February fill-dyke, eh? Not this year, thank goodness. Two or three weeks without rain means that we can step outside without wellington boots - at last. I have used the opportunity to move the chickens to some fresh clean grass, and to lose two of my three boats, thus reclaiming the paved area where will be able to eat outside all through the coming glorious summer. I have to take the van to Newtown for its M.O.T. today, so I might just take along a grayling rod, just in case. (Leaving instructions for the gardener about which areas of the garden she is to dig first).
The shooting season wasn't out of the ordinary - shooting or picking up once or twice a week, and plenty of game to deal with. I managed a few flights on the estuary but only once had a nice mixed bag of teal, wigeon and mallard. Rough shooting suffered a bit this year, and wasn't helped by the fact that both I and Jess were lame for the last couple of weeks of January, and had to pick our days carefully. It's not quite over, though - coastal fowling goes on for another couple of weeks so, given hard weather, I'll be out again next week. In the meantime I'm busy loading van and trailer with books on guns and shooting ready for the big Shooting Show at Stoneleigh this weekend.
One tragedy of 2012 was the loss of my wonderful row of celery - killed by frost while I was baking in Africa. I had bought the plants in Holland - or was it France? - after one of the flyfairs in the spring. Fed daily from a brew of chicken manure, the plants were luxuriant; destined to season soups and casseroles throughout the winter - or so I thought. So we are having to buy celeriac and celery instead. I have just eaten a roast woodcock with celeriac mash that almost made up for my loss. It was wonderful!
January is my shooting month and I have kept the larder pretty full; Jess has lost all her excess weight, but unfortunately I can't say the same for myself! I spent this afternoon on the estuary, reminding myself what hard work it is, trudging for miles in ankle-deep mud. Lots of birds about; teal, wigeon, mallards and canadas, but I failed to make the most of my few opportunities and came home empty-handed.
Back from the desert! Storms in Angola had put the Kunene in a raging flood, so I couldn't do much with my five-weight and nymphs. Total bag was one silver labeo - a mini-mahseer. My aim had been to drive along the Kunene from Ruacana to to Epupa Falls and I managed this, though I wouldn't recommend the hundred miles in first gear, alternating between bone-shaking rocky hills and rather worrying river crossings. No game there - just occasional Himba with their goats and cattle.
Game aplenty in Etosha, of course, including lots of rhino, both black and white. The western deserts are stunning and, heart in mouth, I returned to drive the Ugab River, once again meeting the desert elephants. Finally I had a look at the peak of the pupping at the Cape Cross seal colony on the cold Atlantic coast. Next day a wheel bearing went and I was rescued just in time for my plane. If that had happened at Epupa I would certainly still be there.
Home to find my staff inundated with orders for books but I'm afraid I must leave them to it - I'm picking-up at Llynlloed today.
Sunday's grayling fishing on the upper Wye was delightful: a proper Autumn day for a change. I caught a few on bugs in the morning, then one or two on dry flies when it warmed up. Another angler, fishing really heavy bugs, caught lots, including some good ones. Yesterday I had an early start, sailing out of Liverpool Marina at 7am. Fished hard but couldn't find a Mersey cod, so had to make do with a dozen fat dabs and a sackful of whiting. Today I got my catalogue off to the printer, but I've still got a week of office work to catch up.
Ben and I had our first rough shoot of the season this week - earlier than usual and the leaves on the trees made it harder to get onto the few birds we saw. We finished up with two fine cock pheasants, which pleased farmer Tom, who always enjoys a bird.
Don't bother trying to phone me between now and the end of the year. Today I'm off to Galway for the Flyfair, next weekend I have a few days of sport (including the delayed first shoot at Llanbrynmair) but have also got to get to Redditch to the tackle fair, then straight off to Belgium for their Fly Happening, then Namibia to hunt for nembwe on the Kunene River, and then it will be Christmas!
Catalogues will be mailed this weekend so my staff will have something to occupy them while I'm off enjoying myself.
Now the catalogue is out of the way I'm taking more advantage of chances of sport. I tried a surface plug among the rocks one afternoon; no bass but there were bunches of wigeon buzzing about, even landing on the beach. I guess they were Russian tourists - I should get out one morning and give them a real welcome. On Saturday, with the river levels falling, the three musketeers headed east for grayling. We each caught a two-pounder - well, my two-pounder was probably closer to a pound and a half, but you know what I mean - plus a few smaller fish. A very nice reminder of how good the border rivers can be.
Yesterday was my only Bardsey trip of the year. The long trip out was quite bumpy but the big swell gradually settled down and we caught plenty of bass on artificials.
October is usually a busy month for the hunter-gatherer. Not so this year - the lousy weather combined with the local trauma of the missing child have combined to keep us away from the river and the woods. We tried an odd excursion to the lakes but it wasn't much fun in the cold and mist, and the few fish we caught were plump with eggs. Yesterday saw the end of the season, both for salmon and the lakes, so now it's the gun and the grayling rod. Oh - and maybe a bit of sea fishing.
Tonight has seen some frantic plucking going on. The Reverend Dick arrived with some beautiful Welsummers - three pullets and a cockerel - so my fine young mongrel cockerels had to go. Slim youths, the heaviest was just short of five pounds, but they looked pretty good once their feathers were off - they'll make three excellent dinners.
Tomorrow sees the delayed start to the season at Llynlloedd - there are lots of birds and the forecast is good - so we're hoping for a great day. As soon as we finish I'll be off to Llandrindod Wells for the annual Grayling society bash; flogging books on Saturday and grayling fishing on the Wye on Sunday, with intervals of feasting and the odd glass or two.
The tragedy of a missing child supercedes any thought of visiting the river for any purpose as frivolous as fishing. The search is being carried out by the professional agencies and volunteers are not wanted at present. So that leaves me to continue preparing for the launch of The Forgotten Flies Of Roger Woolley at the Burton-on-Trent Fly Fair on Sunday.
I hate salmon fishing. I think.
We had a huge flood on Wednesday. On Thursday I spent all morning on the river, spinning. I touched nothing until I was about to leave, then I hooked, and subsequently lost, a big salmon.
Yesterday it was still big water, but clear. I left the shop at 4.15, cast a fly at 4.30, hooked a salmon at 4.35, and landed it at 4.55. Less than ten pounds but in a strong flow on a single-handed rod it was quite a handful!
Today I should be working on a new catalogue, but it is such a big job that it is very easy to keep on putting it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow is Sunday - no fishing on the Dyfi, and rain is forecast. Perhaps I'll start tomorrow.