A fishing background didn't initially lure the founder of City Flickers Lucy Mantle to the water, though once hooked she began helping others to enjoy the sport, too
After growing up in the wild west of Ireland, Lucy Mantle set up City Flickers once she moved to London, with the hope of getting more young people involved in fly-fishing.
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SPORTING DIANA LUCY MANTLE
I grew up in the wild west of Ireland where my parents owned a popular fishing lodge at Delphi. To anglers, it was a little piece of heaven, with spectacular scenery, great food, gin-clear waters and abundant salmon when conditions were right. To young me, however, it was a bit of a dump – constantly raining and far too far from the bright lights.
My interest in fishing was close to zero. And my father took the view that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” when it came to teaching us how to do it – a view that was reinforced when my older sister hooked a salmon in front of the lodge, screamed in terror and dropped his precious rod and reel into the lake, as we all looked on. After that, my turn never really came. And I didn’t care.
I began to see the light when my parents decided to build another lodge in the Bahamas for bonefishing. This time, however, there was plenty of sunshine and rum punch, the seascapes were glorious and you could actually see the fish you were fishing for. Anyone who has spotted, cast to and hooked a bonefish, unaided, will know the electric thrill as these F1 speedsters take off towards the horizon. This was proper craic.
But the real lightbulb moment came in 2017, by which time the family base had shifted from Ireland to Hampshire, where my father shared a beat on the River Test. I was studying at university in Cirencester, where lots of people were into field sports. Since our Test beat was a glorious spot for a riverside lunch, I started to invite friends down to fish and party. My interest was in the party bit, but it was hard to ignore the enthusiasm and glee of good mates as they netted some lovely trout. So, one day I decided to pick up a rod and somehow managed to catch three nice fish, despite my woeful casting skills. I was firmly hooked.
After university, I went to South America where, among many adventures, I went off-radar for a time (to the alarm of my parents) in order to go fishing in the Peruvian Andes with a guide I had found online. I caught a decent rainbow trout, so I beamed a photo of it back home as soon as I regained signal. Calm was restored.
I then moved to London, where I work as a chartered surveyor. Some of my fishing friends also headed for the city lights and we began to meet other people who were intrigued by our piscatorial tall tales. “We should form a club,” I suggested, “to get more young people involved in flyfishing and to organise some social events around it”. My old school friend Robbie Hollis, a demon fisher, readily agreed and we set about doing it.
And so, City Flickers was born. We have now signed up 85 members, both male and female, in just a few months, and we have organised all kinds of social events – drinks parties, pop-up dinners, lectures – as well as fishing trips to the Kennet, the Test and the Garry in Inverness, with plenty more to come. We’ve also managed to get lots of tackle sponsors, keen to see more young people involved with the sport. It has been enormous fun and seems to be filling a gap in the sometimes-lonely London social scene.
The next step will be some casting clinics where we can learn or polish our skills (still badly needed by me, although I have recently had some wonderful spey-casting tuition from a clutch of ultra-patient Scottish ghillies). By now I have caught lots of trout, lots of bonefish, an occasional pike but not one salmon, despite several weeks of trying on various rivers in Ireland and Scotland. But I have all the kit and all the determination, so I know my day will come. And, when it does, the party will be epic.
An unexpected bonus has been my new awareness of the importance of our natural environment – and of the crucial role that anglers have to play in monitoring and combatting some of the horrors that are occurring due to salmon farming, sewage discharges and other industrial and agricultural effluents. I’ll let Greta deal with the big picture of global warming, but I’m determined to do my little bit to help keep our waters clean.
TOP TIPS: Don’t panic! Resist the temptation to stop the fish from running. Let it go – but do keep in contact.