THE ‘ART’ OF THE ANGLE (boxes full of memories)
A friend of mine, an artist and a fisherman, someone I have never fished with, yet all our conversations start with how successful (or not) was my last fishing trip out. He hasn’t fished for a few years now, he’s in his eighties now but still a fisherman at heart, always interested in my last cast. I have known him for 36 years, a work colleague for many of those but we never managed to fish together, what a shame.
Last month I got a call from him, he had something for me. He is an artist, a well respected painter, of some renown, his mother was one of Scotland’s finest artists and he followed in her footsteps. I am a photographer, I often photograph his work for records, publications or exhibitions, we get together maybe just once a year, I take photographs and we talk fishing. ‘Meet me in the Art College car park’ he said. Ten minutes later out of the boot of his car came a wonderful Hardy traveller fishing rod, 8′ 6, weight 6, 4 piece, perfect condition, an early model with a fantastic through and through action. He says ‘It needs a good home, I’ll never use it again and I thought you might like it, I know you will make the most of it’. What a wonderful gift. As I write this it is only the end of November, I have got almost 5 agonising months before I can get it on the water, I can’t wait to cast a fly with it and see how it performs.
My friend, the artist, the fisherman called me again last week, ‘how about a fishing reel to go with that rod, come round have a look’. He is working on a book, a narrative of his drawings and sketches from throughout his life. Some of these may have made it to the painting stage, others just as aid memoirs. I will eventually photograph around 200 sketches for him. Out on the table in the hall just out of sight is a selection of reels and something else.
We discuss timetables and books. We talk, discussing photography and photographers and their influence on our work, we have a glass or two of a white wine, we look at books, paper samples, formats and try to decide the best way forward. It is such monumental task, to put your life in pictures into a book. He has more ideas than he knows what to do with ‘its keeping me awake at night’ he says, but I know he will get there eventually. When I finally get up to leave, he gets a plastic bag and carefully puts the reels complete with lines into it, ‘take them I’m sure you will put them to good use’. Wonderful, I can’t wait to have a proper look at them. There was a cracking Hardy Marquis reel which I will definitely be using this coming year, it will compliment the rod perfectly.
Now here is the thing, along with the reels he also gave me something so precious, so personal that I still can’t believe it, the rod was wonderful, the reels are fantastic but this is what blew me away, he gave me around a half dozen fly boxes……..I couldn’t believe it. A virtual Aladdins cave filled to overflowing with flies of all kinds of Wet and Dry Trout flies, wonderfully tied Salmon flies, Sea Trout flies, Salmon tubes, trebles, singles, Devon Minnows and Tobys, not a trace of a rusty hook anywhere, proof they had been well loved and looked after. A fantastic selection, all the flies you could ever need. With a well hidden lump in my throat I accepted this fantastic gift.
Now this is why it got to me so much, I felt with that kind gesture, he had passed on to me all of his memories, hopes, aspirations of almost every days fishing that he had ever been on. At home now, my mind drifts into the slight realms of fantasy and I start to write this down.
I stare into the boxes on the table in front of me, I can see one or two with a little bit of nylon still attached, were these the last flies he had used on his last trip out, hurriedly put away as the light fell, with the intention of snipping the nylon off before the next trip. In my minds eye I can picture him pouring over the boxes, through wind, hail, rain, sun, snow, (in Scotland it could have been all of those on the one day!) trying to make that definitive decision, “yes this is the one that’s going to catch today”, trembling fingers tying it on in anticipation. A space in one box, I can almost feel the anguish of him losing that oh so special fly, “I am sure it was there in that corner of the small white Loch Leven fly box, I am sure it was, it caught me loads of fish, ah I remember now, a cracking fresh run fish broke me on its first run, that’s when I lost it or maybe it was on that mistimed back cast, that overhanging willow on the Tweed, or that deep diving Brown trout on Loch Leven itself, whatever, it was a great fly”. Each and every remaining fly seemed to be telling me its own story of great days of sport. Of talks with companions over lunch about how this particular fly or another has never let them down. Maybe there was even a fly or two in there that had been given by a Tay ghillie or fellow angler, who also swore they were killer patterns. Flies that had been made the night before a trip perhaps or had been bought but not used, waiting on their chance to succeed when all else has failed. A broken and tattered fly there as well, maybe too successful to be ever thrown away, no matter its condition. Memories for my friend, the artist, the fisherman, must have come flooding back at the start of each new season as these boxes of delights were unpacked after their winter storage. If the flies in these boxes could talk, wow!,what tales they would tell.
I feel privileged to be the new keeper of this bountiful treasure trove. Fly boxes and their wonderful contents are a truly personal portrait of us, the angler, they sum up the essence of who we are as fisherman. We can lose rods or reels, they can be replaced reasonably easy. But our flies, now they are virtually irreplaceable, we have collected and cherished them for years, I would be bereft if I lost my boxes of flies, my boxes of memories.
I too will now add my memories and stories to these feathered wonders and I will try to live up to the expectations that they require of me. I am positive by using them they will make me a better fisherman, its the least my friend and I can hope for.