Saturday, 22 September 2018

Goodbye Peter

Nether Wallop Mill                                                        21st September 2018

Occasionally someone goes out of your life, not necessarily a friend or relation, who you realise, once you absorb the news, was more important than you ever imagined. One such person was Peter Roberts who I am sad to say died on Saturday.

Peter Roberts 1950-2018

Many of you will have known Peter in one or more of his various guises outside his work and family life as the Guide Captain for the One Fly, a fishing guide and a regular participant with the local fly fishing and fly tying clubs.

As you might imagine I worked closely with Peter on the One Fly who was the most marvellous organiser you could ever wish for. That is an essential qualification when it comes to a group as disparate as the thirty six One Fly guides, but Peter was incredible. He corralled, cajoled and generally kept in good order a great team. He had this remarkable can do attitude. I'd give him some tricky task that was beyond me. He'd listen as I hummed and hawed through the phone call until at the end he's say, 'Don't worry Simon, its sorted.' And it always was. He was also, for all his smiling demeanour, pretty ruthless. He listened acutely to the tales that emerged from each One Fly. Little bits of information were squirreled away, names mysteriously disappearing from the guides list the following year.

Despite his illness Peter fulfilled his 2018 One Fly duties - I've started so I'll finish he said, even though he really wasn't well. It took a supreme effort for him to make the Guides Briefing morning which takes place a week ahead of the competition. 

The drive from his home to the meeting place should have taken no more than 45 minutes; such was his weakening state that with stops it took over two hours. But he arrived, took charge of the briefing, proudly wearing the same shirt (the 'unusual' colour has become something of a weird badge of honour for those who still have them) from our inaugural One Fly back in 2008. 

As we joked and laughed we sensed this was at heart a sad occasion. The day took so much out of Peter that he wasn't well enough to make it to the One Fly itself.

Peter was always an incorrigible optimist. All through the weeks and months that followed he kept the faith. Reporting on his latest visit to the hospital or specialist he'd deliver all the news but focus on the positive even if the remainder was 95% bad. I think that was why, when his condition was finally declared inoperable, it came as such a blow.

Peter Roberts died aged 68 near his home in the Macmillan Hospice in Christchurch, Hampshire on Saturday September 15th 2018. He is survived by his wife Susan and two sons Adam and Simon.

Choose your target well

The angling community, I guess by that is meant the people who purport to speak for you and I, are urging us all to through our weight behind the fight to end the use of single-use plastics in recreational angling. All very worthy and topical. However, I do wonder if we are rather putting the horse before the cart.

I don't know Ashley Smith but he recently sent me a link to the web site Windrush Against Sewage Pollution with which he is involved that highlights the plight of the River Windrush, a limestone stream that runs through the Cotswolds.

The message of the campaign is clear: the Windrush, and by implication most of our other rivers, are not being polluted by accident but by the legal discharge of untreated sewage effluent. I won't recite the mass of evidence they have accumulated by way of investigation and Freedom Of Information requests, but do take a look at the section Ten things you should know before you put your hand in a river. I suspect you will be appalled.

Happier days on the River Windrush

I can't say for certain that everything the web site states is true, but what I can say for certain is that it chimes with much of what I have seen myself and heard reported elsewhere. Frankly I'd love to save the oceans but maybe we'd be better focusing our efforts closer to home? 


This time of year is heaven for foragers with every bough it seems hanging heavy with fruit and berries.

With the arrival of a warm, damp autumn fungi seem to be everywhere  as well, so a quiz with them in mind. 

Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page. 

1)     What is the difference between a toadstool and a mushroom?

2)     What is the name of the mushroom pictured?

3)     The more common name for the Psilocybe cubensis mushroom is?

Enjoy the weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 

Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)     There is no scientific difference between a mushroom and a toadstool.
2)     The Death Cap (Amanita phalloides). The most deadly fungus known and is common in England. It's responsible for most fatal mushroom poisonings worldwide.
3)     Magic mushroom.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

A greater good

Nether Wallop Mill                                                           Friday September 7th 2018

You probably don't get to read Tackle & Guns much - it is the trade magazine for the shooting and fishing trade. Like all publications of this nature it is generally perceived as a bit of nerd-fest, the aggregation of press releases and thinly disguised advertorial which could only possibly, ever be of interest to a tiny sliver of the population.

I guess I am part of that tiny sliver and have to admit to rather looking forward to each monthly edition - it usually features some bit of regional news that would have otherwise passed unnoticed and the guest columnists are usually given free rein to vent. This August edition, usually the slow news month, was particularly good in both respects.

