As we look forward to new fishing adventures in 2024 during the months ahead, we asked some members of the Farlows team to cast their minds back to 2023 and share their most memorable fishing moment of the year.
TOM CLINTON, RETAIL MANAGER
Back in March 2023 we received a probing email from a fishing guide based in Utah who was enquiring as to the availability of trout fishing in and around London, as he really wanted to catch a native UK brown trout whilst visiting with his wife later in the month.
Of course, my mind immediately flagged up the fact that our national trout season opens on April 1st, so I replied with some pointers and asked what his dates were for his trip. ‘We fly out of London to Madrid on the night of April 1st’ replied JJ, ‘I guess that’s just my luck, thanks for the information though!’
I replied that I would be visiting our local urban chalkstream on April 1st (a Saturday) myself, as my annual tradition of attempting to catch my first trout of the season on opening day from the local, and that he would be most welcome to join me for the morning if he reckoned the timings could work. ‘Done,’ he replied, ‘just tell me where to meet you.’
We met bright and early on the morning of Saturday 1st, hopped on the Thameslink train from St Pancras International to Mitcham Junction and I immediately took JJ to a particular spot which I suspected might yield an obliging trout. He’d not used many 3wt rods thus far in his life, let alone a fiberglass 3wt rod, so giggled when I handed him my trusty Wandle weapon of choice.
First-cast magic - the fly rod bent double, and JJ was into a wild British Salmo trutta - mission accomplished! A very quick photo and off it swam to bend another rod in the future. JJ was over the moon. We fished on for another couple of hours but then he had to make a move to catch his flight to Madrid. Grinning from ear-to-ear, I sent him on his way with an excellent story of inner-city fishing to recount to his angling pals back in Utah.
Not my own fish, but still my fish of the year.
LUCY BOWDEN, MARKETING EXECUTIVE
2023 was a tough year and I can’t sum it up without mentioning the sad loss of my dad.
Many readers will already know this from my story, but it was my dad who first introduced me to fishing and thankfully, I have so many precious memories of our time spent fishing together over the last 30+ years.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Dad died on the 30th of September – the last day of the 2023 trout fishing season. He started his fishing journey on the River Till in Northumberland and if the truth be known, rivers were his passion.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t get out fishing as much as usual last year. I was however fortunate enough to spend a couple of days in late November pike fishing on the River Test with my good friend, Howard Taylor of Upstream Dry Fly Fishing and my husband, also called Howard. I’ve never fished for pike before, but I’ll be doing it again!
The weather was rubbish – a real November day - very cold and wet and we weren’t out fishing for long however, having read so much about the ambush of a pike but having never experienced it, I was keen to give it a go.
We started out fishing in the margins wherever looked ‘fishy’ before progressing to deeper water. My first catch didn’t fail to disappoint - what an experience! Like no fishing I’ve done before, the pike came out from nowhere and I was thrilled to catch two on the fly. I also missed another one that followed my fly twice into the bank – an eerie shadow in the murky water - but it failed to take.
Looking ahead to 2024, I hope it will be a better year with happier times and lots of fishing. My Dad kept a fishing diary dating back to 1979. Reading it back is just wonderful – special moments captured in one notebook. He even mentions my birth... a few days later he was out fishing! I’m not sure how he got away with that!
I’ll take Dad’s diary with me into 2024 and continue his legacy. It’s going to be a tough act to follow.
Here’s to 2024 – to tight lines, happy memories and more importantly, to health.
SIMON TILBURY, GROUP HEAD OF MARKETING
My fishing season is all about river trout, but it closes with a long weekend at the end of October to the river Coquet in Northumberland for a bit of salmon and sea trout action. It’s about a 5km stretch right at the top of the river in the Cheviot hills. You don’t need a big double hander, lots of different fly lines or multiple boxes of flies. One rod, one floating line, one box of flies. I’ve been doing this trip with the same group of friends for almost 30 years. The last 10 years or so it’s either been the odd fish between us or a complete blank for everyone. The last time we had a bumper year was 2006 (I caught 4 salmon and 2 sea trout).
This year after heavy rain the river rose two metres a week before our trip. We were optimistic, but equally there was a chance we’d be washed out. We kept our eyes on the online water level gauges. We arrived on Friday late lunchtime and the river was swollen, raging in parts. Sections of the river that were usually fishable were not, but equally some parts we wouldn’t usually fish looked very promising.
