My trout fishing season is over and five months of impending boredom threaten my sanity. I’ve read a few old fishing books, cleaned my reels several times and tied hundreds of flies. I still have flies that I tied over forty years ago. The rows of Peter Ross, Dunkeld and Invicta look lovely in my classic Wheatley fly box. Works of art that have never caught a trout. They never will. It’s the scruffy nymphs in the tiny plastic hook box that catch the trout.
Buying another rod interrupts the monotony of winter. The heart-pounding guilt as I click on the ‘Confirm Payment’ button. Waiting for the postman. Wondering if I can sneak the rod tube into the corner of the study without being caught. The excitement is short lived. The rod arrives and I practice casting at the windfall apples on the lawn. They ignore my offering. It’s not as satisfying as a chalk stream. Winter drags and my impatience grows. Grayling fishing is an option but it’s just an excuse to catch trout out of season and not for me, I’d rather wait until April.
As a nipper I kept a fishing diary in a school exercise book. I drew secret maps and noted the weights of all my record fish. I vaguely recall some of the entries, days spent carp fishing beside the lake in the forest when my monsters weighed 3lbs not 30. I wish I hadn’t thrown it in the bin, de-cluttering is not always a good thing. A belated pang of conscience and the boredom of early retirement, prompted me to start another diary which has added the fourth dimension to my fishing. Time. I am more observant, always looking for photo opportunities and making mental notes about the wildlife. I sit beside the river watching the water, in no hurry to cast a line. Slow Fishing.
Each year I battle with Microsoft Word and transform the text into a format fit for the book binders. While editing my 2019 diary I recalled the long hot summer, the beautiful scenery, wild trout and sunsets. Three hundred pages and forty thousand words of memories to browse while the rivers are out of bounds and the lakes frozen over.
My old fishing books take me to rivers and lakes but the memories are not mine. The authors and some of the rivers are long gone. The fishing classics are a pleasant distraction but nostalgia is a form of neurosis that I can do without. I search for something to occupy my thoughts, something I can look forward to. Something to dream about. Nevermind the past, what about the future ?
A bottle of single malt is the answer. A comfy armchair, two fingers of scotch and I settle down and begin my dream. I have chosen my fantasy destination, the River Derwent in Cumbria. I packed my bag and left the house before dawn. Pure fantasy. The car doesn’t break down, the three hundred mile journey on the deserted M6 only takes a few minutes and I’m there in time to see the sun rise over Skiddaw. The river looks beautiful and I have miles of the swiftest flowing river in the country all to myself. The Herdwick sheep ignore me unlike the bolshy heifers down South. They stand and stare. They intimidate me into moving on. There are no cattle here to bully me.
I nervously thread the fly line through the rings of the Sage 10′ 6″ 3# that I found in Oxfam for £5 and walk downstream through the morning mist. The trout are rising, I knew they would be. A few upwing flies are hatching and I catch several beautiful wild fish on a dry fly before adjourning to the pub for lunch. After a long siesta in the afternoon sun, the evening rise produces a few more trout. The journey home is brief and uneventful, a lorry driver smiles and waves as I hurtle past. There are no muddy boots to clean or nets to dry. As I relax with another scotch, I recall a memorable day. The difficult fish behind a rock, the Osprey drifting overhead and the distillery just across the field. I threw perfect loops all day, hooked no trees and only lost a couple of trout. A perfect day.
I might go to the Derwent again tomorrow evening and try for a sea trout. Alternatively, I’ll hunt barracuda with a fly rod on a sandy beach in Barbados. I might see you there, I’m the guy effortlessly casting to the edge of the reef some fifty yards offshore. On the other hand I might drive to Cornwall in the Defender and fish for trout on Bodmin Moor. No, that’s stretching my imagination too far, I’d only get as far as Winchester before I had to call the RAC.
I am spoilt for choice. I can flick through the volumes of my diary and recall the memories of seasons past, or close my eyes and transport myself into the future beside the river of dreams. The fantasies are so real I become confused, my memories and dreams merge. It’s a long winter, I’ll need a case of scotch.
This diary entry was published in the Winter 2019 edition of Fly Culture magazine, probably the best fly fishing magazine in the world ! While we are ‘locked down‘ and unable to fish, I have more time for memories and dreams.