This year’s London Fly Fishing Fair was a ‘who’s who’ for Peter Cockwill who met so many names, past and present, who’ve shaped the sport
Peter meets up with old friends and makes new ones at the London Fly Fishing Fair
ATTENDING a big fishing show is as much about meeting up with the stars of the fishing world as it is to see the latest gear, watch the ranks of fly tyers or check out the options for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I must admit that that’s how I felt at this year’s London Fly Fishing Fair when the legendary Taff Price was being hero-worshiped by all those who respect the status of this great man. He gave so much to fly tying through his innovative patterns, his many books, his hugely popular talks and not least through his links with John Veniard, Donald Downs and David Jacques when together they set up a retail mail order materials company in Kent. It quickly became a Mecca for tyers and especially for the Saturday morning classes when a regular group of youngsters gathered. Some went on to become personalities in their own right and it was lovely to see Taff and Howard Taylor, who owns Upstream Dry Fly, together again, after so many years. A special moment indeed. The fly-fishing world is actually quite small and most people know each other. It is lovely to see genuine, honest people become giants in this profession. One such is Barrie Welham whose fishing skills are incomparable, but it’s his contribution to the tackle trade that stands him in such high honour. When I started a retail fly shop more than 30 years ago it was Barrie who took the time to give me honest, sensible advice. This year I was scheduled for a 15 minute talk at the Show and to see Barrie in the audience was a genuine honour. Afterwards, when I thanked him for the accolade, we both had tears in our eyes. He’s a truly great man. My appearance followed on from Edward Barder whose split cane rods are exquisite and his extensive waiting list was easily explained by watching his talk and the devotion he puts into every stage of a cane rod’s construction.
Meeting and greeting
Manning a booth (I was representing Argentina’s Laguna Verde Lodge as well as showcasing my new home of Dever Springs), proved to be quite an undertaking. I have done it before but do find the days to be incredibly tiring and I couldn’t have done it without my wife Sue who is a much better ‘people person’ than me. Shaking hands, talking fishing and catching up on gossip is a huge part of fishing shows and all it took was a welcoming hug from Charles Jardine on day one to put us both in good spirits. I would have loved to have watched his casting demos but never got the chance. Likewise, I wanted to sneak some tips by watching my long-time friend Hywel Morgan. Maybe next year. This is a name dropping column that’s for sure and honestly, you will find that all of these guys are very approachable and always happy for a ‘selfie’. Matt Hayes came by to say hello and so too did Tarquin Millington Drake from Frontiers. It’s hard to believe that it was nigh on 40 years ago that he was a member of the syndicate I then managed in deepest Surrey. Friends from numerous travel companies were there and as always it’s good to see my godson Alex Jardine from Aardvark McCloud. There are so many places to visit and such a variety of fish to chase that it must be so difficult to make a decision on that one special trip. I’m hopelessly torn between my love of Strobel’s magnificent rainbows and the immense variety of an Alaskan trip but hugely enjoyed my Golden Dorado experience last year on Luciano Alba’s River Cruiser. Then there’s the strong hankering to go for another bone fishing trip as well as renewing contact with the giant sea trout of Tierra del Fuego. Close to our booth was Wayne Mcgee showcasing his lodge on Alaska’s Alagnak river and I will be hosting a group there in 2019.
Maybe I should have been a top-flight photographer like our own Peter Gathercole or the globe-trotting Matt Harris, instead of being just a writer. Both of these guys were at the show and of course Peter, as Chairman of the Fly Dressers’ Guild is always in demand. My Hardy connections are well known and although we had only recently been at the Alnwick headquarters it was great to see both Grant Harris and John Henderson on the Fin and Game stand. We always have a good time with these guys and Grant was amused to see Sue in a different coloured Hardy hat every time he walked by. New friends are always made at these events and we quickly linked up with Tourism Australia – one day we just must make a trip to this huge country. All in all it was a marvellous two days and a massive credit to the organisers John and Fergus Kelly to somehow manage to get so many people together. My main thanks go to my friend Alan Wood whose knowledge of London made the drive to and fro seem effortless. If it had been left to me I would still be driving around, and hopelessly lost!
“There are so many places to visit and such a variety of fish to chase that it must be difficult to make a decision on that one special trip.”
Peter finishing a talk about carp on fly.
Malcolm Crosse (director of the 39th World Fly Fishing Champs).
Taff Price (right) and Howard Taylor.
Peter Cockwill: Hardy ambassador, stillwater expert, guide and Trout Fisherman contributor of 35 years