Ladies Story

This is one of our ladies stories who is a member of the Salmon and Trout Association. The S&TA asked her to write her story which was published in The Game Fisher Spring 2009,

As a youngster the outdoors captivated me for many an hour.  In fact, from memory, I seemed to spend more time breathing country air rather than lounging around indoors.  From an early age, my father took me to the CLA Game Fair.  Of course, fishing to dad came in the form of chugging diesel boats and lobster pots, so his interests lay elsewhere, in Gun maker’s row.  Yet, I was curiously drawn to the Fishermen’s row, where it was fascinating to see the skilful art of fly tying and casting in all its glory.

During my early twenties, scuba diving became my hobby and whilst waiting for the correct tide, catching mackerel and pollack would keep me entertained.  Although far removed from the intricacies of fly casting, little did I know that this seed had been deeply planted.  Beach casting followed, when through youthful ignorance, I’d fish in all kinds of nasty weather.

Some years passed before a chance visit to Scotland, when touring the Spey valley one afternoon, we saw fishermen stood to their waists in water, casting what seemed like extremely long rods with two hands.   They performed graceful, effortless casts that I later learned were Spey casts.  Those elegant movements of sweeps and rolls in a smooth, controlled manner really struck a cord.  All this in beautiful surroundings made me eager to understand the finer points of salmon fishing.

Visiting Alnwick for years, I’d driven past the Hardy’s museum and shop many times without a second glance.  Though with my newfound interest, my initial visit made a lasting impression.   Rods lined the walls, reels glimmered in their glass show cases and all manner of angling paraphernalia was neatly arranged on hangers or shelves.   I’d clearly stepped into a male dominated world and admittedly, all seemed somewhat daunting!  However, a little guidance from helpful staff armed me with rod, reel, line and some colourful flys.

Northumbria Waters had advertised a fly fishing introduction day and anxious to get started, I signed up immediately. Pulling into the car park that morning and clapping eyes on a bunch of fishermen huddled together did in honesty make me a little nervous.  Clive Robson was our instructor for the day, who made us feel very welcome.  Looking back, I’m indebted to Clive for his relaxed teaching manner, giving me just the introduction I’d hoped for.   Brimming with encouragement, I left loaded with information on ladies days and taster sessions being organised by local clubs including Bishop Auckland Angling Club (BAAC).

I meet Colin Thrower at a taster day put on by BAAC with the Environment Agency.   As E.A. Angling Participation Project Manager for the Northumbria region, Colin and his team provide one day courses aimed at fishing clubs.  Involving basic casting skills and tackle requirements, the idea is to introduce adults and juniors into fishing.   With sound information and encouragement the free days went down a storm.  In fact, I’d had so much fun, they allowed me to attend another such day, mainly in the interest of meeting more people.

My first taster with the double hander wasn’t exactly under ideal conditions.  The middle Tweed and on the back end of a flood, water came thundering downstream.  Nevertheless, a little guidance from Jim Fearn put me in touch with a feisty fish.   With adrenalin pumping through my veins, so many emotions flashed into my mind.  “Would the fish throw the hook; was it a grilse and can I keep him out of the angry, fast water”?  Eventually though I was soon admiring 5lb of clean sea trout.  The sense of achievement put a huge grin on my face for the remainder of that day.

As a beginner the wonderful world of fly fishing can be a confusing one.  Take fly lines for example, they come in several different colours and as many sinking densities.  That’s before we even think about their tapers; weight forward, shooting head, windcutter and double taper, it all got a bit much.  Magazines didn’t help either, pages of fly lines for sale at prices ranging from £10 to £50.  Which one is best and which one to buy?  Nothing for it, but a trip to one of the angling fairs and with the CLA on the horizon, I scribbled down a wish list.  The idea being that I could ask retailers advice before buying.  With a little help from my friends, who led me from stand to stand, my knees soon buckled with bags of fishing tackle.

Dashing round, buying fishing kit is thirsty work.  Time then for a pimms and where better than the S&TA stand.  Thankfully, Rebecca Thorpe was on hand to make sure my glass was fully charged!  Rebecca has been a huge influence with my fishing so far, over lunch she explained the association’s objectives.   Realising the far reaching effects and impact of the Association, I promptly joined.  Another pimms and a pleasant chat with the many members congregating round the marquee rounded off my day of nicely.

Autumn saw me attending a Hardy Academy weekend in Ireland; I’m told it’s the place to go for Lough salmon and sea trout.  The Irish members of Hardy’s Academy were out in full force, teaching those who wanted to know more.  Pat Mulholland was my instructor and he kindly taught me the overhead cast, snake roll, single Spey, snap T, double Spey.  This gave me the confidence to wield a double handed rod back on my home rivers.  Along with Stevie Munn, Pat spent the last day showing me how to tie flies; something that has long been an ambition of mine.

Dark nights saw a concerted effort to dress my own flies.  After all, what’s more magical than catching a fish on a creation of your own making?  Durham Fly Fishers had a winter tying programme, having joined up, my first meeting was their AGM, in at the deep end as ever!  Secretary-Stuart Wardle proved a great help and I soon found out that I was there only lady member.   Oddly, BT phone shares rocketed over winter; it was me, calling Steve Munn and Pat Mulholland requesting further assistance with fly tying.  Believe me, there’s a knack to balancing a phone on your shoulder and whipping finishing at the same time as taking instructions from a jovial Irishman!  However, their help finally resulted in flies emerging from my own vice, in particular Clyde and North Country style.

Whether it’s on loch, lake or river, strolling round with a rod in your hand certainly makes life worth living.  The opportunity to put my new found casting skills into practice and to anticipate where a fish may next rise, sees my day to day worries evaporate on the fresh breeze.  Wildlife is a big part of me too and seeing that darting blue flash of a kingfisher, or the telltale “bob-bob” of a dipper are priceless moments when by a river.

Generous help and friendliness have made the last 12 months a fantastic introduction into fishing.  Everyone I’ve met has contributed in their own special way.  It just goes to show that females are readily accepted in our sport.  As for the future; bug counting is on my agenda, I also intend to support the E.A. as a volunteer on their taster days.  Hopefully, this will lead to some form of teaching certificate.  Then there’s that smokery I aim to build in the garden. I also want to try salt water fishing.  This fishing world seems never ending, no wonder it’s consider a passion for life.

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