This is what I said on my website last Spring:
"We will be at the CLA Game Fair this year, but it is very likely to be for the last time. Apparently organisations like the Salmon & Trout Association, the Wild Trout Trust and the National Gamekeepers Association will not be there because of the cost of taking a stand. The short-sighted CLA, by excluding these important countryside organisations, are excluding my friends and customers, will cause further decline in my business, and hasten their own inevitable demise."
Well, I was right, and now the void left by the CLA Game Fair is being vied for by four different organisations who are all boasting huge support - which is rather odd considering the fact that three of them have not even contacted me, and the fourth phoned and quoted me a price that would work out at £4000 for me to take a stand.
So, at the moment I'm planning a pleasant summer at home with plenty of time for fishing.
This is what I said on my website last Spring:
We have a busy schedule at the BFFI on 13th February. 10am on Saturday morning sees the launch of the first four titles in our new series of Angling Monographs. These are very attractive limited edition books on specialist areas of flyfishing. They are each limited to 250 signed and numbered copies and we have lots of advance orders.
Authors Peter Hayes, Keith Harwood and Colin Innes will be with us on Saturday, signing books – though Colin has to leave before midday on Saturday so if you want to meet him come early!
The titles being launched are:
1. Imitators of the Fly: A History. Peter Hayes.
2. The Lost Salmon Flies of Balmoral. Colin Innes.
3. Angling Books: A Collector’s Guide. Keith Harwood.
4. American Angling Bibliographies: An Essay and a Guide to Resources. Ken Callahan.
Later we will be joined by well-known angler and fly-tyer Philip White for the launch of his new book on matching the hatch, fly-tying and fly patterns for imitating naturals: Observation: A Flyfisher's Guide to Reading the Water. This will be launched at midday, and Phil will be signing books and meeting our customers.
November was filled with a succession of relatively small flyfishing fairs. They took up a lot of my time and, as usual, I missed the first couple of days on the pheasant shoot. None of the fairs were especially successful so maybe I should rethink how I spend my time next year.
Back at the office I was busy getting my annual catalogue printed and mailed, and making sure that we had good stocks of lots of unusual and interesting books for our customers. As well as that I have been working on my latest publishing project - a series of Angling Monographs, relatively small specialist books on tight subjects within angling, especially bibliography and the history of flies and fly-tying; it is great fun to work on subjects which I enjoy. The challenge I am facing is to produce a high quality and attractive series while not being able to make the savings enabled by printing large numbers. Some of these are going to have a very small (but select!) readership, and I am limiting the print-runs of all of them to 250 copies. The first four books in the series are well under way and will be launched at the BFFI in Stafford in February.
Fairs out of the way, I dug Rico out of his state of suspended animation and got out to do some beating and picking-up. Of course that was the signal for the heavens to open - and it hasn't stopped since. (We haven't been flooded yet, though it was up to the door-step last night). We have had some soakings on shooting days but it generally hasn't stopped us enjoying some great sport in beautiful surroundings.
This week, with a group of friends, I had a small driven day high up in the hills of mid-Wales. The rain stopped and we stood in sunshine as pheasants flew high above us. There were wild turkeys in the woods with the pheasants, and the keeper said that if anyone had a sporting opportunity to shoot one, that was OK, but the gun would have to pay a £30 fine to be given to the Air-Ambulance charity. I reckoned £30 was a bargain for a Christmas dinner so when the only turkey of the day to fly over the guns came over me it paid the penalty! A nice male - not huge - twelve and a half pounds - but I'm sure it will eat well.
Then yesterday I was back to beating above the estuary in the pouring rain!
I'm getting complaints that I don't keep this up-to-date. Sorry! October was such a great month that I spent every free moment outside. Now the weather has broken and the evenings are dark I will be less likely to begrudge time spent at the computer.
The drought continued almost to the present, so I left the rivers and lakes for the shore, where the settled weather was great for leaping around the rocks with rod and creel.
Mackerel were so abundant that I used my largest floating lures to try to avoid hooking them, resulting in explosive takes from bass, often right among the rocks at the water's edge. I didn't catch any monsters, or huge numbers, but several of my occasional trips yielded one or two fat three-pounders.
