‘One Fly’ Winners!

‘Dream Team’, Chris Tarrant, Geoffrey Palmer and yours truly, successfully defended our winners’ title in the 2013 ‘River Test One Fly’ competition by coming joint first with the ‘Fly Fish Map’ team, each with an equal 1510 points. Click here to read more and watch the film.

The Bee-Bee-Gee-Bee

‘Dream Team’, Chris Tarrant, Geoffrey Palmer and yours truly, successfully defended our winners’ title in the 2013 ‘River Test One Fly’ competition by coming joint first with the ‘Fly Fish Map’ team, each with an equal 1510 points.
In the last competition, the team’s winning fly was my ‘Ducking Feadly’. This time I presented the team with my new, ‘Bee-Bee-Gee-Bee’ (The ‘Bug-Bond Glass Bug’).
It’s tricky designing a fly for this competition. It must be virtually indestructible, heavy enough to search those deep runs, but also stay within the rules of the competition.
After the prize giving, Chris Tarrant commented… “I’m thrilled to have won it again! It was a really difficult windy day and we all found it tough, but I’m sure the ‘Bee-Bee-Gee-Bee’ made a big difference!”
When I asked Geoffrey to comment on his role in the winning team, he said.
“Can I go home now?”
Enjoy the film and watch this space for instructions on how to tie the ‘Bee-Bee-Gee-Bee’.

 

Me and the Mrs Fishes!

Around 2004/5, my wife Gelly and I spent most of our holiday time fishing around the world. Here are two little ‘home movies’, shot on domestic camcorders, that give you an idea of how great the fishing can be in both New Zealand and Florida. Click here to watch the videos.

Around 2004/5, my wife Gelly and I spent most of our holiday time fishing around the world. Here are two little ‘home movies’, shot on domestic camcorders, that give you an idea of how great the fishing can be in both New Zealand and Florida.

Our special thanks to composer, Phil Nicholl, who kindly wrote the theme music. He’s a good friend and work colleague from my commercials production days. I must also thank Gelly’s production company, Pretty Clever Pictures for providing all the production facilities.

  Me and the Mrs Fishes… Florida

Me and the Mrs Fishes… New Zealand

 

Fishing Montage Video

Here is a montage of me fishing for some memorable fish over the years. We travelled to such diverse locations as Florida, France, New Zealand and the UK. We had a great time…enjoy. Click Here to Watch the Video

Here is a montage of me fishing for some memorable fish over the years. We travelled to such diverse locations as Florida, France, New Zealand and the UK. We had a great time…enjoy.

I Like Geoffrey Palmer

From my book A Wellie Full of Water published by Medlar Press.
I’ve known him for over twenty-five years, he’s one of the UK’s finest character actors, he’s cheered up our TV screens with his performances in Butterflies and As Time Goes By, and his supporting roles in countless movies are always a treat. More…

