“We buried your car, Paul”
"So how's the fishing been then?”
“But we had to blow it up first”
“Much in the way of pike being caught?”
“And here are the keys”
The problem with wheels
Actually they didn't say “and here are the keys”. I just made that bit up; you know to add something that would make some sort of sense – something normal that I could cling to within the unbelievable reality that has become my world.
They did in fact say “and the wheels blew off”. Which of course does made a sort of sense, but not quite what I had in mind.
Technically I own five cars. By “own” I mean, “am legally responsible for”. By five I do now in fact mean four. Of these four, one I sold for a dollar and so is not mine any more and is currently parked (read dumped) in an unused plot of land near Noosa. Another I left at Auckland International Airport three years ago and for all I know it's still there. The remaining two are parked at the back of my Mum's garden, growing. She is not happy, says that if she wanted a artistic garden feature she would have chosen something more fitting, like a plough or a wagon and not two rusty old cars and would I mind moving them by the way.
Still that's life when you are a happy-go-lucky travelling angler dude, as I always say.
I don't wish you to get the wrong impression; unlike say Carl from Denmark or Bust fame, I do care about my cars and think that they should be looked after, you know washed, kept tidy and rust free, maybe even driven on a regular basis, it's just that it doesn't work out that way. I definitely don't think that they should be buried and blown up. Buried maybe, even blown up I can understand, but not both; that's just too much.
So we travelled to Ardleigh Reservoir for a spot of devil-may-care pike flyfishing action. Joined by Peter Sutton (another AAPGAI-dude friend of mine, from Norfolk - where I am demonstrating next weekend by the way) we thought we would do something special and maybe catch a few of the monster pike for which Ardleigh was once famous (when it was a trout fishery).
I told Peter about what they had done to my car. He was impressed, said that they should bury and blow up the Land Rover as well and although he hadn't seen any of my other cars, thought that they should be buried at the very least and quite possibly blown up too and do I think we'll be using poppers today or bunnies?
“Bunnies and how would you feel if they blew you up before burying you?”
Peter didn't answer this but I could tell that he was thinking that he wouldn't mind one last bang before he goes.
We decided (well actually I decided) that we would try down the Western Narrows. It's has always been a good spot for pike being somewhat shallow, weedy and mysterious. If we were going to catch one of the big boys that is where we would find him (or her if you want to get technical since big pike are female). Now I should point out that Peter is actually a bit of a pike expert (on the sly) and has been doing this sort of thing for years. He arrived with two bags full of pike flies and even gave me a wire trace to use.
I arrived with one fly and thanked him for the trace.
It was very strange to fish water that I once knew so well. I spent many summers fishing this place… over fifteen certainly. It was at Ardleigh that I learned to flyfish stillwater; I knew the place inside out. Here was once one of the premier trout fisheries in the UK and when it first opened in the early seventies it was (curiously) a brown trout only water.
Between three and five years ago it underwent a major decline as a fishery. The weed vanished leaving the water barren, insects disappeared, the fish stopped rising and throughout most of the summer they became completely uncatchable. Anglers turned away from the water and complaints were lodged. Ardleigh shut its doors to trout anglers and is now run purely as a coarse fishery. I note with some dismay that the weed has still not returned.
Ardleigh obviously underwent heavy eutrophication and the result has been a disaster. Of course this is all subjective, since this is drinking water we're talking about.
In Ardleigh's halcyon fishing days it suffered a serious problem with Canadian Pond weed, to the extent that most of the banks were completely unfishable during the summer months. The weed would extend for ten, twenty and sometimes even thirty yards out from the bank. A weed cutting boat was in operation to try and keep the density down a bit. One year after a particularly vigorous bout of weed cutting the wind changed and blew huge rafts of cut weed into the draw-off tower, where it promptly blocked it. A JCB digger was hired to clear it again – this is a serious amount of weed we are talking about. Ardleigh is 110 acres and right now you couldn't find enough weed to fill a sandcastle bucket.
