Looking back: 2019 John Hardley Memorial

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FLASHBACK: It’s that time of year again—Wessex FDG’s annual John Hardeley Memorial, held at Woodington Trout Fishery.

When I drove into the car park there were six inches of the River Blackwater flowing through it, into the field beyond. We’ve had a lot of rain recently, exacerbated by the rainstorm last night. Still, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Like a good boy scout, I was prepared.

The day actually turned out much better than the weather forecast; the showers went elsewhere, and the temperature climbed into double digits for a change…just. Our hosts, Jim and Sian, were waiting; sadly our number of attendees has fallen again—blame dementia, twisted knee, a stroke, plus work commitments and the like.

We are recruiting, look us up, join in the fun!

We tackled and kitted up, wafts of frying bacon coming from the hut, Sian handing out tea or coffee. The rules have changed again, this year a strict limit of just four flies. On my fly patch there were two ‘Wossnames’ (my winning pattern from JHM3) and a couple of ‘Blobs’ (Biscuit, and Orange). We bantered whilst getting outside of the bacon rolls while the start time loomed. Sue LP and her ‘ghillie’ John, headed straight over to ‘Kingfisher’ (aka Kings), into the corner where she has caught before, winning JHM1 and runner-up in JHM3. The filly has form.

The rest of us sauntered over to get ready for the off. A klaxon would have been cool, but we settled for a yell from Paul E, and got to it. With the half hour looming, guess who was first to catch? Yes, it was Sue. The competitors redoubled their effort, seeing Dave H next into a fish that came to a “black fing, wiv legs and a split shot head”. Counting down the descent of my fly, watching the fast glass sinking, I spotted that bit of line hanging beneath my rod tip begin to lift, struck, and now it was my turn! I played the fish carefully to the net, pleased and relieved to be in the hunt, the ‘best brace’, being the deciding factor. Paul H had tried a couple moves, as had Dave H, still on ‘Spring’. Paul E decided to go down to the far end of ‘The Leat’ to fish back up.

With the first hour nearly up, I gave a longish cast towards the island plenty of time to get down, then about halfway through the retrieve the fly was whacked! I tightened into the fish, immediately aware this was a better stamp than the norm. Once I caught a glimpse of the Rainbow, I took even more care as my fly was in plain sight in the trout’s top lip. After a tense fight I was relieved to net it. The down side was that it meant my race was run, now all I could do was wait, in hope.

I walked down to Paul E on the ‘Leat’ with Jim. Paul told us he’d caught one, before taking out his ‘phone to show us: it was a small Perch, lying next to the successful fly, an olive WB about a third of its own size. That’s aggressive!

I headed off looking for ‘photo opportunities’, and climbing the low bank up to ‘Kingfisher’ there were a couple of swirls in the corner which overlooks the ‘Leat’. Seeing Sue moving her stuff to try somewhere new I yelled across “There are some fish this side”. Sue headed closer, as did Dave H and Paul H. Sue soon got her second, using a Damsel lure with a gold tinsel rib, and I went over to have a look-see, slightly relieved to see neither of her brace could match my biggest. That meant two of us finished and waiting, a repeat of twelve months previously.

We watched the others for a while. Paul H caught a trout next, a decent looking fish getting towards three pounds. Dave, meanwhile, had been getting seriously agitated and aggrieved at his rod, line, or possibly something else, flailing the rod about so hard I thought the top section would fly into the pond and even throwing the rod down onto the bank a couple of times, before moving from ‘Kingfisher’ back onto ‘Spring’ somehow restored calm; not long thereafter he landed his second, a Blue Trout (which took a green lure with a copper rib), just before the shout for lunchtime.

Having received strict instructions from Dearly Beloved to be home to assist with a family lunch, I stowed my stuff, Jim having witnessed the weigh-in. My brace went two six and three fourteen, making a total of six four; Sue’s made five eight, and Dave’s made four something. I drove away, leaving the trophy in Paul E’s custody, and will have to wait until our next tying evening to find out if either of the Pauls were victorious after the post-lunch second session!

Post scriptum: No, they weren’t; neither managed another fish, despite Dave H coaching Paul E and offering him flies! Perhaps we might add another Trophy to compete for on our outings: the Hat Catcher?

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