I think, as anglers, we fall into two tribes. There is the wild tribe who eschew all creature comforts. They are strong believers in the Gordon Gekko utterance in the film Wall Street: lunch is for wimps. They fish till they drop and then some more. But for the rest of us, the majority I suspect, fishing is a pleasure not a forced route march.
I, for one, savour a coffee on the riverbank before I’ve ever even thought about tying on a fly. A great lunch in the pub or a lazy picnic is part of the allure of a day on the river. And if there is a cabin, however rudimentary, to store my gear or shelter from the weather, so much the better. As you will know at Fishing Breaks, we have everything from some fairly basic garden sheds to full-service riverside lodges. But for all that I know we are yet to come anywhere close to this one featured in Architectural Digest.
Sol Duc Cabin
Built for a client with a serious fly-fishing habit, Seattle-based architect Olson Kundig has designed the perfect hideaway, the Sol Duc Cabin, located in Washington State, on the west coast of the US. Not only is the cabin beautiful but even the name evokes our sport, Sol Duc when translated from Native Clallan Indian means sparkling water, reflecting the river it overlooks.
Book me a lifetime stay!
Let's enjoy the summer
I have been far too miserable of late; too much of The Smiths and not enough Abba. I know I’ve beaten you all about the head with my gripes and concerns about the bad things happening to our rivers. But enough of that for now.
I am amazed at how, in the midst of the greatest hospitality meltdown within living memory, all manner of amazing new business ventures are popping up in the Test valley: Treehouse camps. Wineries. A luxury hotel. Safari tents. The economic theory of creative destruction seems to be doing well and thriving down our way. Let me tell you about what is happening.
Us locals have long wondered about Amport House just south of Andover, close to the Test tributary of the River Anton. A stately home with gardens by Gertrude Jekyll and Edwin Lutyens was, until closure last year, purportedly the training school for military clerics. Now, I don’t know how many vicars there are in the British armed forces but judging by the size of Amport House it must have been an awful lot. So, the general opinion is that it was some sort of spook school, more John le Carre than Father Brown. Anyway, regardless of its past it has been bought by the team behind Another Place in the Lake District and Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall to create a luxury 50 room hotel, something we desperately need in the area. It is slated to open in 2022.
I have mixed feelings about treehouses which are, apparently, all the rage. When my daughter was 12, we (or mostly me) set about building her dream treehouse one Easter holiday. It was quite the thing. It had a cabin, large veranda, huge plastic pipe as an escape chute, upper viewing deck, rope ladder access and a trap door that closed to prevent any unwanted guests. It even had a clay tile roof for reasons I forget. It became the place for a sleepout summer. However, the one thing you don’t expect of a 75-year-old black alder with the circumference of two pairs of outstretched arms is for it to fall over. Which it did in a storm the following winter.
However, I’m sure you’ll be in no such danger in one of the four Wild Escapes treehouses near The Mayfly Inn 3 miles upstream of Stockbridge on the organic Fullerton Farm also home to the Black Chalk winery where you can sip the local sparkling wine from the treehouse deck overlooking the very vines from which it came. Or if you are more grounded Gambledown Farm has African-style safari tents on a rural working farm. Or if you like some glamping The Meadow in our neighbouring village of Broughton has three hideaways including a Victorian Showman’s Caravan and a converted canal barge afloat on the lake.
If the great outdoors, however luxurious, is not for you I am pleased to say that the Dukes Head, on the Stockbridge to Romsey road, after years of neglect and five year of closure, is being fully refurbished with the addition of 12 much needed bedrooms. No current date for reopening but I assume in the latter half of this year judging by my last drive past.
The Test Valley is a surprising centre of British literature if you know where to look. Agatha Christie based one of her ABC murder mysteries in Andover. H G Wells set a book chapter in Stockbridge’s Grosvenor Hotel. Watership Down is close to the source of the Test. And the Rev. Awdry of Thomas the Tank Engine fame was the son of the Ampfield vicar who fired his passion for trains whilst still a child by building a working model train in the garden of the vicarage. There are many more connections to check out on the Test Valley Literary Trail.
Hero or villain? The stocked fish
Wilding is all the rage. Plenty think that the end of stocking would be a good thing. What better, goes the thinking, than a river entirely populated by wild fish. But is it? How would it be better? Had George Orwell included fish in Animal Farm would the chant have gone up 'wild fins good, stocked fins bad'?
It is a debate that is being increasing had in clubs, societies and the governing bodies of angling. Charles Jardine and I will give you our take on the debate in a Zoom call to which you are invited on Friday January 29th at 11am.
To join email me or register here. If you have registered for previous debates no need to register again. NB Apologies if you are confused as I wrote Monday 29th January last time; definitely on the Friday!
Yes, yet another bloody lockdown
I think some of us had a quiet chortle when the government announced that fishing was to be permitted during Lockdown 3 on the basis that it was ‘exercise’. But then again, I reckon I walk more on a fishing day than on any other day of the week so maybe it was not as daft as it sounds.
Anyway, hats off to Jamie Cook and his team at the Angling Trust who have secured us this privileged lockdown exception. They clearly have the ear of someone important in the Department of Media, Culture & Sport and put our case well. It is now up to us not to abuse the privilege afforded to us. In a nutshell you may going fishing as long as:
·It is just you alone or with members of your family/support bubble or one other person
·The fishing is local
·You practice social distancing
·You do not fish overnight or stay away from home
Not only is this good news for the remainder of the grayling season but it also gives me confidence that, whatever Covid throws at us, we will be able to plan for the start of the trout season in April, Mayfly and the season beyond that with some measure of certainty.
I’ll keep you posted if anything further develops. You can read the Fishing Breaks Covid-19 policy here and the Angling Trust advice here
This week questions loosely based on topics mentioned in the Newsletter to confound, dismay or delight.
1)Who played Gordon Gekko in Wall Street?
2)In what year was Watership Down published?
3)Which famous war memorial did Edwin Lutyens (pictured) design?