A visit to Cambridgeshire to meet various authors and publishers filled the van to the roof with well over 2000 books. Luckily I found room to take a light spinning rod and pinched a couple of hours on a small Fenland river. Using the smallest spinnerbaits that I could find on my last visit to Bass Pro Shops, I landed about twenty small pike and half a dozen nice perch. It was lively and exciting, comparable in interest with any fishing I have had anywhere around the world. The fish were perfect and unmarked, and, as with my Welsh rock fishing, I had the water to myself. I'm not complaining, but where are the other anglers? Fishing for stocked trout and carp?
Our sea-trout season has long ended - without fresh water, so I left them alone at the end of the season - I took my harvest in the Spring. The Autumn has been fruitful and most evenings are spent dealing with the produce of field and shore. Yesterday I made a late visit to the rocks for prawns, loaded down with creel, net and rod. Lucky for me that I did! A really low spring-tide revealed prawning crevasses that I had never seen before, and I soon half-filled my creel. Then feeding gulls attracted my attention and I spotted the shoals of whitebait moving along the shore. As the light started to fade mackerel herded the fry into a wide bay and soon the surface was continually broken by showers of leaping fish. At first I just scooped a few whitebait out in my prawning net, but once the mackerel drove them into my shore I was quickly able to fill my creel to the brim. Then, casting a lure, I started catching some good big mackerel. I stopped at ten fish as creel and rucksack were both laden. Supper was fresh whitebait and prawns, and breakfast today was fried fillets of mackerel with home-grown tomatoes. I feel spoiled!
Tomorrow I am off to the first in a series of flyfishing shows over the next three weekends. First is Flyfest in Penrith this weekend, then the Grayling Society AGM in Lockerbie, then the Burton Flyfishing Show at Uttoxeter Racecourse. I've got a lot of great bargains, particularly for fly-tyers. It's time I packed my bags so I think I'll ask Luke to list a few of them here tomorrow.
The Irish Game Fair at Birr Castle was successful, though we could have used more time to explore the lovely estate and gardens, and to fish for the local race of trout, croneen. Like dollaghan, they migrate from lakes - in this case Lough Derg - and grow to a good size. I was lucky enough to catch a few of about a pound.
Back home, I bumped into this pair of otters yesterday afternoon, then found my grape harvest devastated.
We've had visitors for the past month, starting with Ken from New Hampshire, then Bethan and Dewi from France, and Owen and Sara from Cambridge, so I've done little serious fishing. Instead we've been busy dealing with the produce of the garden (and the woods, the fields and the sea-shore), and feasting every day,
I did have a spectacular couple of hours on the shore last week. Birds were working just off a rocky reef so I waded up to my chest to get onto the rocks, finding myself in the middle of a feeding horde. Of course, my first cast hooked a shearwater, and by the time I had landed and released it the flocks had moved away. Then, for an hour I caught school bass on surface plugs. Almost every cast produced a follow from fish which I could see clearly from my stance high on the rocks. I returned them all except one - a fish of about 3lb that was almost as deep as it was long. (I discovered the reason later - it had eaten eight six-inch herrings). I had to stop because of the rising tide, and this time I couldn't touch the bottom so had to swim the few feet from the rocks to the sandy shallows. I managed to keep my phone and van keys dry, but realised later that I had left my wallet in my pocket!
I returned at dawn a few days later with my inflatable in the back of the van. It was pouring with rain and I had almost decided not to launch the boat. Then I looked over the sea-wall and saw a horde of gannets crashing into the sea only a few hundred yards away. Of course they kept drifting ahead of me as my two-horse motor pushed me out to sea. The rain became torrential, but did little to flatten the waves, and I found myself in a turmoil of water and birds, with gannets and shearwaters, gulls and terns diving all around me, porpoises within a few yards. I could hardly see because the rain was so heavy, and they were all catching fish except me! I really expected to catch a load of mackerel, but caught none, probably because they were taking herrings and the mackerel were not present. I chased the birds up and down the bay for a couple of hours, catching just a small bass and a very large weever before giving them best and returning to shore drenched to the skin. Such opportunities are rare unless you live on the shore, so despite its lack of success, it was an experience I am unlikely to repeat very often.