From my book A Wellie Full of Water published by Medlar Press

I’ve known him for over twenty-five years, he’s one of the UK’s finest character actors, he’s cheered up our TV screens with his performances in Butterflies and As Time Goes By, and his supporting roles in countless movies are always a treat. He’s king of laconic delivery, an avid game fisher and, to coin an old-fashioned phrase, a jolly nice chap!
When I decided to add the fly rod to my angling armoury, he showed immense patience. I turned up for a day with him on the Test and, knowing I was still trying to master the fly cast, he asked to see how I was progressing. After watching me flail from side to side for a few moments, he muttered, “Well you seem to be able to cast sideways, perhaps you’d like to go over to that carrier and try something a little more conventional!”
When I thought I was competent enough to be seen on his local river Lodden, I bought a day with him in a charity auction. The weather and the setting were perfect. I wandered off downstream, while Geoffrey took the higher beat. I’d seen no sign of a fish until the river angled away for a few yards into a tunnel of Hawthorn. There, as the river turned almost at right-angles, a huge fish was sipping insects from the surface. There was no room to stand, so I crawled into the bushes, sat on the flap of my shoulder bag and flicked a tiny Hare’s Ear on three feet of leader towards the fish. Suddenly a voice behind me said, “Christopher . . . we don’t sit down when we’re fly fishing!” Since that time, I have knelt occasionally, but whenever I’ve been tempted to sit, Geoffrey’s words come back to haunt me.
Last year, my wife and I joined the ‘Palmer Clan’ on the Tweed. His expeditions to Scotland have become family outings. Son Charlie and daughter Harriet are both proficient salmon fishers,
while his wife Sally, a talented artist, spends her time immortalising some of the more picturesque locations.
I’ve only fished for Atlantic salmon a few times in my chequered angling career and, as if it were pre-ordained, I’ve been met every time with the dreaded ‘low water’ . . . “You should have been here last week Sir, we were walking across their backs . . .” And of course as soon as I leave, anglers have to wear special trusses so as not to rupture themselves dragging gargantuan fish on to the bank!
The year 2003 was a record year for the Tweed but, in spite of that, the Sandford ‘Low Water Curse’ took full effect for our two-day visit. I was convinced that Geoffrey now realised that to invite me anywhere near a salmon river would have the effect of most of the water draining back into the sea! So I was pleasantly surprised in early May of this year when he invited me for three days on the Lower Oykel.
I’d never seen this legendary Sutherland river, let alone fished it. “Just fly up to Inverness,” he said, “hire a car, and you’ll be at the Oykel Bridge Hotel in about one and a half hours. They’ve been having a terrific spring run, so it’s all looking rather good.”
We arrived at the hotel within half an hour of each other and went immediately to the riverbank to pursue the traditional practice of looking at the gauges. There wasn’t enough water to wet their lowest extremities, let alone give an optimistic reading! So we took the only advisable action in these circumstances and had a nice cup of tea! We all agreed that the hotel was terrific . . . comfy beds, loads of hot water and great food . . . and the company, even better.
The upside, as far as I was concerned, was that even with low water, once allotted my beat on this remote river, I could practice my Spey casting without causing too much hilarity among the locals!
The Oykel is the most beautiful of rivers, and although nothing was caught for the first two days, it was a privilege just to be there and walk the banks. On the evening of the second day, the forecast promised rain which duly arrived and continued for most of the night. Breakfast on my last day was a very optimistic affair – even the ghillies were smiling. When we met at the lunch hut it was a different story. One of our party thought he had seen a fish but wasn’t sure, and that was about it.
After lunch, everyone swapped beats and I was left looking at an exquisite stretch of river that had been fished hard all morning by the rest of the group. I sat and looked at it for half an hour, then it struck me. The water was ten feet deep and the other anglers had fished floating lines with their flies going no deeper than about two feet. I rigged my 9-foot 9-weight trout rod with a clear intermediate line and on the second cast managed to hook a salmon. George, the head ghillie, arrived in the nick of time and estimated the fish at eight or nine pounds. Geoffrey also caught a fish of about the same weight, so that evening there was cause for great celebration!
It had been suggested to me that when dining at the Oykel Bridge Hotel, one was expected to wear a jacket and tie. I don’t mind fancy dress occasionally and had packed my most tasteless fish tie for the last night. I arrived in the bar to spasmodic applause. The barman reached behind the bar, smiled and produced exactly the same tie! I congratulated him on his good taste and joined the rest of the party. What I didn’t know was that he later sneaked the tie to Geoffrey who arrived wearing it and a deadpan expression, a few moments later!
I like Geoffrey Palmer!

 

My book A Wellie Full of Water is available from www.MedlarPress.com

 

 

The Fish Whisperer

A Shaggy Fish Story from Waterlog Magazine.
The sign at the lodge gate says ‘Priorywood Retirement Home’ but this thirty-five acres of rolling countryside with its stately mansion, is known locally as ‘Whisperer’s Hall’. The security check is friendly enough, but there is a professional thoroughness when the contents of one’s car boot are examined. More…

