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Donkin on Fishing - General Fishing Columns

 

November 2005 - The Incomplete Angler

Richard Donkin - incomplete angler !!

One thing I notice in most of my fishing books, in common with articles I read in fishing magazines, is a story of almost inevitable triumph against the odds – man against nature where the man invariably wins by steering some formidable specimen on to the bank.

Women are exempt from this observation since they would rarely cast themselves in this light. But men do. Even when the fish gets away it is down to some unforeseeable calamity, some aberration or act of God. Rarely do you read any admission of incompetence.

I can only conclude, therefore, that either I must be a freak of nature or that some of these writers have been selective in their story telling. Today I want to redress the balance by selecting not the high spots but the “outtakes” from my fishing expeditions.

It’s difficult to know where to start. Falling in the river is so commonplace that I should really wear a snorkel. Total immersion is rare but the regularity of sopping wet jumpers, shirts, underwear and socks means that I never venture out without a change of clothes.

The fish themselves introduce another dimension of farcical potential. I must look no further than my first salmon of the season on the River Dee. Everything was a little new: first morning on the river, new reel, new rod, brain suppressed by high state of excitement.

The 10-foot rod was casting well. There are places where I would never fish with such light tackle for salmon but I knew that the fish in this particular run at this height of water would most likely be not much more than, say 10 or 12 lbs. For peace of mind I was shouldering a landing net for the first time.

The water was up to my thighs, the current strong but manageable, and on the second or third cast I was in to a fish. It was about nine pounds adding plenty of bend to the rod that was coping well….before the reel fell off.

With rod and line held taught in one hand I reached down, only to see the landing net peel away from my back and begin to drift downstream. Two wobbly strides and a desperate lunge rescued the net. Retrieving the reel with an already soggy arm was a tougher job and securing it on the rod with one hand, more difficult still. The fish meanwhile could not have been more considerate, waiting patiently throughout until it was guided in to the net. Titanic struggle, yes, but nothing to do with the fish.

The next day, again within a few casts, I hooked a good fish that took the fly as it landed and leaped all over the place at the end of a long cast among some rocks. Finally it settled by a rock and held firm. The big ones sometimes do this and have to be coaxed in to life. Anyway I held it steady, textbook fashion, for minutes before realising that the unforgiving force was the rock around which my line had been wrapped by a fish that had long gone.

At least there was no-one there to mock unlike the afternoon, a few years back, that I had a brief opportunity to fish on the Duke of Roxburghe’s Lower Floors beat on the River Tweed. Beats don’t come much classier than this one and the supervising ghillies were dressed so smartly they made the anglers look like paupers. The head ghillie examined my gear with such disapproval I might have been holding a tiddler net and jam jar.

Determined to prove him wrong, I began to hammer out the line when the rod end shattered in mid cast - it must have been fractured in a car door - leaving me stranded, shorn of all dignity, amid a jumble of plastic spaghetti. This was not the first or last time I had caused a ghillie to bury his head in his hands.

My trout fishing errors on a slightly smaller scale are nevertheless sharpened by an extra dash of stupidity that has retained a remarkable level of consistency over the years. The most expensive mistake this year was just a few weeks ago when boat fishing with my wife at Talyllyn lake in Wales on a windy end-of-season day. She caught fish while all I caught were two pristine fly lines, scrambled around the propeller.

It may be that this year the errors have been compounded by the number of times I have found myself in unchartered waters, although that doesn’t explain the fiasco on the Dee beat that I know well. No matter how much I learn, I always seem to miss some important detail, forever the incomplete angler.

Take this last example. Near the end of October I was invited by Simon Cooper, who runs fishingbreaks.com, to sample a new letting he has acquired at Wherwell Priory on the River Test in Hampshire. Fresh from the Welsh disaster I had just bought a new fly line. Attaching a braided join for the nylon leader line, it seemed strong enough without the need for gluing.

I was hitting the fish well, taking a good number of trout and grayling on a dry fly and then a nymph, until one took the fly, the leader and the braided join that slipped from the end of the line. A few casts later in the same spot, I hooked and landed the very same fish, complete with the missing leader and fly. Clearly a specimen new to science - a fish that is dafter than I am.

   
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