It sometimes takes a lot to get me out on the river. I'm a bit like (without drawing too many comparisons ...) one of those ski bums you meet in a mountain bar who only ventures out for the freshest powder on the emptiest of slopes. But oftentimes I get my piscatorial kicks simply by being there. Seeing the hatch. Watching others make a perfectly executed cast. Share in the collective joy of the fish that rises to the dry fly.
Crippled Mayfly is in the middle compartment, bottom row
So, it has taken until this week for me to finally venture out with a rod with a Mayfly specifically on the end of it. As has been much mentioned the arrival of the 2018 Mayfly season has been a very slow burn. The Allen in Dorset, a river we usually expect to be in the vanguard of the Ephemeral hatch, is two weeks late. Likewise the River Test, though the tributaries have not been quite so far behind. The River Itchen was probably the closest to being 'normal' but even then it took a while to get going.
I must admit I was going to sneak out a bit sooner but I'm currently in the throes of writing a new book which is, as The Spectator columnist and general literary provocateur, Rod Liddle once described it, a bit like having perpetual homework. My routine is this: each week I set my target at 2,500 words. That is 500 words a day. My writing week starts on a Sunday. So potentially I have two spare days, but life/work often gets in the way of that plan. So, most days I am not released from the bonds of the word mill until the daily count is satisfied. And that doesn't always come easy. So, being the diligent type I type instead of cast. But this week I played hooky.
We didn't get to the river until five o'clock on Tuesday evening. The storms that had flooded Birmingham over the weekend were now in Hampshire. It had rained most of the day. I could see the river colouring and rising before us. But any thoughts that the evening might be a bust were dispelled as, even from the car park, we could see a fish leap to a fluttering Mayfly and hear that satisfying 'gloop' as another disappeared somewhere around the corner.
I am not one ever to complain that the fishing is too easy. Those days come around too infrequently in life to even hint at a complaint. When the fishing Gods smile on you, smile back as one day, very soon, they will take it all away. Deities are as fickle as fish. But on a scale of one to five, with five being most difficult, this was most definitely a one. That said, even in the two hours we were there, the scales tipped one way to the next. From a river that was alive with Mayfly and rising fish, to a quiet period when nothing much flew and nothing much rose. In the trees the Mayfly did their merry dance, the columns of males rising, then falling, displaying their wares until a female darted in from the side to grab her chosen partner.
On the river I did set myself a particular challenge: once a fish was caught I would cut off that fly and try another. I did cheat once, recasting my all-time favourite the Thomas Mayfly, only to feel guilty when I caught a second fish. Pretty soon I was five for six. In case you ask: Grey Drake, Thomas, Gray Wulff, Flyline and Parachute. As a final hurrah I dragged out of my box a Crippled Mayfly. Everyone has particular bogey flies and this, in the Mayfly, spectrum, is mine. Everything tells me it should be good - easy meat for a greedy fish.
Now for some reason I have always assumed this is a fly that should be fished au naturel - after all it does have a bit of foam it in. How could floating be a problem? So, as I have always done in the past I didn't bother with floatant and it didn't disappoint. Nothing. I decided it would join that special compartment in my fly box; the one I point to when people I don't like ask me for a fly. But I wasn't quite done. Every other fly had worked, so why not this one? Floatant. For once I tried some floatant. And from across the river (to a particularly poor cast) surged a fish to grab the Cripple first time.
At seven for six I decided to call it time on the evening and resolved to put the Crippled Mayfly in the fly box I share with friends.
River Itchen photo shoot
It was a great pleasure to finally meet Chris McNully whose articles I have read for many years in many publications.
Chris had arrived on the Kanara beat with photographer Richard Faulks for one of a pair of articles about wading the Hampshire chalkstreams. That day it was the River Itchen; the following was to be at Exton Manor Farm on the River Meon.
I turned up to just say hello. I did offer to buy lunch but my arrival coincided with a slow trickle of Mayflies and this rather fine fish (a 1.5lb wild brown), the first of the day, was rising to a Mayfly and obliged when offered a large Yellow Humpy.
At that point all thoughts of food where forgotten, so I left them in peace but I have subsequently heard both days came up trumps. I am afraid you will have to wait until next spring to read Chris' articles in Trout & Salmon.
I know many of you will be reading this whilst away on Half Term. Who was that member of officialdom who organised the academic calendar to time this slap in the middle of Mayfly? Clearly they didn't have children or no interest in fly fishing.
So, if you have been unable to persuade your partner or children that the river should beckon more than the beach it is probably time for some indoctrination. Our summer Fishing Camp might just be the thing.
This will be the third year we have run it; four days based here at Nether Wallop Mill where we range out to cover all sorts and aspects of fly fishing on both lake and river: casting, knots, fly tying, entomology, gutting fish, nymph vs. dry and much, much more.
Date: July 16-19
Location: Nether Wallop Mill & River Test
Fish Camp: £195/child for 4 days or £75/day (min. 3 days including the first day). 10% discount for siblings.
Ages: 12-15 years
Price per child £195.
Monday-Thursday 10am-1pm (Wednesday 3pm).
Includes all fishing charges, tuition, licences and tackle.
To book or for more information call 01264 781988 or email
Photo of the Week
I know it is all about Mayfly this week, but the Crane Flies on my kitchen window last week are a reminder that different hatches are ahead of us.
I hear there is a new colour variant of the Robjents Daddy in the store .....
More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect. Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page.
1) What date is England's opening match in the World Cup and who do they play?
2) After which Roman god is June named?
3) Who wrote:" In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them."
Enjoy the weekend.
Simon Cooper email@example.com
Founder & Managing Director
1) Tunisia on Monday June 18th
3) Aldo Leopold