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PITCHING THE FLY by John Andrews
Originally published in
Classic Angling March 2011
Every collection of old fishing tackle has a story to tell but by looking at it
it might not be immediately obvious what that story is. I was recently
asked to visit somebody's house and view his late father's collection of
rods, reels and books. There was an old Allcock Aerial that had been left
out in the rain. There was an R. Sealey split cane float rod that had been
paired with the reel to catch many a big roach. There were fly rods, too,
and one in particular, a three piece by Allcocks which was particularly
battered. If you had passed it lying on the floor at your local car boot sale
or had seen it end on amongst a batch of rods being sold in a job lot at the
end of an auction you would not have given it a second thought. Indeed, it
was more beyond repair than in need of it. The cork was worn away where
the hook had been set into it after endless days fishing. There were several
sets in it and in one or two places the cane was beginning to split. Ferrules
were loosening and one or two rings had rusted away to nothing. But out of
all of the two dozen rods that laid on the table and even out of the reels,
Aerial included, this was by the far the most significant piece.
It had belonged to an angler who had fished after the war behind his house
on the River Ouse in Northamptonshire. With it he fished long hot summer
days, languid afternoons with the sun high in the sky and the river alive
with hatches. With it the angler caught legions of fish, fat chub, slim dace
and even the odd roach and perch. But he never caught a trout. Not one.
The angler's dentist, a family friend, hearing of the angler's skill and
prowess with the Allcock's fly rod and wishing to add a brown trout to his
list of captures invited the man down to his stretch of water on the River
Avon at Netheravon, in the company of one Oliver Kite.
Together they fished, the dentist with his knowledge of every glide, bend
and pool and even perhaps with places in the river marked in his head as
being where big trout lived. By the end of the day he had blanked. Many a
rise but not a single take. His friend, schooled on the take of a dace had
experienced a similar number of rises and one single take which he struck
with elegant timing. A great fight ensued, seemingly improbable now
looking at the rod on which it was carried out, and not long afterwards a big
brown trout of over 7lbs lay on the bank. Oliver Kite was so impressed by
the dentist's guest that the next day he sent him a present. A copy of the
Complete Fly-Fisher edited by C.F. Walker which he duly signed 'Oliver
Kite' with the simple dedication 'Netheravon April 1963'.
When you first look at a collection your first instinct is to match the rods
with the reels in the hope that they will tell you the story of the angler's
life. A rod and a book seem an incongruous pair but in this case they told a
poignant story. The angler returned to Northamptonshire and fished on with
his Allcocks rod. The rod on which he only ever caught one trout. But it was
a trout enough to make him a 'complete' fly fisher in the eyes of Oliver