The regional news came in the form of a report and accompanying editorial about a shop in Sheffield that had been targeted by, and I quote, an 'anarcho-vegan collective' who smashed the shop window and stole a few items. It might have gone unremarked as a bit of mindless vandalism but for a Facebook post by #unoffensiveanimal who boasted a HIT REPORT. I won't reproduce the full social media content but here is a flavour:

"Any business profiting from the speciesist system is a target ....... We left some beautiful marks on the windows with a hammer ..... We are no longer willing to use our words ..... We will throw swear words at them [shop owners] in the form of rocks .... Anglers, wankers!"

The editorial goes on to ask how we should react to this apparently isolated incident.

It is a strange thing but fish don't seem to excite much emotion outside the angling community. I don't ever recall seeing a juggernaut on the motorway with a huge picture of a dead lamb urging us to eat more meat. But a dead salmon? No problem. Likewise when it comes to the anti-hunting/pro-animal rights lobby one fox or badger is worth any number of fish. 

Imagine a news item where a cloud of poison wiped out a thousand wild rabbits. Uproar would ensue. MPs would mount soapboxes. Topical phone-ins would be besieged. The company or organisation involved would be pilloried on social media. The rolling of heads would be demanded. But when a river is polluted, an almost weekly occurrence by the way ....... well. A few lines in the local paper and maybe a prosecution by the Environment Agency that will come to court so long after the event as to be meaningless both in terms of punishment and deterrent.

Does this mean we have nothing to fear from the speciesist activists? I hate to be complacent by simply dismissing them as irrelevant. Too extreme to be taken seriously. But on the other hand it seems to me hard to make any moral argument for catching fish aside from catch-and-kill. If you went head-to-head on a show like Newsnight how would you defend our position? Against someone who sincerely believes that no fish should ever be harmed, hurt or killed for whatever reason this is not as easy as you might suppose.

In the end I think we have to fall back on a variation of the greater good defence: anglers have proved themselves to be the best, and often at times the only, custodians of our rivers, creating a haven for the wildlife that thrives in the valleys through which they flow. From this not every fish will benefit all of the time, but in aggregate the British countryside is for all of us, creatures and people, a better place for the very existence of angling.


John Keats' famous poemTo Autumn, when he speaks of the mellow fruitfulness, has a special connection to the chalkstreams for he wrote it having just walked the banks on the River Itchen whilst staying in Winchester in 1819. A few days later he wrote to his friend John Hamilton Reynolds, "How beautiful the season is now - How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it."

September is truly a month to savour, so don't miss out.  But looking briefly backwards well done to Andrew Halestrap who won the feedback draw after a day at Bullington Manor in August. The snood is on its way and not long until the end of season draw for the Simms pliers for everyone else.



The BBC news headline asks why a plane is dropping trout into a lake from above.

The answer is that a mountain lake is being re-stocked with trout from the air by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources who say this mode of transport is less stressful for the fish compared to previous methods (walked in on pack horses) and that 95% of them survive the journey. 

Reacting to this clip when I posted it on Facebook someone reminded me a few lines from that great American angling writer, John Gierach. 

Talking to a pilot who was flying the stocking plane John asked,

"Do you have a high survival rate?"

"Yeh," came the reply, "so long as we hit the water."

Watch the clip of the stocking in action.


Could you cast a salmon line 127 feet? 

If you could you'd be pretty adept and would have scooped third place in the World Fly Casting Championships. Now imagine doing that at the age of 12. Read the story from The New York Times of Maxine McCormick who has back-to-back world titles.

More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect.  Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page. 

1)   According to meteorologists when is the start and finish of autumn?

2)  In Greek mythology who was abducted by Hades, her confinement in the Underworld causing the start of autumn?

3)     When is the autumnal equinox?

Enjoy the weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 

Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)     September 1 - November 30
2)     Persephone
3)     Sunday, 23 September when night and day are of almost equal length

Friday, 24 August 2018

When is a salmon not a salmon?

Nether Wallop Mill 24th August 2018

After the European horse meat scandal of a few years back we should probably be wary of casting stones, but the latest Chinese reclassification of rainbow trout as salmon is quite the leap.

It seems that for many years up to a third of all the salmon, smoked or fresh, sold in China has in fact been rainbow trout reared in the Qinghai province.

So, rather than ban the practice or insist on correct labeling the Chinese authorities have simply ruled that 'salmon' is a suitable label for any fish from the Salmonidaefamily.

