Friday, 30 June 2017

Dateline: Covent Garden

Nether Wallop Mill, Hampshire Friday June 30th 2017

So, it was off to London, more specifically Covent Garden, on Tuesday evening for the announcement of the shortlist of the Wainwright Book Prize which was hosted at the famous Stanfords bookshop on Long Acre.

For those of us with long memories (i.e. pre-internet) Stanfords holds many fond memories for it was always more than just a bookshop. It was, and is, the repository of just about every travel guide on the planet. If you were going anywhere slightly off the beaten track, you headed for Stanfords. 

Shelf upon shelf of guides would enlighten any upcoming trip, promising to show you places passed over by the masses. And that was before you even ventured into the map section, a cartographic cornucopia for anyone raised on the delights of Ordnance Survey maps.

I can't pretend I am a regular at literary occasions so I did ponder a bit what to wear, in the end plumping for my best fishing suit. Now this is a spectacularly good bit of cloth if you need protection from brambles, downpours and the general perils of the river bank. Not so good I must say for a humid Piccadilly line. You also get some very odd looks. I was a bit reminded of an eccentric Lord in a PG Wodehouse novel who travelled to town in what were essentially his gardening clothes. He bumped into an acquaintance who was appalled that he was looking so scruffy.  

'Don't worry a bit', said the Lord, 'I am perfectly fine, nobody knows me here in London.', and on the back of the chance meeting invited the other to his country pile. Taking up the invite the man arrived the following weekend by train, met at the station by the Lord who was wearing the identical clothing to when they last met. 'My goodness', said the visitor, 'how is it you are wearing the same clothes?' 'Ah,' said our Lord, 'Don't worry a bit. Everyone knows me here in the country.'

But I digress as it was down into the familiar travel section of Stanfords for the press reception. I must admit I haven't met many other authors who do what I do, namely nature writing, so it was slightly disconcerting. You are both at once bound together by a common bond, but in this particular instance, divided by competing for a prestigious prize where only one can win. And I most definitely felt the junior partner as it seems the most common question one author asks of another (after Who is your publisher) is How many books have you written? Err, two I say and I stopped reciprocating  the question when the first three shortlisted authors replied 'forty', 'twenty two' and 'something over thirty'.

So after some press photographs, a TV interview and general gladhanding the announcement came: The Otters' Tale was on the shortlist for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. I am astonished and delighted in equal measure and now have a July to spend on tenterhooks until the winner is revealed at the BBC Countryfile Live Festival at Blenheim Palace on August 3rd.

For more details of The Wainwright Prize click here .....


Well, we did it! I have to confess to being nervous on the last leg of the Compass Tour with a 100% record thus far. Would the River Bride in that sleepy westerly tip of Dorset offer up a fish to make us 4 for 4? 

It did, with five in all in a magical two hours post-lunch. I am not sure I would have done it without the guidance of Wessex Rivers supremo Richard Slocock who unerringly put me on the best spots. I started small with a s22 Adams figuring that the native browns were canny. But none of that worked. They are more greedy than wise with a bushy s14 Gray Wulff attacked with vim.

So that is the Tour complete. Mission done. Covering 1700 miles in 10 days we have crisscrossed England and northern France. On all four points of the compass I have caught a brown trout, on a dry fly, on the extreme points of the chalkstream universe. What next?

River Bride, Dorset


It was a dry winter, and has been in general, a dry year thus far. I would not say the rivers are suffering significantly but the levels are a few weeks ahead of what you'd expect in a normal year. So if you think August during July you will have a pretty realistic expectations. 

I suspect when we write the book on 2017 the highlight will be the Mayfly. Many said this was the heaviest hatch in a generation though it was in some places short, but oh so intense. 

Interesting as we come to the end of June Ephemera danica are still hatching in noticeable numbers. I was on the River Nadder on Sunday and even put on a few big mayflies by way of experiment. In truth they were not much interested though one fish took pity on me to grab a sodden French Partridge.

I am not sure whether I have created a cohort of fly fishers or bank robbers as the Prince's Mead School gang found a novel use for the Fishing Breaks snoods on the final day of the summer Fish Camp. Sad to see some of you for the last time as you head off to new senior schools - good luck and come back very soon.

The winner of the Fishing Breaks snood is Aubrey Harrison a Parsonage regular; in the post. Everyone is now in the end of season draw for the Abel TR1 reel. Good luck!


No theme this week, just a random selection of questions. It is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom of the page.
1)      If an apex is the highest point of something what is the vertex?

2)      When did the wholesale fruit market move out of Covent Garden?

3)   Two OS Map woodland symbols. What type of wood does each denote?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director  

Quiz answers: 

1) A point where two or more curves, lines or edges meet.  2) 1974  3) Left: Coniferous. Right: Non-coniferous.

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