Friday, 7 May 2021

A new ice age




The Nether Wallop Parish Council is parochial in the very best of the sense. It concerns itself solely with the mundanity of village life. Potholes. Planning applications. Dog fouling. Footpaths


The only time the outside world really intrudes into the work of the Parish councillors is when they, all civic minded, unpaid citizens, are met by missives from central government demanding compulsory diversity training or the completion of lengthy forms enquiring as to their personal and financial circumstances that assume each is something of a cross between Jimmy Saville and Rupert Maxwell. And when the ice signs mysteriously appeared last winter on the Village Green.



Green, pleasant land


Now our village green, at 15 years old, is something pretty new in relation to the life of Nether Wallop, which has a church dating back to 900AD. We were gifted the green by a local landowner, who died just a few months before the official handover. However, the ceremony which went ahead as planned adapted to become part celebration/part wake, was rather derailed.


The local MP was speaking in generous terms as to the generosity of spirit and deed of our benefactor as we stood on the new green that is bounded on two sides by houses, another side by the Wallop Brook and the last by a lane with a ditch, with a ford at one corner which flows into the Brook. As the MP wound up his speech, he paused for effect at the precise moment someone in the crowd turned to his neighbour sotto voce, “Generous my a**e. He only gave the land having been turned down for planning on countless occasions.” I seem to recall we all laughed because it was true but hey, you take what you can get and the transitory loss of one man was the permanent gain of the village.


But I digress – back to the ice signs. They were huge. Ten feet tall. The sort of thing you’d see on a dual carriageway. A grey, plastic clad steel upright the thickness of a leg supporting a red and white reflective sign with a black ice flake symbol in the middle with, in case you were in any doubt, a smaller sign below with the word ICE. And there wasn’t just one but three; two on the green and the other at the ford.


Fair to say the whole village was appalled. Calls to the Council were met with the usual health and safety/nothing I can do guv defence. Apparently, someone, somewhere had been involved in an ‘incident’ at a ford somewhere in Hampshire (remember these generally range from dry to maybe a foot in depth) so now every ford across the county is blighted with such signs. I dread to think how much they cost. Thousands, I guess. And not only that, the signs fold away, so in theory some guy has to be dispatched from county HQ when mercury is due to fall below zero. In fact, they just get left folded out to be the permanent eyesores they are.


However, the Parish Council battled and cajoled with the higher ups whilst some of us planned a Bristol statue style toppling of the wretched things into the Wallop Brook.


And then, a few days after a consultative visit from highways, the signs were gone from our green. Victory in our time? Sadly, not. The only victors were the pen pushing highways officers who, in a wonderful bureaucratic revenge-on-you-for-ever-having-the-temerity-to-complain technically satisfied the original complaint by moving the signs a few yards off the green including re-siting one right outside our star tourist attraction, Dane Cottage, the TV home of Miss Marple where dozens of episodes were filmed 1984-92.



A sign of the times? Miss Marple's Dane Cottage top left


However, as if this wasn’t enough to make a bad situation worse highways concluded on the basis of the original complaint that we didn’t have enough signs, so installed by the ford another batch, including a ford warning sign at 10ft tall, presumably to alert any passing giraffes, and a depth gauge to alert us humans in the event of a biblical 6ft flood.


Which begs the question, do the highways people know something about chalkstreams, a new ice age or climate change what we don't?



Ford at your peril!



An expert writes


Against most odds we managed to complete a successful 2020 One Fly last Friday, albeit a year late last Friday.


Zoom came to our rescue for the draw and awards. It worked well in that way that technology works well but I think it is fair to say that a socially distanced One Fly is not the same without the social bit. Competitors and guides met at the beat, fished in a piscatorial bubble and the results were texted to HQ.


As ever, disaster and triumph were met with equal aplomb and we had some fun. You can ee the photo gallery via this link but I’m going to defer the remaining words to Charles Jardine’s much read post on social media of his day at Avon Springs on the River Avon in which he modestly fails to mention he won the award, along with his guide Steve Batten, for the largest fish of the day.


“This is a very strange post for me. I don’t do that many competitions... and when I do, I am that relaxed about them, to be near horizontal. 



The one Comp. I love, though, is the One Fly. Started by Simon Cooper many years ago, it has outgrown the original River Test tag, to now encompass waters as diverse as the Kennet, Itchen, Dever, Avon and of course the Test. No great ho ha about winning anything...a bit of fleeting kudos, I suspect: but it is firmly for charity and fun.... but in a serious way. 



25" beauty


As the name implies you fish just one fly...lose it. Finito. Yes, you can fish on but it doesn’t count. You can also change patterns halfway to the same design...but lose points.

Thus, I have used a great deal of glue in a flies construction and pretty strong “twang” as tippet. You do pay attention to detail. Intriguingly you pay far more attention to how a fly is fished as opposed “what” fly is fished...lessons there!


This year, after Covid interruptions, we fished the postponed 2020 event but of course, without the familiar Stockbridge gathering. Everything was done by Zoom and allocations for sections and beats drawn via that medium.


