It’s a bittersweet thing to write, a review of a year. I really enjoy looking back through the old stories and photos and fish and folk who I’ve spent my time with. I take an awful lot of pride in not only the statistical achievements but also in the thought that I’ve been fortunate to once again spend so much time doing what I love the things I love the most – fishing and writing. The issue I have with looking back over a year is the terrible realisation that the things which seem so fresh in my memory were twelve months ago and that I’m not going to get those twelve months back!
It’s been an interesting year here at Incompleat Towers – lets have a look through right back from the start….
It only seems like yesterday I boarded the flight to Dubai on the first leg of my journey to work as a fly guide on Desroches Island in the Seychelles. The culmination of a decade long ambition, this was to be the best two years of my life but ended abruptly after just two months as a change of ownership brought about a change in personnel.
It’s hard not to be a little bitter about the whole situation having given up a great job at Farlows to move to Desroches, but my short stint on the island was still an amazing time. I met some fantastic folks, guided on some of the most exclusive and remote tropical destinations on the planet and even caught a few fish myself. Catching a Poivre Permit was not only the highlight of my angling year but also one of the fish of my life – an experience I’ll never forget.
March – April
I’m not gonna lie I was grumpy for the first week after I landed back from Desroches. Moving from a gorgeous desert island and thirty degree heat to a freezing cold Derbyshire took some adjusting to but there was only one thing to do – grab a rod and go catch a few fish. I got back in the game with a few pike with my good buddy Simon before a four day trip down to the Usk for some fantastic early season dry fly fishing amongst the frost.
Two of my highlights of the year happened within a few days of each other in February. First of all I got to take a non-fishing friend for a guided day on the river and she loved it! It was so cool to watch somebody with zero experience with a fishing rod not only pick up the basics but show some sort of instinctive ability to present a fly properly.
A few days later I visited the local canal with a couple of packs of lures to test, and though I expected little I found myself in a tussle with a big canal zander on the first cast of the day! The fish is unweighed but a few zed experts have told me it would have been between 7-8lb which is a really good one on lure kit from a canal.
May – June
What a hectic May! It started in Florence, Italy where I was working with Oliver Rampley of Fishing in Florence guiding clients to wels catfish on fly kit. We had often spoken about the potential for a really big siluro but to be there when the largest fish ever landed on fly kit in Italy was on the bank was a really privilege. To have made the call to change the flies is very very satisfying.
I was soon back in the air, this time to Slovenia to explore some lesser known areas of this most beautiful of balkan states with Uros Kristan of Urko Adventures. We avoided the Soca, Idricja etc in search of more wild and intimate waters in discovered some of the most spectacular angling opportunities available in Europe which were largely untouched.
It wasn’t all jet-set stuff either, I came back for five days down on the Usk with my good friend Dave, hoping for some early season dry fly action. Neither of us expected the 4lb+ wild brownie which ate my Iron Blue. I’ve fished down there an awful lot knowing that there were fish like this one but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to catch one at such close quarters on a dry fly!
July – August
With the rivers low and the sun high and bright the fly fishing opportunities tailed off to evening sessions fishing spinner patterns to late evening risers. This really is one of my favourite times of the year – arriving at 19:00 to rising fish and enjoying three hours of chaotic dry fly action on flies that are barely visible once the sun drops towards the horizon.
It’s no good sitting at home all day waiting for the evening though – there are plenty of fish to be caught elsewhere! Throughout the year I worked on developing my finesse lure fishing skill-set, and discovering the Neko rig has been a real game changer. Twitching those buoyant little worms along the bottom has gained me takes where otherwise I may not have caught at all and was a reminder that even in our pastoral little pastime things move on.
August also saw the formation of Andy Buckley Angling Service, a business 25 years in the making and something that has been on my mind for some time. Offering a mixture of guided fishing, instruction and also my own freelance writing, ABAS is already guiding clients regularly and looks set to go from strength to strength in 2016.
Sepetmber – October
I’ve never made an secret that I find the Autumn the most engaging time of year to fish for the game species. With the trout fattening up for the winter and the grayling moving in to their feeding lies the autumn gives the game angler the chance to target two species that are both feeding hard.
At least that’s the theory. This year it didn’t quite go to plan as the summer seemed to linger longer and longer. With temperatures of over twenty degrees towards the end of October the trout never felt the need to move aside which made finding and actively targeting grayling very very tough and often frustrating!
My good friend Ben and I made one last trip to the Usk for a “late season streamer trip” which was organised on the assumption that the river would be full of water and aggressive trout. The low, clear water soon had us grasping for plan B and the dry fly box however!
November – December
The unseasonably warm weather extended through almost the whole of November too, my grayling trips often made wearing short sleeved t-shirts drenched in sweat. My first foray on the Welsh Dee was a chastening experience made on what was the day of the highest ever recorded temperature in the UK – it felt like beer garden weather not bugging weather that’s for sure.
Come December however the rain came, and it has rained, and rained,and rained. With much of the north of England flooded over the festive period it has been difficult to get out for any grayling. I have however found plenty of time to chase predators on lure kit and with one of my last trips of the year landed a new best perch from a water I had fished for years without even seeing one – it’s a hard game to make any sense of some times!
And that was the year that was! We started in the Seychelles and ended up on a gravel pit next to the Trent via a whole host of shenanigans. I feel very fortunate to be able to have experienced what I have in 2015 and must thank my family and friends for their ongoing support – it can be an expensive, time consuming and lonely experience being the Incompleat Angler but they always seem to stand by me and I appreciate that! I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the friends I have fished with over the year for their company, companionship, photography skills and their shared knowledge – I’m lucky to fish with some excellent anglers. The final thanks go to you, the Incompleat Angler readers. Every little comment or email or question really vindicates my decision to create content for the blog and inspires me to create more so thank-you all!
I hope you all have a fantastic new year and wish you nothing but the best for 2016 – may you meet great people, catch many fish and most importantly enjoy your time by the water!
all the best