A Shaggy Fish Story from Waterlog Magazine

The sign at the lodge gate says ‘Priorywood Retirement Home’ but this thirty-five acres of rolling countryside with its stately mansion, is known locally as ‘Whisperer’s Hall’. The security check is friendly enough, but there is a professional thoroughness when the contents of one’s car boot are examined, and you’re told that the use of any photographic equipment is strictly forbidden.
There is no way of approaching ‘The Hall’ at anything less than a few miles an hour as speed bumps inhibit progress every hundred yards or so.
On my visit, glancing left and right, I noticed that the livestock in the fields on either side were not always behaving ‘normally’. An old lady, surrounded by ten enormous bulls was having an intense conversation. A little further on, a gentleman in a deckchair was surrounded by a flock of sheep and laughing heartily at some ovine joke! Half a mile before the entrance to the hall, there was a vast chicken run, the inhabitants of which were gazing attentively up at a cockerel perched on the arm of a gentleman in tweeds who seemed to be explaining some complex problem.
Matron Gubbins was waiting for me on the steps of the hall and offered a firm handshake. “Let’s have a little chat before your meeting with Cyril.”
Her office was a shrine to past residents. A mass of photographs lined the walls, each one showing an individual with an animal. A man in a bowler hat and pinstriped suit with an orang-utan. A small gentleman in a kilt holding a ladder next to a giraffe! A little girl with three bears. Matron smiled and said, “Oh yes, we’ve had some wonderfully talented people spend their final days with us, many before my time of course.”
There was a pause in the conversation, so I put on my most sympathetic expression and asked quietly, “Is it still all right to speak with Cyril?”
“Yes,” she replied, “young Jason is getting him ready now, but we don’t want any more of those silly headlines.”
“Absolutely not,” I replied, my mind racing back to my research and those old press clippings.
The puns were unstoppable. ‘Whisperer Has a Whale of a Time’. Then there was
‘Whisperer says “I’m not shellfish . . . I’ll tell the whole story” ’. . . and even ‘Oh My Cod,
He’s At It Again!’
As we moved out of the office and towards the lift, matron said, “Cyril will be ninety next
year and we all feel he deserves a restful retirement.”
“Of course,” I said, confirming that I had received the message loud and clear. On the third
floor matron tapped lightly on the door and a friendly voice called, “Come in . . . do come
in.”
At last there he was. Cyril Limpet, the legendary Fish Whisperer.
He was swathed in white towels and seated in a high backed leather armchair. Standing
behind him was Jason his carer, with a limp but protective hand on Cyril’s shoulder.
“Excuse the strange attire,” Cyril said, “but the Doc’ only allows me to spend a couple of
hours in the pool these days, then to stop me skin going funny Jason here has to oil me
down, don’t you Jason?”
“I most certainly do, dear,” said Jason, and with a final pat on Cyril’s shoulder, glared at me
and minced out of the room.
“Don’t you mind him,” said Cyril. “He’s a bit possessive but means well. Now then, I’ve very much enjoyed our correspondence. You dug up a lot of the stuff I’d forgotten. That sea lion on the beach in Skegness! Dear oh dear, he was a miserable sod. Didn’t have a good word for anyone! And as for that shoal of cod off Yarmouth, I’ve never known such a happy bunch, I still smile at some of their stories!”
“Cyril” I said, “I have one really important question.” There was a pause, and Cyril said,
“Oh yes . . . go on then.”
“They call you a Fish Whisperer but do you actually speak to fish?” Cyril smiled.
