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.
It’s the lounge in our house.
I tidied my tying desk this evening, as I do once in a while. The maid normally remarks favourably when I do this, since she is not allowed to touch.
I think the abandon with which I toss around dead birds and animals gets to her.
Thing is, when the desk is tidy, I can actually lock the thing, as my brother intended when he made it for me.
I have to say though, that I was a little worried. I was worried that it would not close. This anxiety stemmed from the fact that I have been on a long steady acquisition phase. I hadn’t realised it, but I have been collecting again (did I ever stop?), and the drawers are starting to overflow and jam with packets of goodies.
I am happy to report that I was successful. I will not be needing another chest of drawers, and so will not be jeapardising my spot in the corner of the lounge. Which brings me to my point.
You MUST have a room, or better still a corner of a family room or lounge, where you can leave your fly tying kit out.
Trust me on this one. Until you do that, your tying will be frustrating, infrequent, and uninspiring. You cannot be hocked by having to clear away for dinner or guests. This will cramp your creative style in ways that you will only come to appreciate when you do get it right and have a good setup.
When you do get set up, a peaceful fulfillment will descend upon you, and you will become a much better husband and father. For me it has worked to have this space in a corner where I am not locked away from the family. I have a corner of a room in which the family can sit around while I tie, and it is a magic recipe for family harmony.
Now print this piece, and go and show it to your wife.
I don’t know if all us fly-fishermen are afflicted with this thing, but I suspect most of us are. Just take a look at our fly vests. A myriad of pockets, zips, buckles and zingers. And if we fish with a backpack, you can be sure it will have hidden pouches, rain cover, waterproof key pocket, secreted expansion zip and the like. Fly boxes: row upon row of little compartments that clip open. And then there is the fly tying desk!