When Eliza called me and said, ‘I’ve got an interesting task for you and Lucinda’, I was excited and curious as to what she was about to send me to. When she mentioned fly-fishing with Orvis, my initial instinct was, I can’t kill a fish! However, Orvis host fly-fishing lessons in Green Park in London that do not include fish, hooks or even water, except for the inevitable rain! The classes are not only designed for you to learn the basics of how to cast a fly-fishing rod, but were also created to give anyone a taste of the countryside in the centre of London; a moment of calm and fresh air.
Healthy Living London’s Lucinda and I wrapped up warm and headed to the Orvis shop, on Regent Street in London, to learn how to cast a fly-fishing rod. I have only ever been fishing off the back of a boat and have never learned to cast. Fishing off the back of a boat means letting the line out whilst the forward motion of the boat does all the work for you. You can literally do nothing, just sit back and wait for the ‘whee’ as the reel streams out with the panic and attempted escape of a fish. I have to admit that I find this quite stressful as I don’t like to harm or kill anything. So, I was relieved that after a briefing, led by Orvis’ Richard, we left for Green Park with rods and without hooks, not to mention the lack of a pond here! (I can’t imagine the Queen would actually have allowed us to fish here anyway!)
Having been told the instructions of how to cast…
- point your finger on the rod in the direction of the desired cast
- relax your wrist, don’t choke the handle
- quick flick upwards towards the sky (don’t bend the wrist)
- pause briefly here
- cast forward, allowing the line to go out with gravity
Tip – aim above your intended target, don’t look at the ground.
…I still managed to forget the instructions and revert to instinct; to throw the line and bend the wrist! Luckily, Richard was on hand to advise and correct! Admittedly, my line landed in the trees a few times, but it was a wet and windy day. Besides, the couple ‘perfects’ I received from Richard made me smile and relax. Lucinda and I even got competitive and used an umbrella for target practice! This was addictive as we were the last ones casting (in the rain) and everyone else was ready to head back to the store!
Once back in the warmth of the Regent Street shop, we were lavished with the lovely award winning British, Gusbourne, sparkling wine. This was a refreshing drink, albeit a deal breaker for my dry January challenge! Whoops! I really liked their Blanc De Blancs and understand that it has come out top in blind taste tests against many top Champagne brands! I was told that Waitrose have been desperately trying to convince the brand to sell in their stores, but Gusbourne have kept their stockists quite selective with high brands such as Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason being several of the privileged few. However, you can order directly from their website and with a minimum order of three bottles, delivery is free. Tours of their vineyard are strictly by appointment only, but I believe they are hoping to open a visitors’ centre in the near future.
We were then treated to a display of culinary skills by Will and Calum Thompson from Eat Wild. They began their journey by selling venison burgers at outdoor events during the London Olympic Games and the response has been fantastic. Their, “…If you take a life, you use it…” ethos has earned them respect amongst the cooking world and has even allowed them to open up their own restaurant in the Cotswolds. Although they do not have a restaurant in London yet, they do cater. “…If you would like Eat Wild to cater at a corporate event, private party, music festival, wedding, or country show, Will and Calum would love to speak to you. Please call them on 01285 657399 to discuss your requirements…” As an active participant in Veganuary, I did not taste their beautifully presented food, instead, Lucinda was more than happy to oblige and has written her thoughts below. I am looking forward to heading to their restaurant before the end of the month and tasting their vegetarian menu!
When I received an invitation ‘…to tap into your rural headspace in the heart of the city…’ I was already intrigued. Upon further investigation and learning that an afternoon of fly casting, sampling wild fish and tasting award winning sparkling wine ensued, I was sold.
Having no fishing experience whatsoever, I was slightly nervous about what was involved, but I needn’t have worried, because after a little instruction, I soon became quite transfixed by casting. Arriving at Orvis, an outdoor adventure and travel specialists’ store on Regent Street, on a wet and windy Wednesday, we were greeted with a warm welcome from the team of fly-fishing experts and our mini-masterclass in one of the UK’s favourite heritage sports began.