“Well that’s the fifty thousand dollar question isn’t it?
“People don’t realise that most ‘Whisperers’ don’t say a word, they just have the knack of understanding what an animal is ‘saying’.
“The ‘Whisperer’ thing was a press invention. I told them time and again that I simply communicate. I can hear what fish are on about and most of the time they can hear me. I was really happy doing what I did. I wasn’t too good in fresh water, except with carp . . . Clever buggers they are! But I could understand anything that swam in salt water. I enjoyed helping people understand the fishes’ point of view.”
“So why give it up?” I said “You were still a relatively young man in the 1960s.”
Cyril looked sad for a moment but then he smiled and said, “Silly really, but I couldn’t stand them taking the ‘Mickey’ all the time. Everywhere I went they seemed to know the story.”
I waited a moment and said “The story?”
Cyril gazed into the distance. “I’ve not told anyone this for over forty years,” he said, “and I shan’t tell it ever again.”
He took a deep breath and a calm seemed to settle over him as if he was about to free himself of a troublesome burden. “Bridlington,” he said with a far away look in his eyes. “Lovely spot in those days. Not many knew that about two miles out and only twenty or thirty feet down, there was a population of squid. I happened on them by mistake. They were right chatterboxes!
“Wanted to know how I could hold me breath so long. I told them it was a secret I’d learnt from a pearl diver from Sri Lanka. I don’t know if they knew where that was, but it shut ’em up for five minutes! I used to go and see them fairly regular but on one visit, I noticed that one of the older members of the group was missing. None of them knew where he was, said he’d just gone off on his own. I looked around for a bit, went up for air twice, but eventually found him just sitting on a rock looking a bit forlorn. He said he hadn’t been feeling the ‘full shillin’ for about a week and he reckoned he was about to die and could I help him get home. I was about to try when I glimpsed a movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a bloody great shark! ‘What do you want?’ I said. ‘Not you mate,’ he said, ‘but you appear to be standing between me and my lunch!’
“I have no idea why, but I decided to try and appeal to his better nature. I explained that the squid was very ill and just wanted to get home to die. I pointed out that if he had an ounce of compassion in his soul he’d help him. Well this shark looks at me, then at the squid, and after what seemed like a lifetime says, ‘Come on then . . . jump on. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The squid heaved himself up on to the back of the shark, told him were he wanted to go and off they went. I followed a little way behind but just when I thought all was going well, another shark come towards us from the opposite direction. Apparently his name was Nigel and he stopped for a word with my shark. ‘How you goin’ then Brian?’ he says. ‘Not so bad,’ says my shark. ‘Yerself?’ ‘Oh you know, some and some,’ says Nigel. ‘Ere what’s that on your fin?’ ‘Well I’m glad to have bumped into you,’ he replies. ‘Why’s that?’ says Nigel. Well my shark pauses for a moment, looks back at me, then looks at Nigel and says ‘Here’s the sick squid I owe you!’”
Cyril Limpet, the legendary Fish Whisperer, looked me straight in the eye and waited for my reaction. I did my utmost not to laugh but when I tried to speak I completely lost it. I laughed. Cyril laughed too, in fact we both laughed till we cried. Eventually, wiping a tear from his eye, he said, “Why did I give it up? Who’d take me seriously after that?”

