Friday, 12 January 2018

My World Cup bet on England

My World Cup bet on England

Every four years an unstoppable juggernaut comes down the road that cuts a swathe through the hospitality industry. For some it is a boon but for most it is a 'what can you do?' moment as wedding receptions empty, horse races go unwatched and restaurant waiters stare across seas of empty tables.

My preferred World cup venue
If you are thinking this might be the Olympics you'd be mistaken; strangely August 2012 over the London Games was one of our busiest summer months ever. 

No, it is the World Cup that arrives this year in June, keeping us busy until July. As you will know it is not actually arriving on our shores, Russia has that particular honour, but frankly if we assume the usual avalanche of media coverage, it might just as well do.

So, if you need some preparation time to get in the beers. Or equally raid the attic to find your tin hat to don to avoid the whole damn thing here are the critical dates for the diary: Monday June 18, Sunday June 24 and Thursday June 28 when England play their first round matches. As for the final, well I guess, as optimists all we better put it in the diary just in case. It is Sunday July 15.

And I give you this promise in case you are conflicted between fishing and football. If you book for World Cup Final day before the competition starts and England subsequently reaches the final I will either give you your money back or a free day to take before the season ends. As they say in the Paddy Power adverts - get on!


It is good to be back this year with the One Fly Festival after the break we took in 2017 with the Iron Man Challenge, a special screening on CHALK and of course, the One Fly itself all lined up for 2018.

Better things to do than fish?
This year marks the tenth year since the inception of the One Fly but actually only the eighth year of competition as we bowed to the inevitable when the Royal Wedding of William and Kate was announced for the same day as the One Fly in 2012. 

I must admit I rather had my heart in my mouth when the Megan/Harry news broke. Surely they were not going to do it to us again? But fortunately for us they simply chose a Saturday in the midst of the Mayfly. Watch the wedding on TV or go fishing? I think that is what iPlayer was invented for.

So, safe in the knowledge that April 26th/27th is free from Windsor goings on, fly tyers get ready. The Iron Man Challenge is back supported by Orvis. The chance to show your skills to win a great prize - last time it was a Helios rod. There is, of course, a catch. Not only are you given just 15 minutes, but the materials are chosen for you. After that it is up to you. Well, that is not entirely true. As the clock reaches midpoint we pause for the mystery material which has to be included in your final tying. At the World Fly Fishing Fair version of this event a couple of years ago they gave out flip flops. Surely we would not be that cruel?

Knowing all that I hope you are still up for the challenge. We have a few places left (15 people compete) so to register email me. The event takes place at 6pm on Thursday April 26th at the Orvis store in Stockbridge. More details here. Everyone welcome. Entry is free. Beers are on tap plus some special in-store deals. The One Fly competition is full but we do have tickets left for the CHALK screening on Friday evening. Book here.


Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for rain. From November to March I positively beam on those days when the rain lashes the windows. Met Office yellow weather warnings warm my heart. I am almost tempted to make any five day forecast that shows continuous black clouds spouting heavy rain drops a screen saver. Friends who curse the weather I delight in, invariably say something loaded with sarcasm along the lines of 'enough rain for you?' I rarely answer no.

I refuse to feel guilty. You can have your three seasons, spring, summer and autumn whichever way you want them. I will roll with the punches. But winter is for rain and snow. The chalkstreams demand it. The price you pay for the most perfect rivers on the planet is precipitation. The drops that fall today into the turf high on the chalk downs will be the water that flows before you in six months time. You cannot have one without the other.

So, as you might have gathered I have rather enjoyed the past few weeks which wrapped up a see saw rain year, for this time last year the chalkstreams were looking down a gun barrel. July-December 2016 had been exceptionally dry. That is fine we thought, the New Year would bring wet relief. But it didn't. By the time we reached June 2017 southern England as a whole had experienced the driest 12 months since the early 1990's, with some areas as bad as 1976. Fortunately the rivers held up. We had a good store of water in the aquifers after a succession of wet years, but it was worrying nonetheless. A dry summer would bring all sorts of problems. And then just as we were despairing the wet summer came returning the river flows to normal with 2017 as a whole almost statistically perfect at 99% of Long Term Average (LTA) rainfall.

