Friday, 20 December 2019

A different kind of Christmas

A different kind of Christmas

Trutta was exhausted; spent in all senses of the word. The winter floods had come early, this her third spawning year. It should, by rights, be becoming easier with each passing season. Surely age, experience and instinctive expectation should count for something? But the efforts and battles of time past take their toll. As Trutta entered her sixth year at the tail of Ash Tree Corner she doubted whether she would be able summon the bodily strength to attain another summer. Not that her life chances lay entirely within her own gift; there is much happenchance to the life of the brown trout.

Every exhausting moment of the past few weeks had expressed the very purpose of her existence. To procreate. To maintain the species. To sow thousands of fertilised eggs that tumble on the current, relying on a sort of riverine pinball to lodge within the loose gravel bed from which, given the caress of clean, clear water the tiny alevins should emerge in a few months.

But the future generation were no longer of any concern to Trutta. She had done her part. And pretty well done it all alone. The males were of little help. It fell to her to find the choicest gravel upon which she thrashed the side of her body time and time again until a shallow indentation appeared. The redd. That would-be nest for her eggs that she had to guard until a suitable suitor paid her court. And plenty came. And plenty were driven away. Until an old cock of her generation sidled by.

For then the two, in the grey light of the ever-shortening days of a fading December, slipstreamed each other passing over, under, behind and ahead in ritualistic contortions. Before ultimately reaching some sort of contented accommodation as they paused side-by-side in preparation for the denouement.

When it came it was quickly over. Half a minute maybe. A minute a most. Two bodies quivering in unison in a common purpose, soon joined by the young bucks who mill and twirl in the downstream melee of eggs and milt eager to randomly add their gene pool to the next generation. But as the water clears and the eggs settle to the riverbed it is just Trutta left, once again thrashing her body on the gravel but this time to fill the redd.

And that is it. Creation has sapped Trutta of her summer reserves. Today she lies between the roots of the ash tree in a pocket of water that barely moves. Which suits her mood. For she will barely move in the months to come. Food is scare. The effort not worth the reward. In her hidey hole, hopefully safe from otters, herons, pike and the attendant dangers of life in the river she will eke out each day from her dwindling body.

In the human world Christmas is a moment of hope; that time when expectation trumps the privations of winter, the lengthening days some evidence that better times lay ahead. But for Trutta hope is not a construct in her life. The worst is still yet to come. The chances of another Mayfly simply an aggregation of dogged determination and a measure of good fortune.

So, let us wish her luck. She deserves another summer in the shade of Ash Tree Corner.

Ash Tree Corner

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

I have to confess I can't bring myself to watch the BBC Sports Personality of the Year these days. It somehow seems overly long and overly contrived but all the hoopla surrounding Ben Stokes' eventual victory reminded me of the year an angler won. Or rather didn't.

Howard Croston with a Tasmainian rainbow
Way back in 1991, long before the days of telephone or internet polls, the BBC Personality was selected by a postal vote. Anyone could write in nominating the man or woman of their choice. How reliable this process was is anyone's guess. You really have to wonder whether track and field athletes with most the wins (18) in the past 66 years have really captured our hearts more often than say footballers (5) or jockeys, snooker players or rugby players (1 apiece).

Back in the early 1990's Bob Nudd was an international angling superstar. He had just won the World Freshwater Angling Championships for the second time and would eventually win it four times. In recognition of this the Angling Times, a newspaper with a bigger readership than the Daily Telegraph, organised a write-in campaign helpfully providing a form for readers to complete and mail. It worked. Bob garnered over 100,000 votes winning the award by a country mile.

But it wasn't to be. For reasons best known to the BBC apparatchiks Bob was disqualified by virtue of his votes being sent in on the form. For the record the decent, but hardly stellar middle-distance runner Liz McColgan won the award with rugby's Will Carling second and soccer player Garry Lineker third.

Hopefully better things are in store for England's Howard Croston who last week became the 39th World Fly Fishing Champion, contested this year in Tasmania. Huge congratulations to both Howard for his individual success and the England team who came eighth.

It is slightly ironical that neither the brown nor rainbow trout caught in the competition are indigenous to Australasia. Brown trout were first introduced to the continent on 4 May 1864 when 2,700 live brown trout ova, which had been packed in ice since leaving England, were hatched into the Plenty river near Hobart, Tasmania. If memory serves me correctly the eggs were reared on the River Itchen at Brambridge, a few miles downstream of Winchester, at the place Fishing Breaks regulars will know now as Qing Ya Xi.

A true case of fishing coming home.


Paul Volcker

Fly fishing attracts all sorts, having an impact on our lives in all sorts of ways. Ex US Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker who died last week aged 92, was one such person.

Paul Volcker 1927-2019
He was the man, who when appointed to the role by President Carter in 1979, was tasked with taming inflation. In this he abandoned Keynesian principles preferring the writings of the economist Friedrich Hayek (a favourite of Margaret Thatcher) as his guide to use monetary policy as his weapon of choice. It was painful, hard and unpopular on both sides of the Atlantic. He didn't say it as a British minister saved him the trouble - the recession was a price worth paying.

A fly fisher since childhood Volcker used rivers as his retreat from his work. As an influential Treasury official he had a hand in persuading President Nixon to suspend the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971 by closing the "gold window," meaning the United States would no longer guarantee the value of the dollar. When offered the post as chairman of the New York Reserve three years later (the job he held before the Fed but at twice the salary) he took a fishing vacation to ponder, famously calling in from a roadside payphone to accept.

And when asked much later in life, what of your failures, he said to the New York Times, "The greatest strategic error of my adult life was to take my wife to Maine on our honeymoon on a fly-fishing trip," he said, referring to his first marriage. Volcker was a passionate Atlantic salmon fisher, in his retirement becoming an influential member of the Atlantic Salmon Trust.

For his second marriage they honeymooned in the Virgin Islands.

Christmas tree branchChristmas opening & 2020 bookings

We are not going to be closed for long over Christmas and the New Year. Kris and I will be beside the phone on Monday (23/Dec), we'll be closed 24-26/Dec, open on the Friday (27/Dec) and then back to normal hours apart from New Year's Day when we will be closed.

If you need a last-minute voucher, we'll certainly be able to get something in the post today and at worst we can still email you a version to print out at home.

As for 2020 bookings all the diaries go live on Monday for online bookings. I'll send you a quick update on Monday with an update of what's new and what's hot.


No theme this week other than tangentially the Newsletter topics. As ever the quiz is just for fun, with answers at the bottom of the page. 

1)      When did England last record a white Christmas?

2)      In which country did the term 'dollar' originate?

3)      When was the first King's Christmas Message broadcast and who wrote it?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director


1)     2010 according to the Met Office, though 2015 technically could be classified as such with snow falling at 10% of weather stations but none settled on the ground.
2)      From a coin minted in Joachimsthal, Bohemia in 1519. Joachimsthal is now in the Czech Republic.
3)      In 1932 by George V it having been written by Rudyard Kipling

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