 

For Waterlog subscription details go to www.waterlogmagazine.com

 

 

The Ladies’ Advantage

I don’t remember when I first read about Miss Ballantyne’s record 64lb salmon that she caught on the Tay in 1922, but I do remember thinking, ‘Good for her. Everyone needs a bit of luck!’
Over the years, I’ve read most of the theories about why lady anglers catch bigger and better fish than us chaps… More…

I don’t remember when I first read about Miss Ballantyne’s record 64lb salmon that she caught on the Tay in 1922, but I do remember thinking, ‘Good for her. Everyone needs a bit of luck!’
Over the years, I’ve read most of the theories about why lady anglers catch bigger and better fish than us chaps. Frankly, I dismissed these scribblings as a series of poor excuses invented by men who wanted to prove that they were at an unfair disadvantage, when outfished by the fairer sex . . . Akin to some new kind of bait mix or mystical fly, how could they possibly compete if they were lacking this mysterious ingredient? If I’d had the sense to pay a little more attention to detail, I would have realised that this research was, in fact, based on an irrevocable truth.
Nearly twenty years ago I met Gelly, the lady who is now my wife. I was attracted to her for all the obvious reasons but I soon discovered a bonus benefit . . . she was about to produce John Wilson’s first fishing series being filmed around the world!
Naturally I asked permission to tag along, but was told firmly but with a smile, “No darling . . . I’m working!” Undeterred, I took her to a private carp lake in the hope that my skills as an angler might impress, and that I would be recognised as the ideal companion to accompany her on this worldwide trip. I explained the intricacies of the fixed-spool reel, showed her how to rig the bait and even allowed her to cast her own rod. It wasn’t the greatest cast but it didn’t go into the bushes on the opposite bank or fall on the ground behind her!
I was answering the call of nature about an hour later, when I heard the bite-alarm and Gelly’s call, “It’s all right darling. I’ve got it!” When I returned she was in the water wearing my waders and giving considerable sidestrain to a carp that weighed in at 17lb. The first of four that day!
I didn’t accompany her on her shoot, but since that outing we have fished together whenever we can and organise our own ‘round the world’ fishing adventures. Our holidays are the best of times and until recently I have chosen to ignore the fact that my wife usually catches the biggest fish. There was the 80lb tarpon and the 60lb cobia in Florida. The 8lb bonefish in the Caribbean. The enormous ray, and the shark that took nearly an hour to bring to the boat. I would always offer my congratulations but still secretly believed that these catches were more to do with luck and the skill of the guide. Undoubtedly these were contributing factors, but it was not until a couple of years ago when Gelly decided to take up the fly rod that I started to have my suspicions that all that research into what we’ll call the ‘Ladies’ Advantage’ might have some merit.
We had been invited to spend a day on the river Itchen and, towards the end of the morning, I was proudly having my photograph taken with a brown trout of just under four pounds that I had caught on a nymph. I was convinced that it would be the fish of the day. Not a chance! Gelly appeared with a fish of 4lb 2oz! I’ve now had that fish set up in a bow-fronted glass case. It gazes down on our dining-table as a constant reminder that ‘mine was bigger than yours . . . darling!’
More recently we were the guests of Chris and Christine Patrick in Sarasota, Florida. An hour south of the city is Charlotte Harbour where we fished for snook in the mangroves. Chris and I did quite well with fish of around six pounds. Gelly’s best was 10lb! We then travelled on to Nashville, Tennessee, to stay with our good friend Peter Collins. We fished the J. Percy Priest Lake at dawn for hybrid striped bass. Peter and I had good fish to seven pounds but when my good lady decided she’d ‘have a go’, she landed, at 14lb, what our guide Jay Clementi described as a ‘hog’!
Believe it or not, there are over twenty species that will take a fly in the rivers and lakes around Nashville, but our most interesting outing was for the buffalo carp. Our guide was Jim Mauries who runs Fly South, an excellent fly shop in town and highly recommended. He’d invited us to try for these strange fish on our last morning but asked if he could bring his son along. I imagined a lad of about twelve years old. Thomas turned out to be three and rode in a harness on Jim’s back for the duration of the fishing. ‘Buffalos’ are tricky to catch. The fly must be presented about two feet in front of the fish as it ‘grubs’ along the bottom. When they take, it’s an explosive experience and you’d better have enough backing on your reel. Jim and I caught some memorable fish and in case you are wondering why Gelly didn’t catch the biggest one, the answer is simple. That was the morning she decided to have a lie in!

 

My book A Wellie Full of Water is available from www.MedlarPress.com

Fred G. Shad

Another Shaggy Fish Story from Waterlog Magazine.
Collecting vintage fishing tackle is a game of highs and lows: great excitement when one finds that obscure and rare reel, and stultifying misery when one comes across a scarce item that is so badly distressed through lack of care, that the finest restorer in the land would… More…

Another Shaggy Fish Story from Waterlog Magazine

Collecting vintage fishing tackle is a game
of highs and lows: great excitement when
one finds that obscure and rare reel, and
stultifying misery when one comes across
a scarce item that is so badly distressed
through lack of care, that the finest
restorer in the land would only shake his
head as he dropped it in the bin.
Rods rotten with worm and damp.
Reels warped beyond any possible use.
Flies ‘mothed’ so badly, that only the
vaguest remnant of the original tying
remains. I’ve seen cased fish that look as
if they have been recovered from a
nuclear holocaust. Creels that crumble to
dust, because they once supplied a million
termites with a hearty meal.
Priceless brass reels, that have been
dropped and bent. And metal tackle
boxes rusted beyond use.
It is not as if anglers lack instruction on
how to care for their tackle. How many
times have you seen that ‘Let’s get our
gear ready for the new season’ article? With monotonous regularity, we are advised to administer a drop of oil here, and a squirt ofWD40 there. We are urged to check our rod rings for grooves, and our fly boxes for bugs. Lovers of cane are told to rub down and re-varnish their rods and if, perish the thought, the top section should have taken a ‘set’, expert advice suggests that one either learns to fish around corners or reverses the rod rings so that the offending section flexes in the opposite direction. If our forefathers had received such clear-cut advice, I wonder if more of their tackle would have survived.
Searching through our ancient angling literature, it would appear that tackle maintenance was closely acquainted with witchcraft! Much of it is preposterous and beyond belief! The book I would recommend that gives a clear picture of how tackle was cared for with materials available at the time is, Frederick G. Shad’s privately published work A Concise Treatise on the Devices for Taking of Fish by the Means of Fly Fishing and the Methodical Maintenance of those Devices Through all Seasons. Accompanied by a Quaint Discourse on the Preparation of Edible Species as Tested by the Experience of Thirty Years.