To put that figure in some sort of perspective the LTA for southern England in December was 132% and in East Anglia an eye-watering (and watering everything else for that matter) 165%. If you'd like to see all the Met Office 2017 weather summaries for UK and all the regions click here.


I am going to be making a visit to next month to Cheriton, which is the Hampshire village that is the source of the River Itchen to give a Life of a Chalkstream talk in aid of the rather splendid St Michael's village church.

Not your usual sermon
Being the adjacent village to where I spent my teenage years it will be something of a shock to be in the pulpit having spent more than my fair share of time in the pews for services, marriages and more recently funerals. I can't pretend the River Evitt in the book was modelled on the Itchen but I guess subliminally bits of it must have crept it. 

The price will be £12 for the talk that takes place on Saturday February 10th. Canapés and a complimentary glass of wine are included with the talk commencing at 7.00pm.

Tickets on sale by sending a stamped self-addressed envelope with your cheque (payable to Cheriton PCC) to: Penny Scott, Burnt Platt, Cheriton, Hampshire SO24 0PY. Enquiries to Penny Scott on 01962 771 263, and see All proceeds to St Michael's Church Cheriton.


Three questions broadly based on the topics this week. As ever it is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom on the Newsletter.

1)    Who was the Greek god of storm?

2)    Who has won the football World Cup most times?

3)    What odds are England currently to win the World Cup?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)    Zeus

2)    Brazil. Five times.

3)    16/1. PS. I have hedged out some of the risk! Well, at that price it seemed to good to miss.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

New arrivals for 2018

New arrivals for 2018


It is always exciting to have new beats as you never quite know how they will turn out; over the years I have had unexpected hits and head scratching duds. Rivers can sometimes be as confounding as the fish that swim in them.

At the Craven Fishery on the River Kennet it is good to be working with Josh Purton who spent many summers weed cutting with us and is now installed as the river keeper. Josh is one of a new breed of keepers coming through who are in their 20's, with fishery management degrees from Sparsholt College. Along with our own Simon Fields this cohort, including Michael Taplin at Wherwell Priory and Rob Rees at East Lodge, seem to have a good way of blending progressive thinking with traditional practices. You will see plenty of this at Craven.

Craven Fishery

Many of you will be familiar with Kanara on the River Itchen, which is probably one of the longest established day ticket chalkstream fisheries, dating way back to the 1960's when it was under the care of 'Scrappy' Hay of the Rod Box in Winchester.

If you like wading this is definitely one to consider. There are one or two sections that are fishable from the bank - river keeper Keith Purse, who also runs John O'Gaunt lakes, has done a great job clearing back the trees over the past two winters, but you really do need to get your feet wet. 

The bottom half is deep; think in terms of up to your waist with a couple of pools you will have to crab around. At the mid-point there is a huge hatch pool where you can really let rip and then upper half is shallower, more knee depth. In terms of fish this is both stocked and wild, plus you will regularly see salmon and sea trout.

With the addition of these two this brings our roster for this season to 35 fisheries on sixteen rivers across seven counties. I think I am going to have a fair bit of walking to do in preparation to the start of the new season!


On Christmas Eve we logged our 10,000th on-line booking. I must admit this landmark rather crept up on me over the busy run up to the holidays as I had meant to offer some reward to whoever made the click. However, all I can now say is thank you to Julian Woolgar for notching up this small landmark in Fishing Breaks history.

The diaries are now live for the 2018 season, so to search for dates and book on-line just click away. That said I know that plenty of you, for a whole multiplicity of good reasons, prefer email or phone and that is just fine with us.

We will be back in the office as of Tuesday (2/January) and I will reply to any emails prior to that.

All the diaries, bar one or two, are live including much sought after Mayfly dates.

We open April 1st for private tuition, Foundation Courses and the Half Day Tasters

I have set aside dates for both Father & Son and Family Days over the Easter holidays and half terms.

Back for a third year over the summer holidays. Five days of fishing for 8-15 year olds. July 16-20.

This is now a highlight in the calendar; two days on the river with a night under canvas. In broad terms June 11-25, July 16-26 and August 20-30 to march with the River Test weed cuts. July 1- August 31 on the Allen, Avon and Frome.

I have held back a couple of choice Mayfly dates and Nether Wallop Mill is an increasingly popular choice for a fish fest.

Captain Webb holds forth
Captain Quinn holds forth

I must admit this video from Captain Quinn (who I assume is Canadian) makes me blush because, as a fishing guide, I am guilty of uttering nearly all of these phrases, nearly all of the time. 

Click here to watch 4 minutes of fun.


An algorithm walks into a bar. 

'What are you having?' asks the barman. 

Surveying the other drinkers the algorithm answers,

'What are they drinking?'


As the winter solstice is already a week past I think we can now consider the start of a new season a better prospect that memories of the old. So, three questions with thoughts of warmer times. As ever it is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom on the Newsletter.

1) What time will sunset be exactly six months from today?

2)    What date was the hottest day of 2017?

3)    What is civil twilight?

All the best for 2018.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)    9.25pm BST in Nether Wallop. It will be 4.06pm today.

2)    June 21st at 34.5C/94.1F. The hottest since June 1976 and marked five consecutive days over 90F.

3)    This is the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under good weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Women in waders

I am a huge enthusiast of women fly fishing. I met my wife fly fishing and some of the happiest days we spend each summer are when the three of us (my daughter has likewise been inculcated) head for the river.

It must be said, and I know they will admit to this, that there has to be some 'bribe'. If I simply pose the question 'Shall we go fishing' the take up will be poor. So I have become a little cunning, dressing up the day with an incentive of a post-fishing lunch at a good pub. 

For those of you who wish to adopt this strategy I'd advise lunch rather than supper; afternoon departures are inevitably kyboshed by events. In general don't expect to get them back onto the river after lunch and don't delay lunch. My wife once became so infuriated by a particular fish I refused to leave uncaught that she snuck up behind me to lob a rock in the river. I took the point.

All this came to mind when I read an article in the New York Times last week that said women are now the fastest (and only) growing demographic in fly-fishing. My business ears pricked up. I went on to read that in an extract from a recent study by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation it was that said women make up about 31 percent of the 6.5 million Americans who fly fish.  In 2016, more than two million women participated in the sport, an increase of about 142,000 from the previous year. The aim of the survey is to promote the fly fishing industry goal of gender balance by 2020 with an equal proportion of men and women participating.

At that point I scratched my head: 31% of fly fishers are women? I found it hard to believe. When we fish the One Fly in Jackson Hole no more than ten of the one hundred and sixty competitors are ever women and of the eighty guides maybe two are women. If I scoured the Fishing Breaks database I think I'd struggle to do any better than one in twenty. In the dim distant past I seemed to recall the UK mix said to be one to twelve. As this story took traction on social media the figure of 24% women for the UK became common currency, quoting an Environment Agency lifestyles survey from 2010. I still wasn't convinced so I dug it out. This was a market research survey that polled 2800 people to discover how often people went fishing, what motivated them to go fishing and what might encourage them to go more often.

The first thing that struck me as odd about the poll was that the respondents were 51% women and 49% men. In a male dominated sport that would certainly skew the data but in itself it didn't seem to explain the discrepancy so I turned to Dr. Bruno Broughton who is the expert in this field. It seems I wasn't alone in spotting the oddity the problem lying not in the answer but the way in which the question was framed. Broughton explains:

"The 2010 survey repeated the phraseology used in previous surveys: "Have You Been Fishing...?" Females who accompanied males but didn't actually use a rod-and-line referred to themselves as anglers because "we" went angling.  In other words, about one in four male anglers went fishing with a female at some stage in the period covered by the survey."

So nearly all those 24% (there are of course some female anglers) considered that they had 'gone fishing' even though they never held the thick end of the rod. It seems that once this discrepancy is factored in the split reflects a 2006 survey that comes back to the rather depressing 5/95% figure.

I guess it is not all bad news. There has to be hope that if a quarter of partners are willing to come along it is surely a short step to actually have them fish themselves and likewise the children as well. Quite how you make that conversion I am not sure but I suspect the most effective strategies will lie at fishery level. Two for ones, family days and those sort of things. Abolishing the rod licence would help. The Environment Agency is already boasting that there has been an increase in participation by children after 12-16 year olds were exempted. It is short step of logic to say that this would apply to all society groups.

