It seems an eternity ago, but right at the start of the
Covid crisis I was talking with an old friend of mine who is high up in the
horse racing industry. At the time racing was suspended and the authorities
were in talks with the government to recommence racing BCD – behind closed
doors. My friend said at the time, remember this was April last year,
racing had a contingency for BCD to go through to 2022. I was
flabbergasted but right now that forward planning seems prescient.
Last week I found myself in a similar situation as we talked
to our overseas clients who were hoping to fish in the spring and summer of
2021 as the prospects for inbound travel to the UK unravelled faster than
any of us had anticipated. Should they still try for this year or plan
on 2022? In the end discretion beat out valour, which in that typical
good/news way of things at the moment at least releases a whole batch of
These are some of our most sought after beats where a whole
new batch of prime Mayfly dates are now available:
To check out dates
click on the links to the beats above or use the date search facility for a particular date or range of dates.
Now that's what I
Fine magazine though it is I am not a great reader of The
Cricketer but I did notice an article last week that recorded its
history, 2021 marking the centenary of its publication. I read the article
out of idle name-spotting curiosity; as a student I had a job as a contract
gardener for a succession of summers which had included mowing the lawn of
the then editor.
Scanning down the list of past editors I did indeed spot the
name of my long gone employer but another name leapt out at me: 1972-73
Tony Pawson. Not the Tony Pawson? The Tony Pawson who won the World Fly
Fishing Championships in 1984, winning a trophy the size of a small house,
a regular at Avington Fishery, one of my teenage haunts and a noted visitor
to Nether Wallop Mill in Dermot Wilson’s day.
It is strange, and it is something I have noticed over the
years, but great sportsmen are often good at a multiplicity of sports. I’m
currently reading the autobiography of golfer John Daly (yes, the one who
drank a lot) a two time Major winner who equally had a chance to be a
professional baseball pitcher and American football goal kicker. Pawson was
one such man.
Tony Pawson 1947
Whilst still at Winchester College, aged 16, he scored 237
runs in his debut match at Lord’s. He went on to join Kent as a batsman
1947-53 playing in 69 first class matches, scoring 3,807 runs at an average
of just over 37. Now that is pretty good but he didn’t confine himself to
the cricket pitch; he was a talented footballer playing in the cricket off
season to win two FA Amateur Cups at Wembley Stadium and playing briefly
for Charlton Athletic, then in Division One, before passing on a
professional football career due to the poor pay.
How did he come to fly fishing? Well, inevitably, Winchester
College with its extensive fishing on the River Itchen which is reserved
for pupils and alumni. He followed in many a famous footstep. Viscount Grey
of Fallodon (he of ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe’ fame), GEM
Skues and Pawson was a contemporary of Dermot Wilson. During the 1980’s
Pawson made the World Fly Fishing Championships, still in its first decade,
his own. As I mentioned he won in Spain in 1984, led the English team to
win in England in 1987 and in Australia in 1988. Along the way he wrote
four books on fly fishing and set up the Commonwealth Fly Fishing
Championship which continues to thrive to this day.
He died in 2012 aged 91 years having spent his final years
living in Chilcomb village on the outskirts of Winchester within shouting
distance of the waters on which he cast his first ever fly.
Living that dream
Some of you might remember a fishing guide called David
Coppock. He wasn’t your average guide, coming to our profession late in
life having retired from the Royal Navy as an Admiral.
David helped me out in the early days of Fishing Breaks. He
was a great raconteur and truly enjoyed the craic of fishing. At end of the
day he’d hold the table in the palm of his hand, with a drink in the other.
He was also a great instructor, especially with that age that probably
typified new recruits to the Navy. One day he was with a young guy who was
vastly academically overqualified to be a guide but wanted to discard his
books to dedicate his life to fly fishing.
‘Look’, said David, ‘here’s a better plan. Finish your
studies. Get a great job. Work your balls off. Earn a fortune. Then jack it
all in and buy whatever sodding river takes your fancy.’
I have no idea what happened to that guy but I wonder if
Anders Povlsen, founder of ASOS and probable buyer of TopShop, ever came
across David for he has truly lived that dream. From a teenage fly fishing
trip to Scotland in the 1980’s he has used his fortune earnt from clothing
to become the largest landowner in Scotland in the space of 15 years. He
now owns 220,000 acres. That is a lot of sodding rivers!
The 11 Scottish estates bought by Anders Povlsen by since 2006
groundwater everywhere ....
The Guardian carried a slightly curious piece on chalkstreams on
Saturday (23/January) prompted, I guess, by recent Environment Agency (EA)
data that shows winter groundwater levels at normal to high with some areas
experiencing record levels. The EA, along with those of us who live or die
by winter rain, pay a lot of attention to groundwater data because it is an
indicator of things to come; at a basic level of analysis high in winter
makes for happy in summer.
Groundwater sounds pretty dull but is a vital natural
resource, an indicator of the amount of water in aquifers and shallower
water tables that has originated as surface water (rain, snow etc.) that
percolates through layers of soil and rock, or in our case chalk, and is
stored beneath the earth’s surface. It is this groundwater that contributes
to streams, rivers and wetlands to play a crucial role in maintaining
surface water quantity, quality and temperature, all vital to support
healthy aquatic ecosystems. Groundwater is, in the absence of reservoirs,
the source of drinking water for our nation.
The Guardian article was not long (you can read it here)
and I say it was curious because it seemed strangely out of context; a
brief news item that was essentially a cri de coeur by the unnamed
journalist, the closing paragraph reading,
“... it is also a reminder of the loss of so many of our
beautiful chalk streams once populated by may flies, trout and water voles
that have disappeared because of over-abstraction by water companies and
farmers. It is another example of the long-running struggle between human
priorities and the needs of the natural world.”
Hey, I could not have put it better myself so thank you,
unnamed journalist person. Sad though our plight is, seeing it written
about in the mainstream press in such stark terms is an indication of how
river issues are rising up the national consciousness. I’d bet you a pound
to a penny no article of this nature would have been seen in The
Guardian or it’s like 10-20 years ago.
The reaction it garnered in The Guardian’s online
forum was also heartening; 140 comments within the first 24 hours. Clearly
people care. For the most part they bash the water companies; well, it is The
Guardian after all but you won’t get any argument from me on that
score. They rail against pollution but are mostly realistic enough to
accept that, as a population, we have bought this upon ourselves, selfishly
exploiting a scarce natural resource.
What remedies do people suggest? Well, grey water is often
cited. Better sewage treatment. Higher water charges. Rigorous enforcement
of current legislation. More legislation. Higher fines. Less water use.
Build more reservoirs. Nationalise the water industry. Whether all these
are right, wrong or practical you can judge for yourself but at least it is
good to know people are talking about the issues.
Hero or villian?
The stock fish
If you would like
to join Charles and I at 11am today for our vlogcast here are the Zoom
Simon Cooper is
inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.