No 8 in The Angler's Bookshelf series in April Trout & Salmon magazine - W.H. Lawrie.
Kitchen appliances have been busy all winter - the dehydrator for mushrooms and fruit, the mincing machine for pheasant burgers, and the vacuum packer all the time. Picking up on a pheasant shoot twice a week left little time for other sport, but did provide an abundance of game.
Unwarranted restrictions on access to the estuary completely curtailed my wildfowling activities, though I made a point of doing more evening inland flighting as a result. It looks to me as though the insidious attacks by officials of NRW, the RSPB, and others will eventually succeed, as people like myself are discouraged from our once solitary sport by the fear of conflict and confrontation. I just want to spend the dusk out with dog and gun, and it is easier to just go elsewhere. And, as we get older, it just gets to be too much hassle and hard work. It is sad that these pursuits will not be available to youngsters in the future who, if they have any interest in sport at all, will only know the wholly artificial world of reared pheasants (and, even worse, reared ducks).
Fishing is going the same way, with even lifelong anglers of my age saying that they would never kill a wild trout - or a grayling or sea-trout, (or a bass or mullet or perch or pike or gudgeon ) and interfering officials seeking to ban the taking of fish for the table. What nonsense! When any of these creatures are in abundance - as they very frequently are - then it is perfectly sensible and acceptable to take a harvest, and to be able to justify our sport by doing so.
See - as soon as I starting talking about sport I go off on a rant! I'd better shut up.
I leave here tomorrow morning for the BFFI - by far the best flyfishing fair in the UK. The van is full of goodies for the discerning flyfisher.
Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the Danish Fly Fair in Kolding this year. It used to be easy when there was a ferry from Harwich. The last few times I have driven all the way from Machynlleth to Kolding, but it is a heck of a long drive. And this year the fair is very early so I wouldn't even have the prospect of good fishing to look forward to.
I have not made a decision about either of the big game fairs - The Game Fair and the Midland Game Fair. I have not booked either, and have talked to the organisers of both about the difficulty and expense of taking a large stand. At this stage neither have come back to me, so I have to doubt their interest in having a high quality book stand at their events. I'd like to have a presence, but have decided that I no longer want to subsidise these people - if they want me there they have to show some flexibility.
The Scottish Game Fair is a similar problem. The organisers have absolutely no interest in having a bookseller there, so I stopped taking my own marquee several years ago. However, I enjoy going north to meet my friends and customers, so recently I have been taking space in the Flyfishing Marquee. This year we hope to be launching Stan Headley's new book - Reflections on Loch Fishing at Scone.
I WILL be at the West Country Game Fair and at both of the Irish Game Fairs. The organisers of these fairs are realistic, understanding the work and expense of carrying a bookshop around the country. They are also expert at the kind of mutual promotion, through competitions and sponsorship, that is good for all of us. And if I have to spend most of June in the west of Ireland, then so be it! And I will be back in Galway for the Irish Fly Fair in November - with another major book launch planned!
I have attended every Falconry Fair for over 25 years. Unfortunately it has now been absorbed by Countryman Fairs and last year's event was merely part of one of their country fairs, with hardly any real falconers in attendance. Charlie Heap's northern event clashes with Ireland, and Jemima doesn't seem to be doing anything this year, so it doesn't look as though I will get to a serious falconry event in 2019.
I will be at the Grayling Society Symposium as usual, and I will try to get to some of the small tackle fairs during the year - though that may depend on the organisers' enthusiasm for having a book stall.
After weeks of working on my catalogue I am planning to get away from my desk more from now on. Today was our first day at the pheasants in Llanbrynmair, and a splendid day it was! The weather held fine and we have a great stock of birds - everyone shot well and we had a fine bag.
I finished the day by taking some corn to a small flight pond that I have discovered. An odd mixture of woodcock and bats were flying around as I arrived in the dusk, but I left both in peace, instead bagging a rabbit. I don't get many bunnies and was pleased when my snap-shot at its bobbing scut bowled it over. Then I waited to see if anything was visiting the pond and was rewarded with a brace of mallards. Rico had a lot of work this morning so I'm glad his rabbit and the ducks off the pond in the darkness were straightforward retrieves. He's sustained a few cuts and bruises today, but will have a week to recover before our next day out.
I'm off to the Fly Fair in Galway next weekend, but after that I hope to be either be shooting or picking up several times as week - and then I need to go grayling fishing!
Paul is writing a monthly fishing book price-guide for Trout and Salmon Magazine. It's pretty basic, but a good opportunity to pass on some information about books. Here are the first three. Click on the image for greater detail.
Autumn has come to Mid-Wales and suddenly the woods are full of fungi. This year two of my most productive woods have been clear-felled but yesterday another spot yielded a great flush of Slippery Jacks and other assorted boletes, plus a few chanterelles. The best find (not photographed unfortunately) was a mass of Hen of the Woods. I wasn't 100% sure, but I am now - and they taste great. Luckily there are lots more, and they are quite young, so I'll be back. Five trays in the dehydrator and a pan-full for breakfast!
Another success is dried shrimps. I took Dewi down to the shore on a poor tide, hoping for shrimps. Not sure whether it was the small tide or the lateness of the season but the grey shrimps were not around. There were plenty of prawns though, and I put a tray of the smallest of them in the dehydrator. Instant umami!
