Worm that turned out to be just the thing

In the latest of his fly-fishing articles, Roger Beck braves the elements in search of a catch and seizes a chance to escape the rain.

Fly fisherman Roger Beck

I have stopped making plans.

I have become an opportunist. Most of my plans revolve around weather, which I have realised is neither controllable or, indeed, predictable.

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I have concluded that the meteorologists, even the pretty ones on the telly, couldn’t forecast a full 
moon. In preparation for 
next season, I’ve bought a hank of seaweed.

Persistent precipitation had dampened my angling enthusiasm.

I have kept an eye on the weather conjecture as I now know it, hoping for a fine day. Not a chance.

One afternoon in early January, the rain clouds 
began to disperse; the western sky donned its party clothes and shone with a majestic combination of oranges and reds, giving the impression, as they say in these parts, that “Shepherd’s hut’s afire”.

I stood at the front door, as Arkwright might, and enjoyed a brief monologue.

Decision made, tomorrow I would trot a worm down the river in search of the lady of the stream.

I even got up early, which will be a shock to some, and took the spade from the shed.

It was a fabulous morning; the low winter sun had dipped into the pink corner of its paint box and treated the leafless treetops to a coat of wonder.

I readied my cloth bag, wherein I keep my worms, plunged the spade into the bit of garden that is constantly manured in order to attract Eisenia fetida; common name, the red worm. (Yes, I know, I need to get out more.)

The plunge came to nothing.

The soil was frozen solid by last night’s frost.

Every self respecting worm would be on a journey to the centre of the earth.

Wormless, I collected my fly box, fly rod and long johns.

Fifteen minutes later found me sitting on a bench in Duncombe Park, scrutinising the Rye.

My senses were almost overloaded by stunning 
views; the sun was now 
higher and specialising 
in the yellow section of its spectrum as it continued its arboreal enhancement.

Reluctantly, I turned my gaze away from the vista and tied a big heavy nymph to my line.

The trusty undergarments warded off the chill of the water as I waded into the 
river, trundling that 
weighted fly through the depths.

I really do find deep nymph fishing a chore; it is very effective but it somehow lacks the finesse of other branches of our sport.

I rate it as only slightly less tedious than salmon fishing.

Daylight dissolves into 
dusk very early in midwinter and as I reached Mill Bridge its stones glowed as the celestial decorator began to daub 
the facade with splashes 
of a hue for which Farrow 
and Ball might charge a fortune.

I was absolutely confident that there would be grayling hereabouts, but what I needed was good old Eisenia to help me to winkle one out.

A cunning plan dawned upon me; in one corner of my fly box lurked a couple of very nasty, flashy wiggly worm imitations that would infuriate the purist.

The river’s flow bestows upon them a very life-like appearance, the pulsating rubber legs creating the impression that a whole gaggle of little red worms are performing cart-wheels through the depths.

Don’t tell anyone, but it once served me very well on the hallowed waters of the Test.

With absolutely no conscience whatsoever, it swapped places with my conventional nymph and went for a swim.

Three casts later, the end 
of my line twitched and I felt the determine shake of a grayling.

He was only a little chap, but I was delighted to make his brief acquaintance.

As I walked the half mile back to the car, the rainclouds were regrouping.