To quote the original text would require the reader to be well versed in old English, so I have taken the liberty here of using parts of Geoffrey Barn-Cruikshank’s translation and interpretation (1928) also published privately.
On the matter of rod maintenance, Shad suggests that ‘Thy rod, when inclement weather does cause the timbers to moan, should be laid on a bed of blighted hawthorn and doused throughout one day and one night with oil of Bog Weevil. Thereafter, caressed with fine silken cloth and left to settle in airy surroundings.’
On reels, his advice is even more mysterious: ‘If a wynder be your pleasure, then at the fullest of the moon, remove your line and place your wynder in a small badger’s bladder which has been dried and soaked in warm neck oil. Your line should be renewed with plaited horse hair and a fair haired maiden’s tresses.’
Shad makes no attempt to explain how to obtain these ingredients, presumably the ‘fair haired maiden’ lived nearby and didn’t mind having her hair cut!
On artificial minnows, he refers to Walton’s Compleat Angler and agrees that they are best made of ‘sad French green silk’, but goes on to suggest: ‘Once a maker is found to assemble such an artificial minnow to your satisfaction, be sure to have about your person, at least one dozen examples. At the first sign of snow, wrap each one in the silver skin from the belly of a mackerel and place them, head to tail in a box of thin larch wood anointed with the flume of toad bile.’

If you had the stomach for further tackle maintenance he suggested that flies ‘that are crusted and stuck with the glue of use’ should be ‘held in the grip of long tongs over a steaming cauldron of rosehip water, to which has been added a measure of sheep’s blood’.
If you consider this advice to be of a somewhat eccentric nature, his discourse on the preparation of edible fish pushes the credibility of his suggestions even further. On the preparation of chub, he suggests that ‘as Winter affords us little sport, and even less to adorn the table, be thankful therefore, if a Chub should come to your net. Dispatch him sharply and while still warm, set aside his innards.
‘Cut a branch of Elder that should be trimmed to the length of the fish, and planed flat on both sides. Anoint the Elder branch with the entrails in liberal quantity and bind to it the Chub with lengths of Rosemary. Within the cavity of the fish, place four dried newts, a plover’s egg and a smear of vole paste. ‘Allow all to cook slowly all day in Birch embers. When all is done, remove the Chub, and, with every ounce of strength at your command, throw it from you as far as you might. Now, all is ready, pour yourself a large measure of ale and eat the Elder branch.’

 

Excerpts from Shad’s Concise Treatise are reproduced with kind permission from the Snell & Fador Angling Trust.

 

For Waterlog subscription details go to www.waterlogmagazine.com

 

 

The Golden Toast Awards

I don’t think I’ve ever given a public airing to my toast ‘rant’. You see, I love toast, but it’s got to be ‘just right’ . . . it can be white or brown, I don’t mind, but as self proclaimed ‘Toast Master’, white bread, toasted golden brown, would probably get my highest marks… More…

