Friday, 26 February 2021

No dogs in heaven




I saw an old, and sadly departed, friend of Fishing Breaks and the One Fly last weekend as I watched To Olivia, the story of Roald Dahl’s troubled marriage to Oscar winning actress Patricia Neal and the death of their daughter whilst he was writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


If you are looking for an uplifting tale of escapism that piggybacks on Dahl’s literary humour this is not the film for you. Dahl was a victim of what they called back then the black dog; depression often medicated with alcohol. However, the only truly laugh out loud moments are supplied by Geoffrey Palmer, acting in what I think must be his last ever role, as Dahl’s cleric housemaster from his schooldays to whom he turns for comfort in the wake of daughter Olivia’s death at the age of eleven from measles; this was the early 1960’s.


However, the scene descends into farce as Palmer playing the aging, insensitive, dotty and opinionated cleric refuses to countenance a heaven in which Olivia could play with her dog for eternity. Dogs are, apparently, absolutely forbidden in heaven. Who knew? It is very funny but one of those sad moments when you realise someone is gone forever



Geoffrey Dyson Palmer as the father in Butterflies. Born 4 June 1927; died 5 November 2020



Free to fish


I am not sure I could have asked for more from Boris’ road map on Monday. Yes, we are slightly hamstrung by the limited opening of places to stay April 12-May 17 and if you are planning to travel from overseas for the Mayfly best to enquire about 2022 dates, but otherwise we are largely home and free.


We can travel as far as we like. We can fish with our friends. We can take a guide. We can organise a group. Courses, camps and special days are all going ahead as planned. We can even hoof it up to the pub for lunch and a pint. To repurpose Gordon Gecko in Wall Street: lunch inside is for wimps.


Of course, this will all be dependent on Covid receding and Boris’ four ‘tests’ perhaps being as flexible as Gordon Brown’s five for joining the Euro. But all in all, things look good.



Get your fishing fix


Dammit, I miss fishing. In the winter I get my fix by walking rivers. I love rivers. I love fishing. Which do I love more? Well, rivers. But sometimes a man just has to fish. And about now I should be packing for a bone fishing trip to Grand Bahamas with my mate Doug.


I had come to terms with that until the 2021 F3T STOKE REEL (translation: 2021 Fly Fishing Film Tour trailer) dropped into my Inbox. Now I am considerably annoyed. OK, it is not entirely the fault of Covid; if you recall the Grand Bahamas was wiped out by the hurricane of 2019. Island rebuilding is hard at the best of times. The past 18 months have not been kind for the team at East End Lodge, but God Bless they are on track to reopen in late March. I wish I could be there.


But I will not be. So I’m living my fishing life for now through the power of Vimeo. Watch the Stoke Reel. Check out the other trailers. Support the many, mostly young, filmmakers by buying a Virtual Ticket at $20. I would say enjoy, but that is hardly necessary.



Click here to watch the F3T trailers



Institutional recidivism


The government have concluded that invasive species threaten our native biodiversity and that something should be done about them. No, not beavers who are fast becoming the pin up poster animals of the wilding mania, but grey squirrels.


To be fair to the current minister Lord (Zac) Goldsmith it has only taken the combined brilliance of the 30 plus governments since the grey squirrel arrived in Britain since the late 1800’s for the penny to finally drop: inserting an adaptable, resourceful creature with few predators into any otherwise settled landscape is nearly always an ecological timebomb. Muntjac, American signal crayfish, coypu and mink all immediately come to mind before you even get into plants and insects.


The plan is for grey squirrels to be fed oral contraceptive; a trial with feeding stations indicated that 90% of squirrels would ‘take the bait’ but none are yet to be fed the contraceptive. I’m not sure it is a slam dunk that the trial will translate into a full-blown policy. Reading around the topic some worry about the contraceptives working into the wider food chain and to quote one ecologist, “the physiological and psychological effects an inability to breed will have on the welfare of grey squirrels.” Yes, really …..


There was a trial 4-5 years ago in the Midlands to sterilise American signal crayfish. It transpires that male signals are true alpha males, killing any juvenile males they come across whilst impregnating all and any females. The trial was slightly different to that of the squirrels with trapped signal males being sterilised before being returned to their home water to continue purposefully killing but pointlessly procreating. I haven’t heard of this being rolled out. Has anyone?


I know I bang on about beavers too much but the institutional recidivism when it comes to managing our countryside makes me despair. Our ability to repeat the same mistakes again and again is a lunacy of which I do not know the cure.



Fish in the Reads & the Hero vs. Villain debate


Later this morning join Charles and myself with guests Marina Gibson and Phillippa Hake, two of the best young guides in the business, for the latest in the Hero vs. Villain debate.


What are the relative merits of fishing in the north vs. south. Which side of the divide are you on? Who has the better fishing? Is the divide real or imagined? Is it all about snobbery or even inverted snobbery? How do the greats of each region stack up against each other? What can we learn from each other? Is it really that different?


The Zoom debate starts at 11am this morning (26/Feb). Login in to join us, add your comments/questions live via the Chat function or if you can’t make it email me for links to the podcast/You Tube recordings.


Click here to join the Zoom meeting


Meeting ID: 832 3202 8504

Passcode: 063415


And if you still haven’t heard enough from me Orvis are hosting Fish in the Reads at 7pm on Thursday (4/March) when I will be reading four short extracts from Life of a Chalkstream and answering your questions. Tickets are free so register here.




This week questions loosely based on anything at all to confound, dismay or delight.


1)    Which is the largest lake (pictured) in the British Isles?


2)    Eldrick is the first name of which famous sportsman?


3)    What was the name of the factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)    Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland

2)    Eldrick Tont Woods aka Tiger Woods

3)    The Wonka Factory

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