In the United States the focus, to quote the NY Times is on, "outreach events to educate women on gear choices, selection and function; plan classes to build skills and confidence on the water; and arrange mentoring opportunities for future female guides, shop employees and industry leaders." All good stuff. Similar things have been happening here so I'm sure with the combined US/UK push we will see women with a higher profile in fly fishing and better served in stores.

But all that said I think that if we really want to move the needle it is probably incumbent on all of us who fly fish today to play our part. I am sure there are plenty of spouses out there who'd be willing to give fly fishing a try given encouragment, though I'll give you a heads up: a fly rod to the uninitiated rarely makes for a romantic Christmas gift! On the other hand to a child or grandchild it is a whole different story - the promise of an adventure with those you love most.


Sincere apologies for the hassles with trying to see CHALK in the first 48 hours of release. I didn't help things by announcing four hours ahead of the official launch (sorry) and then we had techie problems.

Watch the trailer
I can't pretend I understand how or what went wrong, but it did and your frustrations are understandable. However, all is resolved and thank you for all the glowing reviews that have since arrived at my Inbox. 

So, if you'd like to watch CHALK click this link and follow the instructions to register with FishingTV. If you are still having difficulties do ping me an email. There isn't a problem we haven't been able to resolve yet!

If you'd like to see CHALK 'live' as it were, I am hosting a special screening as part of the One Fly Festival on April 26th & 27th. The Thursday showing is now sold out but tickets are available for the Friday. Book here ......


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; at the weekend I felt the adage tested me.

I took a trip to Rosebourne, a new style of home store that specialises in local and fresh produce in which one of our neighbours in Nether Wallop has an interest. Maybe two Saturdays out from Christmas wasn't the wisest day of the year for a first foray, but it was good to see the car park full and the store packed.

Wandering around I alighted on the drinks section which has all sorts of unusual brands and a local cider caught my eye. Well, it would. It was called Meon Valley Cider and comes in three varieties. 

The dry has a damsel fly label. The medium dry called and with a brown trout label. And the medium, styled cool as a chalkstream, had an idyllic river scene on the label. 

'Gosh, how lovely.' I thought. And then I did a double take. It was the cover from Life of a Chalkstream, with a few details altered.

I am not sure whether to be enraged or flattered. Watch this space.

PS You will not find the Life of a Chalkstream in hardback in the shops any longer. It sold out the print run. However I do have a stash if you'd like a copy. Buy here ....


Congratulations to Sgt Kev Kelly who was named Wildlife Law Enforcer of the Year at the Wildlife Crime Conference last month. His 'beat' is North Yorkshire with 21 wildlife crime officers under his control.  So in that vein, three questions. As ever it is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom on the Newsletter.

1)    When was hunting with hounds banned in England and Wales? A) 1994  B) 1998  C)2004

2)    What is the punishment provided under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for shooting a hawk in England or Wales?

3)    When was bear baiting banned in England? A) 1735  B) 1835  C) 1935

Happy Christmas shopping!

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)    2004
2)    An unlimited fine, up to six months imprisonment or both

3)    1835 and then soon after across the Empire.

Friday, 1 December 2017

CHALK is out!

CHALK is out!

The premiere of CHALK in Leicester Square was something to behold. Fishing guides in black tie? Pints of Dorset's finest beer swapped for sloe gin champagne cocktails? Action thrillers of the big screen replaced by a journey through the gentle world of the chalkstreams? Was this really happening?

Well, after years of dreaming it had all come to fruition. A feature film that traces the evolution of fly fishing through the prism of the beautiful English chalkstreams, plus some, it must be said less so. For we didn't just follow the stereotypes. 

Yes, of course there are the thatched cottages of sleepy villages but we took our rods into urban London. Amidst burnt out cars, the smoke still curling to the sky, the resilient brown trout, Britain's most widely dispersed freshwater fish, proves it truly can be caught anywhere. 

This sequence remains my standout part of the film though you'll gasp at the drone shot over the Driffield Beck at Marina Gibson spots, casts and hooks a fish. 

