Many people would dismiss fly fishing as the arcane preoccupation of a bunch of oddballs who really ought to know better. It seems pointless and silly to do what I love to do whenever a half chance arises: wander off to the river, spend a few hours creeping around the banks, catch a few fish, put them back and then go home again.

It is nevertheless true to say that for many of us such an affliction exists. We can´t shake it off and nor do we want to.

The kind of fishing I do is quite straightforward. If you keep your movements slow and are careful you should be rewarded, sooner or later, with a chance to present a fly to a fish that will accept it. If I am to be honest I have it pretty easy. The fish on the Guadalhorce, though no fools, are abundant if you know where to look. If you miss a chance, or disturb the water with a heavy footfall or breaking the skyline you can move on and try again.

But it is not like this everywhere. Some of the most innovative and skilled fly fishermen in the world have learnt their craft in France on gin-clear waters that are subjected to relatively high heavy pressure. The best of these anglers are able to catch fish that I would get nowhere near to.

Among these fishermen are a number of highly skilled young men who bring to the challenge of fly fishing that kind of focus and intensity that guys like me simply cannot muster. They are the true masters of their trade.

I read about one of them just recently in an article that focused on the technical aspects of fishing extremely long leaders to wary trout, and while the techniques are interesting in themselves, what impressed me most was the story of the heroism and single-mindedness of a young man who sought out the biggest fish in his river.

The following passage comes directly from Jonathan White´s article in the December issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying:

In his book De La Pêche à La Nymphe (2010) Phillippe Boisson tells the story of Norbert Morillas´epic struggle with a trout of more than 6kgs (13lb) on the River Ain. Morillas had spotted the enormous fish lying in mid-stream in 10 feet of water in a heavily wooded part of the river. Despite the dense vegetation, Morillas somehow managed to cast his size 14 Pheasant Tail Nymph and 10-foot tippet to land 50 feet upstream, giving it time to sink to the level of the fish. At the third attempt, the giant fish moved to one side to intercept the fly and Morillas immediately inflated his life-jacket and threw himself into the ice-cold river. After 10 minutes of unbelievable fight, the fish took up station on the bottom of the river, from which he could do nothing to move it. After nearly an hour in the water, Morillas was in a state of hypothermia and could no longer feel his limbs. On the point of collapse, he just managed to reach the side of the river, shaking uncontrollably and unable to stand. In a final effort to apply pressure on the fish the line snapped, leaving Morillas on the gravel physically and mentally shattered.

I read this extract over and over. The technical difficulty of hooking such a fish is one thing. I would never have got near to it. But, of course it is the angler´s extraordinary commitment to do whatever it takes that leap out of the page. The same article stated that, tragically, Morillas died shortly afterwards. The cause of his death was not stated.

He was 31.


An apt title. This picture was pinched from the following site: