Friday, April 18, 2014

Gierach Interview

Many outlets will have this little video of an interview with the author John Gierach by that Tenkara bloke. The interview is an interesting sight of Gierach but in itself not a particularly enlightening conversation dealing as it does almost solely with another promotion for the fixed line method.

And then there is a most shocking ommission.

In the short section where Gierach is tying what looks like a nice little spider (soft hackle) he is not using sixth finger scissors! Oh the shame, the shame.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sunshine State

I return with mind brim full of images from our trip to the nether region of this country - namely Florida.

What a strange place. It is of course decidedly tropical - palm trees, heat, considerable quantities of sand, sun, tans, the smell of suntan wotsit, overheated cars, a lack of cats and more of the usual thingamabobs that go into a spigot of land almost entirely surrounded by a warm sea.

And then the birds are different too. Brown pelicans, white ibis, glossy ibis, roseate spoonbills, laughing gulls, royal terns, ruddy turnstones, black vultures, anhingas, cattle, snowy and great egrets, black crowned night herons, yellow crowned night herons and ospreys.

Britons exterminated the osprey by the start of the 20th century and its recolonisation of Loch Garton and the steps subsequently taken to afford the bird every chance of re-establishing viable populations made national news. Ospreys are still uncommon in the UK but here in Florida they were everywhere. Like bloody crows. To the extent that we stopped pointing them out even when one of them had a fish slung fore and aft.

On the first afternoon daughter #2 shouted “Dolphin!” and there indeed was a bottlenose arching out of the water a few feet down the harbour wall. It then proceeded to swim very fast on its side right up close against said wall and at one point lurched violently. After which Flipper ambled out into the open water, came to the surface, threw an unidentifieable small fish it had trapped in the air, caught it neatly in a beak full of pointed teeth and porpoised away. It didn’t twig until later that this was very similar to the hunting behaviour I had seen on one of those wildlife programmes. Perhaps this dolphin wasn’t really hydroplanning, it had no need, but the technique did look as though it was attempting to trap the fish between its body and the water surface.

We went from watching a large mammal to snorkeling with an even larger one during an early morning sojourn, the enormously rotund and entirely lugubrious Manatee.

and almost as thrilling was swimming through a shoal of mullet holed up next to a warm spring,

along with tightly packed gray snapper,

as well as the Snook I found loitering underneath a small landing stage, a fish that unlike the skittish mullet and gray snapper obdurately refused to move a muscle even when close pressed.

The fish and bird life were immensely enjoyable. But it was something of a surprise to see the level of development in this part of Florida. There was little space (unless it was a state park) that wasn’t taken over by apartment blocks, by housing estates, by luxury villas perched up to and almost over the water. And the cars, my god the cars. Not only were there many, many cars on the roads, on the eight lane highway, on the causeways leading to what seemed to be watery dead ends. Crawling back into Tampa amongst an accident congested herd of automobiles I noted that the car park of the local Home Depot was also full to bursting, as was the Walmart a few minutes later. There were no people in sight, no one walking the pavements, not a single person. There were just cars. If some remotely interested entity were to look down on this place he (or she - or ‘it’ I suppose) would be completely forgiven for thinking that cars were the dominant life-form fed and watered by the strange two-legged creatures to whom they occasionally give birth.

One consequence of the car population was that it provided an opportunity to see how fishing bumper stickers changed. Here in central PA everything is “Wild Trout” or “Trout Unlimited” or “I Do It With Dries”. There it was all about Red Drum and Snook, Marlin and Tarpon, and Captain Birdseye and his Deep Sea Charters and Captain Sparrow and his Inshore Experience. And then there are bass. It is easy to forget the inland bit of the Florida finger especially since the state has such a long and prosperous coastline but even the inside bit is mostly water reminding me, as we crossed over to our Tampa destination, of the first time I flew over northern Canada - a huge lake with specks of land flung into it. Except here it was warmer. And the inland bit had its own strain of largemouth bass with its own serious following. But it is the coast and all its riches that really attract the attention.

On the last day I scattered snapper in water whose visibility was only marginal for snorkeling, chased mullet and disturbed rays from their sandy beds. I didn’t get any fishing in but lived a vicarious fishing experience when watching a guy angling from his boat just off the beach. I’d seen him reposition his garish chartreuse float a few times and knew he was dangling a small, silver livebait at the business end. What he was after I couldn’t really place as he was fishing in a little trough of only slightly deeper water between the beach and a parallel barely submerged sandbank some thirty feet away from the shoreline. Watching while I helped the smaller humans collect shells I noticed him strike into what was obviously a good fish. Thinking it must be a mullet I saw him struggle to get the animal alongside and was very surprised when he eventually netted a large snook - I guessed some 30 inches long. He then bopped it on the head, strung a rope through its gills and lowered it back over the side. I recalled Captain Sean, our Manatee guide, mentioning that they were very good eating. I thought Snook were a fish of the mangrove roots, of the landing stage just as I had seen for myself. Yet here was a girt big specimen taken off an almost featureless beach (if you discounted the small and isolated seagrass beds scattered here and there in the shallow water) - a very neat piece of fishing.

