Ed­i­tor's let­ter

The urge to fish on his sum­mer hol­i­day proves too strong for

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents - An­drew Fl­itcroft

An­drew Fl­itcroft takes a fam­ily hol­i­day to Por­tu­gal but can't help wet­ting a line

I’VE JUST RE­TURNED FROM THE Al­garve. We go most years. Same re­sort, same beach, same restau­rants. Unad­ven­tur­ous, I know, but wher­ever you stay in the Al­garve it’s much the same. Ex­cept this year, it was dif­fer­ent. Poppy is 20 now and far more in­ter­ested in her “lead-singer-of-a-band” boyfriend than hang­ing around with mum and dad, who are no longer cool. Who can blame her? So, we headed for Por­tu­gal, leav­ing Poppy home alone for a full week, hav­ing first hid­den any­thing of sen­ti­ment in fear of her in­evitable house party. Por­tu­gal was won­der­ful. It was 30 deg C and we did ev­ery­thing that cou­ples in their 50s do – slept, read, swam in the sea, ate seafood and drank lots of cheap wine. I also did some­thing I’ve pre­vi­ously re­sisted. I went fish­ing. Be­fore the hol­i­day, I got in touch with Marco de São Vi­cente, who started fly-fish­ing eight years ago and runs Fly Fish­ing Al­garve. Marco worked in Switzer­land as a civil en­gi­neer but moved home to start a fam­ily and ful­fil his dream of mak­ing a liv­ing from fly-fish­ing. He’s de­ter­mined to make his ven­ture work. He’s busy, too, with English and Ir­ish hol­i­day­mak­ers who’ve had enough of ly­ing on the beach. “What would you like to fish for?” he asked. “The best fish­ing in early Septem­ber is sight-fish­ing for carp. Oth­er­wise, there’s float-tube fish­ing for large­mouth bass on stream­ers and pop­pers. Or salt­wa­ter fish­ing for bass, but it’s strongly tide-re­lated.” I was in­trigued to catch any­thing on a fly in Por­tu­gal, but de­clined the float-tub­ing due to an on­go­ing at­tack of gout. Marco picked me up the next morn­ing. As re­quested, I was armed with a hat, sun­glasses, footwear for wad­ing and rocky ter­rain, and swim­ming shorts (no budgie smug­glers!). Thank­fully, Marco pro­vides tackle for a small fee. Loop rods and Air­flo lines were in the boot. His en­thu­si­asm and pro­fes­sion­al­ism were ob­vi­ous. We left the tar­mac for a dirt track, which wound its way through parched scrub and pine-nut trees to a shal­low,

crys­tal-clear lake. It was, in fact, part of a river, cut off in sum­mer. Marco set up the rod, at­tached a bright green Frog Pop­per to a 9ft leader and we waded in. It took a while to get the re­trieve right, but then the pop­per be­gan pop­ping and was hit by some­thing small and ag­gres­sive. The take was ex­cit­ing, but the fight short-lived. It turned out to be a wide­mouthed bass. A first for me. More pop­ping and bass fol­lowed un­til the takes dried up and we changed to a sunk lure, a small rub­ber-legged cray­fish im­i­ta­tion. Then some­thing big­ger came in from the left. “It’s a bar­bel, a bar­bel,” said Marco. “Quick, quick, there it is… cast!” Need­less to say, I fluffed it. There fol­lowed a les­son on how, where and when to pitch a fly in front of a bar­bel. They’re eas­ily spooked. You need to over­shoot the cray­fish, let it sink to the bot­tom and crawl it to within a cou­ple of inches of the bar­bel’s in­tended path be­fore it moves on. It’s bloody tricky. What we thought was an­other bar­bel, turned out to be a type of carp, which mo­ments later lay in the net with rub­ber legs hang­ing from its mouth. Marco in­sisted it wasn’t a com­mon carp as we know it, but none­the­less it was an­other first for me: I’ve caught carp on dog bis­cuit flies, but not on an im­i­ta­tion of some­thing liv­ing. With that, we took to the road again, this time to a lake with big­ger carp. For two hours we searched for the tell-tale sign of a carp cloud­ing the mar­gins as it grubbed around for cray­fish. We found a dozen or so up to 10lb, but my de­liv­ery and pre­sen­ta­tion failed me and af­ter a fruit­less scram­ble across hard ter­rain (with gout), we headed for the soft sand and in­com­ing tide of the Mediter­ranean. It was a Satur­day and the Span­ish had flocked across the bor­der to Praia de Monte Gordo, where we ex­plored the tidal in­lets and la­goons in search of bass. It was windy, but com­fort­able un­der­foot as we searched the ris­ing rib­bons of wa­ter for scat­ter­ing bait­fish. We found them, but not what was mak­ing them scat­ter. We spot­ted just one big­gish bass (4lb-6lb), a dark shape that was on us in a flash – too quick and too close for us to re­main con­cealed. It melted away. As the sun sank, bathers left and as they did we had our first chance. I cast a small, flashy of­fer­ing as far as I could and started strip­ping. It felt a lit­tle like salmon fish­ing when the air soft­ens and the tem­per­a­ture rises half a de­gree. You can feel a change; that some­thing’s go­ing to hap­pen. It did. I caught a bass. An­other first. It was tiny, but def­i­nitely a bass. Is there such a thing as a Por­tuguese Mac­nab? If you’re go­ing to the Al­garve, get in touch with Marco be­fore­hand (fly­fishin­gal­garve.com/face­book). He’ll show you the real Por­tu­gal. “Come back in March,” he said. “When we have wa­ter in the rivers and the big bar­bel take a dry fly.”

I’M DE­LIGHTED TO in­tro­duce a new mem­ber of the T&S ed­i­to­rial team. Staff writer Rob Hardy worked on T&S in the early Nineties be­fore join­ing Sport­ing Gun. He brings a wealth of game­fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and en­thu­si­asm. Rob loves salmon fish­ing and has fished the Wye, Tay, Tweed and North Esk. He’s also fished for river and still­wa­ter trout for many years and has been on salt­wa­ter trips to Mex­ico, Belize and Florida. I’m sure you’ll ex­tend a warm wel­come.

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