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Finding Friendship Through Fly Fishing

Guest post by Dave Bazen

Partnering with Orvis UK at The Big One in Farnborough, David Bazen and Philip Spratt will be telling the story of their journey to find friendship through fly fishing for carp. David and Philip met at an online fly-tying group during lockdown, which was set up to aid men’s mental health through fly-tying and fishing. Meeting in person at the Orvis Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival back in 2020, they soon became friends over the joys of fly fishing in pursuit of carp and mullet.

Learn more about their story at 2pm on Saturday 4th March at the Angling Times Theatre. Can’t join us? Read about David’s story here.

The last thing my late father taught me was to cast a fly. We fished a chalk stream together a handful of times before his health meant he couldn’t fly fish anymore. After he passed, I floundered around hoping to reteach myself how to cast. I found a little trout lake club cheap enough to suit my budget. I fished there for two years, always on my own.

I became obsessed with fly fishing, my work colleagues laughed at me when a dreamily cast a pen while on conference calls. I watched YouTube videos of fly fishermen catching monster saltwater fish that made the reel drags sigh. My little lake offered nothing like that but as fishermen, we all want to play bigger and stronger fish. Those saltwater giants were beyond my reach, but I remember seeing a man with a fly rod on commercial day ticket lake, fishing for carp on a summer’s day. I gave it a go, a bucket of dog biscuits and a deer hair fly. I used an old glass rod, my dad’s Orvis salmon reel, and a floating line that came free with a magazine. Catapulting biscuits out the carp began to take them. I placed the fly amongst them and after a million missed takes I hooked one. That was it, a fish to fight. On the fly, carp are strong and dogged. There’s plenty of power in a fly rod if you know how to use it and carp soon require you to learn how. So I fished away for carp on summer evenings after work. I became handy at it too.

Then Covid hit, and everything stopped. No more fishing, no more carp. In modern times a man turns to social media. I stumbled on a group of guys tying saltwater flies for mullet and bass. They had, until Covid, met in a coffee shop weekly and tied flies. Covid and lockdown forced them to meet via Zoom. Shane had advertised the group on Facebook, and kindly accepted my request to join them. The next Tuesday I dialled in, and met 6 strangers, they didn’t stay strangers. Phil was the first to speak “a new face, are you David?”. They made me welcome and over the next 2 years, I learned to tie flies with their help.

We finally all met at the Orvis Saltwater Festival. Without it we may never have met. Phil, Colin, Shane, Tom, Dave, and Paul all predominantly fish for mullet and bass on the south coast. While I still went after carp. At the festival, they all helped to introduce me to saltwater fly fishing. It’s fantastic, so wild, and challenging. We shared a few beers and for the first time since losing my dad, I was fishing in the company, with mates.

Determined to repay their kindness I had only carp to offer as a return invite. I worried they might scoff at it. “A muddy pond full of pet fish” they might say. Compared to mullet they might think it too easy. Not a bit of it. They loved it. Tom and I fished together first at Willinsghurst. Tom had been a course angler before at took to it easily. For Phil and Colin, it was more of a challenge. Used to the open coast and sand bars, the trees and bushes of my favourite Hampshire carp lake became close confidants for them. A lot of muttering went on while untangling flies from them.

Phil’s first visit was very educational, as I put my 4th fish back and Phil struck and missed his 44th consecutive take. “Phil, did I tell you to strike low and to the side?”

“No, David” was the answer. He promptly connected the next cast. “That was good advice David, would have been better an hour ago,” he said while chuckling.  A carp is so strong in the fight. The rod bends right through a line straight to the fish, until it starts to kite and the line wobbles through the water under the strain. They know every snag and fight deep and dogged under the rod tip. Estimated sizes of the fish were often way overestimated by Phil and Colin in their early trips. Testament to the carp’s power and stamina.

Colin’s first love is mullet, and Phil has a knack for bass but both have enjoyed many carp trips with me. It’s a social few hours after work without the need to think about the tide and wind direction or water clarity. Just a bucket of biscuits, mat, net, rod, and the secret weapon tied by me and named by Phil. The Chernobyl badger carp fly.

Sid, Meade Fishing George, Meade Fishing
Dave Bazen & Phil Spratt, fishing carp on the fly
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