This isn’t Disneyworld. The mission statement of the National Park Service is to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” It’s for walking, hiking, biking, riding, fishing……or just sitting on a bench inhaling the scent of space. You may find the holiday months of August busy on the roads to, from and inside the Parks, and there is pressure on camping space too. But the amount of available wilderness is so vast that as soon as you put an hour or too into your walking boots, you are pretty much on your own. And the further you go the more on your own you are. Continue reading “MAN IN SPACE”
AMERICAN PASTORAL – FISH IN SPACE
For me New York is theatre. You are either on stage, performing, or you are in the audience, watching. Either way the theatre is packed elbow to elbow and the only way out is physical relocation. I had planned my escape from New York for months before arriving in Manhattan for a brisk few days’ work. I would fly to Wyoming and ride a horse into the Winds Mountains and fish in remote lakes and rivers; then a few days with friends in Livingston Montana before a week at a smart Orvis lodge. And to end the five-week adventure, ten days on the shores of the Puget Sound, fishing for wild specimens in the salt. Continue reading “AMERICAN PASTORAL – FISH IN SPACE”
MENDING MY LINES
It took my gamekeeper grandfather more than a day to journey from Skye to Kent, a distance of 700 miles. He, and my diminutive Gaelic-speaking grandmother, took multiple buses and trains when they were forced to exchange tending Scottish highland salmon and grouse for rearing pheasants in the “garden of England.” I wonder how he felt, chivvying what were little more than pet chickens with attitude into the paths of men in tweeds wielding 12-bore shotguns that cost more than his yearly salary.
It took me less than a day to swap a sumptuous Seychelles sunset for the river music of a flirtatious Irish spring and the healing sight of the tide licking up then down the sands of the estuary in front of my home. It’s a distance of more than 5,000 miles as the crows fly, or would, if they were migratory. Ireland’s full of crows. They are the black confetti strewn by the wind at the wedding of intensive farming and the Irish landscape. Continue reading “MENDING MY LINES”
Blackberry Trout – end of the season 2016
The September weather was a vile blustery bruiser of a day, pelting with showers and leaves swirling about the garden. I went off to Clonakilty to restock my fridge and wait for better weather, and some fishing.On the way back I drove past the river, which was unruly and dirty and in the fields, and was surprised to see the car owned by my friend, the potter Peter Wolstenhome, who is something of a fishing legend in these parts. He was working away the last big pool before the sea using a yellow flying condom on an eight foot spinning rod, and had landed the biggest sea trout of the season,, already a famous one because of the number of large and small fish caught. He put down his rod and invited me to walk up to this car, where the monster was lying in its boot. Continue reading “Blackberry Trout – end of the season 2016”
TURN RIGHT AT THE ARGENTINE FIGHTER’S TAIL PLANE – HEAD FOR THE FISH
Wayne and I set out for the Warrah River in his ancient Land Rover. The wind whistled through the places where the doors should have met the doorframes. The spidery shattering of the windscreen complicated the view from the passenger’s seat. That’s an occupational hazard on these islands because so many of the roads are graveled and loose stones do seem to seek out glass. Continue reading “TURN RIGHT AT THE ARGENTINE FIGHTER’S TAIL PLANE – HEAD FOR THE FISH”
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD
It was just me and the wind and the birds and then there was this noise. My first thought was that someone on a 500 c.c. Motorbike with a very poor exhaust was somewhere in the neighbourhood and looking for me, probably to warn me of some danger from wildlife or perhaps that I was walking through a Petrel nesting ground. Continue reading “A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD”
GO WEST OLD MAN
“This is the Lodge, “ said my guide and host, Wayne Brewer, after I touched down on a hilltop in an eight-seater plane on West Falklands. He was pointing at a small two-story whitewashed house straight out of Northern Scotland. A few small buildings surrounded it.
“And this is the school,” he said, nodding in the direction of another squat building. “We have four pupils. As you can imagine, the teacher is run off her feet.”
A sense of irony, or fun, is commonplace in the Falklands. One oncoming vehicle is referred to as the “rush hour” or “traffic jam” because there is simply so little mechanical footwear on the network of roads built to link settlements after the 1982 Falklands war that ended a brief Argentine occupation. Most of the traffic has hooves.
One of the little houses in Port Howard – population “28, sometimes 30” says Wayne, contains the War Museum he put together from debris left behind after the conflict. There are guns and airplane ejector seats, medical kit and mortar tubes and much more. It’s a tiny display of immense impact if you have the imagination to imagine being a newly conscripted Argentine soldier dropped into this wilderness of white grass and mountain crags and told this is now part of your homeland, defend it against one of the best equipped modern armies – and air forces in the world. Wayne, his museum, the Lodge and school are below.
Falkland Islands – fish as wild and plentiful as the wind
Some days, in the warmth of the Land Rover on the way back from the water, I drop off, only to be jolted awake by the wheels bucking out of a hole in the moorland, and there are many. And for a moment I wake and forget where I am, and fancy it is on top of the Wicklow Hills in Ireland, or on the Isle of Skye, or on Kenya’s Aberdare Mountains. Continue reading “Falkland Islands – fish as wild and plentiful as the wind”
They are born as Brown Trout in streams and rivers where they fit in naturally to their surroundings. But at some stage and for reasons we still do not understand, they decide to follow the river down to the ocean and to set out to sea. Here they are transformed from delicately coloured river-dwellers waiting for the next morsel to float downstream into silver-bright chunks of fighting flesh – they become Sea trout. They live at sea, returning only once or twice to their rivers of birth to spawn before setting out to the ocean again. Continue reading “EXPAT FISH”
IN THE BEGINNING – 1982
My father came to visit us in Kenya, where I was working for Reuters. He’d heard there was a fly-tying factory in Nairobi, and we visited it and ordered boxes of patterns so he could use them in England, where he was fishing the River Rother in Sussex. The names fired my excitement as much as the possibility of going fishing in Kenya. Royal Coachman, Watson’s Fancy, Prince, Peter Ross.
So I bought myself a fly rod on my next leave visit to England, and went fishing in Kenya as soon as I got back. I found the river Gatamayu through a friend. and went there and met an elderly Kikuyu fish scout called James Muchiri Kimotho, who was to change my life. He taught me how to fish, just as he had taught dozens of people to fish since and before Kenya’s independence. He was employed by the government to watch over this little river an hour’s drive from Nairobi. I became friends with him and his family and we explored many, many rivers in Kenya over the period of his life, which ended peacefully in 2011. He was 83 years old.
This picture shows my first two Kenyan trout, beautiful brownies caught in a little waterfall where the river runs through tea and maize. And I brought them home and posed for this picture with my daughter Delia, wearing an Ethiopian dress I had bought for her in Addis Ababa. It was a very special day, made sadly more memorable by the fact that a visitor that day drove over my new rod and broke it for good. It was to be a long time before I fished in Kenya again.