The Wandle Piscators have been deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our much-loved Honorary President, Peter Lapsley, on Saturday 3 August after a short illness, at the age of 70.
As we said in our welcoming blog post in February 2012 (was it only last year?) Peter was one of our sport’s most respected figureheads, and one of the most outspoken, yet personally self-effacing, ambassadors for responsible angling and conservation.
Having fished the Chess as a child, Peter supported the Wandle river restoration project with tireless enthusiasm for many years, recording our efforts in articles for the national and international angling press, and vastly raising the profile of the Rivers Trust and urban river restoration movements.
Despite a constant schedule of travel, writing and fishing commitments, he almost always found time to attend Wandle-related dinners and AGMs, where everyone was struck by his joie de vivre and infectious enthusiasm for any subject relating to fish, fishing, fly-life and conservation.
As befitted the real angling writer behind Fly-fishing by JR Hartley, his stock of anecdotes – drawn from a lifetime of military, intelligence, medical and fishing experiences ranging from ancestral connections with the Falkland Islands to Mount Shasta and his beloved Derbyshire Wye – was apparently endless.
Picture the scene. I was standing in the middle of the River Wye which, at that point, is about 20 yards wide. Tight in against the left bank was a family of mallard – mum and four or five part-grown ducklings. Tight in against the right bank, a big rainbow rose to take a Mayfly dun. I was confident that the ducklings were far enough from the fish to be unbothered if I cast to it, which I did. As the fly landed, one of the ducklings quacked “That’s mine!” and half flew, half galloped across the river towards it. “Oh no you don’t”, thought I, lifting the rod to bring the fly back towards me. As I did so, it was seized by a 1.5lb brown. Who says Mayfly fishing isn’t fun?
Above all, it was typical of his humour and modesty that when one of us asked him to sign a copy of his most recent (and best-selling) Pocket Guide to Matching the Hatch, generously donated as a raffle prize, he grinned impishly and answered “But you do know the unsigned copies are the rarest?”
We will miss Peter terribly, and we send our most heartfelt condolences to his family.
Update: Peter’s funeral took place at 2pm on Monday 19 August 2013 at Mortlake Crematorium.