I am not much of a fly fisherman, in fact the last time I attempted to fly fish would have been around the age of 13 whilst on holiday in France, fishing a small lake and managing to catch a couple of rainbows via a mixture of flapping, yet I seem to remember it with somewhat more rose tinted glasses.
Despite this minuscule foray into fly fishing, it never really grasped me in the same way as other areas of our pastime. Fast forwarding twenty four years and via facebook I met Ian, a very capable fly fisher, someone whom also shared my love for coarse fishing and after a trip chub fishing at the end of last season he suggested about learning to fly fish and that it would be a good way to perhaps extend the season on flowing water.
A month later he brought round one of his rods and we headed off for the local recreation ground in an attempt to teach me how to cast. He spent a good five hours, with the patience of a saint I might add in showing me the ropes, going through what I did wrong with each cast and progressing to asking me what I thought that I was doing wrong. I must say the feeling of achievement when I did make a half decent stab at casting was very nice, however more often than not my wrist was wagging like the tail of an overexcited Jack Russell. Ian kindly left the rod with me to practice with and the next couple of weekends I did attempt a few hours of field casting, although that said it is never the same as having someone experienced by your side to spectate and correct your errors.
One of the following days Ian called me up and kindly suggested we go down to his bit of river for a couple of hours to see if there were any Mayfly showing and perhaps have a cast or two.
It was a warm afternoon and there was not a great hatch on the river, despite this Ian did hook into a couple of fish which were acting rather finicky and then offered me to have a cast. Having watched him cast along this narrow area of river, the thoughts of doing the same I guess you could say filled me with quite a bit of apprehension and I decided on this occasion to just watch Ian and how he approached swims and tackled the variable amounts of drag in each one,which in itself was very interesting.
On the way back to the car he said "next time it will be your turn!", a mixture of a weak smile and "yes" tumbled from my lips in a rather hesitant manner.
As we headed well into May we were back on the river and in the company of a better hatch of Mayfly, despite this the fish were once again being very selective, however Ian did get to grips with a few fish, a mixture of wild brownies and the odd rainbow.
It was tricky going and I would have to say that his willing accomplice was not helping matters with a mixture of fluffed casts that at the most fortunate were landing heavily on the water and putting fish down and at worst finding the fly attaching itself to the fencing behind us. I must admit I was pretty self concious by my lack of casting ability and trying to put what I had learnt on the recreation fields into actual practice on flowing water was another game altogether. After a quite a few failed attempts which included missing a fish on one of the wider bends and profusely apologising for putting a few too many knots into Ian's leader, it was time to head home.
As we made our way back to the car he suggested that it might be an idea to head to Farmoor and try a day out on the boat so that I might get to grips with playing the fish as well as casting on somewhere that is more open.
The following Friday we met up at Farmoor, it was cloudy with a light breeze, Ian was confident that the conditions were pretty good and that we would pick up a few fish. A quick unpacking of the tackle and we were soon making our way out on the boat toward one of the water towers.
After mooring up adjacent to this tower it was soon evident that there were quite a few trout rising at regular intervals, Ian mentioned that we were in 80 feet of water and that the fish would put up a good scrap. My first couple of casts were less than stellar, resulting in a fair amount of slack line and not the greatest distance. Ian offered his critique regarding my casting which was very useful and helped a lot, however putting it into practice was once again proving irregular to say the least.
It wasn't long before Ian was playing his first fish of the day and as he slipped the net under it I was suddenly into a cracking fight "two fish at once Mark!" exclaimed Ian. Sadly not long after this mine shed the hook and the line fell limp. I was a little downhearted but at the same time excited to have had my first taste of a Farmoor fish and get a feeling for how well they fight.
|Ian with a nicely conditioned Rainbow|
After this we chopped and changed between dry fly and nymphs and I conspired to miss a very nice take as a fish surfaced and slurped in one of the flies.
Throughout the day Ian talked about different fly patterns and retrieves as well as casting and I spent a good amount of time absorbing the wealth of information he was willing to share. It was during one his tips regarding my retrieve speed that I had my second bite at the apple, this time I kept a better angle and control. To say they give you a good work out in the deep water is quite the understatement.
Turning to Ian I thanked him for the advice regarding the retrieve as I was sure that this had helped induce a positive take, after a couple of cheerful handshakes we decided to have a cup of coffee and reflect upon how proceedings were going. What I found most helpful was being able to just sit at times and watch Ian cast and retrieve, you can learn always learn a lot by doing so and this helped a great deal.
|The master in action|
I mentioned to Ian "if I could cast a fly to 25% of your ability I would be over the moon" his reply was concise, "Well I have been fly fishing for over forty years Mark, it will come with practice".
There is something to be said about a good teacher, critique without being overly critical, patience and understanding a virtue, thankfully for this wannabe fly fisher Ian has these qualities in spades.
After mulling a few things over and finding the fishing had fallen silent, Ian decided it would be best if we set the drogue and did some drifting so as to cover a larger amount of water and see if we could run into any seams of fish, before doing so we changed to buzzers and a boobie as the point fly.
On our first drift through Ian latched into a very aggressive fish "I bet that has taken the buzzer" he said excitedly. After a lengthy tussle an angry rainbow broke the surface before speeding off on another long distance dash. After a multitude of hectic runs it was finally ready for the net, a fine looking, chunky fish and sure enough it had taken the buzzer.
A couple of hours had past and by this time I think we had lost about three fish between us and Ian had taken his tally to double figures, we were slowly drifting back toward a couple of the observatory buildings, whilst Ian informed me to keep in touch with the flies and perhaps speed up the retrieve due to the shallower water. This certainly did the trick and I was connected to a feisty fish that swept in toward the boat, before vanishing under the hull and appearing the other side, turning to Ian I said "I now know what you mean when you say they scrap well here!".
|Wrist aching action|
By now the cloud was breaking up,blue skies and evening sunshine were beginning to dominate, so we decided to head back out a little way and have one last drift through before calling it a day.
You could see that the activity was falling away a little due to the bright conditions, but we were both keen to have one last fish and as we drifted our way toward the water tower I had the most faintest of plucks as I steadily retrieved the fly and just as Ian suggested it would soon be time to start heading back to the landing stage I had a real thud, lifting into a rather speedy fish which took off as if it was being chased by demons, the pace was utterly manic and it felt a more solid fish.
After one heck of a scrap, by which time my mouth was suitably dry, my reward was sat in the net and looking a tad miffed.
|My best of the day taken on the boobie|
After this fish we headed for shore, it had been a very enjoyable day spent together, we had shared some good humour and a few fish that seemed as if they were on steroids, Ian had given me an insight into what he enjoys so much and I learnt a lot from him, although it is barely skimming the surface of what is a new discipline for myself. We said our goodbyes and headed home, one things for sure I slept well that evening.