Apparently few consumers are able to tell the difference, though if taimen, char and grayling start appearing on the menu masquerading as salmon I suspect even the least discerning diner might just spot the difference


The Environment Agency provide a monthly update on water levels across England and Wales. Most months it is routine but July makes for interesting reading.

You might have expected gloom and disaster after the driest spell since 1976. Not a bit of it. Normal is the word that shines out. The summary reads:
  • July was mostly dry, with most rainfall occurring towards the end of the month.
  • Solent & South Downs had below average rainfall: 72 % of the Long Term Average (LTA).
  • Generally, soils are drier than average for the time of year.
  • River flows were mostly within the normal range, although more responsive [to lack of rain] rivers were notably low.
  • Groundwater [water held underground in soil or rock] levels ranged from normal to above normal for the time of year.
  • At the end of the month reservoir stocks at Arlington Reservoir were above average for July, but stocks at Ardingly Reservoir were below average for July.

It rather makes a mockery of any water company bleating about 'unusual' conditions by way of an excuse for their own shortcomings.


We are currently preparing to migrate the Fishing Breaks booking system from a very old platform to something up-to-date.

The current system has done sterling service but the coding that operates it predates the internet itself and there are only about two programmers in the country left who speak the language. Though any IT upgrade is a thing of nightmares it must be done but it does offer an opportunity to build in any suggestions you may have.

The primary web site will be largely unchanged; the thing you might notice is if you glance at the navigation bar at the top of your browser. Soon (don't use it yet!) the site will be hosted on the more secure However, the on-line booking system is being considerably reworked so I'd welcome any comments, suggestions and feedback. 

Regular user: If you are a regular user of the on-line booking system are there any changes that you would appreciate?

Occasional user: If you are an occasional user is it because the system is hard to use or navigate?

Never used: Is that because it didn't work when you tried to use it or the system defeated you. If so, do you recall why or what happened?

Email me with your thoughts and if you have come across a particularly good on-line booking system we might learn something from, please let me know.


Something for the weekend? Here are all the dates that remain under special offer for this weekend to the end of the month

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £147 (was £294). August 24th-30th.

HALF PRICE One Rod £27.50 (was £55). Two Rods £55 (was £110). August 26th, 28th & 30th.

HALF PRICE One Rod £42.50 (was £85). Two Rods £75 (was £150). August 24th-30th.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £100 (was £200). August 27th & 30th.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £150 (was £300). August 26th, 27th, 30th & 31st.

25% off all Family and Father & Son Days. August 25th-31st.

To check dates and book click on the links. Or email or call Diane on 01264 781988.


I have to confess that every time I look at this video I shudder as to the potential consequences. 

However, from what little background I was able to discover nobody was hurt. Watch the video here. 

As for the cartoon my apologies to all my female readers; it applies to women in all the same senses. If my graphic design skills were up to it I would have a version for all sexes.


More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect.  Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page. 

1)  How many colours in a rainbow? 

2)  What is a monochrome rainbow?
3)  Who first adopted the rainbow flag to espouse a cause?

Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend - last one until Christmas!

Best wishes,Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)   Seven.  Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
2)   A rare, red rainbow.

3)  Sixteenth century German preacher and radical theologian, Thomas Muntzer.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Claiming back what belongs to us

Nether Wallop Mill  Friday August 10th 2018

The BBC news carried a piece last week about the dire water levels in the English and Welsh reservoirs, along with a map to illustrate their various locations. I was transfixed by the map, so much so that I pressed hold. A notion was biting inside my head but I couldn't quite work out why or how. There was something horribly familiar about the map. What? And then it struck me. My eye wasn't being draw to the locations of the reservoirs but rather the blank areas where there were none. If you compare reservoir map with the chalkstream map you will see what I mean: where there are chalkstreams there are no reservoirs. Somebody, for that read water companies, have been getting a free ride on the back on a fragile resource for far too long.

I have to admit we have been lucky this year on the chalkstreams. A wet winter and a wetter spring that came right on into April filled the aquifers to brimming and beyond. We were still struggling to mow wet bank sides as late as June. But this extended heat wave has taken its toll however hard the springs naturally pump. Evaporation is a potent force. In addition trees, believe it or not, are massive extractors of water. Back in the 1990's, when two extended dry years bought our rivers to their knees, there was a serious proposal to create a tree free corridor of 25 yards in width. Someone, I can't recall who, had calculated a massive water saving by way of this deforestation, though I suspect the proposed cure would have been worse that the disease itself.

