Driving up the valley of La Neste in South West France, I was concerned to see the river high and coloured after recent rains. My wife and I were driving to northern Spain for a short break to celebrate my 40th birthday and, as part of the trip, I had booked two days of guided fishing on the renowned rivers of Aragon on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. The season had closed in mid-September in France, but the Spanish season runs until the end of October, so this would be my last trout fishing trip of 2022 – I was praying the conditions would be more favourable on the southern side of the mountain range.
We crossed the border through the Aragnouet – Bielsa tunnel above Saint Lary. Emerging in Spain, the road descended along the valley of the RioBarossa through beautiful birch and pine forests. The Barossa was clearly in better shape than its French neighbours, running full of fresh water, but thankfully still clear with the brilliant turquoise hue that only glacial streams have.
Joining the valley of the larger Rio Cinca at Bielsa, we turned westward and cruised along towards Jaca. Drinking in the spectacular autumnal views, occasionally catching a glimpse of the magical Cinca in the canyon below, we were full of expectation of what the next few days would bring.
Sometimes you decide to go fishing and everything just feels right.
As you put your tackle in the car you notice that the air is pleasingly mild – too warm and the fish will be dour, similarly if it is too cold – somewhere in between is usually best.
As you drive to the lake you notice the roadside trees are swaying a little – just enough breeze to ensure there will be a ripple on the water to stir your quarry into action.
On arrival, there is not another soul around. You hurriedly pull on your boots, throw your bag over your shoulder and grab your rod. Crossing the field towards the water’s edge you notice a couple of fish move in the distance.
You stand on the bank and assess your options. The water has good clarity, but with just a tinge of colour to leave something to the imagination.
Another fish moves. Your confidence couldn’t be higher. You nervously thread up your rod and prepare for your first cast.
Social media has been linked to higher levels of envy, anxiety and depression in many sectors of society. I could imagine that anglers are no exception to this rule.
Based on my own feed of images and information on Instagram and Youtube, one could be forgiven for thinking that the catch of a lifetime should be a weekly occurrence for any decent angler or, at least, it only requires the purchase of one more piece of ‘essential kit’.
Too much time spent scrolling through your friends’ fishing pictures can result in the setting of unrealistic expectations for one’s own trips. Moreover, the desire to capture the perfect ‘trophy shot’ of your own to share, can distract from the multitude of other (perhaps more important) reasons why we go fishing.
As far as 30th birthdays go, mine was a bit of a non-event. I was in the middle of a big project at work and was at my desk first thing in the morning and did not get home until after midnight, so basically missed the entire day. Moreover, our daughter had been born only two months earlier so things at home were rather chaotic and any thought of birthday celebrations had understandably taken a back seat. However, I did get one great present from my wife and newly born daughter – two Richard Wheatley mahogany fly boxes with a lovely engraved message on them.
There are two types of freshwater fly-fisher in the UK: the one that hangs up his or her tackle in the autumn at the end of the traditional game fishing season and the other that ploughs on through the coldest months chasing grayling – the lady of the stream.
It is unlikely that you could read far in any literature on grayling fishing before coming across the name of a fly which is synonymous with this branch of the sport – The Red Tag. Numerous versions of The Red Tag have been resident in my fly box over the years, but only recently did I try using one for the first time.
Back in July my oldest friend was getting married at Mitton Hall in Lancashire. As I live and work in Moscow, I decided to make a long-weekend of the trip back to the U.K. and, amongst catching up with friends and family, sneak in a day’s fishing.