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The Bank Manager's Fish

By Jim Clarke

The managers of the larger clearing banks are seldom chosen for anything other than their efficiency with money and figures, together with an astuteness for appraising the likelihood of a loan being repaid, but only after sufficient interest has accrued to the balance outstanding. They are seldom chosen for their hand and eye co-ordination or their skill with a fly rod. That these would be desirable attributes has yet to penetrate the skulls of the powers-that-be.

One day, some years ago, my bank manager engaged me in a not uncommon conversation, and a somewhat one-sided conversation at that. I had the money, he wanted it back! Modern business in a nutshell.

Into this jewel of dialogue dropped the word "fishing." I cannot tell why this had not arisen before, he knew well what business I was in, guns and fishing tackle, and he must have been aware of what half of my customers did as a pastime. Be that as it may, on this occasion the word brought about a sudden change. Like water into ouzo, everything was different. His face lost the money-induced strain, his hands lost the grasping fidgets, his eyes lost their close pecuniary focus and fastened dreamily on something in the distance, or, as it proved, in the past.

"Fishing" he murmured, as if the word was Swahili, "I haven't gone fishing for years."

This, coming from a man of financial mien, pin-stripe suited and with clean, trimmed fingernails, altered the tone of our conversation irrevocably. "Overdraft? no need to discuss that now, I'm sure you will do your best. Remember, if you paid off your overdraft tomorrow the bank would stop making money from and we can't have that, can we? Ha Ha Ha. Let's talk about fishing, and call me Peter, won't you?"

Not like a bank manager, not at all.

It transpired that in his youth and early days with the bank, he had been posted briefly to a small town near the coast of Wales and had served under a manager who fished, and who had taken this promising youngster with him on a few occasions.

In response to a not very subtle hint, I asked him if he would like to come out fishing in the (indefinite) future.

(After all, I knew him well enough to borrow money from, but not quite well enough for the intimacy of fishing together.)

The ferocity of his acceptance startled me. Under that pin-stripe beat the heart of a closet countryman, if there is such a thing. He speedily arranged our next meeting with the efficiency and alacrity of his more apparent alter ego. I was to pick him up one evening in the not very distant future, at 6pm, at his flat. All this with little or no contribution from myself, I was somehow swept along on a tide of sudden enthusiasm and found myself agreeing to everything. Nothing so far had disturbed the feeling that I had disturbed a sympathetic soul. The mistake may have been mine, you will judge.

We arrived at the river at 7 PM, and as we got out of the car I realised he had not brought a rod. He had hefted a large holdall into the boot but nothing long enough to be a fly rod. As he alighted, he looked around, a look of puzzlement on his face. We were parked in a wide part of a small country lane, high trees on one side, low rambling rhododendrons on the other so little was visible beyond the immediate vegetation.

Not for nothing was this man entrusted with millions of other people's money, nor was he afraid to firmly grasp the nettle of uncertainty. "Where are we going?" The undercurrents to this straightforward question spelt out something different. Something like "Are you lost? What the hell are we doing here?"

So I thought I would explain the lie of the land. "The river is just across the field behind the rhodies, we have a two-mile stretch of left bank to fish, the water is running off nicely after a spate, the sea trout are in and darkness is just about to fall. As you can see I was trying to condense all the salient facts into one pithy, to-the-point sentence, just like a bank letter. To no avail.

"River?" he muttered, "spate, sea trout?"

It now, somewhat belatedly, transpired that not only had I not mentioned sea trout, but had mentioned that we would be driving to, or towards, a well-known seaside village better known for its holiday attractions and funfairs than its proximity to a very well known (to anglers) river. It also transpired that the fishing reposing in the rosy glow of his memory, and the only fishing he had done, was trolling for mackerel behind the senior manager's speedboat. That there were other, less rudimentary forms of angling had never been added to his terms of reference.

Nevertheless, in for a penny, in for a pound, as we say. He now proceeded to drag from his holdall sandwiches, beer, waterproofs, (yellow plastic jobs, more redolent of North Sea oilrigs than game fishing apparel) and two very dilapidated wooden handline frames complete with rusty mackerel spinners.

I now had the unenviable task of explaining, as if to a child, the differences between the sweet science of fly fishing for sea trout at night, which I thought he expected, and the rather less delicate one of handlining for mackerel which he had so enthusiastically anticipated. We had enough daylight left for me to try to initiate him into the mysteries of basic fly casting, made doubly difficult by the fact that he had very obviously never held a rod in his hand in his life. Luckily, I had a very old spare rod in the car, so with great trepidation, I assembled this and put it into his hand.

I realised that night fishing was the last thing on which to launch such a total beginner, but bewilderment had given way to such enthusiasm that I could not bring myself to dampen down his fires. "It can't be too different to catching mackerel, can it?" I allowed this to pass with only a sharp, barely hiss of breath between my firmly gritted teeth.

