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
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.
Click on photo or here to watch Fishing will be back
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
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
However, the company soon attended to that with a
differently made detached body that looks slightly different but works
Click here to buy the Thomas Mayfly as part
of the Mayfly selection with a free Fulling Mill leader.
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 75thanniversary of VE
Day. On what date will the 75thanniversary of V-J Day take place?
2)What was the name of the engine that
powered the Spitfire?