I started fishing aged 8 when I was on a family holiday on the Norfolk Broads. The first fish I ever caught was an eel and even though I found the sight of it tying itself into knots on the line a bit scary, I was hooked! For years I used to cycle or train it to different lakes chasing any old fish, then I started targeting carp but always trying to do something different to what the other anglers were doing: if they cast miles out, I fished inches from the bank. I realise now that’s kind of how I live my life, doing the opposite to what convention dictates.
It was seeing a fresh-faced Brad Pitt star in a movie called A River Runs Through It in the early 90s that got me interested in fly-fishing and that’s the only kind of fishing I’ve done for the last 20 years. It’s not so hard to pick up the basics but a bit of practice is needed to become proficient. I’m a fairly clumsy human being and still marvel at how graceful the action of sending a fly shooting out across the water looks to the observer, especially if it’s me that’s doing the casting.
Two things I was told right at the start of my fly fishing adventure remain true to this day: fly fishing takes you to the most amazing places and you’ll never meet a fly fisher you don’t like. Amazing places? Well, not many blokes from Croydon spend every waking moment dreaming of mountain rivers in Wales or sun-kissed sand flats in the Caribbean but that’s how I roll these days. As for never meeting a fly fisher you don’t like, well, there was a bloke from California I met fishing in Cuba and he was a right pain in the butt I’d like to think Moaning Mike was the exception that proves the rule because I’m amazed by how many close friends I’ve acquired through angling.
My favourite person to go fishing with is my wife Amelia. I told her the day we met that she could learn to fish and travel the world with me visiting extraordinary angling destinations, or she could sit at home on her jack while I went off exploring on my own. Thank heavens she chose option one as we now spend all our vacation time fishing. She’s caught some huge fish too, bigger than I’ve ever managed. Like me she’s learned to persevere, to appreciate where you are as much as what you’re doing, and to marvel at the wonders of nature: watching Amelia calmly sidestep a charging 9ft lemon shark while fly fishing for bonefish in the Caribbean was a lesson to us both in how far she’s got. A very cool young woman is Amelia.
On some angling holidays we travel for days to go fishing with strangers but invariably leave as old friends but most of the time it’s just the two of us. We use walkie talkies to stay in touch on twisting rivers as sometime we don’t see each other for several hours at a time. Amelia would probably say not seeing me for long periods is the best bit about angling together! We always have to pretend not to laugh when people say fishing’s boring, sat on a bank for hours at a time because we never sit still when we’re trout fishing on the fly. We scamper over rocks or wade through water falls and never see a soul. It’s absolute bliss.