No matter how much I try to rationalise the extreme patterns of this year's weather, there's no escaping the fact that the salmon fishing has been almost universally dire from south west Ireland to north east Scotland, and in most places in between. From that perspective, not being on Tomatin this September spared us a week that would have been deeply reminiscent of 2002, 2003 and 2005. On the other hand, I really missed the fun of the large house party of friends and their various offspring. So did the dog: she was completely dippy for most of September.
Only now in November is it starting to rain seriously. The 30mm we got for the whole of October was helpful but not exactly normal. You need a sustained lift to bring fish up the Ure from the Humber, or indeed up any river system. That thinking led me into the serious error of expressing my disappointment to my long-suffering wife when delivering the morning mug of tea, which led to the firm riposte that I was worse than the farmers, always complaining and ungrateful for wider mercies. I admit that she's right: as a lamentable salmon season drew to a close, I was so desperate for some possibility of even one day's decent fishing that I'd lost sensible balance. Perhaps the introduction of an EU single fish payment like the farmers' SFP might redress the imbalance. That said, even the 'single' fish I caught mid-month was nice, but confirmed that I'd be cheap for DEFRA to keep.
The fact that this mental imbalance is common to most salmon fishermen doesn't make me innocent (or you either). After all, in law there's a clear difference between a plea of not guilty and a plea in mitigation of sentence. The truth is we're all as bad as each other and can't claim a normal statistical distribution, as we're strongly skewed towards the fanatical. On the other hand, we're not as bad as some other groups. In my comparative youth, the late great Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool FC to umpteen trophies, was asked whether he regarded football as important as a matter of life and death. He replied, "No, it's much more serious than that." I don't know any salmon anglers so extreme, but there again, I don't live in Scotland, where the locals take the sport exceptionally seriously. Yorkshire frowns on excessive displays of enthusiasm unless there's a collective agreement to waive the rules - as we did the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, when the whole county went completely daft. The proof of that unanimity and madness was in the broadcast aerial views of Wensleydale: I didn't spot a single angler on almost 30 miles of the Ure, Nidd, Swale and Wharfe as the peloton passed.
|The Ure - bone dry 2nd October 2014|
Spending time with your adult children is a rare pleasure that occurs all too infrequently. Once they emerge from the long dark tunnel of the teenage years (it's a neat saying but in truth all 3 of ours were very easy), they're off to university and away to the world of work in a flash. For the fishing 2 of our three, work means London: CCX does restaurants and food (she's keen to graduate from trout to salmon but finds the notion of catching and releasing such superb ingredients an anathema) and HMCX is in corporate insurance. For them, time on a river is a rare privilege. ECX in the middle goes wherever the Army sends him. Fishing doesn't really fit with his demanding schedule and extreme sporting tendencies that have displaced his childhood trout enthusiasm. In what seems the twinkling of an eye you find yourself the parent of mature conversational adults who are excellent company and share several of your interests. Or more properly, is it the case that by good fortune I share some of theirs? With that transformation come the realisations that you have to make the most of your time together before their own families arrive, expand and mature, and the cycle begins all over again in their turn; and that it's far more important than salmon fishing.
After a lazy afternoon and a short period of trying to catch small sea trout on microscopic Blue Charms we repaired to our accommodation at the Bolton Arms in Redmire, a cooling pint of Theakstons and more conversation. Across England country pubs are going out of business at a frightening rate, but the Bolton Arms is thriving, largely as a result of doing the simple things outstandingly well. There's no gastro-pretensions here, just excellent pub food, great beer, friendly service and value for money (and the most heroic breakfasts). The evidence was plain: on Friday night the bar and dining area were packed with locals from 6 until closing time.
Friday dawned a mite cooler, but remained so dry that we could drive the car onto the river bank at Thorseby. Here we had two pools of fishable depth - Frodle and Flesh Dub - and of castable width, albeit not with full sized rods. HMCX opted for the 12' #7 two-hander and I settled for the 10' #7 single hander that provides the means for my challenge of trying to catch Yorkshire salmon on a dry fly. There were a few salmon showing - mostly out of boredom I suspect - but bearing in mind that they'd probably been in the river since the sustained spate in May, they looked in surprisingly good colour and condition. Sea trout of all sizes were hungrily scooping up the periodic hatches of both olives and sedges, including a tantalising pair in Frodle that were well into double figures.
It's great when they grow up, but it's a shame that the pace of their lives so often deprives us of the pleasure of their company. Times like this are pure gold.
|The underwater photo monopod|
does selfie duty