I don’t think I’ve ever given a public airing to my toast ‘rant’. You see, I love toast, but it’s got to be ‘just right’ . . . it can be white or brown, I don’t mind, but as self proclaimed ‘Toast Master’, white bread, toasted golden brown, would probably get my highest marks.
Over the last few years, lack of international attention to this most important of breakfast ingredients has become apparent because, my wife and I are unashamed ‘foodies’ travelling miles in search of culinary excellence.
‘Spume of lark’s tongues on a bed of morning plucked elves’ toes’? . . . Why not? ‘Lightly broiled vole’s liver garnished with a fricassee of dandelion petals’? . . . Yes, certainly!
But, what we have found is that no matter how many Michelin stars an establishment boasts, no matter how controversial a chef ’s behaviour, come breakfast time, that simple essential which guarantees a good start to the day will be ruined!
Can anyone tell me which culinary dictat decreed that as soon as you’ve ordered the beverage of your choice, a rack of limp underdone ‘sadness’ is placed in front of you? This is especially annoying if you’ve just ordered a cooked breakfast. “May I please have my toast with my eggs and bacon?” The question hangs in the air, and usually brings the dining-room to a complete standstill; rather like Oliver Twist asking for ‘more’. The breakfast waiter, hardly able to believe his ears, returns to the table and peers quizzically at the
lacklustre slices he has just placed before me. “Yes,” I say, “I would like my toast with my cooked breakfast. These pallid slices are already cold and frankly, they have not had an intimate relationship with your toaster!” He removes the offending slices and bristles away to the kitchen. Eventually, the eggs and bacon arrive but what now occupies the toast rack looks like a souvenir from Hiroshima!
It’s not only the UK that fails the ‘toast test’ . . . at Little Palm Island, off the Florida Keys, our breakfast waitress made an almost tearful confession: “I’m so sorry, the toast is only done on one side. It’s because only one side of the toaster is working.” My wife and I thought for one moment we might be on US ‘Candid Camera’ . . . but no . . . not a lens to be seen. I beckoned the waitress closer and muttered in my best ‘confidential’ tone, “Toast one side, turn the bread around and then toast the other.” The light dawned. She sped away returning moments later with the hot golden slices and, with a smile like a razor said, “Enjoy!”
At Marfield House in Corey, Co. Wexford, they have the good sense not to make the clientele’s toast. Every breakfast table boasts its own toaster and you are presented with a basket of fresh brown and white bread so fussy buggers like me can toast away to their heart’s content!
Perhaps the only way to raise the profile of toast in the consciousness of the world’s hoteliers, is to initiate the ‘International Golden Toast Awards’. Hosted by Des O’ Connor at the Albert Hall, a bevy of scantily clad beauties could present bronze, silver and gold toast racks to the deserving winners! But, what’s toast got to do with fishing you may ask? A secret bait perhaps? No, apart from the traffic, toast was the only failure of our trip to this year’s Game Fair. Incidentally, if anyone should ever ask you if you’d like to go to Harrogate during Game Fair weekend, there is a five word question it would pay you to memorise:
‘What time is the helicopter?’
Having scrutinised the local hostelry guide, we decided to stay at the Devonshire Country House Hotel and it turned out to be a great find: comfortable rooms, super food and a wine list that would be hard to beat anywhere in the UK. My wife even booked in for a facial and returned refreshed and looking ten years younger!
However, breakfast had its usual toast ‘fault’. The barely warm slices were delivered as we poured our first cup of tea, but they had something about them that I couldn’t quite fathom. Closer inspection revealed a variation on the ‘barely brown’ category that one has come to expect. These slices were toasted all around the edges but not in the middle. I was so occupied trying to work out how this had been achieved that I forgot to complain! My eggs and bacon were spectacular and my wife proclaimed her haddock to be excellent!
The Game Fair was as we have come to expect. The two-hour queue to get in, the fifteen-minute walk from the car park and almost more dogs than people! I suppose one should be thankful that toilets are provided for the human attendees! Treading carefully down towards Fisherman’s Row, past the helicopter rides, the all-terrain vehicle demos and the self-assembly jungle huts which instantly turn your back garden into a safari park, we came upon Paul Morgan doing a roaring trade on the Coch-y- Bonddu stand. Next door, our ebullient Waterlog Editor was dispensing wit, charm and the latest offering from Medlar: Great Pike Stories by Fred Buller. I so enjoyed the first chapter that I’ve decided to save the remainder for those long winter evenings. It’s great to see Fred in print again.
As for the Game Fair, I think our next visit will be when it returns to the South. We may still have to queue to get in, we may still have to park miles from the Fair, but at least we’ll be able to start from home where, I can assure you, the toast is excellent!

A Wellie Full of Water is available from www.MedlarPress.com

 

 

‘Dream Team’ Win The ‘One Fly’!

In 2010, I was flattered to be invited to join Chris Tarrant in Bob James’s ‘Dream Team’ to fish the River Test ‘One Fly’ competition organised by Simon Cooper’s company ‘Fishing Breaks’. We didn’t win, so in 2011 we thought we’d have another go! More…

Chris Sandford reports on how the ‘Dream Team’ won the 2011 River Test ‘One Fly’ Competition.

Photograph by Guy Cragoe

In 2010, I was flattered to be invited to join Chris Tarrant in Bob James’s ‘Dream Team’ to fish the River Test ‘One Fly’ competition organised by Simon Cooper’s company ‘Fishing Breaks’.
We didn’t win, so in 2011 we thought we’d have another go!

