BFW fluff-flinging day - Felix Farm, 9th May '02 - a light-hearted report
By paul whiteing
By paul whiteing
(photos by courtesy mike berridge and alan (trogg) fawcett )
We were all looking forward to this day as a bit of fun, as something different during the close season, non-competitive .......
Top L-R: MikeB, James, Graham, Paul4, Paul (Severn), Clive, John (from 'ull)
Bott L-R: John (Smith), Gordon, Dick, Trogg, and Steve
Mike and Steve hail from Hull and regularly fish for barbel together, recently also with John ('ull too). They set out on Wednesday to Trogg's place in Stafford, somehow persuaded Dian (Mrs. Trogg) to let them stay the night, and all four advanced on Graham's place on Thursday morning. Graham, who is an arranger-in-chief as all will know, did so for this day and magnanimously offered breakfast at his house between 7.30 and 8.30. Foolish is probably a better word as the hoards of northerners previously mentioned, plus Brummie Paul (Severn), would descend upon him and Jane (Mrs E) with their legendary voracious appetites. I met Mike and Steve at the RSSG meeting recently and they needed no persuasion to attack the cheese-rolls I took for sustenance on that occasion. Dick was due at Graham's also and I was attempting to join them. John was making his way to the venue separately from Kent and the others were (assumed) local('ish), with James running the pub nearby.
I got lost, as usual, and although following Graham's directions to the letter including turning on to the M404 which was actually signposted A404 , I phoned from beside a field some miles away for further guidance. Not being particularly fond of eating in the early hours I eventually arrived at Graham's in plenty time for a cuppa but had missed the breakfast anyway. Well, I guessed I had missed it as the terrible 4/5 were just finishing up and had minuscule platefuls of just 4 sausages, 3 eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans, fried bread and black pudding - the pig and chickens presumably duly despatched gutwards earlier. Nice place to eat this, but was it a storeyard for decking? I wonder what G does for a living?
We all left Jane to it, well the dishwasher that is, and convoyed towards the venue. What a pleasant place Felix Farm was on first sight having arrived. A nice lake of 2/3 acres, some fishing platforms, some boats, and a nice hut/lodge. Paul (Severn) and John (Smith) arrived and Graham introduced all to all, including the owner Peter, and bailiff Derek (or was it Alan?). A done deal was for novices to pay one amount for 2 fish and those with some experience a higher amount for 3 fish - all quite reasonable, but 'the boats' were included. Mike and Steve were not actually novices as they had 4 hours previous 'experience' under their (ample) belts. John (S) and Paul (Severn) had never handled a fluffing rod before, and Dick kept on about this 9ft quiver. We didn't know about James, Clive and Gordon's relative prowessâ€™s at this time.
Fishing For Flies
I made leaders and traces for Mike, Steve and John ('ull), and showed Steve what a reel was and where it fitted, whilst Mike had a thrash (lesson) on the lawn from the owner, as did John (S). And Paul (Severn) also I assume. Mike then found a dead fish, which he thought would be a standby trophy shot, should the live fish fail to enter into the spirit of the occasion.
A plundered trophy
We all assembled for the group photos and then departed for the action.
"I don't do boats," said Steve, apparently an often-repeated statement on the trip south. But with some persuasion (threats? surely not) he did agree to venture out with John ('ull). As I was imparting my vast knowledge of flies and lures to Mike - you know the expert-speak 'those greeny ones' and 'those with the shiny red bits', and we purchased some along with our tickets, I heard the dreaded words "you'll share a boat with Mike then Paul?" Me?, Paul?, NO, why me? - I don't get in boats either and had made that clear from the outset. Did I detect that an affinity was assumed betwixt tutor and tutee? Bl**dy hell, I agreed to get in the boat - how they managed that I don't know. I was not going to mention this but remember that this was the day after the red/whites beat the reds, at the reds; Mike is red, and I am red/white. Can you swim he asks? As there is 30 feet of water out there. But there are doubles (whoops, mustn't use that word today) in there Graham said, so boats it was for us - just behave else a size eight in your nobbler will make tears, and barbed at that. Agreements and threats in place we made for the middle, Mike oaring like a veteran even with a broken paddle to larboard, and my sarnies and flask stowed securely at the flat end.
