Stuck In The Middle With You
Trout & Salmon|November 2017

Stan Headley describes how boat partners can make him happy or drive him to distraction

Stan Headley

WHAT MAKES A good boat partner? A very subjective question. One man’s meat is another man’s poisson, after all. And before I start, I promise that there will be “no names, no pack-drill”.

I’ve said before that boat fishing is, for me, the most enjoyable style of fly-fishing by far. I love the camaraderie of it, but only if I share the boat. There are so many aspects of fishing that are improved by the presence of another. The sharing of ideas, reminiscences, and observations. The chance to explore differing approaches – lines, patterns, methods of retrieval – leads to a deeper understanding of the problems faced. Two heads are better than one.

In Orkney, where I learned my trade, there is a longstanding tradition of two in a boat. I think this stems from the fact that in the past there was just too much to do for one. Boats were launched from shorelines so launching and hauling out were onerous, outboards didn’t exist or were a rarity, therefore shared oar-work was a necessity. I well remember that seeing a boat with one occupant was worthy of comment. The lessons of your youth stay with you. Given slightly more sophisticated boating arrangements the easy opportunity to hire a boat and go forth alone has never attracted me, and it’s not just the added expense that deters me, although it is a factor. To me a lonely fishing excursion is a wasted opportunity.

So, back to that all-important question, “What makes a good boat partner?” I suppose it is almost easier to define a poor one. One attribute common to my least favoured boat companions are those who follow you slavishly. You know the type – you go out with an intermediate line and so do they. You change to a floater, they follow suit. A move to Buzzer patterns sees an identical action at the other end of the boat. It’s like fishing with a robot, or on your own, and the opportunity to learn from a differing approach is lost.

Equally as bad is to find oneself out with someone who has no opinion. 

“Where should we try next?” 

“Don’t care.” 

“Should we try that drift again?” 

“Dunno.” 

“Top or tail of the wind?” 

“I’m easy.” 

A day of this and I’m fit to be tied. 

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