He was not an easy pupil, but after twenty minutes could just about put out enough line to suffice, and in roughly the right direction. With strict instructions drummed into his ears he was placed at the head of a running pool, armed with one fly only, a big one, a short strong cast, clear space behind for even the most wayward cast and he was as ready as I could make him.

The light had by now just about gone. I was torn between staying close to help and encourage, and putting a great distance between myself and certain piscatorial confusion. I sat on a rock to tie up a cast and check what was in which pocket, net on clip, torch on hook, hip flask to hand, all those little details that the omission of only one can spell disaster at night. As I rose to my feet and waded gently into the first pool, already lengthening line, a shout of elation shattered the quiet of the evening.

"I've got one - I think!"

I dropped everything and hared down to him. He had indeed "got one." A spirited sea trout of about two and a half pounds had the stupidity to attach itself firmly to his fly and make off with it. It appeared to be so firmly attached that even the inevitable slack line didn't have the effect it would most certainly have had if I had been holding the rod and had the good fortune to be connected to such a nice fish.

Hot instructions rent the night air. "Give him some line!"


"Take in the slack. . ."


"Give a little."


"By letting go of course - No not all of it!"

"Hold him now."

"For God's sake stop him, he's nearly over the weir. Now bring him over the net - not like that! Gently or you'll break the cast. Just lead him firmly this way, don't drag him."

Against all the odds the fish was in the net, a lovely fresh fish, newly in from the sea and as bright as a new shilling.

Looking up, I saw a silly grin spread over my companion's face (you have all seen it haven't you?) The awful truth dawned on me, he was hooked, hooked as firmly as his sea trout. His next words sealed my doom.

"That was fun, take the hook and I'll catch another!" He thought this was just like catching mackerel!

I said nothing, contenting myself with removing the hook and sending the new convert back to lashing the water to a foam, moving out of reach, and I must confess, only just resisting the temptation to push him in! It was somewhat of a relief when the adrenalin subsided and relative boredom raised its head. "Let's have a sandwich, they have all gone."

This, to a dedicated night fisherman faced with recent proof that the fish were in, was nothing short of sacrilege, but - home we duly went, I driving dourly, constantly repeating to myself that there would be other nights and other fish. The grinning schoolboy beside me was merrily making plans to buy rod, reel, line and anything else needed to indulge freely in this new sport, at which he was obviously going to be very good, possibly even a natural!

My thoughts were on the avoiding the ethical decision which now faced me. Will I ever get fishing by myself again, or do I have to move my account to another bank? There was only one other bank in the town at the time, and the manager there was, I had heard was a golf fanatic. Golf? No way!

Many months of casting instruction and gradual angling enlightenment lay ahead, but at least the overdraft was safe.

The things we do for a little financial security! ~ Jim Clarke

About Jim:

Jim Clarke

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, longer ago than he cares to remember, and on leaving school went into his family's business - Gunmakers and Fishing Tackle manufacturers. By the time he joined the firm it had become more retail than manufacturing , though the history and reputation of the company was somewhat patrician, which stood them in good stead in the face of the modern, retail only, fly-by-night businesses which proliferated in the fifties and sixties in the climate of leisure time explosion. A few years later, feeling somewhat stifled in a company run by father and two warring uncles, he left to take over an ailing gun maker in Chester, England. He was to stay there for thirty pleasant years, retiring some six years ago, ostensibly to have more time to fish. He had given up shooting, but in reality appears to have retired to garden, decorate and construct THINGS in the garden. He has, nevertheless managed to fish in Ireland, Scotland Wales and England, with trips to Sweden and Alaska thrown in. You will find more of Jim's writing in our Readers Casts section.

More Fly Fishing in Europe:
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Red and Cinnamon Sedge - By Alan Goodwin
Rogan of Donegal - By Arthur Greenwood
Bug Tank Benefits - By Peter Lapsley
River Piddle, U.K. - By Paul Slaney
A Day on the River Test By Mike Pratt
Lady’s Fish Finder Fly By Mike Pratt
Cast Again? - By Mike Pratt
Just Good to be There - By Mike Pratt
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The pleasure of anticipation . . . - By Mike Pratt
A Pleasant and Surprising Day - By Mike Pratt
Don’t duck the issue! - By Mike Pratt
To Russia with Love - By Ron Gras
Just Simple Pleasure - By Mike Pratt
Rich - Beyond the Dreams of Avarice - By Mike Pratt
The Good Place (Ireland) - By Jim Clarke
The Elusive Lake - By Jim Clarke
The Big Rod - By Jim Clarke
The Bank Manager's Fish - By Jim Clarke
Catch and Release . . .or not - By Jim Clarke
Fish On Half a Rod - By Jim Clarke
Sockeye the Easy Way - By Jim Clarke
The Odd Couple - By Jim Clarke
Fly Fishing Scotland - By Franz Grimley
The Artist - By Jim Clarke
One to Remember - By Jim Clarke
The Italian Secret - By Ralph Shuey
Opening Day on an English Chalk Stream - By Roger Ellis
Kolpakova River, Western Russia - By Rob Merrill
Fishing in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin
2004 Fishing Season in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin

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