Paul's Diary

  • Tuesday 31st May 2017 - A little fishing- at last.

    I have just returned from a quick tour of the south, where I collected a few more doves, a few boxes of books following successful bids at the Flydressers' Guild auction, and a van-full of carp fishing remainders. On Monday afternoon, having finished with book business earlier than expected, I did a little prospecting for somewhere to cast a fly without enduring the formality or expense of a day ticket. I found it in a little stretch of no-man's-water where the most exclusive of chalkstreams passes underneath a motorway bridge, and a quick walk revealed not only a pair of spawning (or at least, intertwined) sea-lampreys, but one or two mayflies and a few rising trout. Returning for my rod, I rose and hooked three nice half-pound brownies on dry flies in the fifty yards or so of water under the bridge. The third of them was clearly visible, hovering in the fast current in mid-river, and occasionally taking something from the surface. He proved to be bullet-proof as I bombarded him with the contents of my dry fly box - sometimes turning to glance at a fly but refusing all for about an hour until at last he succumbed to a #14 deer-hair Humpy. Maybe he was feeding on beetles.
    Next morning I had a hearty hotel breakfast before heading off to far more salubrious surroundings on the beautiful (though highly manicured) river Test. There, to my dismay, I found my hosts busy preparing a huge cooked breakfast - my second of the morning! There was little fly and few rising fish but I did eventually manage to deceive a fat rainbow with a nice CdC mayfly nicked from the late Terry Griffiths' flybox.  Without a net I had to play the fish to exhaustion before I could get a finger under a gill-cover and hoist him onto the bank. Earlier I had discovered the presence of a fish-smoker at the fishing hut, so I tapped him on the head (as an undesirable alien) and we ate him for lunch.

    The discerning motorway brown trout The discerning motorway brown trout

    Tim Benn with lunch Tim Benn with lunch

  • Friday 26th May 2017 - Ireland!

    Just back from our tour of Ireland. In Galway we had a day botanising on the Burren - finding wild gentians, mountain avens, lots and lots of beautiful plants. Next day I tackled the mighty Corrib, piloted and guided by my friend Philip White. The mayfly had started, but were patchy, and we caught a few smallish fish as well as tickling a few bigger ones. Then off to Kerry where Mrs Morgan and Mrs Lanigan-O'Keeffe continued plant-hunting while I experienced a day of pulling flies on Lough Currane. Conditions were great for fishing a team of flies, and I was gillied by the great Bob Priestley, but no-one was catching salmon or sea-trout. Next day we fished Lough Cloonaghlin - a beautiful mountain lough that must be marvellous when the sea-trout are up. As it was we were content with plenty of small trout and a great view of the pair of sea-eagles that inhabit the temperate-rain-forest island on the lough.

    Tea-break on Lough Currane Tea-break on Lough Currane

    Bob Priestley gillies on Cloonaghlin Bob Priestley gillies on Cloonaghlin

    Currane selfie Currane selfie

    Paul's flies for Currane Paul's flies for Currane

  • Monday 3rd April 2017 - not more books!

    Skues Nymph Dressings & Dunne Dry Flies in the Sunshine Skues Nymph Dressings & Dunne Dry Flies in the Sunshine

    I spent the weekend in the deep south of Hampshire at the Angling Auction and Fishing Tackle Fair at Romsey. It was a sociable affair, with many old - and new - friends staying at the same hotel in Romsey. There were not a huge number of books in Saturday's auction, but there were a few nice things from the estates of Fred Buller and Terry Griffiths. Terry played a large part in the production of both of these fine books, so I thought I'd better buy them.
    I sold a few copies of Farlows Salmon Flies to the tackle dealers at the fair on Sunday, and raided their stocks to fill the little space that remained in the van.

  • Sunday 26th March 2017 - Tideline Books

    Over forty years ago Geoff Worrall offered me a job as his assistant at Tideline Books. Nothing came of it - he wouldn't pay my fare from Orkney, and I couldn't afford it. Over the years our paths crossed, buying and selling books to each other -  Geoff died in 1997, but his business continued under other owners up until today. This week I bought the remaining stock and assets of Tideline Books, bringing together the two leading British field sports publishers. Tideline Books have been publishing books on wildfowling, deer-stalking, sporting dogs and guns since 1969, and many of their classic titles remain in print. It is going to be great fun finding a home for all those books (probably another forty-foot shipping container) and incorporating a lot of new titles into the Coch-y-Bonddu list. Watch this space - there will be lots of new books listed here over the next couple of weeks - many of them at bargain prices!

