The weekend before last saw tens of thousands of country sports enthusiasts descend upon Blenheim Palace, where the 2014 CLA Game Fair was staged. The largest event of its kind in Europe the fair attracts visitors from all over the world. For anglers it provides a huge range of events, from seminars on all aspects of angling, casting tuition and competitions, top tips from the experts, fly tying, and the chance to examine the latest kit.
Jez Mallinson and I were invited to join the Fly Dressers’ Guild team at the fair. However, for Jez and I, the opportunity to cast a fly along a new stretch of river could not be missed and so on our way to Blenheim we made a stop at Scotsbridge Mill, Rickmansworth to fish the River Chess.
First stop a little leat that runs through the gardens of the Mill. Here, we watched a shoal of chub in excess of four pounds fin in the gin-clear water. With the sun just over the yard-arm and blazing down, in 30 degree heat we decided that an ale or two was the best plan and adjourned to the cool shade of the beer garden. Not quite Ice Cold in Alex, but why does beer always taste so good on a hot summers afternoon when you have nothing better to do than cast a fly or two at rising fish.
Up-steam from the mill the Chess skirts a playing field. All along the gravel strewn glides and chalky pools there were fish rising; mostly little chub, but here and there a splashy rise suggested a trout or two. We fished for a couple of hours until the school run hit with mums and buggies and all the riot playground release. A crazed dog walker intent on getting her poor little mutt to take a ducking finally persuaded us that it was time we hit the road. We had had a few from the bank and vowed to return to wade the less accessible reaches of this pleasant little stream.
At the CLA camp-site we met up with a fellow Wandle Piscator, Caroline Emmet, and members of the FDG team. After a hearty curry, courtesy of the excellent Mr Mallinson we joined members of the Worcester Fly Dressers’ Guild for a few beers and some of the best non-fishing stories I’ve heard in a long time.
At six am the following morning we were up and off the fair. Our task to sample the muddy margins of the Glyme.
More lake than river at this point, the Glyme presented quite a challenge. However, not to be daunted Jez was soon up to his waist, scooping his net through the reeds. Rich in pond life the margins provided us with a bountiful haul of bugs, including: a dragon fly nymph, water boatmen, corixa, pond olives, alder fly nymphs, damsel fly nymph, signal crayfish, cased caddis, snails and fresh water mussels.
More than enough water borne wild life to keep our visitors large and small captivated and the fly dressers busy matching the hatch.
On the stand we were joined by Howard Bishop, Dominic Garnett and former Wands SVP Theo Pike, who was also at the Coch-y-Bonddu Books stand, signing copies of his latest publication the Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing.
Generously sponsored by Turrall Flies the FDG stand was well served by members of the Guild from across the country, who worked throughout the three days of the Fair, welcoming guests, demonstrating fly tying, assisting on the ever popular children’s fly tying table – materials and prizes courtesy of Turrall Flies.
Children from five years of age took part in the fly tying competition with prizes awarded by none other than FDG Chairman Charles Jardine.
Throughout the weekend we met with some very fine fly dressers, whose kindness, generosity and sense of fun made the whole event one to remember as something quite special. Our sincere thanks to Caroline Emmet and Chris Reeves for inviting us to take part.