Published Oct 13. 2022 - 1 month ago
Updated or edited Oct 13. 2022

Ginny vs the Four French Bulldogs of the Apocalypse

This is an extract from British Ben Jailler’s new book, Fish Camp Fail

Fish Camp Fail cover
Fish Camp Fail cover
Ben Jailler

Ben Jailler is a UK fly angler and author, whose new book entitled "Fish Camp Fail" bears this interesting sequence of events (or promises?) on the cover:
Go Fishing -> Control the Fear -> Avoid Werewolves

Ben describes his book like this:
It’s a journey that starts on the concrete causeways of Bristol’s Barrow Tanks, wild camps its way through the Cambrian Mountains, via Brittany’s Bay of the Dead and George Orwell’s Jura, and ends with cheesing Assynt’s Jurassic brown trout in a hooley. Fast-paced and light-hearted, this refreshingly new voice in angling writing riffs on the changing British landscape, the trout that live there and the search for a slice of solitude.

On Amazon the book and Ben are presented like this:
Funny, irreverent and startlingly original, Fish Camp Fail is your guide to the importance of getting away, experiencing nature and avoiding werewolves.
Ben is a regular contributor to Fly Culture and Fallon’s Angler magazines, and has also written for Flyfish Journal and Trout & Salmon.

The book is available to buy here.


Here's a chapter from the book:

Ginny vs the Four French Bulldogs of the Apocalypse


I’m casting tight up against the rhododendrons overhanging the far bank when I become aware of eyes on my back. Not just on my back – the feeling is more like a pair of laser beams burning through my shoulder blades and roasting my lungs. I let the boat drift around and see a black-and-white sprocker spaniel sitting on a rocky outcrop at the dam end of the loch. I think the correct term for how gun dogs sit when alert is ‘erect.’ Well, this one takes it to a whole new level. It’s like someone mixed Viagra into its Pedigree Chum this morning.
        I look around to see if there’s one of the red deer that feed on the grass outside Otter Cottage every evening knocking around, but there’s nothing. It’s me who’s the sole focus of her attention. She’s so unnaturally still that I’m half expecting her fur to start rippling, her face to peel open like a banana and a Rob Bottin special effects masterpiece to erupt from inside.
        I wonder if, like in an episode of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, there’s been a disaster at an abandoned mine, and she wants me to follow her to save whoever is trapped below ground. My next thought is that something has happened to Ewen in the mini JCB, but he’s still happily digging away, so what does this mutt want?
        I row towards her, and when I’m within fifty feet of the shore, she jumps into the water and swims towards the boat. She’s the size of a large sheep and there’s no way I’m getting her in without capsizing. I don’t know how long dogs can swim and I’m worried that if she gets too tired to swim back to the shore, she might drown. I’ve no choice now but to row back to the shore and hope that she follows. Luckily, she does just that, swimming happily alongside me until I beach the boat in the shallows. Then, she jumps aboard, shakes herself dry and sits down in the stern.
        A Mexican standoff develops between me and the dog, who has gone back into Husky from The Thing mode. I get out of the boat and try to encourage her to do likewise, patting my thighs and saying, ‘C’mon.’
        Nothing. I offer her a piece of leftover Argyll Slice. Not interested.
        ‘What?’
        The dog sits there, unmoving, staring straight ahead. ‘Want to go fishing?’

Ginny
Ginny
Ben Jailler

She doesn’t move a hair, but there’s the merest flicker in her eyes as they dart to starboard and momentarily meet mine. I push the boat back out into the loch and jump in.
        ‘Guess we’re going fishing, then.’
        I row the length of the dam and the dog never takes her eyes off the water. I’m positive she’s looking for fish, but then I notice she’s staring at something. I turn around in the boat to follow her gaze and see the lily beds in the far corner of the loch opposite a derelict boat shed.
        ‘What’s that, Skip? There’s fish in the lilies?’
        I set up a drift along the lily beds. Casting along its outer edge, I quickly pick up two fish; one to the Kate McLaren on point and one to my go-to fly for the holiday, a Black Pennell. Each brownie gets a kiss from me and a lick from her before I slip them back into the water. Despite the midday sun, one or two fish begin to rise. The dog hears the rise almost before the fish breaks the surface. There’s no need to call out angles on the clock face. I just cast in whatever direction she’s looking.
        The dog seems like she could stay out here all day, but with the takes drying up, I want to put something heavier on the point and fish the deeper water from the dam wall. We both jump out of the boat and the dog shadows me as I work my back up along the dam wall. We’re both so engrossed in the fishing that it’s only when Ewen appears on the far bridge and whistles for her that I notice the absence of engine noise. The dog does a remarkable impersonation of my daughter playing Roblox on her Kindle and completely ignores Ewen, forcing him to walk the length of the dam to reach us. Still the dog ignores his calls. At one point, she actually hides behind me like a kid who doesn’t want to stop playing football and go home for their tea.
        It turns out that the dog is Ewen’s. Her name is Ginny. I tell him it’s my last day tomorrow and ask if there’s anywhere he could recommend I fish. He tells me that many years ago, he stocked some brown trout in a remote hill loch and promptly forgot about them. Then, a few years later, he walked past the loch and saw some very big fish in there. He’s going there tomorrow with Ginny and invites me along.
        Streamers, my 7wt and big-boy net are compulsory.

