I have come to love fishing from a drifting boat to the extent that it now vies on a more or less equal footing with spate stream fishing for the majority of my angling time. This I owe to two friends in particular, Patrick Arnold and Rob Denson, who between them have over recent years persuaded me out onto the region's larger stillwaters on numerous enough occasions to inject a bit of the loch styling bug into this otherwise hardened river fisher.
I was out with the latter yesterday when we fished the final of the Stocks Reservoir pairs competition which you may recall we qualified for earlier in the summer. Not that I contributed much that day - a couple in the boat early on preceded a number of missed offers and dropped fish, as I grew increasingly frustrated and ended up fishing like a fool. Luckily the expertise of my boat partner pulled us through that day. I was hoping I could make amends in the final.
It's an interesting fact that put two anglers in a boat, fishing more or less the same method, and more often than not one angler will outcatch the other. Sometimes through superior ability, sometimes as a result of some intangible variable, sometimes apparently through pure luck. Rob and I had a happy exception to this in the same competition last year when we both contributed 5 fish to the bag and finished in the prizes. Conversely I can recall a day on Malham Tarn with Dad earlier this season when I fished all day without so much as a tweak, whilst the old bugger had eight offers and landed four fine fish. We were fishing identical lines and he was using a leader which I had tied. The flies were all my own tyings and although there were slight variations in the individual patterns to start with, by the halfway point of the session, I had tied on an identical team to the one I had given Dad. Answers on a post card please!
It's true that although we might use the lazy man's excuse that Lady Luck played a large part one way or t'other, the reality is likely to lie in some small, barely perceptible detail which forms a part of the puzzle we attempt to unravel each and every time we go fishing; the angle of the flies being retrieved in relation to sunlight direction maybe.....or the positions of the anglers at stern and bow and their relationships with the crabbing action of the boat across the wind. Who knows.
All of this proved somewhat academic yesterday. A preceding night of persistent heavy rain had put the Hodder away in spate and with the wet stuff continuing unabated for the entire day, the reservoir rose in level by some 24 inches over the course of the match. With a surface area of over 300 acres, that's a hell of a lot of water! The day was the wettest and most miserable I have ever endured - a wholly distressing 8 hours afloat in a boat which needed constant bailing, with a wet back and arse and a packet of rain sodden sandwiches in my boat bag which I delayed eating until hunger would permit me to wait no longer. We knew that the fish would be found tight in the margins, grubbing around for food off the freshly submerged ground.....but full effort resulted in only 3 trout to the boat. Two of them were mine, so I suppose at least I had pulled my weight this time. Unfortunately it was nowhere near sufficient to put us amongst the prizes. Mike Laycock and John Calvert managed the full 10 fish with 20 minutes to spare - a fantastic effort from two consistent competition anglers, coming out on top of a strong field which included England loch style team captain Paul Davison.
I'd like to say I enjoyed the day, but frankly it was about as rewarding as a bad case of piles. Which is about all I'm likely to end up with after a day sitting in my leaking and festering waders. All the same, a big thanks is due to the boy Denson for having me along for another year and battling awful conditions to display charactaristically superlative oarsmanship in an attempt to get us onto fish. He deserved better than having to watch me flail away at the opposite end of the boat.