I started right at the very top of the beat, as I always do, but most of the water was too fast to fish. Two hours and about 2km downstream later, I came across one particular picturesque pool, usually too low and sluggish to properly drift a fly, which now had a decent depth, current and glide. I covered it slowly, down and across, gradually working out more line. As my fly swung around mid-pool I said to myself, that’s where they’ll be.
Sure enough, I tightened into a solid fish. It’s always a relief to hook a fish on the first day, to feel that power at the end of your line, to be reminded why we do it. It's quite simply one of the best feelings in the world, despite the excitement often battling with the fear of losing the fish. The salmon this far up the river aren’t usually that big and can be quite coloured, but this was a lovely fish of around 12lbs, which put up an admirable fight, with leaps and searing runs. I smiled as I released it back, took a swig from the hip flask, and thought, this is going to be a special trip.
And so it was. The three of us caught 14 salmon over 2.5 days, all on the fly (plus 3 more fish lost). I caught another double figure fish the next day from the same pool, plus 3 other decent fish from stretches I’d never caught from before. And all with the very same red Ally shrimp I had tied on at the start. My last fish, another stunner around 12lb just before we had to leave, almost made it to my fish of the season. However a fish on the first day, and celebrating it in the local pub afterwards, takes some beating.
ASHTON POHL, SENIOR SALES ADVISOR
The company that we have on our adventures often makes up more of the experience than the catch itself. Three beautiful days shared with my brother on the banks of the River Tyne was enough to clear the mind of any clutter accumulated from the hustle and bustle of the City. However, a specimen catch will always live rent free in any angler's mind - never certain of when it might reveal itself.
This beautiful 10lb sea trout was the highlight of our trip and ticks the box for my favourite catch of 2023. Not only was it a specimen catch, but the fruit of adventure and great company is a memory that will stay with me and always be spoken of.
MATTHEW IDDESON, SALES ADVISOR
The latter part of 2023 saw me move out of London back to Hampshire due to finishing my master's. This therefore meant that I have had the opportunity to fish much more regularly than in previous years. I am fortunate enough to live near the Test, and more fortunately (or unfortunately some may argue) be heavily influenced by a local river keeper and now friend, Nick Parker. Nick is arguably one of the most knowledgeable fishermen I have had the pleasure of knowing and, although fish-obsessed, he has a special interest in pike, more specifically pike on the fly.
This year he very kindly took me under his wing to impart his knowledge on the matter and took me out one early, drizzly morning to have a crack on my Hardy Zane Pro 9” 9# that had been sat unused for the past couple of months. We headed to the first mark - a large body of slack water that looked like pike paradise. I cast out and retrieved the fly back, repeating two more occasions before out of nowhere a pike at just over 11lb aggressively took the fly.
We then moved further down the river to the second mark, casting along the bank and retrieving slowly upstream. On roughly the 4th cast we hooked into another – roughly around 12lb this time. It was a great morning all round!
MARK WINDSOR, SALES ADVISOR & INSTRUCTOR
It was mid-December and following weeks of endless wind and rain and seemingly impossible conditions to fish we got a break in the weather and bizarrely the sun came out. So, I made a quick decision to venture out to a nearby estuary. I am fairly new to throwing out plastic lures (creature baits as they are often called) for bass but did some research and invested in some Savage gear shads. Fishing lures in the sea, makes it easier to cover a lot of ground in strong winds and less problematic than fly fishing.
Whilst the photos make it look like a summer day, there was a ripping northerly wind blowing the tops off the waves and showering me in salt spray which made it quite unpleasant. I had earmarked an area that I was convinced held fish at low water where the river flows out and the tide collides creating a mini vortex.
I arrived a little later than anticipated and it was about an hour after low tide before I managed to start fishing. I rigged up a 15cm white shad lure as the sea was dirty and I guessed it would be more visible to any fish.
I immediately started covering the water, varying the retrieve rate. I fished right along the seabed and after about 15 minutes I got a tap then a bang and the line tightened into what I thought initially was a clump of weed followed by two or three powerful thumps and pulls. I was in! Fighting a 4lb bass, a truly wild fish in the surf is a great experience and so much fun. On a fairly light lure rod and reel the bass put up a great fight.
It was then time for a quick photo in the shallows as the tide started pushing in and back it went. Then about ten minutes later it happened again with another fish of about 3.5lbs. A great session and in December too – an early Christmas present at a time of the year when most people are stuck indoors.