If you would like to watch CHALK it is available anywhere in the world with just a few clicks of a mouse. Here is how you may watch it:

Watch the trailer
CHALK is exclusively available on the FishingTV platform. FishingTV is a streaming/OnDemand service, like Netflix for fishing. It is free to join and there is no monthly fee, rather a pay-per-view system operates. You can join FishingTV here:

You can access FishingTV in one of the following ways:
- Use the website:
- Download the app for smartphone and tablet - Android and iOS versions are available
- Install the FishingTV app on your smartTV - supported on most makes and models including Samsung, Panasonic, Sony and many more.
- Find us on Amazon Fire TV Stick and a range of other Set-Top devices including EE

If you'd like to see CHALK 'live' as it were, I am hosting a special screening as part of the One Fly Festival on April 26th & 27th. The Thursday showing is now sold out but tickets are available for the Friday. Book here ......


I was asked this question last month by someone who has untold wealth. He told me that he was asked this same question as a child, the questioner assuring him that once he knew the correct answer he'd be able to go through life winning bets at will. 
Here is the question:

What are the most northern, southern, eastern and western U.S. States?

I know my friend made his fortune in more traditional ways, but regardless the answer is a pretty good party trick. Before you go directly to the answer I will put a clue further down the page which might cause you to re-evaluate your answer.


In a way it was rather sad as we removed a last of a bit of rural industrial history from The Parsonage last month.

The concrete structure was part of the massive hatch system that controlled the water meadows in that area we call middle Test, namely the river you see on your right as you drive south from Stockbridge to Romsey. 

If you had been on that road exactly a hundred years ago today you would not have seen the river, or the meadows, but tens of thousands of acres of what would have looked like continuous lake, the fields covered with water as the hatches impounded the river, forcing the flow to spill out over the land.

Drowning, to give the process its proper term, was actually a very skilled art. The water had to flow continuously or it would stagnate, rotting the grassland it was meant to fertilise and protect from frost. So, from December to May the drowners lived out by the river in specially built huts moderating the flows night and day by adjusting the hatches.

The water meadows were first introduced to England by the Earl of Pembroke in the 16th century when he bought over Dutch engineers to his Wiltshire estate, through which flows the Avon, Ebble, Nadder and Wylye. The water meadows soon became a money machine, the early season grazing ideal for sheep which commanded a premium price reaching market earlier and fatter than sheep from other regions.

You can still see the remnants of the Wiltshire system today, the hatches things of great beauty, chiselled as they are from Portland stone. Ours at The Parsonage, ugly reinforced concrete, were of a much later vintage. In fact we think they might have been almost the last water meadow hatches ever built, the folklore being that they were constructed by WW1 prisoners of war.

But their time was past; their purpose redundant, the remains preventing water flowing easily into the carrier. What man gives, man can take away and I think you'll agree that the result is something far more natural looking.


The answer contains the names of just two States.


Colin Burton brings the feedback draw season to a close collecting the Abel TR reel as the first out the hat of all the 2017 replies. Well done to Colin and thank you to everyone who contributed this year. Your feedback, comments and suggestions are truly appreciated offering us invaluable insights that we may otherwise miss.

Next year I am hoping to expand the feedback by (technology permitting) putting the reports on-line, translating them into a star rating system. The tentative plan is that you will rate your experience from 1-5 with comments. You will be able to put your name to the report or remain anonymous. If anyone has advice or past experience of using systems like this, do let me know

If you are grayling fishing please keep the reports coming in; there will be a special draw for you at the end of the season (March 14).

Happy viewing!

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answer:
The answer is Alaska and Hawaii.

Northern is Alaska, southern is Hawaii, eastern is Alaska and western is Alaska. If you note the map, Alaska is clearly the most northern state, and Hawaii, at 20º North, is without doubt the most southern state. Note how much further south it is than Florida. As far as the most western state, note how Alaska's Aleutian Islands stretch right up to the edge of the Western Hemisphere at the 180º line of Longitude, thus the most western state in the country. Alaska is also the answer for eastern, as the Aleutian Islands stretch across the 180º line of Longitude, into the Eastern Hemisphere, and up the edge of the Russian Federation.

If you exclude Alaska and Hawaii, the answers are northern Minnesota, southern Florida, eastern Maine, and western Washington.