OBITUARY: Dermot Wilson

Sidney Vines
Wednesday 17 January 1996 00:02
Comments

Dermot Wilson was the leading authority in the UK on dry fly fishing, particularly in the chalk streams. The poet Ted Hughes wrote of Wilson's book Fishing the Dry Fly (1957): "Wherever I open it my eye alights on a paragraph that is delightful to read, and that leads on irresistibly to the next paragraph that is equally delightful and that leads on irresistibly . . . etc etc."

He was born in Cologne in 1924, where his father was serving in the British army of occupation. He went to Winchester College, where he excelled academically and learnt to fish on the college water on the Itchen, following in the steps of those giants of fishing literature Viscount Grey of Fallodon and G.E.M. Skues. Leaving school in 1942, he joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps, in which his distinguished father Maj-Gen T.N.F. Wilson had also served. Dermot Wilson was awarded the Military Cross in North West Europe for leading a patrol behind the enemy lines. He later said, "I didn't deserve it, I just got lost." He was also mentioned in dispatches.

After the war, he took the Foreign Office exam, finishing top. But when he found he was required to learn Mandarin Chinese, and would spend more than half of his career overseas, he decided against it. Instead, he joined the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. There, in 1947, he met and married Renee Balsom, his support and mainstay for the next 49 years. He rose to become the youngest director of J. Walter Thompson, at that time, at the age of 37.

In 1968 he set up a mail- order tackle business, the first of its kind, at Nether Wallop, Hampshire, supplying a full range of fly-fishing tackle. It gave an extraordinarily good service. If you ordered flies from Dermot Wilson, they arrived in the post next day. The company grew to employ a staff of 14, many of them friends from his Greenjacket days. In 1981, ill-health caused him to give up, and the business was sold to the US company Orvis, who still run it successfully.

Dry fly fishing is a delicate art, and Wilson exemplified it. Once, on the Wiltshire Avon at Netton, I saw him kneel down and cast to a fish tucked in below the far bank. Using the finest and most delicate of tackle - a No 2 line and a tiny dry fly - he landed the fly to the inch, just above the fish, which immediately took it. A few inches wrong, and the current would have dragged the fly away. It was a perfect piece of fishing, elegantly executed.

Wilson was for some years Chairman of the Anglers Co-operative Association, which combats pollution of the rivers. He set up the Water Resources Board of the Salmon and Trout Association. He wrote for Country Life and the Field and was a popular lecturer at fishing gatherings.

Sidney Vines

Dermot Needham Furnival Wilson, fly fisherman: born Cologne 1 June 1924; married 1947 Renee Balsom (one son); died Salisbury 10 January 1996.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in