By John Bailey
It’s exactly thirty years since my very first guiding gig in 1992 and in that time I’ve taken thousands of anglers out both here in the UK and to more than a score of countries overseas. I’ve enjoyed every single experience but sometimes lamented the fact that most have been blokes and most very English at that. So it’s more than great that here I am with a Sri Lankan born wife who is mad keen to learn fishing and shows every promise of being darned good at it!
When we first talked about Enoka’s Angling Adventures last year, she confessed she wasn’t entirely new to the game and had caught some sardines off the sandy beaches of Sri Lanka as a child but those fellas had ended up on the grill. UK sport fishing she realised would be very different and from the very first steps, she genuinely loved the Orvis message of care for the environment and massive tlc for any fish she might catch. It was a no brainer therefore for us to shop at Orvis for the kit she was going to need.
It all begins in the autumn, here in Herefordshire on the river Wye, on its many tributaries and of course, on the glorious river Teme. September and October, the weather is generally golden and we manage to get to the riverbank most evenings. As a guide, I know Enoka will like fishing that is active and fun and keeps her involved. “I love getting in the water ,” she says, “and buying the chest waders really helped me get close to the fish, which I love. Seeing these beautiful fish in clear water is incredible. I’d never guessed that fish can be so stunning. Catching them is just one enormous thrill. When it happens!”
Some of what we did initially revolved around float fishing for barbel and Enoka loves that but she stresses ” what I really worship is the fly fishing that I am learning. There’s a grace to it that I never guessed at when I was catching those Sri Lankan sardines. I love feeling close contact with the fish and the electricity when the line tightens is something else. My heart just stops. It’s magic when I lift and there’s a fish there. How on earth did that happen? What do I do now? Help me!!”
Our best evening is late September. It’s a vast sunset and the river Wye is this cauldron of gold. We’ve found a group of barbel living in a long glide above Hereford where the water is quick and no more than four feet deep. We can see the fish flash as they turn on their side just a rod’s length from us. They are like great bronzed cats and Enoka is transfixed by them. She’s using an Orvis 10ft 3wt, a long leader , a 5 pound tippet and a heavy nymph on a size 14 hook. She’s got bouncing the nymph down the run exactly right and i just know a fish is inches away. She just has to keep calm, keep patient and keep her concentration and rhythm going. Crash. Bang Wallop. A barbel is on and it’s chaos. The fish runs twenty yards of line or more and there’s nearly panic. But Enoka keeps the rod high, keeps the line tight and keeps in contact. This girl could be a natural, I’m thinking, she could be really good. It’s a nail biting ten minutes. I can sense her rod arm tiring but the fish comes to the net at long, long last. It’s a magnificent fish. Enoka is bubbling, buzzing and the fish is held an instant above the waterline for a quick shot before powering back into the stream. Its tail thrashes water over us both and we just laugh together in the extraordinary angling moment we have shared.
That’s the autumn and the winter is tough. We fish in the beautiful, ancient town of Ludlow beneath the historic castle where the Teme meanders its way. For a river as lovely as this, the fact it is free for all to fish only enhances its charm. But the grayling we are after don’t come easy. We try a few trips and Enoka’s casting and control both improve vastly but every time, the creeping cold of dusk forces us off the water early. One grayling is hooked at the tail of the town weir but it jumps high in the air and the rod flicks back straight, the fish gone. It’s a set back but Enoka is learning wild fish do not come easy, that a blank day can still be a learning day as her watercraft improves and she learns to become one with the river before her.
Now we are checking what we gear we have , what we’ll have to get from Orvis before the spring trouting is finally upon us. We are looking at club waters hereabouts , especially the Wye Usk Foundation stretches that are available on its fabulous Passport Scheme. We’ve just walked the Lugg, beats on the upper Wye in Wales along with tributaries Irthon and Irfon. We’re about to test fish the Dee and there’s so much of the Arrow we’ve never clapped eyes upon. We are counting down the days. We’re like kids before Christmas.
This is an angling journey that will never end. Deep down, Enoka is still the excited girl who caught those sardines and I’m inspired to help her achieve things she never dreamed of before. Enoka’s story really begins here! The birth of a fly fishing addict!