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Ronan's report

Sunday 9th January, 2011

I just got an e-mail from a friend. As expected it included a picture of another amazingly large fish, not an unusual occurrence in this guy's e-mails. He's one of those natural and gifted anglers who consistently catch more and bigger fish than any one else.

I've fished with two such anglers in my life. I won't name them for fear of instantly messing with their formidable mojo.

I fished alongside M. in Dorset a few times when I was trying to catch bass and mullet. I'd always feel more confident if M. turned up at a spot I was fishing - kind of confirmation that I'd picked a good spot and tide. M. was a local and knew the coast intimately; I was a newbie to SWFF who lived two and a half hours away. Just a brief conversation with M. would reveal a huge depth of knowledge freely given with humility, good grace, and the quiet confidence of one who speaks from experience and not from the pages of someone else's text book.

Given his depth of knowledge and expertise, his fishing methods were astoundingly simple. His fly rod was years old and the reel long-since corroded on to the reel seat; I doubt he even knew what make of fly line he was using. His biggest priority and effort went into being in the right spot at the right time. None of this, however, explains why he always out-caught anyone else who happened to manage the right spot/right time thing along with him.

Often there'd be half a dozen of us strung out along a hot-spot, and as far as I could make out we'd all be using the same kit and the same retrieves. When the fish were in we'd all hook up. But you could guarantee that at the end of the tide when all was said and done, M. would have caught the biggest bass, mullet, or whatever.

I would try and get all fancy trying (unsuccessfully) to imitate the seaweed maggots that mullet were keyed into. M. would come along with a sand eel imitation (a sand eel! for mullet!) and pull a big mullet out from under my nose. Amazing.

A is the other natural angler I've fished with lately. We've been after trout, pike, and pollack. We've both caught a lot of great fish - and A. always ends up with the stonker. A bunch of us went on a boat-trip for pollack. Six of us in two boats, doing the same drifts, using the same lines, and flies. We had a brilliant time; I really have no idea how many fish we had to the boats that day, all of good average size and superb sport. Most of the fish were between four and seven pounds. Guess who caught a nine and a ten pounder? He does it every time.

A. and M. are very different characters with different backgrounds, but they do have things in common. Both are great all-rounders with experience of all kinds of fishing (bait, gear, fly) in different waters, and both are incredibly observant of their surroundings on a macro and micro level. They'll spot a shift in the wind before it arrives and at the same time spot a change in the size of midges hatching before the trout do.

But most of all both bring a huge intensity to their fishing. I don't mean they're grim-faced fly-rod soldiers, no way. Both men are fantastic characters who are a joy to spend a day with. It's their unflagging enthusiasm that shines through. They love what they do and go to a lot of effort to get the most out of the day. A. changes flies, lines, and retrieves at about twice the rate I do. He'll notice tiny differences between my flies and his, and wonder about the difference it'll make. It's infectious: I fish with a lot more energy and for longer when we share a boat.

I just wish some of that big fish catching mojo would rub off as well now and again.


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