    Net-Making for Sport Net-Making for Sport

    Tales of a Wildfowler Tales of a Wildfowler

    Nine Maneaters and One Rogue Nine Maneaters and One Rogue

    The Roe Deer - Tegner The Roe Deer - Tegner

    The Jack Russell Terrier - Plummer The Jack Russell Terrier - Plummer

    The Wildfowler in Scotland The Wildfowler in Scotland

  • Wednesday 15th March 2017 - First and last grayling

    I've just returned from a two-week trip to the Danish Fly Festival and the London Fly Fishing Fair. I had hoped to fish for sea-trout after the Danish fair, but sleet and snow on the Monday morning frightened me off, so I began the long drive home.
    Back here, the evenings are lengthening so I decided to do some last-minute pruning of a big apple tree after work. That was successful - until, in the dusk, I fell off the ladder onto a steel compost bin. Lots of bruises, but nothing serious resulted.
    I have rejoined the Birmingham Angling Association after many years. They still have lots of waters on the Severn, from Newtown all the way down to Gloucestershire. High water had prevented me from grayling fishing last month, but I determined to have a last cast on the last day of the grayling season. Yesterday afternoon Ceri dropped me off while she went shopping, and I had a delightful couple of hours , catching some nice trout and grayling in the Spring sunshine. I fished a couple of spiders (orange partridge and Greenwells) above a hare's ear nymph, and caught fish on all three flies - not huge but several of each species of about 8 or 10 ounces.

  • Tuesday 17th January 2017 - All work and no play...

    My real loves of wildfowling, rough shooting, duck and pigeon flighting, hunting snipe and woodcock, rabbiting are all getting harder to find - and harder to make time for. If it were not for the pre-arranged days of the local syndicate (and, in the summer, pre-booked fishing trips) then I would hardly escape the clutches of work, and particularly publishing. The publishing does, of course, have great rewards. It is a privilege to be able to channel the creativity of others (and to a lesser extent, of myself) and to produce something of lasting value. Much of the past couple of months has been spent on three authoritative works on classic salmon flies, all destined to meet their public at the BFFI early in February. The largest of these is Martin Lanigan O'Keefe's monumental catalogue of Farlows Salmon Flies, which will surely become the standard reference book for collectors of antique flies.

    Ernest Crosfield Ernest Crosfield

    Salmon Flies of James Harper Salmon Flies of James Harper

    Farlows Salmon Flies Farlows Salmon Flies











    Colin Innes is carving a niche for himself as the historian of Scottish fishing tackle dealers, and particularly of the salmon flies of the north-east. His first volume in the Angling Monographs series, The Lost Salmon Flies of Balmoral, sold out in a few months. Two further monographs are both due to be launched at the BFFI - The Salmon Flies of James Harper, and another on the salmon flies and fishing methods of influential salmon angler, Ernest Crosfield.
    Two of the three books are at the printer, and the third is now out of my hands, so perhaps I can now apply myself to sport. Unlike last year, almost all of our shooting days have been fine and dry. Birds are plentiful thanks to the hard work of our gamekeepers, and I have managed to keep the larder full. Rico managed to split a pad, hunting woodcock in clear-fell, a couple of weeks ago. These things always happen as we approach the end of the season and would really like to be out every day. Anyway, I rested him for a week, and then bandaged him up to go out last Saturday. That was successful so we are on course for a day's picking up on Friday and another day in Llanbrynmair on Saturday. And Duncan keeps reminding me that the rivers are in good order for grayling fishing - tomorrow?



  • Friday 4th November 2016 - books and sport - as usual

    The grayling weekend went well and our new book, Steve Skuce's Grayling Flies, was very well received. On Sunday I fished the Wilton Water on the Wylie, and caught some nice grayling, and on Monday I had a short session in tropical sunshine with our friend Jan Grimstone on the Test, catching some small grayling and having fun spotting some big trout and carp (!) in the clear water.
    By Tuesday the temperature had dropped ten degrees. I spent two hours up to my waist in Cardigan Bay - by the time I waded ashore I was numb with cold. Came home with two mackerel (my first, I think, in November) and a bagful of parasol mushrooms.
    Today we will be busy numbering and mailing the latest two volumes in our Angling Monographs series, Salmon and Science by Dr Derek Mills and Understanding Fish Vision by Prof Lawrence Threadgold.
    Tomorrow I will take my very fat labrador, Rico, out of hibernation when we go for our first day at the pheasants!