I drew The Avon above Amesbury lowered my sights to a fish in the morning and one in the afternoon - it is a notoriously fickle stretch - and apologised a-forehand for any lacklustre performance on my part...then, like a complete eejit had my second Pfizer Jab last Wednesday in the right casting arm...and of course, naturally, I had a reaction!


The point of this, I guess, is the fly design....


My brief to myself was: A fly that looked like a virtual “grocery-store” to the trout - shrimpy- in a caddisy way.... unobtrusive, but able to hook fish and robust to withstand a heavy pounding all day and NOT lose its point or break...a hook that I had confidence in....and then, be dressed to fish in a variety of water columns .... so, this is what I came up with....


The Henge  

·        Hook: 12. Fulling Mill Jig

·        Bead: Copper 3m tungsten

·        Thread: Black Textstreme 25d Nanothread

·        Tail: 5 Cock pheasant tail fibres

·        Rib: Fine red wire

·        First part of the body: Flat Sybai Copper wire.

·        Second Half: a Mix of Hare’s fur, Red fox squirrel and some sparkly bits.

·        Tag: Tiny tuft Fluo red Antron

·        Collar: Hends Peacock Ice Dub

·        Voila ...all glued like crazy...but not to ruin the buggy-ness.... and fished on 8lb Riverge Soft tippet....


It worked.....

And the pic is what the fly looks like after 19 fish one of them 25inches...a brute! And some really large browns dotted about the 18-20 inch mark.


I was beside myself with joy....


And our team ...”narrowly” won...


My thanks to guide extraordinaire - Steve Batten for putting up with my whining and being brilliant.”


PS One contestant complained of dodgy tippet letting him down on the day – lost fish, lost flies. Pull the other one. But lo, an email to Airflo produced the following reply:


“Please return the spools to the address below and we shall replace them. We had a bad batch go out and were not made aware of the issue until after they had all been sold.”


Good to know!



The Henge



15 minutes of fame


Andy Warhol famously said (or maybe he didn’t), "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Well, Tony King, Fishing Breaks guide and recently anointed Trout & Salmon columnist, your moment has come.


The Optimist: A Case for the Fly Fishing Life published last week and written by American David Coggins features Tony in an entire chapter of a book that takes in fishing around the world, as he and David hunt the wild streams of Dorset with a dry fly to execute the perfect cast, to the perfect fish.


Try not to be put off by the blurb on the back cover which suggests the book “offers a practical path toward enlightenment”. This is more John Gierach than the Tripitaka and the sacred texts of Buddhism.


The Optimist is published by the Scribner Book Company and available via Amazon




That was the month that was .... April


If there was a god who dealt with weather appeals, I’d canvas that April weather be reserved for May and vice versa. This year was typical, a dry April and then a May that has started wet, windy and cold.


That said, we had a frosty April like none I can remember – the last with so many frosts was 60 years ago. In fact, there was a frost every single day somewhere in Britain which is almost unheard of. A complete contrast to 2020 when you could count the frosts with the fingers on a single hand.


The cold certainly truncated the fishing days, hatches huddled around the warmth of midday. We did have some stonking Grannom hatches across all the chalkstream counties but as I write the Hawthorn is late. A harbinger for Mayfly?


Well done to Donatas Bacius, who had early season outing to the River Frome, who wins our monthly feedback draw, a bottle of Daddy Longs Legs champagne. This fizz from Mayfly Wines is going to be the monthly prize with a mixed half case of red, whites and champagne for the end of season draw.


If you can’t wait that long, call or email Pete at Mayfly Wines. The champagne is £71 for a half case and the mixed half case £165. Both prices include delivery.



Pete Goss of Mayfly Wine Co. delivers to Nether Wallop Mill



Dates for your diary


Hero vs. Villain.

Which is the better sporting fish - brown or rainbow?


Which would you rather catch? Which is the more testing quarry? Or is it neither? Should salmon, grayling, steelhead or another game fish take the accolade as the ultimate sporting fish on the fly? 7pm Thursday May 27th. Register to join the Zoom debate.


Fish in the Reads


After the success of the Fish In The Reads online series I took part in earlier this year, Orvis UK is excited to offer the chance to join David Profumo, Charles Rangeley-Wilson, Luke Jennings, Tom Fort and myself for the Fish in the Reads Festival – a magical afternoon and evening on Friday 25th June from 4pm on the Orvis flagship Kimbridge beat. Expect readings from our books, casting demos, a Mezze meal from Kimbridge Barn and artisan gin cocktails from Chilgrove Spirits. To buy your ticket click here


River Walk


Join me for a talk, walk and lunch at some of my favourite haunts on the River Test in June. To buy your ticket click here 




This week questions loosely based on today's topics to confound, dismay or delight.


1)    Who is missing from these G7 members? France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US.


2)    Who wrote the Miss Marple murder mystery novels?


3)    Which English Premier League team began a 49 match unbeaten streak on this day in 2003 with a 6-1 victory over Southampton?



Have a good weekend.



Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)    Canada

2)    Agatha Christie

3)    Arsenal

No comments:

Post a Comment