Why I make flies that come from another world

Annalisa Barbieri on Fishing
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The Independent Online
Well, this weekend I am in Dorset being disinfected at every turn and rather liking it. I was meant to be fishing the Frome but the opening day has been postponed until further notice so I'm going to try and fish the Piddle ­ sorry I can't say that name without wanting to laugh ­ if there are any places left.

Well, this weekend I am in Dorset being disinfected at every turn and rather liking it. I was meant to be fishing the Frome but the opening day has been postponed until further notice so I'm going to try and fish the Piddle ­ sorry I can't say that name without wanting to laugh ­ if there are any places left.

To say I am depressed is an understatement. The sun is nowhere to be seen, the countryside is dead, the only surface to be felt underfoot is tarmac (you can't go near the grassy bits) I feel like everything "country-ish" is changing. The one bit of good news to come out of all of this is that I spoke to Cath from the Fly-Fisher's Classic Library, based in Devon, and she said that the otters are going mad. "Maybe it's because no one is walking by the rivers, they are taking full advantage ­ I saw two swimming together just across the road in the Taw about two hours ago" and her neighbours hear them splashing about every night.

This alternative scene of the countryside and some good coming out of bad is heartening. Still, this quiet time when I would normally be out fishing all and every day (it's hard to believe but last year, by this time, I had fisherman's wrist already, so much had I been fishing) can be best used by getting drunk and making flies. Except I'm off alcohol at the moment ­ for some unknown and annoying reason I just can't tolerate it. So it is that I find myself knotting Daddy Long Legs' knees ­ in anticipation of summer ­ sober, which isn't quite the same.

Tying flies is like ­ for those that haven't done it ­ meditating except with something to concentrate on rather than trying to fill your head with pictures of clouds and sky, and your throat with rasping "Om" sounds. I'm spectacularly bad at tying flies. It's not that I'm not extremely nibbled fingered ­ I am, and it's not that I don't have the potential to be good ­ I do. But unless someone is coaching me I just cut corners, and throw away years of other people's knowledge thinking I know best, and start making flies that could never come from the natural world.

This week I made, with varying degrees of success: Sparkle Blood Worms (made entirely out of holographic tinsel) which are finished with varnish, in this case Chanel's Magie Très Noir ­ no other shade will do. Because there should always be a bit of class in fishing. A couple of these I gave to a fishing friend of mine who went fishing last weekend and he caught one fish on them!

Then I made some Competition Buzzers, using dubbed bodies made of SLF (Synthetic Living Fibre which is actually very dead because it was never actually living) with little sparkle flash tails. These are meant to imitate hatching buzzers but, because the imitation has tiny orange cheeks, if you get fed up stationary buzzer fishing you can give them a jerk and they become a tiny lure. Which of course isn't strictly speaking fly fishing but then when it's cold and you can't be bothered to change flies because your fingers are frozen, believe me you don't care.

This took me several hours while I spread all the bits of my fly-tying kit across the entire house. I dropped at least five hooks, which will be rediscovered at a later date by hippy friends of mine who insist on walking round barefoot. But then I discovered something in the depths of my box that made me scream and sweat in the way only a big spider can normally make me scream and sweat. Somehow, maybe within a multi pack of fly tying things, I had acquired a rabbit's face, flattened, with the eyes and nose and teeth bits missing but very much a rabbit's face-mask with the ears all perky. The sort a bad rabbit might wear to hold up a bank. I realise I am a complete hypocrite ­ I eat rabbit ­ but I cannot pluck a hare's (for it was a hare actually) furry little cheeks for fibre to make Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear. I leave that to other people.

Now then, a reminder. All rod licences run out today. To renew yours you need to either go to your local post office (the best method really, especially if your local post office is a lovely sub post office in a village, remember they need your support). Or ring 0870 1662 662 for full and junior licences ­ I've tried this method for two years running and never had a problem but I know some people who've never received their licence despite repeatedly ringing.

Or go to the Environment Agency's webpage: www.environment-agency.co.uk, click on "Fishe" and then you'll see what to do. A full season non-migratory trout/coarse fish licence costs £20 (surcharge of 25 pence for internet transactions), £9.50 for juniors. A year's salmon and sea trout one will cost £59/£29.50.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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