I’d love to come back sometime avec rod, reel and the rest of the necessary fishing gubbins. It seems idyllic to be able to wade in knee deep water looking for fish to cast too, fish of the calibre of that snook perhaps, with the warm tropical sun shining and zephyr breezes blowing. That is until the sun burns and dehydrates me, the salt scours skin and makes sore all the private creases and the various stinging, jagged and pointy things in and out of the water make mincemeat of my feet. Then it will be time to retreat to a bar and eat the wholly execrable food that is the lot of the tourist who is ignorant of the very place in which he seeks solace. Hey ho.

Monday, April 14, 2014

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The “Interesting Scatter Plot” is available as a hard copy for those with a ruler or as an electronic version for those without. See sellers other listings for more scatter plots. No refund.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letters to Donald - V

Dear Donald,

I’m in receipt of your’s of the 30th inst. No, I don’t really think salt works that well on that kind of stain but ammonia is said to do the trick.

Anyhow that is beside the point. It has come to my attention through nefarious and complicated routes that, how can I put this, you make money. What on earth do you think you are doing? I mean, how dare you? I thought I knew you. And now I find you actually go to work and make money. It’s simply not done, beyond the pail don’t you know.

Now I, as much as the next man on the street, appreciate your background, the slovenly boyhood hovel of a large town house in Basel, the second villa simply miles away up there somewhere in the Alps. The struggles with which restaurant to go to in the evenings, the difficulty with the maids, the reserve of the butler. But even so, a Freudian explanation based on all your depauperate experiences and memories of yesteryear would hardly get you off the hook. It would hardly get away from the fact that you get up on a weekday morning clothe yourself in your Gieves and Hawkes featherlight italian worsted and actually go into work. An office. Desk, chairs, computers. Rolls of that paper sprouting out of boxes. Fax, filofax, bluetooth, I get your people to call my people. Secretaries, personal assistants, close personal assistant secretaries wearing Blahniks and oozing the faint peppery fragrance of Caron’s Poivre. Sell, sell, sell. Buy, buy, buy. Values of some invisible commodity may go up as well as down. Shares, stocks and bonds, pork bellies and orange juice. All that Louis Winthorpe III stuff. All that making money type stuff in a making money type place. It simply isn’t done. It simply shouldn’t be done by you I say.

It also strikes me that you compound your cardinal wotsit by not only making money but probably being rich! Rich! I remember someone rich. He had a Ferrari. And a wife. I think she was his wife but she never talked. She just decorated the furniture. Which gave me pause when I first heard the reports about you. I mean your wife doesn’t decorate anything much does she. The occasional gutter after a good night out perhaps but otherwise she is much happier with a Black and Decker. This bloke, the other rich one, had terrible taste. He had carpets would you believe, open staircases and framed Athena posters. I think he may have come from West Drayton. Your not from West Drayton are you? Is West Drayton in Switzerland?

Why can’t you be more like the rest of us? In debt and working hard so that we can live up to the grey disappointment inherent in each and everyone of our days. Doesn’t that sound appealing to you? Wouldn’t you prefer to be in some provincial town, some dormitory to the smoke, North Caldwell or Short Hills? No, I suppose not. I realise now why you have such a fetish for linear mixed models and probit regression.

Before I finish, the various sprogs, wife and I would be delighted to accept your offer of an all expenses paid weekend on the island. The Bowery will be a perfect base as ever and perhaps you could take us to dinner at the delightfully different 11 Madison Park.

Yours rubbing two coins together

PS I was reading about the troubled bank Swiss Re at the weekend. It’s not a company based in Switzerland is it?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bos Goes Fishing - III

Grus goes fishing, Bos doesn't.

For days it seemed the clouds had decided they’d had enough of being blown around the sky and instead came and sat around the land draping themselves over hills, spreading themselves across the valleys. The drizzle that coated the windows, fogging any view, reminded me of Scottish summers. Too much of this and I had to go fishing. So I gave Bos a ring.

