their minds on other things. The one I caught and the one I saw jumping out of the water were very coloured – like red salmon.
I much enjoyed your company.
But as I said to him – “the thanks are all mine”