Stephen Bayley: Compliments for angling? Not after my run-ins with rivers

 

Fishing? An excuse to travel to some purpose! To engage in something primal as opposed to the tinselly snares and trashy delusions of urban daily life. And an approach to the countryside, urgently needed in my case, with a meditative aspect.

Like China, Dickens, Wagner and golf, fishing is, for me, terra that is pretty much incognita. But like China, Dickens, Wagner and golf, fishing is adored by many people whose tastes I respect (possibly envy), so I have often felt, as I often do, that I am missing something.

My early experience of fishing was both very limited and extremely negative. An accepted invitation found me north of Inverness standing in a stream being bitten by midges. The shortcomings of this situation were made more acute by the memory that just the day before I had been doing lunch in Frédy Girardet's celebrated restaurant in Crissier, an experience that had confirmed many of my prejudices about the superiority of city life.

Still, invited to an expensive spot on a famous river, I had imagined a magnificent combat of man (me) against beast (salmon). Instead, in an image some will see as a meaningful graphic, I stood with my limp rod in hand, attracting more aphids than fish.

So it was many years until I was tempted again. A friend said he had a day on the River Test and I replied: "No thanks, ask someone who'd enjoy it". He said: "You don't understand, do you?" so I was piqued and joined the party.

It turns out that a day on the Test involved sitting in a hut with garrulous chums, drinking champagne, good Burgundy, eating foie gras and smoking Cuban cigars. The only fish we saw was smoked and came in a foil pack labelled "Harrods".

And then this year I gave my wife fly-casting lessons as a birthday present. Why? One reason is she has a family cottage in Wales and a river runs through it. Another reason is that every day I walk past Farlow's of Pall Mall, the outdoor fantasy specialist, and they advertise such a thing. It seemed a good idea, certain to re-enforce a hard-won reputation for being cheerfully innovative in gift choices.

Once you start on this, there are three phases. 1) The training day at an artificial pond in Syon Park, west London. Not a lot happens, but an agreeable cove tells you stories about manly adventures in Siberia and Iceland while you cast your fly under the final approach of the Heathrow flight path. 2) You get to buy a rod. Surely, the acquisition of kit is central to the whole exercise. Kit is one of the central mysteries and purposes of life. 3) The first fishing trip. So, we must imagine a private stretch of the Rhaeadr chosen for its distance from the Jubilee weekend. The world Blake saw in a grain of sand we would see in a brown trout, while mercenary London partied.

And, practical aesthetes to the last, we would eat the trout with a little tarragon butter and boiled ratte potatoes. So. We tied flies. We cast. We waited. We cast again. The river crashed. We waited. The fish flashed by. The rain fell and the chill intensified. The plans for dinner were modified.

My experience of fishing involves humiliation and frustration. So what does fishing tell you? In my case, that we learn very little from experience. I'll be back.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas