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Partners and kids, holidays and fairs

Malcolm Greenhalgh has a few final thoughts for 2018


A Happy Christmas, and may the weather in 2019 be a damned sight better for fly-fishing.
A Happy Christmas, and may the weather in 2019 be a damned sight better for fly-fishing.

Recent issues of FF&FT have highlighted a reduction in the number of fly-fishers paying for day tickets (i.e. funding) some once thriving stillwater trout fisheries. Some have closed temporarily, others permanently. Yet it is not only the stillwaters that have seen a reduction in the numbers of anglers. Many fishing clubs, which had long waiting lists thirty years ago, no longer have full membership and, as readers will recall, the underlying problem was confirmed at British Fly Fair International last February. Young people are not taking up fishing.

They are also not taking up golf: clubs that had waiting lists are having to advertise for members and ‘new’ ideas have been suggested, such as making the holes bigger so that beginners will enjoy is more!
They are not taking up cricket: in the home of cricket, Hampshire, some very old clubs have folded, and to make the game more attractive to younger people (?!) tea intervals are being done away with and the number of overs reduced so that players can get home earlier.

And there we have the clue.  Most golfers and crickets, like fly-fishers, are men (only 2% of the 500+ I questioned at BFFI last February were women). 21st century girlfriends are reluctant to hang around on Saturdays and Sundays while their boyfriends are out ‘enjoying themselves’ playing golf, cricket or fishing the Friday or Saturday evening rise.  Where, up to about the 1970s, breadwinning husbands would come home on Friday night and say to their housewives, “Eee love, that was a hard week. I’m really looking forward to a morning’s golf/the match against Cleckheaton/fishing the Hodder tomorrow,” today they don’t. Today most wives are breadwinners too. And so time consuming pastimes or hobbies are, for most, a thing of the past. Add onto that the fact that, whereas when I was a boy I was allowed to wander the countryside and catch roach in farm ponds with my pal Alan, today children have no real freedom to do what they want to do.
“Go and play on the bouncy castle!”

I have neighbours whose children are not allowed out by themselves, whether to play simple games of cricket or football with friends on the local park, or to try to catch some fish in the local canal or lake. And the highlight of the weekend for these families? Go to a mega retail outlet, like Manchester’s Trafford Centre, on a Saturday, Sunday, or Boxing Day – there will be queues on the M60 motorway leading to the place and car parks crammed – and there will be the families, the children, wives and young fathers...whose grandfathers and great grandfathers instead would have been casting a fly, watching a float or even ruining a long walk by hitting a little white ball.
A mega cultural change.
              

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In November I spent ten days on the Canary Island of Lanzarote, and while most of my time was spent watching wildlife and sampling wine in the Island’s bodegas I managed to cast the odd fly for mullet. Dead easy: a white spider fly or white deer hair spun on a size 14 hook and trimmed to the shape of a tiny morsel of white bread. The technique: take some slices of white bread from the hotel breakfast buffet; tie a white fly to the end of a 12’ tapered leader (5lbs point); throw pieces of bread onto the water; watch the mullet rise to take the bread; cast the fly to the rising fish. That’s it.

The method doesn’t work here at home where I have fly-fished for mullet (Morecambe Bay and the Ribble estuary). Why not? One morsel of bread will immediately attract Herring and Black-headed Gulls en masse. In Lanzarote there are relatively very few Yellow-legged Gulls and they seem not to have learned to mug those carrying and throwing bread.

You will be tickled by the wildlife highlight of my trip. Outside the hotel front door was a busy road, with a narrow pavement and low dry stone wall on the far side. One day I arrived back to find a cattle egret standing in the road, looking at the wall. I failed to run it down for it smartly nipped off the road onto the pavement. So I parked the car and Yvonne and I went to see what the small egret was up to. It scrutinised the wall carefully, preferring to stand four yards away on the road rather than about one yard away on the pavement. Then it suddenly dashed forward and jabbed its yellow beak into a crevice between the volcanic rocks, and pulled out a small lizard that it bashed to death and then swallowed. It then took another before wandering over to the grass patch around the hotel entrance. There it had a small pudding of flies before flying off down the road. We saw it feeding in exactly the same way two day’s later.
Normally cattle egret feed amongst cattle and we didn’t see any on Lanzarote, so it couldn’t do that.

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British Fly Fair International, our biggest Fair and entirely given over to fly-fishing and fly-tying (plus, this year some fish cookery) takes place at the Stafford shire Show Ground on 9-10 February 2019. Steve Cooper, the organiser, tells me that all the stands have been booked, that a great array of the finest fly-tyers will be demonstrating their skill and solving any of your fly-tying problems, and that some great speakers will be giving some talks. For full information, go to their web site.
Come with your friends and bring some younger folk. Let’s get more kids into fly-fishing.

See you there?

A Happy Christmas, and may the weather in 2019 be a damned sight better for fly-fishing than the cold spring and hot drought weather that 2018 gave us!

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