A last-gasp last cast

On a bright au­tumn day, Will Mar­tin throws ev­ery­thing he has at land­ing a fish on the fi­nal week­end of the sal­mon sea­son

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - FISHING -

Iwas on the over-crowded, over-priced, First Great West­ern ser­vice to Devon when I re­alised I had left my hat and fly box on the ban­nis­ter. Such for­get­full­ness is noth­ing new and I smiled as I re­memem­bered an in­ci­dent some years ago when I got to my peg, only to re­alise my flat­coat was still curled up in front of the fire at home.

As the jour­ney con­tin­ued, frus­tra­tion and nos­tal­gia faded away, re­placed with childish ex­cite­ment. This was it, the last week­end of the sal­mon sea­son. It would be a cul­mi­na­tion of a hard few months pur­su­ing th­ese elu­sive beauties, es­pe­cially so in this, the dri­est sum­mer on record.

The key, as with any sal­mon fish­ing, is to try and try and try. And try we would. We met on Fri­day, 28 Septem­ber — two days left. At sup­per, we be­gan dis­cussing tac­tics for our last day of fish­ing. Should we use a sink­ing line or a sink­ing tip? Should we fish large or small flies? Max even sug­gested that we fish a Hitch fly. With con­sen­sus hard to come by and with the bel­liger­ence of old Labradors, we all de­cided that we each knew best and would fish just as we liked.

Dis­agree­ment was not un­ex­pected, as au­tumn sal­mon fish­ing can al­most be de­scribed as “kitchen sink fish­ing”. Ev­ery­thing seems to work but, at the same time, noth­ing seems to work. There is al­most no pat­tern. Four years ago, Max and I were fish­ing the Mole and I caught a lovely 5lb sal­mon in a size 16 Cas­cade, a small beau­ti­fully tied mix of or­ange, red and yel­low. Max caught a 19lb mon­ster on a 3in furry Car­rot.

It was with thoughts of mon­ster au­tumn sal­mon that we re­tired to bed, ea­gerly await­ing that last chance. When my alarm went off at 7am, how­ever, no part of me was ea­ger to see it. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and peered out into the inky dark­ness, sal­mon aside, I could have done with a cou­ple more hours in bed.

Max and Tom, though, were al­ready mov­ing through the house, ket­tle on, mu­sic blar­ing, my fa­ther at the Ray­burn pre­par­ing ba­con sand­wiches. I dressed quickly, aware that this lot meant busi­ness and I had bet­ter get with the pro­gramme. I checked my phone and there was a text from the river keeper Chris Tay­lor: “See you in an hour!”

“With au­tumn sal­mon fish­ing, ev­ery­thing seems to work but, at the same time, noth­ing seems to work”

Fif­teen min­utes later — with ei­ther adren­a­line or a very strong cof­fee run­ning through my veins — my heart was pound­ing with ex­cite­ment as we loaded up the Land Rover with rods, nets, flies and waders. We piled in and headed to Chit­tle­hamholt.

The beat we were fish­ing is a mile stretch of the river Mole owned by the

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