Waters & words

Archive for February, 2017

Books and thievery

It was a very disappointed thief who broke down my patio door in the middle of the night with an axe, in search of a flat screen TV.

All he got was an angry Great Dane and a sea of books. I only wish we had managed to give him some fast flying lead too….the bastard!

But let me put the angry thoughts of retribution aside for a moment and focus on his disappointment, and my delight: Books.

I hadn’t realised it, but books, and more specifically flyfishing books, have been in my blood for a long time.  I remembered this favourite from my school days:

Joe Humphreys

And I remembered my delight at being mentioned  in one of Tom Sutcliffe’s newspaper articles, when I was just a schoolboy, that later became part of his first book: “My way with a Trout”.

I remember taking fly-fishing books out of the school library …the same titles, repeatedly:  “Where the bright waters meet”, by Harry Plunkett-Green, and titles by Skues and Sawyer.

Then the other day Tom  sent me this snippet of his “borrowed books” notebook:Toms old book register

And looking at my own collection  now, I realise that it has swelled somewhat over the years.

fly fishing books-1

And I think how I relish the titles by Middleton and Duncan, and Grzelewski and Rosenbauer and Engle, and Gierach, and French, and Traver, and Leeson, and where do I stop……. I have read them all, many several times.

“Where do you get the time!” proclaimed a friend the other day. He wasn’t expecting an answer, but I gave him one anyway: “I don’t own a TV” I said. And I realise now that while the man in the dark of night who threatened to shoot our dog spoke impeccable English, it can’t have been Graeme, because he knows I don’t own a flatscreen.  (One step closer to catching the thief, you might say.)

My wife and I were out to breakfast one day, and I had parked the car out front of the restaurant. I was about to lock the car when Petro pointed out that I had left something of value in full view. I re-opened the door and hid whatever it was under the floor mat. Then she opened her door and together we hid a few more items….you know, used handkerchiefs, toothpicks, that sort of thing. The sort of thing that people break car windows for. Then our eyes moved simultaneously to the back seat where I had a stack of secondhand fly-fishing books that I had just collected from the post office. We looked at them and then at one another and fell into laughter.

Later over coffee we discussed which country we might emigrate to, if ever we did that, and we decided that we would choose a country where one’s fly-fishing books were at risk of being stolen.


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Photo of the moment (74)

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Photo of the moment (73)

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It sounds like a man cave…..

The room is small in a way that is hard to define. It is spacious until one of my big outdoorsy type fishing friends comes in, and he seems to have to squeeze past the coffee table before occupying one of the two couches like I would fill a  single seater.

The coffee table always has a fly fishing magazine or two on it. Sometimes a scrap of paper with a sketch of a dry fly, or the phone number of some farmer scrawled on it. Off in the corner is a glass cabinet in which there are some outdoor books, and travel literature, along with someone’s memoirs and an oversized dictionary for those words that you need to be sure you are using right when trying to create poignancy in an essay.

On the apex wall at one end is a mounted Brown that I got in the late eighties and which didn’t quite go ten pounds, even when two of us blew on the spring balance. The fly I got it on is still wedged in its scissors. On the opposite apex wall is a slightly smaller Rainbow with a tail the size of a garden spade that should have gone eleven pounds. I know that taxidermy and wall trophies are “yesterday”, but these two are old enough that I can excuse their existence by mumbling the words “it was an earlier time…..” to anyone who asks.

The couches are old, so they benefit from the throws that we have over them. They are in rich reds and browns and maroons, that go with the old English green walls. Not that the walls are all that prevalent. They are adorned with Trout prints, and a few original oil paintings.  Each one of a some or other fishing buddy on a day on a stream somewhere that is now immortalised, so that I will remember it better than they ever will. One such painting is of Roy on the Bushmans. He saw the picture the other day and couldn’t remember quite where it was. I have looked at it often enough that I could take him there now!

The fireplace is in rough brick, and the builder had the decorative sense to pick the most gnarled and burnt and interesting bricks. If only he had had the sense to build a fireplace that doesn’t smoke!  It is fitted with a gas burner now. It doesn’t heat the room as much as it could, but at the turn of a knob you can create instant ambience on a cold evening. Flanking the fireplace on the left is my collection of flyfishing books, filling a monstrosity of a bookshelf that stands six feet tall. South African titles fill the top shelf, fly tying, Antipodean and British books the next, technical American and then fishing stories, and so it goes. At the bottom are various maps and bird books and photography titles.

The mantelpiece is  filled with more books: Travel writing, some philisophical stuff and histories of obscure battles and adventures. Across the the other side of the fireplace is the fly tying desk. It is always in some state of littered chaos, with peacock herl, and hackles and various tools strewn about. Nowadays there is always always a pair of specs at the ready, and on top between  a lammergeier’s bone from Gateshead, a rock from the top of Inhlosane, and my grandfathers hipflask, are two different lamps aimed precisely at the business end of the J-vice below. All I need to do is flick two switches and put the specs on……

A dog lies snoring on the carpet. He probably shouldn’t be there, but then he and his pals have worn it out enough that I can get away with walking in there with dirty boots, and saying “Oh dear” is sufficient penance. In any even there are speakers squirelled between books and pieces of family silver, and I can plug in my phone or a tablet and drown out the dogs snoring with a piece of music that has me closing my eyes, and having to concentrate enough not to ruin it by actually humming…..or worse still singing.  If the music is not playing the door to the verandah is probably open, and the call of a piet-my-vrou or the haunting hooting of a rainbird will be drifting in instead.

I don’t know a better place to be with a glass of wine, a cappuccino, or a good friend for company.

It sounds like a man cave, but its not.

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It’s the lounge in our house.


Great Things

I have had the privilege and the satisfaction over the last three years or so, to work alongside some seriously committed fly-fishing conservationists on the Umgeni River:

  • Roy (whose doctor told him to get some youngsters to haul logs instead of suffering another hernia)
  • Anton (who had an adverse reaction to bramble spray, but carried on anyway)
  • Penny, who isn’t scared to get dirty
  • Lucky and Zuma….two of the hardest working guys you will find
  • Bob…who is just always there and quietly gets on with it
  • Russell….who has committed diesel and machines for many, many hours and tidied up after we left.

etc, etc….I cannot name them all!

What these guys have achieved is commendable and fantastic.  They have cleared kilometers of river. Stuff that was horrible to access. The landscape on this stretch of the Umgeni is completely transformed. You come over the hill and it is not recognisable.  Take a look at the #BRU site for the full story.

Invitation

 

Umgeni River (16 of 17)

This is about a 7km walk. It is a stroll really….nothing strenuous. Bring your family, bring the older kids, bring a fly rod, bring a water bottle, bring a camera. Umgeni River (2 of 17)

Come and see the fish eagle’s nest; learn some history about the valley; climb over the fence stiles; learn the names of the hills and farms; get some exercise; and take home the booklet I am busy producing all about the Umgeni as a trout fishery.    I will show you the honey holes, and show you how I fish them.

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Someone will collect us at the end and bring us back to our cars.

Fishermen, if you are from out of the province and are here to attend the main evening event (mentioned below),  and you want to be off somewhere sampling the stillwater fishing:  here is something for your wife and kids to do instead of shopping in a mall.

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We will be back at Il Postino in time for a superb lunchtime Pizza.

..….and if you are also attending the dinner that night……..

You  can go home, have a snooze, get changed into your smart clothes, and come and attend this auspicious and prestigious event, that will raise the money to start #BRU2, and continue the work you will have witnessed in the morning.

J peg poster

Link for bookings and full details.