MINUTE IN­TER­VIEW

TV pre­sen­ter and jour­nal­ist Matthew Wright

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - FIRST CAST -

When did you start fish­ing?

I first wet a line in 1973, which seems a ter­ri­bly long time ago now. My dad took us sail­ing on the Nor­folk Broads in a huge boat that ran aground with te­dious reg­u­lar­ity. I’d es­cape from the en­su­ing mad­ness, tears and re­crim­i­na­tions by float-fish­ing a mag­got from the bow. My dad had bought me an all-in-one fish­ing kit with cheap cen­tre­pin reel, a quar­ter of a pint of white mag­gots and some size 14 hooks to ny­lon, you see. I re­mem­ber get­ting them from the shop in Pot­ter Heigham as if it were yes­ter­day. The first fish I caught there was an eel. I had 14 roach, bream and perch be­fore the week was out.

What’s your favourite an­gling book?

I hate nail­ing down any one ti­tle and say­ing, “This is my favourite!” when there are so many won­der­ful books. I love the way Jon Beer writes. He has a gift for tak­ing the reader along with him, whether to some storm-lashed is­land in the He­brides or the bow­els of a mu­seum. He never shuts the reader out for want of knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence. At the other end of the scale I’ve been re­ally taken by Peter Hayes’ book Fly Fish­ing Out­side the Box. I know Peter, we’re both mem­bers of the Wil­ton Fly Fish­ing Club. He’s got a brain the size of a planet and when he turns that in­tel­lect to the wa­tery world of trout it’s in­evitable he’ll get your nog­gin work­ing, too. Whether or not I’ll ever tie duns back­wards for those rare days when a strong up­stream wind turns nat­u­rals back-to-front re­mains to be seen. I am cur­rently en­joy­ing Si­mon Cooper’s Life of a Chalk­stream, a re­ally lovely read.

Would you rather catch a trout or a sal­mon?

I know you oc­ca­sion­ally print pic­tures of peo­ple hold­ing sal­mon in this mag­a­zine but like the lu­nar land­ings I’m con­vinced they are all fakes. Se­ri­ously, you’ve run ar­ti­cles where peo­ple have spent ten years be­fore they caught one. Ten years! Like a lot of trout en­thu­si­asts, I think flog­ging the rivers of Britain for sal­mon is bonkers.

With whom do you most en­joy fish­ing?

If I’m ab­so­lutely hon­est, I pre­fer my own com­pany. I love camp­ing in Wales on my tod and use the pass­port scheme to ex­plore all the fish­ing there­abouts. Bliss. A week can go by and I won’t have spo­ken to any­one but my­self – an un­nat­u­ral re­sponse I guess from some­one who earns their liv­ing by talk­ing. I love fish­ing with my wife Amelia. We have walkie-talkies when we’re bone­fish­ing as we can be apart for

hours and lose sight of one an­other. I love trouting with my Sch­nauzer, Wiggy. They’re not fa­mous for lov­ing wa­ter but Wiggy’s spent a lot of time on banks since he was a pup and is well be­haved. Un­der­stand­ably, live­stock farm­ers aren’t so keen on him.

Name four dream fish­ing com­pan­ions

As I’m mad keen on cricket and have just started fish­ing with ear­phones so I can hear Test Match Spe­cial from start to fin­ish of each day’s play, I’d have to say Ian Botham (even I can drag him away from the sal­mon non­sense); the late Ge­orge Melly whose rib­ald fish­ing sto­ries got me hooked years ago; Henry Win­kler, alias The Fonz, who I’ve dis­cussed fly-fish­ing with many times when he’s vis­ited these shores – he does won­der­ful work for dyslex­ics these days; and, fi­nally, Jimmy Buf­fet, the Amer­i­can coun­try mu­sic star. He spends a lot of time bone­fish­ing near my place, fly­ing in by vin­tage sea­plane. Our paths have yet to cross but I’d love to show him our mag­nif­i­cent rivers.

You’re al­lowed one more trip: where would you go and why?

The River Usk, an early sum­mer’s evening, with the trout greed­ily suck­ing spin­ners down. As the sun slowly sinks you get your seven-weight out for a bit of late-night sewin ac­tion, a barn owl silently fly­ing past. Magic, pure magic.

Has be­ing a celebrity opened doors to bet­ter fish­ing?

To some de­gree but I’m also a gen­uine en­thu­si­ast. I turn up for Wild Trout Trust get-to­geth­ers, I cam­paign in Par­lia­ment. I love do­ing it, but it’s nice to have your ef­forts re­warded with the of­fer of a lovely day’s fish­ing here or there.

What’s your most mem­o­rable fish ?

I sup­pose my first per­mit is my most mem­o­rable but for all the wrong rea­sons. I had a flu bug in Mex­ico and was strug­gling to con­cen­trate at the front of the skiff. I saw what I thought might be two per­mit and lobbed, rather than cast, my Verk­erke Man­tis Shrimp at them, the fly land­ing miles away. The next thing I know one of them zooms over, swal­lows the fly and swims off, hook­ing it­self be­fore I got the line tight. For a mo­ment I for­got my fever. I got the fish in and had some pho­tos taken be­fore curl­ing up in a ball on the deck and beg­ging to be taken home, only for the guide to say, “What? You no want a Grand Slam?” A cou­ple of parac­eta­mol later and I did in­deed com­plete the slam but as for per­mit be­ing hard to catch, I’m liv­ing proof they’re not if they’re in the right mood.

Do you think the im­age of fly-fish­ing needs to change?

When I was grow­ing up in London in the 1970s/’80s I used to per­ceive trout and sal­mon types as be­ing posh, noth­ing like the lads I fished with. As I’ve got to know fly-fish­ing bet­ter, it’s clear while there is still a bit of that, it’s a more wel­com­ing ac­tiv­ity than I first gave it credit for. I think younger peo­ple are far less aware of all the class non­sense and in the push for greater equal­ity it’s won­der­ful to find a sport where girls can com­pete on equal terms with boys. I ex­pect many more women to come into fly-fish­ing over the next 20 years.

“I ex­pect many more women to come into fly-fish­ing”

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