Monday, December 28, 2009

Be Careful what you wish for !

I'm sure that like me, you sometimes hope that you will pursue this great sport forever or maybe intend that when the day comes your ashes are scattered on a favourite stretch of river or lake in the hope that you can spend eternity in your favourite spot - well maybe you should think again...

As the great G.E.M. Skues reminds us in his tale about Mr Theodore Castwell (below) - maybe we should be careful what we wish for !

Mr. Theodore Castwell, having devoted a long, strenuous and not unenjoyable life to hunting to their doom innumerable salmon, trout, and grayling in many quarters of the globe, and having gained much credit among his fellows for his many ingenious improvements in rods, flies, and tackle employed for that end, in the fullness of time died and was taken to his own place.
St. Peter looked up from a draft balance sheet at the entry of the attendant angel.
"A gentleman giving the name of Castwell. Says he is a fisherman, your Holiness, and has 'Fly Fishers' Club, London' on his card."
"Hm-hm," says St. Peter. "Fetch me the ledger with his account."
St. Peter perused it.
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "Show him in."
Mr. Castwell entered cheerfully and offered a cordial right hand to St. Peter.
"As a brother of the angle-" he began. "Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "I have been looking at your account from below."
"I am sure I shall not appeal to you in vain for special consideration in connection with the quarters to be assigned to me here."
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter.
"Well, I've seen worse accounts," said St. Peter.
"What sort of quarters would you like?"
"Do you think you could manage something in the way of a country cottage of the Test Valley type, with modern conveniences and, say, three quarters of a mile of one of those pleasant chalk streams, clear as crystal, which proceed from out the throne, attached?"
"Why, yes," said St. Peter. "I think we can manage that for you. Then what about your gear? You must have left your fly rods and tackle down below. I see you prefer a light split cane of nine foot or so, with appropriate fittings. I will indent upon the Works Department for what you require, including a supply of flies. I think you will approve of our dresser's productions. Then you will want a keeper to attend you."

"Thanks awfully, your Holiness," said Mr. Castwell. "That will be first-rate. To tell you the truth, from the Revelations I read, I was inclined to fear that I might
be just a teeny-weeny bit bored in heaven."
"In h-hm-hm," said St. Peter, checking himself.

It was not long before Mr. Castwell found himself alongside an enchantingly beautiful clear chalk stream, some fifteen yards wide, swarming with fine trout feeding greedily: and presently the attendant angel assigned to him had handed him the daintiest, most exquisite, light split-cane rod conceivable – perfectly balanced with the reel and line-with a beautifully damped tapered cast of incredible fineness and strength, and a box of flies of such marvelous tying as to be almost mistakable for the natural insects they were to simulate.
Mr. Castwell scooped up a natural fly from the water, matched it perfectly from the fly box, and knelt down to cast to a riser putting up just under a tussock ten yards or so above him. The fly lit like gossamer, six inches above the last ring; and next moment the rod was making the curve of beauty. Presently, after an exciting battle, the keeper netted out a beauty of about two and a half pounds.
"Heavens," cried Mr. Castwell. "This is something like."
"I am sure his Holiness will be pleased to hear it," said the keeper.
Mr. Castwell prepared to move upstream to the next riser when he noticed that another trout had taken up the position of that which he had just landed, and was rising. "Just look at that," he said, dropping instantaneously to his knee and drawing off some line. A moment later an accurate fly fell just above the neb of the fish, and instantly Mr. Castwell engaged in battle with another lusty fish. All went well, and presently the landing net received its two and a half pounds.
"A very pretty brace;' said Mr. Castwell, preparing to move on to the next string of busy nebs which he had observed putting up around the bend. As he approached the tussock, however, he became aware that the place from which he had just extracted so satisfactory a brace was already occupied by another busy feeder.
"Well, I'm damned," said Mr. Castwell. "Do you see that?" "Yes, sir," said the keeper.
The chance of extracting three successive trout from the same spot was too attractive to be forgone, and once more Mr. Castwell knelt down and delivered a perfect cast to the spot. Instantly it was accepted and battle was joined. All held, and presently a third gleaming trout joined his brethren in the creel.
Mr.Castwell turned joyfully to approach the next riser round the bend.Judge, however, his surprise to find that once more the pit beneath thetussock was occupied by a rising trout, apparently of much the samesize as the others.
"Heavens," exclaimed Mr. Castwell. "Was there ever anything like it?"
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"Look here," said he to the keeper. "I think I really must give this chap a miss and pass on to the`next."
"Sorry, it can't be done, sir. His Holiness would not like it."
"Well, if that's really so," said Mr. Castwell, and knelt rather reluctantly to his task.

Several hours later he was still casting to the same tussock.
"How long is this confounded rise going to last?" inquired Mr. Castwell. "I suppose it will stop soon."
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"What, isn't there a slack hour in the afternoon?"
"No afternoon, sir."
"What? Then what about the evening rise?"
"No evening rise, sir," said the keeper.
"Well, I shall knock off now. I must have had about thirty brace from that corner." "Beg pardon, sir, but his Holiness would not like that."
"What?" said Mr. Castwell. "Mayn't I even stop At night?"
"No night here, sir," said the keeper.
"Then do you mean that I have got to go on catching these damned two-and-a-half pounders at this corner forever and ever?"
The keeper nodded.
"Hell!" said Mr. Castwell.
"Yes," said his keeper.

Acknowledgement: Mr. Theodore Castwell is an excerpt from Fisherman's Bounty, by Nick Lyons, published in 1970 by Crown. In the Acknowledgments he credits the source as "taken from Sidelines, Sidelights, and Reflections by G.E.M. Skues. Copyright 1947 by G.E.M. Skues." The original story appears in that book, (first edition) on page 347 as "Some Letter," with the notation "Fly-Fishers' Club Journal, vol. 19, No. 73. Spring, 1930.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cold snap slows sport

The cold weather that we've had recently certainly seems to have slowed things down, not killed it... but fish have been hard to come by on my last few outings.

And now it seems that I may have the same problem as last years Christmas break when I intended to to put in some serious fishing time - last year it was rain and a high river that stopped me, this year its snow and ice with the river up and coloured after overnight rain and a slight thaw at the weekend

Grayling have been hard to locate when I have been out, they appear to be hugging the bottom with most taking when the bugs are at their deepest - bright coloured flies attracting the most interest, no matter what the water clarity.

I've sometimes wondered if I should save myself the trouble of freezing in the cold water and just head out for the last hour of daylight as my hard work during the bulk of the day has brought little reward - then as daylight fades the fish have came on and sport has been hectic in the fading light.