Our very first blog post looks back at the Fly Dressers’ Guild Wessex Branch’s first John Hardeley Memorial Competition in 2016, just a year after he passed away. This article was previously published in the Fly Fishing Forum.
John Hardeley operated a coarse and trout fishery near Southampton that boasted a café and an extensive tackle shop including fly tying materials – the best selection for miles around.
Members of the Wessex branch often purchased stuff from John, also sometimes enjoying fishing the three trout ponds. Despite tendencies arising from Yorkshire, John would give us a 10% discount on all purchases.
One day, in conversation, he told me his Doctor had been treating him for a bronchial condition for about 18 months or so, but had now decided it was the big C. Tragically, John passed away in 2015 literally days after completing the sale of his business.
One tying evening we decided to raffle-off surplus kit to raise money for a memorial trophy, to be fished for annually. Our chairman arranges monthly fishing outings, so it wasn’t until late 2016 when we were able to arrange to visit what had been John’s fishery. At short notice, it transpired only five made it, despite the temptation of a full English which usually excites some of the members. I’ll allow it was a chilly morning and Christmas was looming, maybe that dissuaded some.
Our chair’s plan was that post breakfast we would each tie a fly from a limited assortment of hooks and materials he supplied, then fish that individual creation in a “one fly” competition for the heaviest brace. There would be two sessions, brew break/lunch in between. If you lost your fly, for whatever reason, you would have to hurry back to the lodge and create another. So, after brekkie we set to on the three vices available, with a fair bit of the craic flying. It being coldish and winter I think all five of us favoured some kind of lure. Armed with our one precious fly we headed for the trout waters.
There were a few swirls to be seen, a little promise in the cold air. An hour passed. Nada. I switched to the last pond and finally had a take! I played the fish very, very carefully to the net : a Rainbow of about 1.5 kgs. Next, Sue (a stalwart of the FDG stands at shows) missed a pull, but soon afterwards hooked up and shortly netted her fish. After that I caught vegetation on the island in the middle, and broke off my fly. To hoots of derision and much merriment I trudged off on the walk of shame back to the waiting vices. There I had a mental aberration, tying something ridiculous in black marabou and peach straggle string. Why didn’t I just reprise my earlier ‘taddie’ pattern – perhaps early on-set dementia? Back to the scene of the action to find our chair, Paul, had caught a fish, as had Derek, but Sue had caught her second and become first past the post! We fished grimly on until the whistle for lunch, Sue now an anxious spectator.
After the break four returned to the fray. As we filed out Sue wished us good luck, but through gritted teeth. I eventually took scissors to my useless fly and fashioned a sort of Cormorant which eventually produced three separate tap-takes but I missed them all. Paul lost a fish; Derek managed his second in the dying minutes, but his brace was lighter than Sue’s. Dave pulled out all the stops to produce a magnificent blank. All-conquering Sue will receive the trophy at a forthcoming tying evening, suitably engraved, and hold it until the 2017 competition.
Thanks John, God bless you and also Amanda, your grieving widow.
Sue’s winning fly:
HOOK : Medium wet fly, #12
THREAD : Dark Green 14/0
WEIGHT : 4 turns of 0.15 lead wire, secured with tying thread
TAIL : Good pinch of dark olive marabou, one and a half times the hook shank long, with 2 strands of opal flash each side
RIB : Green wire, SM size
BODY : Olive/Flash Cactus Chenille, several tight wraps to give a fairly thick body, then counter-ribbed with the wire for durability
Finish by building a thread head, whip finish, then varnish to secure.