Waters & words

Posts tagged “GEM Skues

Classic literature in your pocket

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“Thus, Instead of spiking his rod when the morning rise is over, and taking his Walton or his Marcus Aurelius or his Omar Khayyam from his pockets, let the wise angler concentrate on the casual feeder; and if his reward be not great, there is every chance of it being quite respectable , and he may be saved the humiliation of an empty creel”.  GEM Skues, Minor tactics of the Chalkstream . 1910.

Now I don’t know about you, but I reckon if I took my “Omar Khayyam” from my pocket  while out fishing, I think I wouldn’t be saved any humiliation by my fishing mates.  Come to think about it, if I took along a creel, there would be significant ragging, and if I filled the thing, I would be crucified.

But aside from the fact that we don’t carry creels and classic literature on the stream (oh, and we don’t have those reversible spears on the butts of our fly rods), nothing much has changed since 1910.   “Minor Tactics” is a delight to read.  Skues drops in the odd “wherefore” and “thus”, but we will forgive him for that. The language is in fact sheer poetry in places, and his setting up of his argument for nymphs in the face of Halford’s doctrine of dry fly only, is so polite as to seem slightly apologetic. In fact the last chapter is named “Apologia”.   Only the British!

I hadn’t realised that my copy of the book is a first edition.  It’s a bit wasted on me, because I buy and own books for the words between the covers, not as items for glass display cases.  Having said that, its is quite novel turning these pages which are as thick as cardboard:  I keep thinking I have turned five pages at once, and am reminded after much thumbing that, no….that’s  just the way paper was back then.   I swear many of the pages are different thicknesses too.  I guess that back then, their hook sizes and tippet diameters were equally variable in their tolerances.  But I get the impression from reading this book that their sophistication, entomology, and finesse in technique  were not that different to today.  

While rolling all this stuff around in my head  I  thought I should accompany the occasion with something special, and given that I don’t smoke cigars, I cracked open this instead:

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Interesting stuff.  I googled it :  LINK  .  Fruit. I don’t know…sometimes I think my sophistication in taste is at the same level as my appreciation of first editions and literature by Khayyam and  that bait angler….what’s his name…..Walton.


Coffee and quotes

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“Two blank days:  Not a very interesting subject?  Perhaps not.  But if you feel like that about it, pass on”

From GEM Skues, Itchen Memories, which was published in 1951, after his death.

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The coffee is “1000 hills”, a bean from Rwanda. When I stopped in at Ground Coffee House the barista persuaded me to have a flat white, and not my normal cappuccino. “Cappuccino is just all milk….you really want a double so that you can taste this bean, because its brilliant”. he said

I agreed, and while I was there I bought a bag of beans. A good move!  The coffee is well rounded and rich without being overpowering.  Did I taste strawberries or plums or vanilla?  Hell, I don’t know…I think I just tasted good coffee. But if I had to guess it was less fruity and more toffee and caramels. The barista will probably scoff…..I really don’t have sophisticated taste buds, but I know good coffee when I taste it!