Category: Published fishing writing

So you think scuba divers are cool? Maybe you visualize a diver as some sexy neoprene-clad temptress who unzips her wetsuit a little, shakes her hair and says “Wow that was great! I really get a kick out of hand-feeding those giant groupers! And l just love the way those huge manta rays glide by like enormous birds!” Continue reading

I’ve been reading the scriptures lately. Nobody lasts for ever and so, conscious of my own mortality, I figure that I ought to check out what the whole deal about heaven is. From what I’ve heard, a life of tedious virtue is required to even meet the entry requirements. They don´t open the door at all if you´ve been fornicating, abusing others, lying, cheating or avoiding the washing up.

Is it worth it? I´m worried that heaven itself may turn out to be a disappointment! Sure, I know the clouds will be comfortable to sit on, and the food is bound to be good but, frankly, I´m not really into choirs. And there´s only so much harp music you can listen to. Sooner or later I know I will get bored and start itching, as I always do, to go fishing. Continue reading

A few years ago an unusual thing happened on the Guadalhorce, my local river. The river dried up completely over nearly its entire length and there was, as a result, a great loss of fish. I visited the river regularly during this period and saw the river shrink down to some isolated pools which were alive with struggling fish. Later even these pools dried out and the fish they held died in their hundreds.

The river thins each summer (it is thinning now) but it usually continues to flow, albeit with reduced volume, until the autumn rains arrive and breathe new life into it. Continue reading

Hooking Up

One afternoon, on the Mataura river, I spent a half hour or so carefully stalking a rock. Seen through the drifting film of water, it had disguised itself cleverly as a trout and its dark streamlined form faced expectantly into the current. Its broad back suggested it was a good one too. I figured it would go two and half pounds certainly, maybe even three. This is a good trout in any river and quite exceptional in many. In retrospect, it is good that I didn’t know its true weight. Had I then known that it was at least twice my estimate I would have been reduced to a quivering bundle of nerves and my casting technique, shaky enough at the best of times, would have completely fallen apart. Continue reading

Pearls of Wisdom

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:

Continue reading

Wasting Time

My wife thinks that I am an idiot. She has, over the years, shown herself to be an excellent judge of character and so I have no reason to doubt her. Continue reading

There is a Lough half way up a mountain where my brother and I spend a day or two each year. It’s not easy to reach. The climb, over the sodden ground, saps the energy from our legs and makes us pause every now and then to catch our breath. Continue reading

Nodding Off

Having trouble sleeping? Well, you could try counting sheep. But, personally I don’t recommend it. I tried it for years but it just doesn’t seem to work very well. Sheep can be very frustrating. For one thing they tend to move around a lot. This makes it very difficult to decide if the sheep you are counting has been counted already. Continue reading

Real Men

The world is more complicated than I thought. Long ago I reckoned I knew the difference between a woman and a man. It was obvious really. Men were sort of, well, manly. They went out from time to time shooting rabbits, ploughing fields or fighting fires. Women, by contrast, married them, fed them and generally attended to their various needs. And the TV confirmed that it was so. While Tarzan was wrestling crocodiles in the swamp, Jane was at home taking his loincloth out of the tumble drier.

Now, before anyone starts ripping my head off, let me say that this all happened long ago. Those were the thoughts in the mind of a boy. I have since grown up and discovered, as I say, that the world is complicated. For one thing there are now more men who are hair stylists than fight fires. Apparently some men wear aftershave, condition their hair and look in the mirror… Continue reading


You might think that surrounded by soothing waters, my mind is emptied of its worries when I fly fish. But this is not so. When I fish, I am tormented by demons. There are several and, over the course of the years, I have come to know them pretty well. And, even though they are familiar companions at the waterside, I have never given them names or introduced them to anyone else. Today I will. There are five and they may well be strangers to you but, I suspect, you are already acquainted.

Among them there are two pairs. Like couples who have bitterly fallen out in the past each resolutely disagrees with the other. It is almost as if this is a matter of principle. There is simply no common ground. I shall christen the first pair Nymph and Dry.

Nymph has clear instructions it wants me to follow: tie on a nymph and drift it near the river bed. He argues persuasively that there are no signs of fish at the surface and points out that fish predominantly feed close to the bottom. If I don’t believe him he reminds me that analyses of stomach contents of trout overwhelmingly suggest that most of what is taken drifts or scurries on the river floor or close to it. Under his influence I reach for my sinking flies and rummage among the hare’s ears and pheasant tails. And, just as I am about to make a choice, his nemesis appears and yells into my other ear.

“Forget that crap!” Dry has climbed up onto his soap box. “You know what’s going to happen. You are going to snag your hook on the bottom! Okay, so no sign of surface activity – big deal!” Dry is a purist, but he argues convincingly too. A dry fly may well draw a good fish to the top even though no rise appears to be underway. And prospecting new water can be done quickly. Takes are easy to spot. Drag is immediately obvious. And nymphs, he tells me, should often move more slowly than the water surface because of drag created by the river bed and it is hard to make this happen in deeper water without getting closer, maybe too close, to the fly. And those takes can be much more difficult to detect.

While these two are battling it out the other pair of demons shows up. Let’s call them “Fast” and “Slow”.

Again they act antagonistically. Fast tells me to keep moving, explore new water, to see what’s around the next bend. Slow tells me to get a grip. “Be stealthy” he says, “Cover the water slowly so as to spook as few fish as possible, and keep low.”

Now the problem for me is that all these demons are experts and each has proven himself a useful guide in the past. But they agree on nothing. In the end, the day’s fortunes, whether good or bad, are simply the compromise reached after their interminable bickering.

The last demon you have surely met. We all have. Let’s call this one “Stay.” He just wants me to stay at the river. Forever! And why not?  It’s peaceful there. Stay convinces me to break my promise to make this one my last cast, to fish into the dusk, or even into the night. Maybe of all the demons I should fear him most. After all, that extra cast rarely produces and I can never find the car in the dark and, of course, my wife will be pissed off with me again. Unlike the others, who have an opposite to check his capacity to dominate, Stay and I must fight it out between us. And he wins. Always.

Published by Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Monthly, April 2011