Sporting nostalgia turns a bit ‘nymphy’ as fly fishing fills live sports void

Viewers are treated to ‘Champions League of fly fishing’ . . . and Crouch kicking a teabag

The best bit of sporting nostalgia from all of last week was the 2019 Airflo Spring Fly Fishing Invitational. File photograph: Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When you find yourself whiling away some of your Saturday evening by watching Peter Crouch attempt to kick a teabag into a cup, you know that it's a very good thing that there is now some light at the end of our no-live-sport-on-telly tunnel. Crouchie meant well, he was doing his best to entertain us in his new BBC show Save Our Summer, but to be honest, it's going to take more than watching someone attempt to kick a teabag into a cup to fill our summer sporting void.

German football has helped no end, of course, and fans of British horseracing were in clover last week when it returned to their screens, but other than that we’ve largely had to make do with nostalgia.

Like on Channel Four on Sunday afternoon when they showed the entire 1966 World Cup final, with guest Zoomy appearances from the likes of Geoff Hurst and Glenn Hoddle. (Glenn, incidentally, has a chandelier in his kitchen). Unlike Geoff, Glenn didn't play in the game, mainly because he was only eight at the time, although that silver lockdown beard he's now sporting makes him look like he might have appeared in the 1930 decider.

"I don't want to spoil the result," Gabby warned Geoff before chatting to him, but he then went on to reflect on his hat-trick which hinted at an England victory, thereby ruining the entire viewing experience for any viewer who didn't know the result. And that might be the majority because, as we know, they don't talk about it much.


Absolute machine

The best bit of sporting nostalgia from all of last week, though, was on BT Sport when they reshowed the 2019 Airflo Spring Fly Fishing Invitational which took place at Rutland Water in the middle of England.

"This is the Champions League of fly fishing, it's a star-studded field," said Kevin Porteous, a competitor in the event, a sentiment shared by one of our pundits, Billy Rankin. "You've got the cream de cream, or whatever it is, of fly fishers here from all over Europe and Ireland, " he said, like it was us who had voted to Leave.

Our host Andy Ford was no less giddy – "I get the sense that something very special is going to happen here today" – as he introduced us to some of the big names taking part, among them two-time world champion Iain Barr. "E's an absolute machine, is Iain," said our other pundit, Gareth Jones.

Andy asked Gareth what was his mental approach when he fished against Iain, because “Iain doesn’t like losing”. “You’ve just got to switch off with him because he’s gonna get inside your head,” he replied, “he loves playing the mind games, he loves telling you how good he is”. Iain, then, is kind of the Conor McGregor of fly fishing.

Ruthless streak

All of this was a real education for those of us new to the sport, who thought its only mind games would be between person and fish and not person and person. "It's like in cricket if you're facing Shane Warne, you might know he's bowling a leggy, but you've still got to be able to play it, 'aven't ya," explained Gareth.

And when Andy had a quick chat with Iain, we saw for ourselves his ruthless streak. When he chooses fly fishers for his team, Costa, they have to be allergic to losing. “And if they’re not hurting when they lose, if they don’t feel the pain, they’re not good enough,” he said, gesturing over his shoulder like he’d chuck them in the lake.

And that might well be where they ended up because Costa only finished third in the competition, “First is first, second is nowhere, third and you end up as fish food,” most probably Iain’s motto.

The winners were the Nymphomaniacs, which prompted an “excuse me?” from this couch, before Gareth explained that nymphing is a thing you do in fishing, and that fish like to eat nymphs. Something like that. Although when he described Rutland Water as “a bit nymphy”, he lost us.

Joy, then, for the Nymphomaniacs in the Champions League of fly fishing, despair for Iain and his crew. “That’s fly fishing for ya,” said Billy, “one day you’re a king, next day you’re a pauper.” Or, worse, you end up in a fish’s tummy.