For me, coming to Jura was as much a form of exorcism as it was an act of escapism, but there is an ancient, reptilian part of my brain that I’m not sure Father Karras could cleanse, let alone an island with a population of two hundred people.
        I was fine with the thought of holidaying solo right up until I realised there were no keys in my holiday cottage to lock either the front or back doors. I’ve spent years living in cities where a healthy level of paranoia is essential to your everyday survival. Trouble is, my paranoia, fuelled by years of watching horror films, made it impossible for me to sleep soundly knowing the doors downstairs were unlocked. So, from my first night on Jura, I’ve slept with a wooden chair wedged under the handle of the porch door. I also leant my rod tubes against the PVC-framed back door. It opens inwards, so my reasoning is that an intruder can’t enter Otter Cottage without sending my rods clattering to the tiled floor and waking me up. What I would do upon being alerted, I never figure out, but I slept with my Gransfors Hatchet under my pillow just in case.
        With my car abandoned at literally Road End, and the Argo Cat I’ve been sitting in for the last fifty minutes climbing steadily over the moorland, that same part of my psyche casually pops the phrase “Keep off the moors. Stick to the roads” into my mind. It may be a blazing sun overhead instead of a full moon, but suddenly I’m hearing a familiar howl in my head, and I’m pretty sure there’s no coyotes on Jura.
        What if they were all in on it? I begin to think.
        The wonderful people of Jura could not have been more welcoming and if that welcome was intended to lull me into a false sense of security, it worked. Truth is, I’ve fallen for this island as hard as a Jura brownie for a Black Pennell. The postcard to my partner and daughter, informing them that I am never coming back, was written on the first evening; my method of disappearance to be less Reggie Perrin and more Colonel Kurtz. Any potential Captain Willard’s dispatched to terminate my command would find me shaven-headed, wearing black PJs and reciting William Blake to red deer, my methods for catching wild brown trout having become unsound.
        However, I’m beginning to fear my disappearance is about to become more permanent. I’m 560 miles, two ferries and one overnight stop from home. There’s no mobile phone signal. I’m in the remotest part of a remote island with someone I’ve known for all of five minutes. There are no witnesses. That howling in my head is joined by the sound of Duelling Banjos and a vision of a wicker man appearing over the next rise. What better way to lure an unsuspecting fly fisherman to his death than with the promise of a secret loch and huge trout?
        Given my tendency towards horror-fuelled paranoia, you won’t be surprised that, under ordinary circumstances, I would never put myself in such a vulnerable position. Saying that, it was no less unlikely – given my meltdown in the canine priority seating area – that only twenty-four hours earlier, I was happily sharing a boat with a four-legged botulism factory.
        Only fly fishing can do this to me. Add fly fishing to any situation, and I’m instantly disarmed of my worst prejudices and most paranoid fears. This is because anyone or anything that fly fishes can’t be all bad. If Fred West had had a Bristol Water Fisheries sticker in the back window of his van, I’d have happily accepted a lift from him. If President Bolsonaro fished for Peacock Bass in the Amazon instead of setting fire to it, I’d happily put a big fat ‘X’ next to the ego-maniacal, Brazilian bell-end’s name. Likewise, if the Emperor swapped his red lightsaber for a Sage X at weekends and fished the seas of Kamino, I’d happily don a white stormtrooper’s helmet and fight for the evil Empire.
        Like me, Ewen is a fly fisherman and a shared love of fly fishing is like the ultimate Masonic handshake. Fly fisherman don’t murder people. A fly fisherman wouldn’t destroy an ecosystem or build a death star; obliterate entire planets or enslave a galaxy far, far away. In short, fly fishermen aren’t dicks, so deep down, I know there’s no wicker man and that Ewen won’t be complimenting me on my moobies. Instead, there will be a secret lake stuffed with huge, wild brown trout.

The author

Ben Jailler is a regular contributor to Fly Culture and Fallon’s Angler, and has also written for Flyfish Journal and Trout & Salmon. He graduated from Bournemouth University with a BA in Screenwriting for Film and Television, and has written screenplays, video games and worked in media production.
Ben lives in the South West of England and counts the days between his road trips to fish for wild brown trout in remote Lochs and Llyns.

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