November is a shit month. It is also the month of my birthday; and every year as I was growing up, the shitness of November haunted me each time it came around to birthday party time. Not for me those beautiful days of spring and summer when groups of friends would be invited on long walks and picnics, paddling in streams catching bullheads, or generally horsing around at some adventure park or other. No, birthdays for me will always be associated with dull, wet, windy weather and the depressing onset of winter proper.
And so, as I passed this week into my 39th year, nothing could have been further from my mind than the possibility of few hours fishing. Work has been all-consuming of late as the latest deadline of my project based career looms. An accumulation of long, stress-filled days has left me feeling whittled hollow and exhausted. I have a nasty head-cold.....and yesterday when I got home, a letter right out of the blue from my GP, saying I am required to attend an MRI scan, for reasons I still cannot comprehend.
Difficult times. But then, isn't this what flyfishing was made for? I drew a line under recent events, dropped everything for a few hours and shot to the river in search of relief - a moment of selfishness that I still feel guilty about now.
What I found when I got there was this: a mild, almost warm afternoon with a gentle breeze blowing out of the southwest, and a river flowing clear and dark and leaf-laden with water dropping slowly off the back of a midweek lift. I found a handful of dark olives and willow flies, and struggling in a folded mess of partly deformed steelgrey wings, a single pale watery dun, like a distant echo of the summer gone.
And then later, I found fish. Not many of them, but enough to restore my spirits; grayling of a very high quality which writhed and twisted in the currents as I lifted to their sign at the tip of the flyline. They were hooked on weighted nymphs but I could tell from the timing of the takes, that they were prepared to move up in the still-warm water. If the weather man is to be believed, all this will change over the coming days and a cold snap will signal the start of the typical shoaling behaviour and dropping back into the pools, which so typifies winter grayling fishing.
I only fished for three hours, but it was enough. The cathartic properties of time spent next to running water never cease to amaze me.
I must put a mention in to Mike Barrio of www.flylineshop.com. I bought myself a new reel this week and a new line to go with it. For the last couple of years I have used one of Mike's double tapered 'Mallard' lines and been thoroughly impressed. On this occasion I decided to go back to a weight forward profile and settled on his 'mushy pea green' GT90. Early impressions are every bit as positive as with the Mallard - well mannered, supple, and completely memory free. There's no wonder Mike has something of a cult following - especially considering the outstanding quality of service provided....and the fact that his lines are half the price of some premium brands. My GT90 cost £27 delivered and came as usual with a hand-written note - a nice touch.
In this day and age, when money is tighter than it was and the big tackle companies seem hell bent on fleecing us for mediocre gear, it's refreshing to know that there are some people out there who can and do still offer a first class product at a reasonable price, and take a pride in their service and reputation. Every credit to Mike - I hope his business continues to prosper.