As the title suggests, the ‘One Fly’ operates on a very simple rule. You fish with only one fly, lose it and you’re out! But then comes the big question, which fly? I supplied our ‘Dream Team’ with ‘The Ducking Feadly’, one of my flies that did quite well for us in 2010.

When Bob invited me to join the team I only had a few days to come up with a pattern that would get down through the murky water into the deeper holes, and would be strong enough to survive the battering that it would hopefully receive from several large Trout.

On the morning of the competition Bob’s guide looked into the box and said “They look ****ing deadly!” So that’s what we decided to call the fly!

Later that day, a TV crew was filming Bob as he continually caught fish on my fly. The director asked him the name of the fly he was using. Not wishing to offend the viewing public, he pretended not to remember and asked his guide.
The guide, without missing a beat said…
“Oh that one, sir. That’s the ‘Ducking Feadly”!

The ‘D.F’ is based on a Grayling bug devised by the late Geoff Clarkson that is tied on a curved nymph hook. I simply tied it on a straight size 14, added a holographic strip down its back and gave it a pink butt so I had a better chance of seeing it as it sank down through the water! However, the secret of its survival is a coating of Bug Bond, a new resin product that dries in about 10 seconds when exposed to the beam of a special ultra violet torch.

In this year’s ‘One Fly’ the ‘D.F.’ did us proud, the team won and, thanks mainly to the fish spotting abilities of head keeper Jon Hall, who was my guide on the Moorcourt beat at Broadlands, I also managed to win the Lower Test award with the most points awarded to a single rod!

Our captain Bob James was delighted with the result and commented ‘Fishing with your buddies is good but winning with them is even better! The ‘D.F.’ is surely becoming a modern classic. It has now taken so many fish for me in so many situations. On the drop…down deep, and the takes are always really positive. What a fly…what a day!
When Chris Tarrant was asked to give his opinion of the ‘D.F.’ I knew I’d be in for a hard time. He announced to the assembled company, “Initially, like everything to do with Sandford, I was extremely dubious, but after years of disappointment and treachery, I have to say that this time, his word was as good as his bond and the Test trout found the fly irresistible”!
It was a great day, but most importantly, there was a huge round of applause when Simon Cooper announced that the participants had been most generous and that Fishing Breaks would be presenting a cheque for over £1,000 to ‘Help for Heroes’.

Tying the ‘Ducking Feadly’

The ‘D.F.’ is a very simple fly to tie. All you have to decide is how heavy you want it to be. I tie it with an ordinary black 3mm metal bead, or a tungsten bead and add a little lead if the river is pushing hard and I want to keep it bumping along the bottom.

You will need:
Hook: Kamasan 405 or similar.
Holographic strip. Uni-Mylar. Pearl 1/16th.
Rib: Bright red wire.
Tail: A pinch of Hot Pink Marabou.
Thread: Black.
Bug-Bond for a durable transparent finish.

Step One:
Slip the bead on the hook, put the hook in the vice then move the bead to the rear of the hook. Tie in about an inch of the Pearl Mylar facing forward over the eye. Half hitch the thread and cut it off.

 

 

Step Two:
Move the bead forward reattach the thread and secure the bead with several wraps. Move the thread to the rear and tie in a short tail of Hot Pink Marabou and tie down the residue finishing behind the bead. This will start to give the body a nice tapered shape.

 

 

Step Three:
Now tie in a length of red wire under the hook, behind the bead and bind it down moving backwards towards the rear of the hook. Stop opposite the barb. Trim the wire excess. Continue to shape the body with the thread eventually finishing behind the bead.

 

 

Step Four:
Pull the Mylar towards the rear of the hook and secure with the wire. Wrap the wire forward in evenly spaced turns and secure below the bead. Trim the excess of both the Mylar and the wire.

 

 

 

Step Five:
Coat the D.F. evenly with Bug Bond and cure for 10 seconds with the Ultra Violet Torch.
This is the fly that I used in the competition and you’ll notice that even after 6 hours fishing and 6 good fish its still in great condition.

 

Hopefully you have now tied the indestructible ‘Ducking Feadly’ Enjoy!

 

This article first appeared in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine in July 2011