On the Sunday at the start of the week we had our annual fishing lunch. All of the rods who fish midweek are invited along with their partners for lunch, and a look at the river. The mid week fishing on this stretch of the river is run along the lines of a syndicate. Each full rod will fish on the same day of the week through out the season, half rods will fish every other week. The fishing is not divided into separate beats, as the rods are fishing with the same person every week or every other week they divide the river up as they see fit. Each full rod has a certain number of guest rods so the maximum fishing at anyone time will be four rods. Rods are allowed to share a rod with a guest, if they are unwilling to use up one of their guest days. Several of the regular rods have been here longer than the seventeen years that I have been here, they are in the main a happy, mixed bunch of varying ability, made up of big noises in the banking and insurance sectors of the city, retired servicemen and civil servants, teachers, medicos, one man from the film industry and an octogenarian lady who learnt her trout fishing as a girl in India and is an avid Formula 1 fan. We have a long waiting list for our weekly rods, spaces invariably only come up through the passing away of one of the rods or incapacity.
The weekends are kept for friends and family of my employer, although a few days are let through one of the more reputable sporting agents, and a few are auctioned off at various charity auctions.
Each rod is allowed to take four fish, of over a pound a day. All rods will get their limit at some point during the season; all rods will have a blank day. Fishing varies from shooting in that often you will buy a days shooting and know roughly what the bag will be at the end of the day. You don’t buy a four fish day when booking a days fishing, the blank days will be hard and disappointing but go to making the limit days all the more special.
Many of the day rods are sold to overseas visitors, or ex pats returning for a taste of English fishing. One chap exiled in America, regularly pops over for some early and late season fishing fitting it in around, trouting trips to Argentina and Alaska. Many of the American rods love the chalkstream fishing, particularly the fishing history surrounding the Rivers Test and Itchen, their fly boxes are something to behold, patterns imitating far more “critters” than you’re average UK fisherman.
The vast majority of the rods are great to be around, they are more often than not in a good mood, it is their day away from work/family duties and are out to enjoy their day. You do get the odd puffed up rod, who expects treatment commensurate with his high status, invariably these never catch the number of fish that they feel they ought to and rarely return.
During my time here I have a fund of stories about various incidents with the rods. Hooks getting stuck where they shouldn’t, rods falling in while doing something they shouldn’t. A fierce but friendly old lady threatening to punch me on the nose, an elderly gentleman prone on the riverbank eyes shut, who whispered in my ear when I checked to see if he was still breathing. An amorous couple, in the midst of a mid life crisis; naked as the day, who refused to move from a bridge near the top of the beat when challenged them with dogs and a scythe, and lots more besides. All help to pass the day, and are the reason that I do the job that I am doing.The fishing lunch passed with the usual comments about how there couldn’t have been this many fish in the river at the end of the season gone, and how easy it will be now I have taken such and such tree down, although by June I will be receiving requests from the very same rods to get my chainsaw out, as the leaves add weight to branches that drop and create a good spot for a trout to lie and a difficult one for a rod to reach