Steve and John ('ull) made their way, as did Graham and Dick, John (S) and Paul (Severn), Clive and Gordon. What happened to James I know not, and Trogg was there as a non-fishing mickey-taking joke-a-minute heckler and bank-runner? Non-fishing? Little did he know at the time?
Ensuring my food and drink was out of reach, we moored to a buoy (all jokes exhausted on this one) and looked at our flies (all jokes exhausted on this one too). Taking into account the wind, the flow, the air temperature, the water temperature, and .......observant........ of the local knowledge and advice we selected our fly/lure carefully. Believe that? No? OK, well we said that the green one looked good so we'll start with that.
We began to fish. My graceful selective strategic placement of the fly was a joy to any watcher, whilst Mike's frantic waving and thrashing deposited coils of line within feet of the boat and a gentle ripple of the fly some few feet further. Taking him in hand, so-to-speak, we soon had a flow to his action and, although graceful it was often not, within a short while passable presentation was achieved - and well done to him.
Surveying the other boats we saw Steve and John ('ull) thrashing to their hearts content to our left; John (S) and Paul (Severn) further on having a good try, but easy to see faults from afar, and we (G and I) will have to swap and share our skills and experience. I mustn't give the impression that either Graham or I are expert, we just have flung fluff before and our efforts are less prone to mishap, but still will bring a tear to the eye of a ghillie. Gordon and Clive were to our right and clearly of mixed abilities, one a tryer and the other (as I proved) a lucky bu**er - so sorry, skilful was it?
Graham and Dick were now reaping the benefit of Graham's local knowledge and his undoubted training sessions (of the fish) over the preceding weeks. Having rowed like madmen, although we didn't realise at the time that they did row where we thought that they had secured the only boat with a motor, they moored over 'the fish cage' into which they could cast to the resident 'fish actors'. I'm in cried G quite soon; a cry of Dick's in followed (spare the jokes). Now at this point I must explain the sour grapes in context of later conflicts (see para Re. what fly?). Graham is obviously a fisher of some considerable, if unorthodox, skill although he modestly says not. I might describe Dick as a lucky s*d but in reality he is a fisher of some skill too even at a relatively new pursuit - but still lucky at that!
With the two aforementioned having caught we looked around for further action. Gordon seemed to have got the gist of the event as his rod bent into one, and it seemed Steve was too until he did his best to let it off - or was it John ('ull)'s? Difficult to say with those two as the laughter rang across the lake. I had one and Mike thrashed in vain but with ever increasing elegance (did I say that?) until he too had one. I had another, a bit larger this time, and was from a very verrrrry slow retrieve - well actually I had put the rod down to untangle a tangle and then it 'hit the fly' - quite exciting as it hit and ran and I picked up the line first before the rod. Unfortunately as I write this some weeks later the actual time of each capture is a blur. Consider also that there is a limit to which we all would keep of course (of course!), so reporting needs to be discreet.
Paul's massive hands make it look small
At an agreed hour we oared back to the hut in order to partake in a pint at James' hostelry, obviously much frequented by Graham. It was at the pub that one of the day's amazing happenings occurred. Following a single pint (apart from G as expected) everyone turned down a second pint. TURNED DOWN I said. Yes, whatever talk was talked about N v S, Southern beer, Northern capacity etc etc it seemed that everyone wished to get back to the lake for some further sport. At this point most who had expressed a sensible desire not to get back in the boats, for reasons of safety (following a few ales) and in order to take a comfort break as called in business circles these days (a pee to those uninformed) without rowing back and forth to often - well the reasons were not there, so back in the boats for most it was.
John and Paul (Severn) were together again but after a while a swap was a good idea. Graham offered, and mid-lake he got in the boat with Paul (Severn) and John (S) went in with Dick. John (S) almost immediately had a fish, adding to our belief of the fish-cage theory and Paul (Severn) caught also thanks I assume to Graham's tutelage. Gordon seemed to be in the thick of it again but apologies to Clive as I didn't notice whether he had. John (S) and Paul (Severn) both had further fish and so too did Dick, quietly getting on with it and obviously learning this new skill all the time. Steve or John ('ull) had another (difficult again to tell whom) and then one of them seemed to be playing a monster but it proved not too big, very long and thin, and with rings - yes it was his top section. No good laughing at this as it is just a matter of time that it might happen to anyone, especially with 'club rods' if anyone was using them.
