Sunday, November 09, 2014
A friend of mine died at the end of this summer. I hadn't known Gary Hyde for even a year, yet such was the nature of the man that we had quickly become friends and when he finally lost his long battle against illness, I felt the loss greatly. Fellow anglers who had known Gary for a lot longer than I, were universally devastated; at once, I was reminded of the sense of community there exists within flyfishing circles as social networking sites became crowded with tributes to the man and condolences to his family.
I had a small tribute of my own in mind and finally saw it through last month. I visited one of Gary's favourite rivers and spent a few hours in quiet reflection, wading the pools I know he loved to fish, and to which he so generously introduced me at the start of the year. Those familiar with these pages might recall the circumstances in which we met during late December 2013 and how, unprompted, Gary invited me over to fish with him on some of the urban rivers of his native West Yorkshire. One polite enquiry as to where might be a good place to start on the Ryburn and Halifax AS waters of the River Calder, and shortly after at Gary's absolute insistence, I found myself in the passenger seat of his car, receiving a comprehensive tour of the area's flyfishing potential. A few days later we were back again, this time actually fishing. Gary eagerly pressed example after example of his beautifully tied grayling flies into my hand at every opportunity, patterns which went on to have a profound effect upon my hitherto conservative tying style. The fishing itself was a revelation and I made a number of return visits to the area before the trout season opened and I turned my attention to more familiar ground elsewhere.
When at last the opportunity arose, I returned in October to find the river in an entirely unfamiliar state: running clear and low enough to reveal a mouthwatering sequence of riffles and pools. Of course I had forgotten; back in the early days of my acquaintance I came each time to the river in various states of spate and thus came to know it only as a mucky torrent from which grayling could be plucked from slack water eddies and boil holes. But here was a bright, clean proposition entirely unlike that which my limited experience had revealed, its gritstone bones so dark that only stonebound accumulations of autumn leaves on the riverbed betrayed what would otherwise have appeared unfathomable depths. Slowly, I worked my way up the pools with a brace of nymphs, a short line and a heavy heart.
The fishing was stupendously good - it always is on Gary's river. There are many more such examples up and down the country. That such vigorous veins of life can thrive in the face of such pressure is nothing short of a miracle and a credit to all involved in urban river restoration. These streams exist on a perpetual knife edge, the ever-present threat of complete wipeout at the hand of industrial pollution incidents looming with a sense of inevitability that is heartbreaking. It would be easy to feel pessimistic about the future, more so when weighed down by thoughts of mortality....yet by the time I climbed from the river, a good mile or so upstream, I couldn't fail to be buoyed by the absolute magnificence of the sport. In a little over three hours I had returned exactly 80 fish, mostly grayling but despite best endeavors to avoid them, a good number of ravenous trout among them. I don't deserve any credit for that impressive tally - the fishing was easy and a rank novice would have filled his boots similarly. It is the river which deserves the credit, along with all the people and organisations involved in its improvement.
There is another story to be told here - one for another time. It concerns the flies I used that day: patterns of my own devising both, but as you might have guessed, patterns very much in the style of my late friend. The two flies remained in their respective positions on the cast for the whole session and would you believe me if I said that all but a couple of trout took the point fly (a small gold-headed jig nymph), whilst nearly every single grayling ate the dropper? One day I'll tell you about that dropper fly I promise......
I felt blessed as I made the drive home. This last year has changed my outlook as an angler, for a number of reasons, all of them positive; and whilst it would be wrong to credit a single individual with that, there is little doubt that one particular 'phone conversation back in the dying embers of 2013 proved to be the catalyst for some wholesale changes to my outlook on certain aspects of river fishing and fly tying.
Gary Hyde was a fine man; one of the most generous, kind-hearted blokes I've ever had the pleasure to meet. No trouble was too great if it meant helping a fellow angler, experienced or novice - something that I witnessed at first hand on a number of occasions and which instilled in me a deep respect for the man, and a desire to become a better person myself as a result. It was standing room only at his funeral as fellow anglers packed in to pay their respects, some of whom traveled out to the river afterwards for a few reflective casts. I wasn't able to make it that day; I hope that these few paragraphs go some way to making amends.
Thanks for everything Gary. We all miss you fella.