In an attempt to cheer myself up - I haven't seen a river other than the Thames for weeks - I phoned some fishing buddies to ask them what they'd like for Christmas.
First was Ally Gowans, inventor of the Ally's Shrimp, and with whom, joyously, I tied my first salmon fly. His letter to Santa would ask for a "total ban on commercial exploitation of our wild game fish and tough measures to ensure that their environment is healthy". Mr G would also like to give something, "a rubber spring salmon to all anglers who love killing fish so that they could beat the hell out of that instead of killing real fish." Touchingly, this was a common theme with most of the fishermen I spoke to. Allan Donaldson wanted to see a ban on high seas' netting but, more achievably "one of those new Spey salmon fishing lines by Scientific Anglers". My fishing buddy Pete, however, wants the impossible (well impossible for several years), "to be able to Spey cast like Allan Donaldson". Which, let me tell you, is impressive.
Anne Voss Bark, owner of my favourite fishing hotel, The Arundell Arms in Devon, and author of West Country Fly Fishing, asked for a Hardy Smuggler. These are glorious, glorious travel rods and arehigh on my own present list. (If you know someone who fishes and are stumped for what to buy but obviously like them a lot - a Smuggler costs from pounds 300 - this gift would make them very happy indeed.)
My mate Mick Rouse, who is chief photographer for the Angling Times and with whom I've enjoyed a few vodka and tonics, would like "an unforgettable fishing holiday, maybe Nile perch fishing on Lake Nasser or for the elusive mahseer on the Ganges or the Cauvery. That would be much better than a pair of slippers or a bottle of Scotch." I think he's being a bit greedy as he's already fished for marlin in Kenya, carp and catfish in South Africa, Canada and France amongst many others. Brian Easterbrook, my man on Dartmoor also wants to travel, but is more specific "I'd like a ticket to Tierra del Fuego to fish for sea trout in February."
Buying presents for people with a hobby makes the job so much easier. Last Christmas I got one of my favourite presents of all time, a Richard Wheatley salmon fly box engraved with my fishing name (Grilse Lettice de Winter, the 13th Duchess of Glendenvine Water, I'll explain another time). My own-tied Ally's Shrimp naturally has pride of place therein.
Chris Dawn, editor of Trout Fisherman's list is wistful: "a set of waterproofs that really are just that. Monofilament that never breaks when you knot it. A set of scales that don't act as though they are suffering from a bad case of St Vitus Dance. A sinking fly line that doesn't tie itself into a knot when you cast it. Waders that never leak. A rainbow trout that actually tastes nice. A season ticket to the bonefish flats of Exuma Island." I have a bit of a desire for going bonefish fishing too but not as much as I want...
A house with fishing rights on the upper beats of the Carron; a house with fishing rights near Dartmoor so I could fish any of the West Country rivers and eat chips and trifle at the Arundell Arms and learn to fish for sea trout with sea trout king Roy Buckingham; a Sage 9 foot, 5 weight SP rod, a Sage SPL 8 foot, zero weight rod; a Hardy Smuggler; an Ari't Hart ARII reel; a pair of really cool fishing glasses with prescription lenses and protective sides; regular trips to Lainston House (staying in the walnut suite) fishing for grayling; and to spend most of January at Farleyer in Perthshire for the opening of the Tay and Burn's night, fishing, eating, smoking cigars and dancing at ceilidhs. Have a lovely December and see you in the new year when I'll be reporting on fishing books.
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