Boys just don't notice hunger

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The Independent Online

First things first. Next weekend I shall be at the CLA Game fair held at Harewood House in Yorkshire, from Friday until the Sunday. On the Friday I shall be talking grayling fishing with Bob James and Roger Cullum Kenyon then wild trout fishing with Charles Rangley Wilson and Charles Jardine. On Saturday I shall be talking trout again; Sunday grayling. In between I'll be in the Angler's Corner at various times over the weekend. So if you happen to be coming to the Game Fair, come and say hello to me. I shall be the big pregnant one. For more info go to www.gamefair.co.uk. My friend at The Field tells me that on the Sunday afternoon various stands sell off great gear at really low prices so that's also something to look out for.

You can never be sure, when you take someone fishing, if they really liked it or they're just pretending in order to pacify you. Not that I've ever forced my sport on anyone, but Mark, husband of my best friend Emma, expressed an interest last year so we'd taken him fishing. This year, when we were all in Devonshire again, he made several noises about wanting to go again so we reckoned he had had quite a good time. We went to a local fishery, as the fishing there was relatively easy - not much to get caught up on (although the actual fishing there can be quite hard. There is never any guarantee of fish). Most importantly, however, we were hoping to catch dinner.

Last time we'd come here with Mark, I'd caught a fish on my first cast which had given him the impression that either fishing was very easy or I was very good. Both false. No such luck this time. We started off with nymphs - there were no fish rising (not that I ever use this as an indicator of whether to fish the dry fly or not). Eventually, I graduated to a dry fly so that at least I had the excitement of "the watch". My dry flies progressed from the delicate to the "this one always works" as I got more and more frustrated. In other words: I put a Daddy on.

On one of the lakes at this fishery I always have luck on one particular side so after some deliberation - I didn't want to be so obvious - I went there. Sure enough I got a fish on a dry fly. But it was a tiddler. We soon started to catch fish - quite a lot of them - but they were all juveniles and naturally had to be put back. They were way too small to keep. I'm not sure quite what was up since I had never seen fish that tiny there before.

We all started to grow quite frustrated. On small rivers and streams, small wild fish are delightful. But in a fishery we couldn't work out why fish this size had been put in a lake for people to catch. It didn't really seem very sporting on either fish or fisherman.

On the children's lake near us (where fish caught is charged by the pound) a little boy and his father were fishing. The little boy was doing extremely well. So well that he wouldn't stop. I could see his father starting to glaze over as he realised how much it would cost him. But he also looked over at us with a chest full of pride. His look said "My son has caught more than you three grown-ups". Quite right.

Eventually my boyfriend caught a dinner-for-two sized fish. Then I did. Then Mark (hurrah!) - although Mark had missed a few already. I was ready to go home by this point, but my boyfriend can rarely leave a fishery if there is any chance of reaching his fish limit. Mark fished on. I watched, offering rubbishy and obvious advice while I searched my waistcoat for snacks. Boys just don't notice hunger like girls do. Eventually, my boyfriend caught another. Dinner was had.

We made our way through the farm that's on the entrance of this particular fishery. There were chickens with what looked like feather trousers on, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, goats and miniature horses. I thought how much Theo - Emma and Mark's three-year- old - would have loved it. For all of five minutes. A three-year-old is still a bit young to take fishing.

That night we hot-smoked our fishies and had them with potatoes fontecchio (new potatoes baked in their skins and tossed in olive oil, garlic, rock salt and herbs) and a rather large salad picked from the garden.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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