Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Article excerpt

Kericho Colobus monkeys in the forest were throat singing like Tibetan monks. Mist rose from the Kericho tea gardens above us in the gloaming. My son Rider gazed longingly at the water. For a ten-year-old boy obsessed by fishing, patience is impossible. He yearns for that trout with every atom of his being.

I was just trying to coach him on the joys of fishing even if one never caught a thing when the clouds above us tore apart with the noise of a B-52 bombing run, followed by rain that came in grenade-sized drops - and then the rod in Rider's hand quivered and bent down as a rainbow trout hit the fly and stripped out line all the way to the backing. Panic erupted as I barked orders and, realising it was a good fish, tried to grab the rod from Rider's hands.

He fought me off and fought in the fish, which played so heroically it seemed to pull our little boat across the dam's churning surface. It was dark and we were soaked by the time we landed the fish, all of two pounds, killed him and wrote in the lodge fishing book: Caught on a Black Fritz Gold Head; dusk, tipping down. He will remember that fish all his life and he was electric with happiness.

By contrast, I am like George Orwell's fat middle-aged hero Bowling in Coming Up for Air, who dreams of the big fish in a pond from his childhood home. As long as the water is still there under the boat I am happy.

For Bowling's pond, it turns out when he revisits the symbol of his hopes and dreams, has been filled in with rubbish and the big fish are long gone. I haven't brought in a decent trout for a long time. Usually I take Rider and Eve to the Aberdare highlands, where among giant heather and groundsel while dodging elephant and buffalo we cast for little trout in cold alpine streams such as the Chania. Whenever I hook one up, I hand the rod over to the children to bring in. We have also fished on Mount Kenya, staying at the cabins at Rutundu where Prince William proposed to Kate, and the tarns there such as Alice, Ellis and Michaelson are lairs for large and handsome trout.

I've poached on an English chalk stream and fished in Devon's rivers, but nothing matches the wildness of fishing in Africa's highlands. …

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