We have never had a Look Who’s Wearing ambassador who has left us feeling so zen!
To explain: When the uneducated think of fly-fishing, they may be excused of thinking of wet days and waders. Well, is far more than that. Howard Taylor makes fly-fishing sound magical; something that should be truly cherished as an inspiring activity enjoyed in precious surroundings.
Howard began fishing with his father in Kent, where he also worked in a shop tying flies. It was there he rubbed shoulders of some of the great and good of the fly-fishing world without really knowing who they were. These men shaped the course of his life. He studied environmental biology at university and then moved to Hampshire as young man to immerse himself in the world of chalk stream fishing.
He said: "The rivers in Hampshire are chalk streams with crystal clear water. We have 85% of the world’s chalk streams here. They are the equivalent of England’s rainforest."
Just like the rainforests, the chalk streams are under threat too. While the north and Midlands have suffered flooding in recent times, rivers in the south are drying up…taking with them the plant life, freshwater fish and insects that live there.
Howard passionately campaigns to water companies and the Government to raise awareness of their plight and you can understand the source of his defence of chalk streams when he talks about a day on the river.
"People come from all over the world, in the same way they would to play a famous Scottish golf course, to pay homage and cast their line in these hallowed waters.
"An ex-American banker, who gave up his job in search of brown trout, wrote a book which began with the line, 'Trout only live in beautiful places.' That sums it up really."
Howard loves the environment, the skill of studying the local insect population favoured by the fish, the tying of a feather and fur fly before casting the line to mimic the movement of that insect. Then there is the art of reeling it in once it is on the hook. A quick photograph later and the fish is returned to the water…and you start again!
"All your worries and mobile phone distraction just clear form your mind. You are focusing on one thing."
Howard shares this experience through his business Upstream Dry Fly. He takes people out to more than 80 chalk stream beats to give them the joy of casting for a freshwater fish. His client list has included ex-presidents, comedians, actors, musicians, TV presenters, sports stars, business leaders and so on. Fly-fishing attracts quite the crowd,
"My love of fishing has introduced me to a complete suite of people I would never have met normally. It’s a real leveller. It does not matter who you are. It’s all about being in a beautiful place, having a nice picnic and having a chat. For them, it’s a day off. For me, it’s my job. I am blessed to do what I do.
You see. Zen on legs!
We were only too pleased to give those legs some lower limb support and comfort with a few pairs of our shoes and boots. And just when we did not think we could be any more appreciative of his world and how he lives his life, he topped off his day by replying to a sincere inquiry about his future plans by saying: "To show everyone my fantastic shoes!"
Many thanks Howard; time with you is indeed a levelling experience.