Mike and I decided that we would fish from the bank rather than the boat and we spent a fruitless hour at this. Trogg happened by and I asked him why he had decided not to fish at all - "never held a fly-rod in my life" was his reply. Well that was that - a challenge. Standing on a platform I firstly demonstrated the fundamentals and then, as you do, stood closely behind him and guided his movement as best as able to try to impart the correct action. Better to let the man have a go then so I stood back and gave a commentary as he tried to cast the fly for the first time - much more difficult from the bank than a boat as there are things that catch your line on the back-cast! Stop breaking your wrist I kept saying and Trogg agreed that he knew he was doing this but found it difficult not too. I had a strong 6" elastic band in my bag and I secured the rod to his forearm to try to correct his action, but stopping the circulation is not conducive to learning. After half an hour it was getting better but there was a damn fish swimming past first one way and then the other which was off putting. Casting to that fish was impossible as it was too near sop trogg used some form of Northern expression, I assume to entice it, but to no avail.
We then decided to go back to the boat, and having raided my tackle bag once again Mike now had a nice tapered leader set-up which allowed him to present the fly rather than flop it on the surface. He had a good take and it was obvious this was a decent fish, and his preference was to play it from the reel rather than the alien action of playing from the line, but the fish didn't reckon much to this ploy and swum at a fair rate of knots towards him. Mike's reeling motion was a blur, and the boat was rocking alarmingly, but with such a small diameter as a fly reel has he made little headway and had to abandon it and return to the 'classic' method. This fish was hell-bent on circling the boat and it did this many times and the danger of the anchor rope was looming but neatly avoided. Both of us dizzy with the motion and Graham laughing from the bank having vacated his boat by that time, Mike eventually got the better of it and I thankfully landed it. A cheer rose from our boat and the beast was tamed - it later weighed in at over 4.5 lb. We celebrated with another of my sarnies and a coffee from the flask I'm never without as others will attest to.
I think most everyone had had his or her limit - OK except me! - And Graham had certainly found a lot of fish in one corner from the bank. James and Clive were fishing from the bank too and certainly both had fish (I think). Dick continued to have action resulting in this cracker.
What fly? : At some point Mike and I noticed that Graham and Dick were enjoying action when we were not, and it was obvious they had an edge which they would be happy to share? yes?. "What have you got on?" I asked. "A fly" was the reply. Again we tried and "a fish" was the retort. Mates or not, at this we decided to row over and see for ourselves as we suspected foul play, or maggots at least. No good later saying it was a this pattern or a that pattern - we asked and they witheld the info. Poor show chaps, pitch queered. Wait for next time when we will have some special camo flies specially formulated and tied for us and then we'll see what's what. Only joking lads - mates together. But just be wary that maggots hatch from the most unlikely places..............
anyway, to continue........
Apologies must go to those whose action goes unrecorded. It is a fact that when fishing from boats only the most immediate action is seen and lots goes unnoticed. Also there is a limit to the chat that can go on as it is observed that talking or calling across water is not the best 'behaviour' and thankfully respected even by a load of repros like us barbellers.
By six'ish we decided that we would row back and end the day, even though it was most enjoyable all good things must come to an end. Unfortunately John (S) and Paul (Severn) had gone by then so we couldn't say goodbye - each had fish for supper. Graham was still fishing from the bank and we were getting our thoughts together for the trip home. At this point Steve was rowing towards the jetty with John ('ull) in the rear. You understand of course that the rower cannot see where he is going - well Mike noticed what was happening and John ('ull) was saying nothing and bracing himself. The boat hit the tyres on the jetty and Steve went hurtling backwards with legs flying overhead, John said "bang". Did we laugh? Of course not - well a bit, quite a bit. Steve did hit his head quite hard I understand but something about blokes from his neck of the woods? - didnâ€™t cause him any harm.
Our thanks to Graham for organising a quite amazing day.
One last note - I needed instruction to get home, as I do. Graham said that he and Dick were going for a drink and for me to follow him "until he indicated right, whereupon I was to go straight on". Yes, I followed to the letter but noticed he indicated right to turn into the pub, well I duly went straight on as he had said. When I reached the *same place* as I got lost that very same morning I realised he had forgotten that I was behind him. **#*#**#!