Invasive non-native species, Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing, Shows, Tackle, Ultralight fly-fishing

Balsam Bashing at the Game Fair

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According to the great John Gierach, publishers may well have invented book signings to keep writers humble… and that’s certainly how it felt for the first five spookily-quiet minutes of Coch-y-Bonddu’s  ‘meet the author’ session during this year’s CLA Game Fair at Blenheim.

Maybe we’re putting them off, suggested Peter Hayes, all sitting here looking like experts. So Peter, Dom Garnett, Malcolm Greenhalgh and I started chatting among ourselves instead, and it wasn’t long before a swarm of grinning acquaintances emerged from the crowd to accuse us jovially of neglecting our public. You can’t have it all ways… but it’s entertaining to try.

Thanks to all those good folks at Coch-y-Bonddu and the Angling Trust, my day in the Game Fair’s Fishing Village passed in a blur of book signings, too-quick catch-ups and some degree of sardonic speculation (does his Grace know he’s got invasive signal crayfish duking it out with native damsel nymphs in his lake, and a Himalayan balsam problem near Gate C?)

Between fits of writerly responsibility I did manage some reciprocal sneaking across the road to see the gang the Wild Trout Trust stand, as well as the Wandle Piscators at the Fly Dressers’ Guild… and a stroll down the hill at the end of the day to check out a couple of rods I’ve been reading about recently in Jeremy Lucas’ latest book, Presentation Fly Fishing.

(I’ve fished ultralight for years, but having been generously sent a sample of Jeremy’s revolutionary dry fly presentation leaders, I’m happy to admit that his super-delicate leader-to-hand technique is more than a few light years beyond. So now I wanted to get hands and eyes on the long, ultralight Streamflex XF2s – Euro comp-style 10ft 2wt and 11ft 3wt respectively – which he praises so passionately for casting those leaders).

As luck would have it, dropping in on the Hardy & Greys stand also led to a fascinating chance meeting with pro staffer Finlay Wilson, whose articles on Scottish rivers and the Flow Country I’ve been enjoying for years in the pages of Trout & Salmon and FF&FT.  Neither of us were actually packing a French or Lucas-style leader to throw onto those lovely little XF2s, but with luck it won’t be too many seasons before we’re comparing big fish on crazy-light rigs somewhere on the Tweed or Annan. Or maybe somewhere grittier

And isn’t that mostly the point of the Game Fair? You never quite know who you’ll run into, but you can always predict it’ll be fun.

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