Friday, 8 May 2020

Fishing will be back


Hats off to the Angling Trust who succeeded in getting us fishers some media time; a mention in The Times leader column. A well-crafted letter from MPs in The Telegraph. Plenty of column inches elsewhere.

That said I was rather alarmed by one of the statistics that they cited as a reason for us being in the vanguard of an early resumption: apparently for 62% of anglers fishing is our only physical activity. If its true (which I doubt in anything other than a literal sense) it doesn’t reflect very well on us!

Anyway, to keep us all in a positive frame of mind ahead of the announcements by the PM on Sunday I have commissioned short video from CHALK directors Leo Cinicolo and Chris Cooper to put us in the mood for that early resumption.

Fingers crossed. Please do share the video far and wide. Click to watch.

Fishing will be back

The rivers still flow
The fish still rise
The mayflies still hatch

So, tie your flies
Tend to your tackle
And dream of better days ahead

But most of all
Bide your time
And count your blessings

For fishing will be back

Click on photo or here to watch Fishing will be back

First Light

I thought I’d read a book appropriate to the time ahead of the VE Day commemorations; it was First Light by Geoffrey Wellum.

For all the derring-do it is, in many respects, a sad book. Wellum, at 18 years of age, was one, or if not the, youngest Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain. He’d left school at 17 to go straight into training with the single ambition to be a fighter pilot. In this he succeeded. Two full tours on Spitfires, the Battle of Britain and nearly one hundred escorts and fighter sweeps over occupied France before completing air combat at the siege of Malta.

He didn’t die in conflict. Wellum went on to be a pilot trainer for the remainder of the war before working in the City until he retired to Devon. He died just two years ago aged 96. So, why is it so sad?

Wellum was clearly utterly at one with his Spitfires. Being up in the clouds was more than life defining; it was his life. It became the only time he felt true contentment.

Nothing came close to fulfilling him before or after compared to flying that plane. As he writes in the epilogue, he cursed the fact that he had reached the pinnacle of his life before the age of twenty-two. Though physically intact, he’d been destroyed by the war.

Once in the air he lets his mind wander. He goes back to his childhood days fishing for crayfish and minnows on sunny days beside River Wey in Surrey. Being alone in a cockpit at 20-30,000 feet he likens to being beside the stream; it’s peaceful, he writes, and you can’t be bothered to worry.

‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to lie in the grass by a fast-flowing trout stream in Hampshire or Wiltshire, just me and the waving reeds, water meadows, buttercups and grazing cattle? Perhaps a nearby pub with good English ale and chunks of bread and cheese. Yes, and picked onions, a whole bloody great jar of them and it wouldn’t matter a damn if I didn’t catch any trout.’

Even in combat he is transported to that place.

‘I look up and see them (German fighter planes) as they half roll and start to come down into the dogfight, fresh for the fray. God, is there no end to them? The sun glints on their wings and bellies as they roll like trout in a stream streaking over smooth round pebbles. Trout streams, water meadows, waders, fast flowing water, the pretty barmaid at the inn. Dear Jesus, why this?’

Geoffrey Wellum 1921-2018

The Thomas Mayfly

The Thomas is without a doubt my most successful mayfly but its inclusion, and in fact it’s very existence in the Fulling Mill fly catalogue, is something entirely of chance.

The Unwin family, who owned the Fulling Mill fly making company from 1980 to 2013 and having been in the business in Kenya since the 1930’s, were sorting through the personal effects of Thomas Unwin some 25 years after his death in 1971.

Major Thomas Unwin MC, born in 1888, was to become one of the first ever fighter pilots in history dropping bombs over the Somme in 1916, subsequently surviving a crash landing when the latest addition to the armoury of his plane, a machine gun which was meant to fire through the propeller, shattered the propeller instead.

Wind forward to 1996 when the family found a packet that had belonged to Thomas that contained his flying licence, medals and photographs. Crushed inside the licence was a yellow mayfly pattern made with a detached cork body which Barry Unwin, his grandson and director of Fulling Mill, decided to tie and try out. Instantly successful on the river the pattern was included in the Fulling Mill catalogue and has been a best seller ever since.

I recall buying the Thomas Mayfly during that very first year; it worked as well for me as it had for both Thomas and Barry. In some respects, it was a commercial dream (!); the detached cork body had a low survival rate rendering the fly inoperable sometimes after only a single fish.

However, the company soon attended to that with a differently made detached body that looks slightly different but works equally well.

Click here to buy the Thomas Mayfly as part of the Mayfly selection with a free Fulling Mill leader.

No particular theme this week but as ever, it is all just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the page.

1)     Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. On what date will the 75th anniversary of V-J Day take place?

2)     What was the name of the engine that powered the Spitfire?

3)     May is named after which Greek Goddess?

Enjoy the Bank Holiday most of us forgot we had!

PS Catch up with the latest and past editions of The Fishing Casts

Best wishes,

Founder & Managing Director

1)     15th August 2020
2)     Rolls-Royce Merlin
3)     Maia

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