In my London life ‘Country Pursuits’ were always the preserve of Country Life magazine readers. However as a costume designer when it came to country clothing and accessories, that was a sartorial challenge I relished. This usually involved a brief phone call to friends who were great authorities on all matters countryside who gave me invaluable advice on achieving a truly authentic look. I was then able to convincingly costume an actor in full country attire to suit any sport be it shooting, fishing or riding. Such is the fun of working as a costume designer beyond the glamour roles, you have to turn your hand at costuming actors in a vast array of roles based on characters drawn from all walks of life, professions and sports. After extensive research into a character’s costume, I usually ended up gaining a fair amount of professional knowledge on the specialist clothing and occupation: fire-fighters, police, army, Artic explorers…to name but a few.
Fast-forward and a move to the country with my family. Country pursuits have now taken centre stage in my new country life as I am surrounded by neighbours all enjoying some country sport. Add visits to the annual local agricultural show and suddenly you are embracing country living and finding yourself in need of a ‘pursuit’.
As I pondered on the traditional country pursuits of horses, dogs, shooting and fishing, I decided on which one would suit me best. Dogs are a given and currently work in progress as my husband and I decide on what breed of dog to get. Horse-riding: I am tempted but have not sat in a saddle for over twenty-five years and feeling a little nervous, so on the maybe list. Shooting: I am terrified of guns, even the mock guns that armourers would bring to set as part of a costume scared me. However very happy to join a shoot lunch or supper if anyone is asking. Now fishing and more specifically fly-fishing is considerably more tempting. The thought of fishing in some remote Scottish river always appealed to me and when I received an invitation from Farlows and Sportfish to join them in a beginner’s lesson in fly-fishing, I jumped at the chance much to my husband’s bemusement as he did not quite bank on his Prada loving wife to be donning waders to go fishing.
I travelled to Sportfish just outside of Reading for my Beginner’s One-Day Stillwater Trout Fly Fishing Course. Our instructor, the very informative Matt Holden, introduced us to the fishing kit and tackle. We then went outside to have a go at casting on the lawn, trying to get the fly where it needs to be. I got the hang of this but was slightly defeated in our next challenge which involved real casting in the lake. Encouraged by the wisdom of expert instuctor Robin Elwes who reassured me that fish would not care one iota about my lack of fishing skills as not programmed to register expert fishing techniques, I started casting and tried to catch a trout. Frustratingly I nearly managed this but the fish managed to get away. There was a magical moment whilst fishing that my mind was so absorbed by the task that thoughts of Mindfulness came to mind: I found fishing absorbing, relaxing and ultimately de-stressing. I now understood why fishing is so popular and in particular with men. But as a sport for women I thought this definitely needed promotion especially when our instructors asserted that women make better students than their male counterparts.
Inspired by my fly-fishing day, I immediately started mentally planning my next fishing excursion. I would like to propose to my local mother friends a trip to include some fly-fishing with an instructor in my county’s famous River Test valley. This would include an overnight stay with our essential creature comforts catered for as well as good food and wine to entertain us in the evening. Farlows Travel have come up trumps and recommend the following:
Where: Wherwell Priory, River Test, Hampshire: one of the most idyllic country estates with the River Test flowing through the tranquil parkland setting and provides the perfect location to fish a classic English chalk stream in private surroundings with a group (good to know as a novice!). Farlows Travel will provide qualified instructors and guides to help you not only have a wonderful day in the countryside but learn how to catch trout in a chalk stream.
When: Best time for the Test River, May and June but you can also fish throughout the summer and ealy autumn depending on the weather.
Stay:The Greyhound On The Test in Stockbridge, Michelin Pub of the Year 2014, nice comfy rooms and good food.
Cost: Day fishing £281.00 per person, cost for a guide £300.00 per day for up to two people which includes tackle and local transportation. Accommodation not included in these costs.
And once I have progressed in my fishing, I would then like to fulfill a life’s ambition to go salmon fishing in Scotland. Farlows Travel recommend the following:
Where: River Spey at Tulchan Lodge, Scotland. The River Spey is one of the most productive salmon rivers in Scotland and Tulchan Water is acknowledged as the jewel in the crown. Eight miles of river offering a rich variety of sport in the beautiful setting of the Tulchan Estate. On the banks of the river, luxurious cabins provide rest and relaxation for fishermen and guests.
Stay: accommodation is provided in Tulchan Lodge and estate cottages with full household staff to look after guests and every need catered for. Sounds wonderful!
When: May, June, July and August with prime time mid-May to mid-August.
Cost: depending on the time of year.
So for a relaxing escape and the chance to try out a new sport with friends that will take you to the most breathtaking scenery in the world then I think fly-fishing should go straight to the top of your bucket list of activities to try.
Whilst I was a guest of Farlows and Sportfish, this is not a sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own.