Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016

December 18, 2015

SLIDERsnow-buggy
I owe the loyal and devoted readers of this blog, few in number though you may be, an apology. You have blessed me with your undivided attention and readership. In return, I’ve neglected you, distracted from blog writing by the lure of hours on the riverbank, under a hide, up a high seat or in the field. The prospect of a few days in front of the fire and 2016 looming on my doorstep has me reminiscing. I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, the highlights of 2015 and a sneak peek at what 2016 has in store (at least the bits we know about and can predict).
If I’m honest, I don’t start measuring a year on New Year’s Day…February the 2nd and the end of a shooting season divides the days and years in my world. And 2015 was off with a novel big bang with an overnight train to Scotland and driven hare in contemporary Scottish style (snowmobile transport). It was so cold that even Lifeproof-protected iPhones gave up the ghost.
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Big-barbel2015
Spain produced a number of the fishing season’s highlights, from our largest-ever barbel on the dry fly (a massive 14lbs) to our first black bass (a new addition to our Spanish offerings). Then there were the record-breaking furnace temperatures across continental Europe that caught us out in the Spanish Pyrenees, but didn’t impair the guinea pigs from enjoying the delights of this stunning area. Or flicking fluff across the mountain streams and glacial lakes for alpine-dwelling trout. It was so good that we’ll be starting guided trips to the Pyrenees from May. By July, we were back in Spain for the contrary sea trout. Contrary, you ask? There’s something about the water in Spain that has the fish behaving backwards. Bottom-feeding barbel sip flies from the surface, and normally nocturnal sea trout are happy rising to the fly during day light hours. We can explain the first phenomenon, but not the latter.
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As the summer days passed the solstice and began to shorten towards the shooting season, Outside Days was appointed as Farlows shooting ambassador. For 175 years, Farlows have been purveyors of sporting tackle to the great and good, the byword for quality kit and advice. A Mecca for fishermen, the premises at 8-9 Pall Mall London also holds an extensive range of shooting clothing, accessories and even cartridges. The collaboration has great things in store for 2016, a blossoming of all sorts of sporting opportunities. Inspired by some of the autumn’s activities (and the incessant nagging of sporting spouses including my own), Outside Days has introduced vouchers for roe and fallow stalking, sea trout fishing and a general voucher to be used against any of our offerings. Perfect for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or just because.
On British shores, 2015 was a great year for sea trout, with multiple double-figure fish spotted…although only more modest fish were landed. The grouse started the shooting with more of a fizzle than a bang thanks to a disastrously cold and wet breeding season in the spring. We and the estates we work with took the decision to cancel many days to protect remaining stocks. The ones that did go ahead were spectacular successes, with numerous grouse virgins leaving their cherries behind on the hill.
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The unseasonably warm autumn seemed to confuse the fallow, transforming the normally clockwork rut into a stop start affair. Not that it’s stopped us from doing our part to manage the national herd sustainably: we harvested more bucks than ever before. And the partridges made hay while the sun shined: almost all our shoots are achieving record returns. If anyone has sway with the weather gods, a nice spell of cold weather would be just the thing to bring the pheasants back onto the feed rides and ensure an outstanding finish to the season.

Sporting publications have provided us with some great company and coverage this year, with fishing photographer and writer Toby Coe joining us in Spain and Shooting Times photographer and journalist Paul Quagliana out in the shooting field twice (his latest article is due out on 23rd December…just in time to leave it alongside the biscuits, milk and carrots for Santa.

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We’re always seeking to expand our sporting horizons and yours and 2016 will be no different. Kicking off the intellectual expansion will be the British Fly Fair International on the 13th and 14th of February at Staffordshire Agricultural Showground. I’ll be joined by our fishing guide for Sweden, Klass-Jan, and the king of the Pardon de Meana our favorite Spanish fishing guide, Luis, to launch our new fly fishing options including the contrary daytime sea trout and Pyreneean trout.
By March/April, we’ll be herding the guinea pigs off to South Africa to test out management hunts on new ground (interviewing for guinea pigs commences now). It should be the ideal way to experience plains game hunts at their finest, but without the cost of trophy hunting.
As soon as work and women allow (aka June or September), Toby and I will be packing our bags (leaving room for an adventurous guinea pig or two), and heading to the Med for saltwater game fish on the fly. This is a new and developing fishery, not just new to us, and is throwing up some very exciting results.

And before we know where we are, it will be time for game shooting again. This year, and in conjunction with Farlows, we are going to run an introduction to game shooting course. Two days of all things driven game culminating in a full day’s driven sport on an exceptional Hampshire shoot.

With a good exchange rate, more confidence in the economy and people appreciating the benefits of short haul trips, diverse days and good sport, our European short breaks are already booking up fast. So if you think there’s adventure in your future, get in touch. For those with the makings of a guinea pig (sense of humour, patience, linguistic skill, culinary curiosity and happy to trade the risks of a trial trip for the bargain price), interviews are underway now so send an email to im.a.guineapig@outsidedays.com.

 


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