After an in-store introduction demonstrating the basics…
- Rod sits in the palm of the hand
- Fingers beneath
- Forefinger on top, pointing down the rod
- Don’t break the wrist
- Accelerate the rod up, stop for a split second, accelerate the rod forward
..we trotted off to have a go in Green Park. The wet and windy weather was not on our side, and meant that my fly got caught in the trees more often than I would like to admit, but it was fun and soon became quite addictive. We also enjoyed a playful competition to test our aim, by trying to land our fly in an upturned umbrella, on a drain and finally attempting to target a leaf!
Adding a little sparkle to the afternoon’s event was a sampling of the award-winning English sparkling wine producer, Gusbourne. Using a combination of the best age-old traditions with modern technology at their vineyards in Kent and West Sussex, Gusbourne have set their sights on perfection and as winners of the ‘English Wine Producer of the Year’ at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 2015, this is a brand to watch. The Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2010 was my favourite. A classic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Delicious, delicate and refreshing. Next up was the Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2010, made from their Chardonnay vines. This had a deeper, more complex note and creamy toastiness, attributed to extended time maturing. Finally we sampled the Gusbourne Rose 2010, a fusion of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. A fine strawberry, citrus mousse of delicate bubbles.
Marrying fishing with food, we were treated to a cooking demonstration and tasting by the award-winning restauranteurs behind Eat Wild. The Gloucestershire born brothers, Will and Calum Thompson, as seen on Channel 4’s First Time Farmers, are fast becoming known as the ‘first name in game.’ They use sustainable ingredients that are cooked simply at an affordable price to allow game food and wild meat to be accessible to everyone. Eat Wild provides a unique offering in the heart of the Cotswolds. Confessing to ‘Loving fast food but hating what it stands for’, Will and Calum have designed a delectable menu of ‘dirty food’ done well, with dishes including their signature ‘Wild Venison Burger in a Hobbs House Brioche Bun’, ‘Popcorn Pheasant’ and ‘Buttermilk Fried Partridge.’ They also cater for the vegetarian with a popular ‘Fried Halloumi and Aubergine Burger’ and options for the Vegan too.
As fishing was the theme for the day, Will and Calum prepared a delicious poached rainbow trout, served on a bed of watercress with a punchy horseradish cream. Prepared on the rolling boil in a pan with a shot of white wine and a shot of vermouth and simmered for thirteen minutes; the fish was succulent, fleshy and fabulous. The horseradish cream, was made using a base of crème freche, with fresh horseradish grated into the mix, finely chopped dill and watercress, lemon juice and ‘Cotswold Gold’ rapeseed oil. The fusion of flavours was clean tasting, fresh and delicious.
So, Why Fly-Fish?
The team at Orvis have been offering free learn to fly-fish sessions at most of their stores around the country for five years now, as part of their vision to break down barriers and allow greater access to the sport. The outdoor heritage brand is all about connecting people with the outdoors and strives to protect the sport and the environment it loves for future generations. The merits of fly-fishing are numerous and the sport itself is often applauded for its therapeutic benefits. It calls for focus and calm, and you don’t need to travel to the wilds of Scotland, Wales or abroad to enjoy it. In fact, there are a number of locations to enjoy it in the capital, such as the Walthamstow Reservoirs, Syon Park and the River Wandle.
Orvis is involved with the charity Casting for Recovery, which provides an opportunity for women whose lives have been profoundly affected by breast cancer to gather in a natural setting and learn the sport of fly-fishing. The weekend retreats are based on the principles that the natural world is a healing force. They incorporate advice, educational services and relaxation techniques, fusing the healing benefits of being in nature, with the calming and meditative action of fly-fishing. Richard Banbury, Orvis Fieldsports Director says, “Casting for Recovery is a fantastic charity, the work they do is incredible. I’ve been a guide on their Kimbridge retreats on a number of occasions and it’s always so inspiring to see the women reaping the benefits of the outdoors.”
Find Out More:
Who Should Try It? Store hosted tutorials are perfect for those that have never been fly-fishing before. Call your local store for more details. Orvis also host corporate events and fly-fishing schools from beginners up!
How Much? The in-store tutorials are complimentary. The courses, schools and day rod lettings vary. Click here for more information or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Where Are They? Orvis are located across Britain at several locations.
*Health Advice: Consult with your doctor before beginning any new food and exercise program.