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