Rich has a world full of Harty fishing lessons from Florida

Rich Hart, with the smaller of the tench he caught on a dark fly which resembled a tadpole or slug.

Rich Hart, with the smaller of the tench he caught on a dark fly which resembled a tadpole or slug. - Credit: Archant

Richard Hart, or Rich, as he prefers to be known, is now based in Orlando, Florida, although his dear mother lives out Hunstanton way. Rich has always fished, but it is his years in the US that have made him something special.

In short, he has spent the last three years travelling the world pursuing scores of species to catch solely on the fly. His aim has been to knock off a hundred awards from the International Game Fishing Association whose home is in the Hall of Fame in, yes, Florida.

I won't go into all the malarkey about tippet strengths, line classes and the strict IGFA rules as the whole subject is not particularly British. That does not mean to say that I think we should turn up our prim noses, however. The very reverse. I spent a couple of days with Rich, getting into his fishing mentality, and he left me somewhat galvanized. I guess I won't be following his own particular example myself, but that does not mean to say there aren't lessons to be learnt.

I guess we all benefit from challenges in our fishing life and Rich, middle-aged, has certainly given his fishing a real boost by embarking on this worldwide, record-breaking tour. His commitment has been extraordinary. On the few occasions the sun came out, he even rolled up bits of his clothing for me to inspect a gruesome gallery of bites and stings that he has weathered along the way. Collecting certificates in the wilds of Amazonia is not the proverbial picnic. If you are a record-breaker, whinging just isn't an option.

Equally obviously, Rich has had to refine his fly angling approaches considerably as he has tackled one different challenge after another and developed a galaxy of new techniques. The whole adventure has done Rich a power of good, both as a man and as an angler.

Rich teamed up with me for a couple of Norfolk days to catch tench on a fly, hopefully, another world record there on a light hook length. I've caught tench myself this way over the years but not many and with huge difficulty. I warned him the whole process would, in no way, be a pushover. I obviously took him to one of my going lakes and probably one of my best ever swims, so I did stress that the fish would be in front of us and it was all a question of whether they would take a fly, fluff and feather or not.

In the event, Rich had two tench at 4lb 6oz and 6lb 7oz and the larger fish was a hats-in-the-air job. Rich set off to Europe on another record-breaking leg of his journey with spirits high. He also left me to mull a few things over.

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It's no surprise really that Richard caught the smaller tench on a dark fly that looked a little like a tadpole or perhaps a tiny slug. Tench don't eat boilies and pellets solely. Also successful were tiny orange 'blob flies', the type that reservoir trout anglers use, especially in the high summer when daphnia is a problem. These little jobbies really were killers – I ought to point out that we lost far more tench than we landed and missed far more fish than we hooked. In fact, I'd say the little 'blob flies' out-fished my own sweetcorn perhaps three takes to one.

In effect, Rich fished these 'blobbies' like miniature pop-ups, around six inches or so from the lake bed. Also, because of the floating fly line, the flies were constantly but slowly on the move. Indeed, when you think about it, most tench food is natural and is naturally moving around them all the time, too. None of this is rocket science but it certainly did me good to watch it unfold before my very eyes.

I have just enjoyed a couple of great days, learning things myself in the process. But above all, like everything in angling, it's the companionship that it is all about. I like to think that Rich and I were mates in no time at all with a huge well of experience to share and enjoy. When Rich departed, I felt the loss deeply. He was a friend that I might well not see again given the Atlantic between us.

So two happy days and I like to think I played my part in the rewriting of tench fishing history.

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