When I started planning the latest issue of the Flyfishers’ Journal, I was pretty sure there’d be a Balkan river theme running through it.
Doug Flynn had sent us a gripping account of exploring some very secret Slovene streams, and David James’s study of the magnificent cased marble trout on the wall of the Flyfishers’ Club, from Montenegro’s Podgoritza River in 1894, was waiting on file. I’d add some stories and studies of my own, from the Julian Alps and the limestone karst landscapes and rivers south of Ljubljana – and surely the archives would turn up something from Skues’s famous Balkan adventures too? But, slowly and surely, those best-laid plans started to change…
In 2015 the Flyfishers’ Club revived the idea of debates on important subjects in the world of fly-fishing. The first debate of the modern era was chaired by Peter Hayes, and the original confrontation, between dry-or-die purists of the Halford school and new-wave nymphists like Skues, clearly got under his skin. We’ve all known much more about ‘the Great Debate of ‘38’ since Tony Hayter’s masterly biography of Skues was published, and Peter’s forensically-researched article on Sir Joseph Ball in this issue of the Journal now reveals even more of the dark character of the man known to flyfishing historians as ‘Skues’s tormentor’.
Fortunately for everyone concerned, the latest Flyfishers’ Debate proved much less tortuous: a good-humoured face-off with Neil Patterson and Oliver Edwards on one side of the argument as to whether ‘This House believes that the Complete Trout Angler ties his own Flies’, and Matthew Wright and Jon Beer opposing the motion in their own inimitable ways. I’m still expecting Jon’s account to appear in Trout & Salmon at any moment, but in the meantime it’s all recorded by Paul Welling in the pages of the Journal.
Elsewhere in this issue, there’s a very different angle on fly-tying from the club’s resident rewilding expert ‘Fennel’ Hudson. Yet what use are the best or most innovative artificial flies we can create, if our rivers, lakes and streams have lost many of the real bugs we’re trying to imitate? Greg Belcamino’s ever-fascinating ‘Letter from America’ gives us some interesting options (psst… crayfish streamers!) and the Journal’s customary good cause feature, this time from Nick Measham, is dedicated to S&TC’s recent efforts to benchmark the health of the fly life in some of the UK’s most precious rivers.
And while we’re still talking about conservation, Orri Vigfússon deserves the whole fly-fishing community’s congratulations on his recent election to the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame, in honour of his tireless efforts on behalf of salmon across the northern hemisphere.
So… the best-laid editorial plans are known to change, but that’s all to the good, and thanks to the collective creativity of the Flyfisher’s talented writers, this is another bumper issue of the Journal. To wrap it all up, there’s my own shot of Nick Steedman fishing the Mayfly at Abbot’s Worthy on the front cover, and an advert for the new London Fly Fishing Fair on the back.
Please do keep those articles coming… we’ll go back to the Balkans some other time!