    Salmon and Science Salmon and Science

    Grayling Flies by Steve Skuce Grayling Flies by Steve Skuce

    Understanding Fish Vision Understanding Fish Vision

  • Saturday 22nd October 2016 - Not more mackerel!

    aberdyfi-mackerel Mackerel and whitebait from Aberdyfi quay

    I was unduly pessimistic about the tomatoes. Some plants were stricken by blight in August but most of them survived and continued to crop, though they are coming to an end now.
    Once the inshore water cleared, and the sea flattened with a steady east wind, the baitfish and mackerel moved into the beaches and the whole of Cardigan Bay had an unprecedented harvest. I only managed one short evening, but very quickly collected a bucketful of mackerel, sprats, whitebait, and even a couple of smelts. After catching a lot of mackerel very quickly on feathers, I changed to a floating plug. This was great fun in the clear water as whole shoals of fish could be seen following the lure, throwing themselves out of the water, until eventually, on almost every cast, one took hold.

    Aberystwyth sprats Aberystwyth sprats

    I have been away at shows most weekends, and this continues right up to the end of November. Penrith Flyfest and Uttoxter Flyfair have just gone, and Galway and the Belgian Fly Happening are to come. Next weekend will be fun - Steve Skuce's new book, Grayling Flies, is due to be delivered directly from the printers to the Winchester venue of the Grayling Society annual conference. If all goes well I will be able to celebrate with a day's chalkstream grayling fishing on the Sunday.
    I sent my catalogue to the printers yesterday, and the wind is back in the east so, in between shows, I might even try for a bass.


    The staff fishing trip was a great success - there were plenty of mackerel and bream so everyone had fish to take home. Since then I have been busy working on publishing projects and my catalogue so I have not been out very much. The inshore fishing has been quiet with 2016-10-06-18-21-24turbid water conditions, and the usual flocks of birds, indicating the presence of baitfish, have not been present. However we have settled into a period of easterlies so a couple of days ago I took advantage of a flat sea to go for a cast at dusk. Despite the absence of birds there were fish about and I caught a few joey mackerel and a couple of reasonable bass, including a nice one to take home - my first of the year. It's a good job I took two bags - I filled one with horse mushrooms and parasol mushrooms on the way to the shore, and the other with the bass and a mackerel. Supper was assured!

  • Thursday 1st September 2016 - Harvest time

    No sport of note during this busy time. The sea-trout season is almost at an end and the river is full of very small sewin (or finnock, or herling). I had an hour at dusk a couple of days ago, catching a few, but more interested in the seven flocks of Canada geese that went over well within gunshot. Perhaps that's where I should be this evening.
    I have very mixed feelings about the Game Fair. I was stricken by a bug and spent the entire time feeling rotten and watching while my admirable staff did all the work. Our stand in the fishing area, isolated from the rest of the fair, was a waste of time. There was a reasonable footfall at the shooting stand, but I've already talked to the organisers about next year and they are demanding more for stand rent that we took this year, so the 2016 Game Fair might well have been our last.
    Luke and I have just returned from the Irish Game Fair in Birr - a very different kettle of fishing books. We were flat-out all weekend, mostly selling inexpensive books, but it felt good to be busy, and to travel home without the van being overweight!
    August is tomato time - actually it is a very short season; we usually have plenty in time for the Game Fair at the end of July, and now, at the end of August, the main crops are already coming to an end. It's been a poor summer and my later plants were afflicted by blight, so I'm not sure how I can extend the season in future. I grew about a dozen varieties this year, but two were outstanding for taste - Black Opal and White Rabbit. I won't bother with some of the others next year - just those two, plus Shirley and Gardener's Delight.
    We've had several sea-fishing trips cancelled because of the weather, just managing one wrecking trip and one for bream. Almost no mackerel yet, but I hope to rectify that this morning as my staff and I leave for a half-day mackerel and bream trip in a few minutes...

    Spot the white rabbit. Spot the white rabbit.

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