Taking the proverbial out of anglers’ tale

Tobias is an angler of some 40 years standing. He has fished most of the southern chalk streams and has acquired membership of a few fly fishing associations further north.


Our man’s favourite clubs are those that regularly stock into their waters large numbers of big fish.

Tobias is a committee member of one of his chosen associations.

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He prefers to fish club waters; that way he can avoid contact with people of whom he disapproves. He entirely disapproves of me because I wear a baseball cap when I am fishing.

I strongly suspect that he has black-balled my membership of at least one prestigious angling club.

Most of our friend’s chosen angling clubs are struggling for new members.

He owns a carbon fibre rod that he bought in the late 1970s; fishes exclusively with a dry fly and considers any other form of fly fishing to be somewhat vulgar.

In fact, one of Tobias’s favourite organizations allows members to fish only with a dry fly.

His annual catch rate is about average for the individual clubs; Tobias’s fly casting ability has not changed since he bought his carbon rod. He is suspicious of the half dozen club anglers who regularly account for twice the number of fish that he catches.

He strongly suspects that they do not obey club rules or are liars.

The flies inside Tobias’s fly box are all ranked in absolutely straight lines, perhaps hinting at his former occupation; they are all size 14 or 16.

There’s Kite’s imperial, Greenwell’s glory, grey duster, some partridge winged mayflies, black gnats and tup’s indispensible.

John has fished since he was ten.

His first fish was a little perch and was caught in the Chesterfield canal. John loves all forms of fishing but his favourite style is fly fishing for trout and grayling in rivers.

In summer, John and his mate Robbie regularly fish various ponds for roach and carp; in fact he just loves going fishing.

John is a Yorkshireman and begrudges paying over the odds for fishing rods.

His river fly fishing rod is a modestly priced carbon rod with a smooth middle to tip action.

He recently sold his 1970s rod to a collector via Ebay. John practises his fly casting for the first five minutes of each fishing day.

John is a successful river angler; he really enjoys adapting his approach and flies to the prevailing conditions.

He tends to use sinking flies most of the time. He prefers to fish for wild fish because they present him with a challenge, make him think and stretch his skill level.

Some people believe that John wildly exaggerates his catches or is, perhaps, economical with the truth.

The inside of John’s fly box does not bear scrutiny; to be honest, it’s a mess.

In one corner, there are some tiny black things about half the size of a match head, size 22 to the technically minded.

Unbeknown to either of them, Tobias and John are actually both members of one particular angling club.

One day in late July, Tobias came upon John skulking behind a clump of reeds on the river bank, fiddling with his flies.

“Any luck” enquired Tobias. “Five,” replied John “and you?”.

“Not a sniff” replied Tobias as he shuffled down the bank to join John.

In front of both men, fish were rising steadily.

“Look at them” said Tobias, “obviously feeding but they won’t look at anything that I show them.”

“Yes, they’re just taking the proverbial” replied John.

As Tobias stalked off downstream, he noticed John’s rod bend into another fish.

Tobias spent the whole of that evening trawling his extensive angling library searching for a fly called The Proverbial.

A Happy New Year to all our readers.

Flies dressed by Stephen Cheetham, tel. 0113 2507244. www.fishingwithstyle.co.uk