The day dawned bright but breezy on the 25th June and I headed on my way down the M25 towards Oxted and the Salmon & Trout Associations annual Ladies Day event at Coltsford Mill. Within 2 miles I was stuck in a giant traffic snarl up behind an overturned lorry at junction 7….. This caused some delay for a few of us and it was a slightly later start to the day, but fuelled by coffee and chocolate biscuits, I and another 9 or 10 women with fishy aspirations, headed towards our first port of call for the day – a morning session talking fish species, tackle, licenses and permits and fishing etiquette. Fired up by this introductory session, we headed out towards the lake where we picked up our tackle for the day and split up into twos and threes for casting tuition. The wind had picked up to a brisk blow by now which was a little challenging for the beginners, but we broke off for lunch at around noon with the basics under our belts. Lunch was a casual buffet affair on the terrace and it was interesting to find out where people came from and how they had got onto this fishing lark. A few influenced by husbands, some were already fishing but were comparatively new to fly fishing, and some were there by association with other organisations. After lunch, we headed back to the lakes and split up. There was an excellent provision of instructors/mentors and it was mostly one on one tuition. At this point, having ascertained that I was no novice the guys let me have a go on my own with a few check ups along the way. I picked out a nice spot near a tree (shade) and towards the bottom of the lake, thinking that the food would be blown down wind and the fish congregating in this area. A few fish were flipping out of the water in various random locations, tantalising us, but just out of reach. The sun was pretty fierce by now but the wind was still blowing a gale. I discovered that my proximity to the tree protected me from the one but only complicated things for the other. I lost 3 flies in branches within the first hour. Then another three in the reeds alongside. And another seemed to disappear mid air – could have been a dodgy knot – never my strength. At which point I realised that my husband had taken advantage of my recent absence from fishing and had severely plundered my fly box. A couple of hefty wind knots later, I realised that this wind was posing a bit of a problem (antipodean understatement…). Bernard, who had been lurking about helpfully with advice, offered to take over my rod for while I wandered around taking photos. As I headed back towards my spot after a nice stroll, I got word that he had hooked a big rainbow on my line and was desperately trying to find me so I could bring it in. Of course, by the time I scuttled back, big rainbow had broken off the line and buggered off. Never mind – that was the closest I got to a catch all day…. So set up again, unpacked my handy folding chair – more comfy than a bench- cast out and started my retrieve. A moment later, and with another strong gust, was surprised to see said chair sail gracefully through the air and collapse into the lake in front of me. Small flurry of activity as I paused my retrieve to try to inelegantly hook chair out with my rod handle before it sank to the bottom (followed possibly by myself)… Kept fishing, and struggling with the wind. Bridget Peacock had the swim just next to me and we had been making encouraging noises at each other through the afternoon. Her biggest catch so far had been…. herself. Trevor was unhooking her as I went up for a chat.
The day was drawing to a close. Word was filtering back about the fishing success on the smaller (and more sheltered) lake. Some excited faces from ladies who had never hooked a fish before – very good to see. Almost last cast and Bridget finally hooked one – Trevor helped her land it and it was a very satisfactory end to the day.
Although the fishing gods were not with me that day, they made sure there were some good catches to be had. I had a lovely day in the sun with good company and some excellent tips from the instructors, who were all very helpful. I improved my roll cast, mastered a couple of good knots, learned some strategies in dealing with windy conditions and got some decent casting practise in.
Thanks to the Salmon &Trout Association for arranging the day and for the voluntary time put in by Trevor and the team. Would really recommend the day as an introduction to fly fishing or as a refresher…. And I look forward to possibly reconvening in the near future….