The circle of life, despite what The Lion King suggests, isn’t a happy musical. In fact it’s hard graft. There’s the daily grind, the constant itch that the grass is always greener on the other side, the fear that as we age we have to be more pragmatic, the pressure to buy a house, the pressure to share it with someone who won’t run off with a colleague, and the worry of being able to send our healthy children to the best school in the area. Life is stressful.
So we find ways to relieve this stress. Yoga; wanton weekends in Amsterdam; golf; smacking the stuffing out of a punch bag; or drinking five G&Ts in as many minutes on a Friday, surrounded by our closest and craziest. Each to their own. For some, myself included, it’s fly fishing, for the simple reason that it offers unconditional escape – true separation from the complicated crap we become fixated with on a day-to-day basis.
(Photo: @Seth Blackamore)
Locked in an urban jungle, it’s all too easy to forget that genuine wilderness can still be found within the pages of the atlas – Richmond Park is not off-the-beaten-track, and it isn’t natural to be able to hand-feed a squirrel your leftover sandwich crusts. There are places where the scalpel of human intervention has yet to cut and steal. And one of the greatest aspects of fishing is that it takes you to some of these beautiful, unspoiled regions: from the emerald-tinged beaches of Christmas Island and soft sand flats of Cuba, to the wild and most desolate hinterlands of the Russian tundra and heather-clad Scottish Highlands. There is drama in the most serene of settings.
(Photo: @Christiaan Pretorius)
And variety abounds beneath the water’s surface, too. Giant trevally will put your stamina through the mill; New Zealand’s wily brown trout will test your stealth; and monster tigerfish found cruising the murky Zambezi depths will put the fear of god into you. And then there’s the king, the Atlantic salmon. No species has captured the attention of anglers with such passion. Numerous poems and books have been written about their epic migrations – their ability to travel out to sea, to the fertile grounds around the Faroese Islands, and then, years later, hone in on the exact stream or loch where they were born is supernatural. Much remains unknown.
(Photo: @Bryan Gregson)
Then there are the characters you meet on the river, the ghillies who have dedicated their lives to the water and know it better than any other. No two days are ever the same in their company.
(Photo: @Bryan Gregson)
Fishing explores the extremities of human emotion. From utter calm to utter adrenaline. It’s what happens when you pit human skill against the wit of the wild – it simply doesn’t get more natural than this. There are contrasts, from halcyon evenings on the quiet riffles of the Test in Hampshire, to being manhandled by the fierce winds that maraud the wide expanses around the Rio Grande. From days on a still Irish lochan in pursuit of sea trout to being dragged around the Indian Ocean by a titanic sailfish. And believe me, when you lose a fish, you’ll see red, but the anger will fade fast, for it’s hard to be angry when surrounded by such incredible scenery.
Honestly gentlemen, pick up a rod this summer and head for the water. A world of adventure awaits.
The ultimate bucket list
The Alta, Norway, for Atlantic salmon
Mongolia for taimen
The Spey, Scotland, for a spring salmon
Bolivia for golden dorado
British Columbia for steelhead
Iceland for char
New Zealand for brown trout
Lake Strobel, Argentina, for rainbow trout
Seychelles for giant trevally
India for masheer
Florida Keys for tarpon
Zambia for tigerfish
Bahamas for bonefish
Rio Grande, Argentina, for sea trout