- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"You have at him while I observe how it's done," I said. "I see that I've got a lot to learn."
Grant stopped tiptoeing along the footpath when he was still a good 50 feet from the outermost rings made by that fish's latest rise and dropped to his knees. Fish fine and far off, yes, I thought, but must I cast that distance, clearing those weeds at my back, and onto this glassy water put down my fly within a foot of the fish so as to give it no more than a split second to inspect my offering and, on top of all that, do it on my knees? That, as I watched, was what Grant Wolstenholme did again and again, never once hanging up, and with such finesse that, although the fish never took his fly, neither was it put down in fright. If he couldn't catch that fish, what on earth was I, in my clumsiness, to do?
I said I believed I'd seen enough to go off and try on my own. Wolstenholme wished me luck. Between him and me I put three bends of the river so as to be well out of sight.
I spied a fish on the rise, knelt, cast and hung my fly in the weeds. In trying for my first fish, before putting it down, I lost half a dozen of my new flies in those weeds. Agrimony, they're called, and, often as it must have been made, the pun is irresistible: They are very "agrimonious." In searching for my lost flies I found, while getting stung all over by nettles, almost as many others left there by fishermen before me. Here that's part of the game and adds to the sport, as does hanging up on the barbed-wire fence, which, after giving up on the weedy bank and crossing the footbridge, I promptly did. "The riverkeeper's fly box," Pat calls the fence, and says that by running it and harvesting its catch he can earn himself a quid on a good day.
I could blame at least a part of my failure on my equipment. I had brought with me from home several rods, but all were meant for casting to either bank from midstream of the narrow brooks you and I are used to. On Monday I went to a tackle shop and bought myself a rod 8½ feet long. With the added length I'm in effect not much shorter, when kneeling, than I am when standing.
That Sunday, discouraged, disgusted, stung and smarting from top to toe, I quit fishing and went off to see how Dorothy was making out with Pat. I came, unseen, around a bend and found him giving her a lesson in what I recognized from my reading as the steeple cast, with which to clear the weeds at her back. I departed, still unseen, after hearing him say, "The wrist. It's all done with the wrist. Now imagine that you are holding a book under your arm...."
Winchester, Hants., England
The fish are here, all right—big fish, and plenty of them. When I say big I mean three, four, five pounds, browns the likes of which you and I are privileged to see maybe once in several seasons. And they feed. There's no point in getting onto the water before 10 in the morning or in staying on after four in the afternoon. Pat Fox tells me that when there's an evening rise at this time of year, it's spectacular, only there never is one. But between those hours the fish feed freely, greedily. But on what?
Nowhere have I encountered fish so particular. I now realize that to have any sport with the wild and wary trout of this river one must know thoroughly its insect life and the British flies that match the natural ones. In desperation I've tried some of the old reliable attractor patterns that, without imitating anything with a Latin name, just look buggy and that often work so well for us. All are scorned, even when, as seldom happens, you put your fly, tied to a leader 15 feet long and tapering to a tippet of 6X, down on a dime. Our take for the week: One fish between us. The only small one I've seen.
The weather has been against us, but that's not enough of an excuse. The truth is, the Itchen demands and deserves far better fishermen than we are. Thoroughly beaten by it, I look forward to the Test, beginning tomorrow. What makes me think we'll do any better there? I'm encouraged by Pat's words. They weren't meant to be encouraging, they were meant to be condescending. "Mmm," he said drily. "It's easy over there." I just hope that the scorn contained in that is abundantly confirmed.