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A life-changing experience

Malcolm Greenhalgh is forced to change clubs and seek fishing on a new sections of rivers

Back on the beat: the Hodder.
Back on the beat: the Hodder.

My fly-fishing life has changed greatly over the winter months....

Everything was honky-dory in the days leading up November 10, when Yvonne and I took the evening flight from Manchester to Lisbon, where we boarded the Braemar and headed south through the Atlantic to Morocco, then the Cape Verde islands, and then back north to the Canaries. I would be missing my fishing club’s AGM on the 24th, but that ought to have been a fairly gentle affair and I gave it no thought until the 26th when, freshly arrived at home I checked my emails. Amongst the most recent were two from members – members I didn’t know – of my club, Bowland Game-Fishing Association. Both demanded that I ‘consider my position’ in the Association. I made three phone calls, which revealed that, in the days immediately after we had departed and when I was 4000 miles from home, the most revolting and devastating volcanic eruption had taken place within the Association, with the person who caused this dreadful affair closely linking me with what was said, even though I was no inkling that what did happen was going to happen. Had I done so, I would have stopped it stone dead.

I felt absolutely and utterly gutted, alone, let down, devastated and alienated from the fishing that had been a major part of my life for four decades (see past blogs and recent issues of Fly-Fishing & Fly-Tying). Every night I found myself waking at 3 or 4 o’clock and asking, “Why?” “What can I do?” Eventually I had had enough, and on December 29 I scribbled a short note to the Bowland secretary resigning my life membership.

January is usually the month I tie lots of flies and get my kit ready for the new trout season. Instead, I spent most of the month counting the waders and wildfowl of the Ribble estuary and Morecambe Bay, my other lifelong passion, and mulling over recent, traumatic events. I still had river fishing, on a belting beat of the Lune and on some lovely wild trout and grayling water on the Aire. But I had lost my most important fishing, on the Ribble and Hodder, for, as those of you who know me well or have read my tome on the Ribble system’s history and wildlife will be aware, those rivers have been a part of me for over 60 years.

Early on the morning of February 11, Geoff drove Yvonne and me down to British Fly Fair International at Staffordshire Show Ground. We set up base camp with Mark and Magnus at the FF&FT stand and, before starting my visits to other stands with which I am linked (besides FF&FT, Grayling Society, Wild Trout Trust, Medlar Press and so on) I went for a mooch round. Only ten yards from FF&FT was Lancashire Fly Fishing Association’s (LFFA) stand and on it were the maps of their river beats. There was the Ribble, with lovely beats close to the ones I had fished before. There too was the Hodder. Some of you will recall dear Dr Ron Broughton, stalwart of the Grayling Society and member of LFFA, whose book The Grayling: the fourth game fish had photographs of those very beats. Those manning the stand noticed my interest and in a matter of minutes I had explained, in very general terms, what had happened, said that I was looking for fishing on Ribble and Hodder, and those lovely gentlemen kindly took me under their wing and gave me the requisite forms and Association details.

Throughout that day at Fly Fair people who had heard of the predicament into which I had unknowingly been put and people who learned what had happened on the grapevine were fabulous. Besides being the best Fly Fair thus far – it was outstanding, and one would have to be silly not to be at next year’s – its whole atmosphere was of what is best in fly-fishing’s brotherhood (and sisterhood), a warm and generous friendship. And on February 22 my diary notes that I sowed 11 varieties of tomatoes, that “My LFFA membership card arrived, hurrah!” and I sorted out my dry fly boxes and tied a dozen CdCs. On February 23) I had my first full night’s sleep in over 13 weeks.
The consequence of all this is that I have some new beats to fish on rivers that I know well, and I will try to describe, in the coming blogs and maybe the odd article or two in the magazine; things that I have found new or different in the fishing. But the first fish that I catch will be a grayling, I will catch it before March 15 (when the trout season begins) and I will catch it on an old cane rod that Dr Ron Broughton used to catch grayling on the same beat and that was given to me after his death.

But I must conclude with three important points: I was lucky to have been a member of BGFA for very many years and none of the upset is down to that great Association. I still intend to give them any help or assistance that I can. That help and assistance now also goes to my new club, Lancashire Fly Fishing Association, a famous old Lancashire fly-fishing club with some wonderful fishing. And finally, by all means disagree amongst yourselves about fishing things, but bear in mind that we are all brothers and sisters of the angle and we should do nothing to hurt or upset other brothers and sisters.

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