Now all that Ardleigh can boast in the way of weed life is blanket weed and a couple of hardy lilies.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Anyway Peter is a flyfisherman and not a political activist and said that, disturbed as he was to discover the distinct lack of weed (apart from the unpleasant blanket variety), he didn't want to storm the barbed wire fences and demand our money back. Peter is both AAPGAI and a gentleman and you wont find him blowing things up just because they don't work anymore.
So we fished on in the knowledge that weed guards would be uncalled for, which was just as well in an ironic way, since my one and only fly failed to sport one. And in any case blanket weed will wrap around anything - that's why it's called blanket week.
Peter said: “If I was a political activist Paul, I'd have something to say to the Salmon and Trout Association.” Actually Peter didn't say that, he said lots of other stuff but that is my interpretation of some of what he said.
Salmon and Trout Association
Now I can fully understand Peter here, because right now we have an organisation trying to change the way flycasting is taught in the UK, not because we need yet another scheme nor because we don't already have an existing scheme that works (the AAPGAI works – more or less) but simply because if they manage to set up this scheme they can get government funding. It all comes down to that one word again… money. Say the word “money” to someone, even a non-profit making organisation, hell especially a non-profit making organisation and they will jump through hoops to get their grubby hands on it and for no other reason than they want to get their grubby hands on it.
As anyone who has read this site on a regular basis will no doubt be aware, I am neither a member of the Salmon and Trout Association nor am I one of their STANIC instructors. My fundamental problem with the STANIC (Salmon And Trout Association National Instructor's Certificate) is quite simply that they have qualified a large number of “instructors” who are incapable of teaching. In fact some of them really need some casting lessons themselves.
Look guys, I really believe in this; the standard of the STANIC scheme is too low. If yet another instructor's scheme is going to be introduced then everyone has to be reassessed; you cannot allow these guys through. I have had more to do with the STANIC than almost anyone else I know. I was heavily involved in their junior courses for a few years and have been to many game fairs across the country: the standard I have encountered (on the whole) has been frighteningly low. And even more frightening is that everyone (including the STA itself) knows this, and yet no one is prepared to do anything about it.
The problem is that everyone is so caught up in politics and money that they have failed to address the real issue.
I don't profess to know all there is to know about flycasting but I know enough to be able to say when something is unacceptable. Respect doesn't come from keeping people happy, it comes from doing the right thing. This issue will never go away until the Salmon and Trout Association properly and competently redress it.
Peter hooked the first fish. It jumped on for a little while, thrashed around and jumped off again. Pike can be like that sometimes. I hooked the second fish. Pike don't fight very well. The initial hit can often be quite exciting but pike very quickly they turn themselves into the equivalent of a large plastic bag. Of course even a plastic bag can tow you around for a little while and because pike have teeth, it makes them slightly more difficult to land. Actually in my case it makes them a lot more difficult to land.
No one hooked the third fish. Peter said that there wasn't enough weed around and we should go to the pub and talk to a barmaid. This seemed like a very sensible suggestion to me and I readily agreed. You know that's the sign of a true professional that is; the true professional always knows when to call it a day, besides (as Peter later pointed out) it was getting a bit cold and wet.
This Week Last Week
I'm not even sure why I try to forecast what is coming; I have quite literally no idea. There was some stuff I said we'd do this week, which we obviously didn't. Whether we'll do it this coming week I have absolutely no idea. Camo-guy will kindly continue to give us advice on Stealth. The Flow section will continue to expand. I can foresee this section eventually paralleling Stillwater, maybe even surpassing it in depth, which probably means that we'll have to turn the Stillwater section around somehow to include some real-life situations (that shouldn't be too difficult).
The competition entries are going very well. Steve has suggested that we stop a sexy girl in the street and get her to pull the two lucky winners names out of a hat. And he wants this captured on video so that he can expand the movies section. Steve obviously has a slightly twisted mind by the way, which would be ok, but for the fact that he will be responsible for the front page when I am in Spain later this month.
Tomorrow I am going fishing with “he's no vicar” Six-pound Sean, we're going to fish at Hanningfield and stay out late, just so we can annoy the man from Hawaii 5-0.
Have a good week,