Aside from nature there is a certain amount of agricultural irrigation that deplete the chalkstreams but in the end, whichever way you cut it, it is the water companies, who bore deep into the ground for ever scarcer supplies, to fulfil ever rising demand, that are the water thieves. Now you can't blame them.
It is what they are tasked to do. They are protected and encouraged by parliamentary statute. Occasionally the scales tip against them, most recently in the case of Southern Water plc who lost out in court in their attempt to pump water from the River Test catchment to supplement supplies for homes and businesses in the River Itchen catchment. They are said to be looking at desalination and reservoir options. We will see.

So what to do? Well, to start with we mustn't fall back on climate change. This has become something of a catch all excuse used by government and business. A good way of deflecting. Suggesting that the solution is beyond local means. A problem requiring international cooperation. It is a sort of intellectual shrug of the shoulders. Southern Water by the way have a document, a requirement of government, that runs to dozens of pages outlining how they will 'cope' with climate change for the next fifty years. I don't like to be cynical but they didn't see this year coming......

But the problem is that the problem has little to do with global weather patterns but everything to do with local water supply and demand. If the population and water use of southern England stood today at the same levels of 50 years ago we would have no shortages. Our aquifers wouldn't be sucked dry each summer. The headwaters, now August empty, would flow fast and clear. For the fact is that over the past 50 years the amount of rain that falls each year has remained remarkably consistent. That giant chalk sponge continues to absorb rainfall as it has done for millions of years. The aquifers still fill as much as their geology will allow.

But then we abuse Mother Nature. Suck out more than our fair share. Take the easy option when, if we truly, really, want to preserve our chalkstreams we should legislate to force the water companies to pay more and take less of something that didn't actually belong to them in the first place. 

We need to claim back what belongs to us.


Trout & Salmon have introduced many new features to the new look magazine and one that caught my eye in the July Issue was the '5 Minute Interview' with Feargal Sharkey, lead singer of The Undertones.

I have known Feargal a little over the years, largely through a common friendship with Terry Griffiths who was best known for being one of Britain's most accomplished fly tyers and as a photographer of flies. The latter might not seem so difficult, but it truly is. Terry had perfected a technique that made the flies 'float' off the page, every strand and feather in perfect focus. 

What is less well known is that Terry was an amazing graphics guy; the iconic Fishing Breaks brochures that have featured the reflected fish in sunglasses, the chalkstream signpost and the fly floating on mercury were all down to him.

It was two years ago this month that Terry died so when I read Feargal recounting a memorable day with Terry at Bullington Manor it made me glad to know them both.

July feedback draw winner
What a month ... July will remain seared (good choice of word I think) in our collective memories for many years to come.

The last comparator was 1976 but 2018 has been of a very different order. The Wallop Brook that feeds our lake here at The Mill, all but dried up back then. The lake actually did. Unfortunately I can't lay my hands on it for the moment but there is a shot of Charles Jardine and Jim Hadrell, resident instructors, standing on the dry bed of the lake that is cracked like a scene out of Death Valley.

I know I said something similar last month but both the rivers and fishing held up surprisingly well. Hatches have been steady with dry fly the order of most days. 

Well done to Tony Pollard and his son who fished Bullington Manor on July 13th. The Fishing Breaks snood is on its way. Everyone else back in the hat for the end-of-season Simms pliers draw.

More Special Offer for August

Such was the success of the first tranche of Special Offers that I have added more to fill the demand.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £147 (was £294). August 18th-31st.

HALF PRICE One Rod £42.50 (was £85). Two Rods £75 (was £150). August 10th-31st.

2 FOR 1 Book two rods for the price of one. £150 (was £300). August 24th-31st.

To check dates and book click on the links. Or email or call Diane on 01264 781988.


More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect.  Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page. 

1)   Why did the Met Office rescind an all time national temperature high for Scotland of 33.2 °C recorded at Motherwell, Strathclyde Park on June 28th?

2)   Who was the Greek god of the Sun? And an Orvis fishing rod .....

3)   What is an Astronomical Unit?

Enjoy the weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 

Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)  A car with an running engine, presumably belonging to the station operator keeping cool (!) judging by the opaqueness of the Met Office press release, was parked too close to the recording device during the afternoon in question.

2)  Helios

3)  Light travels at a speed of 186,287 miles per second. It takes 499 seconds for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth, a distance called 1 Astronomical Unit.