I'm not someone given to complaining, being a life-long optimist who travels (and fishes) hopefully. But I trust that you will forgive the title of this chapter, because by any standard, it's been a bad year, for which the Covid-induced dullness of 2020 was a very poor preparation, and it got off to a very nasty start. On Christmas Day, returning from church - virtue is apparently no insurance - my wife slipped on ice and broke her wrist very badly. We spent the rest of the day in A&E while three muscular registrars and a specialist heaved and pulled to achieve a decent setting. Deprived of our children and grandchildren it wasn't a good Christmas.
A week later, I was caught out by black ice, went a purler, landed very heavily on my left shoulder and had to drive myself to A&E, where I was the 49th fall injury to arrive. A very robust physiotherapist jerked my arm around, and presumably based on the volume of my screams, determined that I hadn't broken my arm. I took that as a blessing and blithely assumed that a couple of weeks stiffness while the bruising came out, interspersed with nice hot baths, would see me back to full strength. My optimism was completely unfounded and the pain most unpleasant: 6 weeks later my left arm still wasn't working. I referred myself to the GP who instructed me to stop being brave and take Cocodamol, and referred me to the Practice Physio Team. After 6 weeks' experience in 2017 (see Raring to Go) I hate Cocodamol's side effects, but at least it allowed me to sleep. A physio called Kev called, a former corporal of the Yorkshire Light Infantry, with a wonderfully direct manner of telling people what to do. He was explicit: "I'll send you a raft of YouTube links of enthusiastic and muscular ladies showing you the exercises you must do at home. As soon as you can move the arm, join a gym, get a trainer and start rebuilding your shoulders. And, because you're old, build up your overall strength to help you through your older age, just. in case you reach it." With the advice administered, Kev signed me off. The ladies were scary but the exercises worked. I joined a gym and hired a pleasant young man called Stuart with a master's degree in Physiology to sort me out, and by July all was well again. With Kev's words ringing in my ears I have, nevertheless, retained my gym membership.
Ure at Sleningford Mill, when I missed two salmon and caught a nice supper-sized sea trout and an (inedible) giant chub. My one attempt at trout yielded hypothermia within 30 minutes and an early retreat.
Jervaulx Abbey beat, but had no real expectation of catching. With the Mayfly almost non-existent my morale followed the Ure down to MSL. A year of Covid-induced dullness was really getting to me before two brief flashes of light pierced the gloom.
27th May 2021
|Brae Water 4
looking down towards the hut
9th July 2021
|Piling at the top of Brae 3
|Flesh Dub on the Ure
beautiful but devoid of fish
|Standing on fish & ruining a pool
|Amber & Purdy
As you might imagine, I'm not feeling especially cheerful. The whole family is due for Christmas, which would be wonderful after 2 years, but with all the talk of 'circuit breakers' and 'mini-lockdowns' I'm fearful that it won't happen. Moreover, it's challenging to write cheerfully about salmon fishing if at the end of a season you have only one salmon to show for your efforts. It's not exactly the hallmark of an expert, and the impact on my self-esteem and the credibility of this blog as a source of information defies description. In fact there is a good case for abandoning this blog altogether, because since I started writing at the end of the 2012 season only one year has offered halfway decent fishing. Over the past decade we've had one wet season (2017), one about average (2013) and eight droughts with rivers on their bones for months on end. Indeed, when I embarked on this literary journey I pondered whether such hubris risked creating an inevitable nemesis. Perhaps I was even more correct than I feared. However, if I turned the tables on Murphy and surprised him by stopping writing, might the weather and my catches of salmon return to some kind of normality?
It would be very easy to give up. I did much of my best writing while filling the spare time on business trips to the Gulf, but as a result of Covid there haven't been any of those for almost 2 years, and there's no prospect of any before late 2022. It's much harder to find the time and focus when you're at home. There's always something else that needs doing, endless distractions and a wifely disbelief that writing is anything other than a frivolous pleasure. And it's doubly difficult if you've had a rubbish season, you've got nothing useful or original to say and it's been ages since you last wrote. I apologise to everyone who may have missed the end of season round-up and MCX's Christmas Stocking, which failed to appear for those reasons. To be honest, I've written this not as a result of any inspiration but rather as an act of defiance in the face of the urge not to bother amidst the dullness, gloom and darkness of the Covid suppressed world.
I'm still here, and a quarter of a million page views of Just One Week tell me to keep going. Thank you for your support and encouragement, and have the best possible Christmas in the circumstances. Let us hope and pray for a return to normality of life and salmon fishing. I don't wish to be importunate, but at my age it's getting a bit urgent, so Happy New Year.
Having got all that misery and self-pity off my chest I feel much better. Rest assured I will be back, fishing and writing in 2022!