I have been alive now for 50 years, give or take. During this half century I have tried to keep my eyes open and to process and assimilate, in some way, the information surrounding me in some vague hope that I might procure some modest degree of wisdom.

So what do I have to show for my efforts? What advice can I offer to those following in my footsteps to help guide them along life´s meandering path? What pearls of wisdom do I have? There are only two. They are small pearls, both of them, and neither is very shiny. For the record, here they are:

First, buy only black socks. In this way you don´t waste a lot of time trying to match up pairs and need not be distraught by the universally acknowledged fact that, sooner or later, one sock from every pair will go AWOL and you will be left with its lonesome partner. This will spare you the anxiety of deciding whether it might be best to cut your losses and throw the damned thing away.


Second, at a dinner party never, ever sit next to a fly fisherman. That is, of course, unless you happen to be one yourself. Fishermen are so profoundly affected by the experience of fly fishing that any other experience becomes, by comparison, trivial and uninteresting. The tangled web of neurones, from which their brains are assembled, have been completely rewired on the riverbank or in the hours drifting over loughs, and the old connections have withered. They no longer care who won the local by election, or the advances on the latest series BMW or what celebrity has just gone under the knife to have their breasts enlarged, or whether the Lions will win the deciding test against Australia. And the global economic meltdown and economic insecurity become, at most, minor irritants which, presumably, will sort themselves out over time. These guys don´t worry about such things because, frankly, they would be much happier out on the river, or failing that, talking about being there.


The gulf between the fly fisherman and the non-fisherman is as wide as the North Atlantic. Between the two of them there a vast tract of water, in which one of them shows no interest whatsoever, and into which the other wants to cast a clouser minnow in the hope of picking up a bass.

I know all this this because I am one of those fly fishermen myself. The verbal exchange between the fisherman and the non-fisherman is dull and predictable. Invariably, the non-fisherman just cannot understand why you would be stupid enough to stand around all day trying to catch fish. He, himself, just would not have the “patience” for it, inferring that his busy life is full of meaning and purpose.


Sound familiar? Then there is his hint of disapproval of the “cruelty” involved which leads to my explanation of how the fish I catch are gently released. Finally, there is the, curious, disappointment on the part of the non- fisherman that the fish was not clobbered over the head and taken home for supper. So the whole exercise is a waste of time! It seems ironic that someone who started out disapproving a cruel and unnecessary intervention in the happy life of an innocent fish seems so unhappy that it is let it go again. It is as though unhooking the fish was understood as necessary but it should never have been left off the hook!

I have developed a dinner party strategy which works very well in dealing with the non-fishermen that I will, invariably, be seated among. This is the second, modest, pearl of wisdom I have to offer you. I avoid the tedious exchange I have already described by the simple expedient of not allowing the other guy to get a word in edgeways. Instead of announcing that I am a fishing nut and discussing the matter with him, I simply launch into a monologue about the life-enhancing virtues of fly fishing which, eventually, will put all the dinner party guests to sleep.

My wife, as a precaution, sometime provides those seated at table close to me with a snorkel. She says it is better to be safe than sorry. It may well be that my 30 minute piece on hatching insects and their imitations makes them fall asleep face forward into their soup. If this should happen they could, at least, be able to continue to breathe. There is nothing as effective, in removing the veneer from an otherwise successful dinner party, as one of the guests drowning in their own bowl of soup.

Normally my wife keeps a close eye on me. She doesn´t want me to ruin another evening. If I have been going on too long she fixes me with a stare which tells me that things have gone far enough. I have seen this particular stare many thousands of times and I understand that it is time to change the subject. And so I turn to the other guests and start out on a new tack.

“Have I ever told you my theory about the colour of socks?”

Published by Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Monthly, October 2014