Today Bethan and Dewi arrived from France - to live once more in Machynlleth. Well, it will be a first for Dewi, who has lived all his life in France. He starts at the Machynlleth high school in a few days. We celebrated with a meal entirely from the garden, except for the mackerel I caught this morning and mushrooms picked just before dinner.
We had a wrecking trip planned for today, but a dodgy forecast relegated it to an inshore trip. Then, once we had crossed the bar it became apparent that it would be much too rough to anchor, so we had a couple of bumpy drifts for mackerel before calling it a day.
We've had lovely water on the river, but it is behaving oddly. I've had two or three short sessions, losing another salmon, but seeing no sea-trout at all. I've seen and heard of several more salmon caught, but the sea-trout run has dried up - at a time when they would usually be prolific.
Where do I start? Well, with the mullet, i suppose. I went to the Broadwater with Duncan, only to discover that i had taken an empty rod-tube! So, i was a spectator. My mate, Tommy, was also there (he is ALWAYS there), and I watched as he and Dunc covered hundreds of mullet with every conceivable fly. As on Dunc's previous visit, they were touching fish continually, and sometimes hooking one, but despite the occasional follow, the mullet were not taking the flies. I went again a day or two later, taking a light spinning rod, some tiny Mepps and Droppen spoons, and worms. i had exactly the same experience with baited and unbaited spoons, touching fish continually, but never actually hooking one, and never having a genuine take. So I'll leave them alone for a while!
Following the rotten auction results mentioned in my last post, Trout and Salmon Magazine asked me to do an article on book prices. Initially I refused, but on reflection I decided that it would not do any harm to write about individual authors and their books, together with a price guide. So here is what I came up with - It is good discipline to have to fit everything into a half-page:
Pondering on who to discuss next, I delved into Richard Waddington's books on salmon earlier this week. The British Library Catalogue says that Waddington was also the author of Teach Yourself Fishing by "Tom Rodway." I had my doubts about this, as Waddington was a wealthy toff, an expert on salmon and grouse, but hardly interested in the bream and pike that occupied Rodway. Anyway, to make my point I compared the two author's writing on salmon, and one point of difference was that Waddington always insisted on playing a salmon until it was on its side, then hand-tailing it; whereas the only method of landing a salmon mentioned by Rodway was the gaff.
There is a point to all this! We have had a drizzly week and the river, while remaining clear, has livened up a little. Determined to have a cast, but still troubled with my shoulder, this afternoon I decided to take my everyday trout rod (5-weight with a floating line, 6lb leader) to look for a sewin. I fished a team of three flies for an hour, catching about twenty yellow-fins but nary a sea-trout. Then, at the tail of the second pool, as I was about to pack up, a salmon took my middle dropper, right under the rod-tip. I was on a fairly high bank, without a landing net, but the fish had plenty of room to run, and there were few snags (apart from the other two flies on the cast!) Waddington's words rang in my ears - "Once the fish is on its side it is beaten and easy to tail by hand." Well, of course, he was quite right, and it was. A nice 8lb fish, not very fresh but still a salmon! On a #12 fly - I suppose you might call it a pearly-bodied Wickhams spider.
No trout fishing at all, though I did winkle out a 3lb sea-trout on a Rapala on a small flood a few days ago. It is turning out to be a mushroom year - every time I venture out I come home with something. We've had a good lot of field mushrooms this year - so many that I have invested in a dehydrator - the first batch of mushrooms and tomatoes went in this evening.
Half a year has gone, with little sport to report. A damaged shoulder has made both fishing and shooting difficult, and a serious case of laziness has curtailed my diary-keeping.
Two major irritations today. First I heard - too late - of an online auction in America of a serious collection of angling books. I looked at the site and the prices realised were pathetic. Presumably that is down to poor advertising by the auctioneers. Certainly , had I known about it, some of those books would have fetched higher prices.
Then, against my wishes, Amazon refunded a customer in Alaska. He had given me a street address to which, he afterwards told me, USPS will not deliver. So not my fault, but it cost me a hundred and fifty quid!
We're just home from the Game Fair at Ragley Hall. It was blazing hot on Friday, high winds on Saturday, and pouring rain on Sunday - normal Game Fair conditions, and we didn't do too badly. Takings are about half of what they were ten years ago, and the stand prices are only double what they were.
No sport to relate. While at the Northern Ireland Game Fair at Shanes Castle I had a couple of hours on the marvellous River Maine. During a dusk caddis hatch I caught fish continually - roach, perch, trout from tiddlers to a pound or so, and finally, as it got dark, four dollaghan, each over a pound. I've never known such a density of fish. Of course, the shoulder suffered for a couple of weeks after that!
Drought has kept me away from the Dyfi. I missed a tiny spate over the weekend so I went for a look last night, but only came home with mushrooms. Tomorrow I have planned a mullet hunt. I'll keep you posted.
Now that the powers-that-be have completely banned anglers from taking bass, the estuary is full of them. Those with commercial licences continue to take hundreds, while the holidaying angler cannot take one. There are boats fishing over the reef every day, livebaiting and lure-fishing for bass. I assume that they are putting them all back.