Neo miss or fisher queen?

Published: 26 Aug 2011 09:30

Like most people in a demanding job, a 10 hour day is not unusual and 'me time' is spent checking my to-do list - so escaping the confines of our office in west Reading and arriving in Theale for my first fly-fishing lesson, I immediately felt relaxed and the weight of hundreds of emails, phone calls and deadlines evaporated as I stepped into the tranquil grounds of Sportfish.

Based in Station Road, Sportfish shares its location with Michael Strattron's trout fishery, with two lakes fed with clear spring water for fishing for both brown and rainbow trout. The staff - with a combined experience of two centuries - split their time between manning the on-site shop, which sells rods, clothing, flies and other fishing tackle. They also run courses and give lessons and tuition.

But, with my closest experience to fishing being a Friday night salt and vinegar-soaked takeaway, meeting my teacher for the afternoon, Chris Hayward, I started to feel a quite nervous as he explained how fly-fishing worked.

I quickly learned that fly fishing is more technical than I had thought. It is an angling method in which an artificial 'fly' is used to catch fish. The fly is cast using a fly rod, reel, and a weighted line. The main difference between this and coarse fishing is the use of these flies - or fake insects - which are designed to look like the precise insect that the fish you are fishing for eats - to attract the fish.

Chris explained; "Fly-fishing is a thinking man's game. It is all about deceiving the fish. You have to first identify what fish you are going for, then work out what it eats and then find the fly that most looks like that."

On the lake, Chris teaches me the basic - but technical - skill of casting. Unlike coarse fishing, fly-fishing is about casting a line back and forth until it lands in the best position to catch the fish's attention. It is about aiming to land the fly in the prime position to attract the fish - without soaking yourself in lake water and leaving your instructor to dive out the way of the line - like Neo, Matrix fashion, which took me a while to grasp.

Finally it was time to fish and Chris cast my line for me and I waited with anticipation. Any pretence of professionalism started to slip as I found myself squealing with excitement as Chris shouted 'now' and my fly is tugged by a hungry trout. The thrill is all encompassing and I started to wind the reel as instructed, stopping when the fish pulled away and then letting it swim away to tire itself out, before reeling it in again.

I realised it was no small fish, in fact, as we eventually pulled it out the water and into the net we found it was a 4lb rainbow trout. What a feeling! I'm suddenly jumping up and down and clapping, I can't believe it. The feeling of reward and accomplishment is unrivalled. In no time at all I've forgotten about any problems at work and other stresses and for that moment it was just me, the lake and what I'd learnt. Escapism like no other, and it was fantastic.

Laura Routledge

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