The river is full of sea-trout but I have done little to molest them. I've had just a few casts once or twice, at a spot I can fish just a few minutes from my desk, and had a couple of three-pounders - they are colouring up now, as the season progresses. Almost every cast produces a take from little ten-inch sewin - let's hope they all come back next year!
To Liverpool today, to take Bethan and Dewi to the plane, then to Ireland for the game fair at Birr Castle. I haven't been there before - I just hope the ground will not have suffered from the week of rain that is forecast. If it does rain all week, perhaps there will be some salmon in the river when we return.
The last two silkie cockerels had to go. Despite their very strange appearance they made a delicious supper.
Yesterday I thinned out the Christmas Dinners - the Hubbards that I bought as day-olds at the beginning of June. They have grown well - the biggest was 9.5lb - but I am not happy with them. They are lethargic, unintelligent and weak, genetically programmed to do little but eat. We will eat them, but I feel bad about it. They are the freaks, not the silkies. So, in future we just keep and eat old breeds and mongrels, even if they don't have huge breasts!
Despite the efforts of the CLA to isolate Fisherman's Row, the Coch-y-Bonddu team had a great time at the Game Fair. The layout of the site was awful but we did have a food court nearby, so we didn't have to go far to stock up with olives and venison, cheese and cider. Although sales were not great - we hardly saw anyone from Gunmaker's Row - I did have one magnificent coup. Rifle-makers, Rigby & Co., had Jim Corbett's Rigby rifle on display. Hearing about this I took along my copy of Corbett's first book, Jungle Stories. Only 100 of these were produced by the Naini Tal village printer, for giving away to friends of the author. Probably only two or three copies survive, and I had a very high (five figure!) price on it. I sold it to a great Corbett fan, doubling our takings, and it is now on loan to the Rigby exhibition.
Bethan and Dewi are spending August with us so I've spent little time on the river. I took a few low-water fish on nymphs before the Game Fair, but we are spending more time foraging than fishing. This afternoon there is a good prawning tide and an easterly breeze so we'll be off to the sea-side.
When Luke says we are busy preparing for the CLA Game Fair next weekend (see News Page), this is what he means! While the girls are busy packing books he is out enjoying himself. Oh - and I had to go along to take the pictures. There's a lot of filleting, brining and smoking going on right now.
I've been busier selling chickens than books this week. I advertised my spare teenage silkies locally, and sold them all within twenty-four hours. The following day my two broodies hatched 18 out of 20 eggs, so I shared the chicks with a third broody, and sold a further two families of hens and chicks, just keeping a few for myself.
Ireland was nice and busy. Once again the weather was kind, with just enough night-time rain to freshen the river a little and improve the fishing. Luke and I caught lots of trout, some nice roach, and a few dollaghan, including one proper one of three pounds or so. As I played it in the dusk I was treated to the sight of a long-eared owl hawking above the river.
After the game fair we headed south to Lough Corrib where were entertained by our friends, Philip White and Dennis Moss. Post-mayfly is a difficult time on the lough, but Mr Moss ghillied us in a nice wave and put us onto a few fish, while Mr White took us out in a flat calm at 4am the next day and showed us great pods of fish munching down caenis. We couldn't catch 'em, though.
It's a season for mustelids. In my last entry I mentioned seeing four otters together, and then a stoat swimming the river; one evening this week I went for a walk and saw a family of five mink on the river-bank; and my friends in Ireland had been suffering from strawberry scrumpers - when they spotted the culprit it was a pine marten!
Back home on the lakes, I think we've missed the coch-y-bonddu fall, but caught a few nice fish during the very brief evening rise to big sedges. It's a busy time for night-fishing on the river, so I usually keep out of the way. There are quite a few visiting anglers at this time of year, so the big pools of the lower river get rather crowded. I've had a couple of short sessions into the dark and caught a three-pounder and a handful of small sewin, but I haven't got serious about it yet. A couple of nights ago I rose a few fish on big salmon dry flies, so I'm hoping to tie (or scrounge) a few big mice and give them a swim. Right now, however, it is pouring with rain and the river is rising fast. It'll be too dirty to fish today, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?