"Fuck off," he said, "I'm right off fishing. Have you seen the state of my horns? Fucking biologists."
I weathered this litany knowing that his gruff, confrontational tone would ameliorate.
“No, seriously, I can’t,” he repeated a little more calmly. “Give Grus a ring.”
“Who?” I had no idea who he was talking about.
Grus. Grus canadensis. Go on. He likes a bit of fishing.”
I was quiet, trying to place the vaguely familiar name.
“You don’t remember Grus?”
“Tall fellow, would only drink powdered Pina Coladas. Didn't like your wife.”
“Oh, him. Red face.”
“That's the very one.”
“He wants to go fishing?”
“He asked if he could come the next time we went. If you don’t want to go on your own you could give him a ring.”
“Does he know anything about fishing?”
“Does he? He's a bloody Crane. What the hell do you think?”
“Oh, yea, s'pose. Okay, I'll give him a ring.”

We fixed up to go fishing the next day and the following morning I pulled into the muddy parking lot on Boulder road. Grus was already there, standing on one leg as if he had been waiting all his life. Having exchanged pleasantries I asked him whether he had fished the creek before. He answered vaguely, he had some time ago, he said, but not at all recently. His tackle was somewhat eccentric. A fly rod of indeterminate origins to which he attached that most classic of reels, the reel I lusted over as a boy, a Mitchell Match 440A. He began to thread the monofilament line through the rings.
“Urrm, Grus?”
He pretended not to hear, completed the threading and then produced a Balkan Sobranie 759 tobacco tin from which he produced another classic, the Mepps Aglia longue no. 1 in bronze.
I glanced at the sign tacked to a large oak tree. “All Tackle Water,” it proclaimed so I shrugged and carried on putting my gear together.

A few minutes later and we were walking down the path, Grus stalking silently along behind me, and after ten minutes we come to a long slow pool edged by a miniature meadow ablaze with buttercups.
Small jewel beetles sat in the buttercup flower head, easels at the ready, berets set to a rakish angle.
“Morning sir, lovely morning isn’t it,” the closest one said. He cocked his head to one side and held out a single tarsi in my direction as though measuring me up for something. “Care for a caricature?” he added.
“A what?” I replied not sure I have heard him correctly.
“A caricature sir. Or a more formal portrait if you so desire. I can do both.”
“Oh, I see,” and the easel and beret finally fell into place. The beetle reached round behind the flower’s petals and brought into view a number of canvasses. Quickly shuffling through them he showed on one a butterfly, a pair of legs cradling its head, another pair elbows out, hands perched coquettishly on the thorax-abdomen join. The face, proboscis neatly coiled, had an alluring, come-hither look, the wings were bright, if somewhat inaccurately coloured and the abdomen was ever so slightly canted forwards, all gave the look of a professional working girl or at least one that would not have looked out of place in the Folie Bergere. On another canvas a weevil, waistcoated, watch-chained and tweed jacketed, his long nose stuck into a glass of deep red claret, leant inebriatedly against a small table on which a half-full wine bottle partnered a prostrate empty bottle and a corkscrew. These were good pictures and at another time I might have let the beetle’s banter draw me in a little further. But now, now there was fishing to commit and I hurried to catch up with Grus who was standing at the edge of the creek looking out over its clear flowing water.

The stretch I had in mind required that we wade the pool in front of us to get to two long glides a little further downstream. I entered the water and started to wade across avoiding a known depression in the river bed by walking down the centre of the stream then skirting across the back of the pool just where the water begins to gather itself before sluicing down the next riffle. Gaining the bank I looked back at Grus and was astonished to see him floundering. He waded with a strange high stepping gait, wings spread either side to help him balance but with each step he wobbled on his stuttering feet, leant so precariously to the side on a couple of occasions that the butt of the rod dapped and splashed in and out of the water. Finally, the crane reached the bank, struggled out and then ironed himself out with a ruffle of feathers and calming stretch. I looked at him closely, asked him if he was alright and since neither his answer nor his demeanour said otherwise now he was out of the water, I pushed on round an ancient alder not waiting to see if he were following.

We arrived minutes later, Grus seemingly much more at home on soggy rather than flooded ground, and I was just about to explain the run when we heard a rustle behind and a snake walked out from the tangle of grass and teasel running the length of the bank. He was smoking a thin cheroot and flicked a neat grey cone of ash onto the bank-side cobbles before saying,
“Mornin’”. I nodded back, and replied with a friendly, “Good morning,”. He wore a worsted waistcoat, flat cloth cap and red braces which held up a pair of worn brown corduroys. Grus said nothing but looked straight down his dagger-sharp beak at the snake. The snake became very still eyeing the crane as his cigar smoke blued the still air.
“‘e with you?” the snake asked.
“Yes, yes he is. We just going to do a bit of fishing.” The snake looked quizzically at me.
“Wot, both of you?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Well, well,” he said looking somewhat surprised, “don’t see that everyday.” He droped the cigar butt and ground it out methodically under the heel of his hobnailed boot. “Well can’t spend all day chatting like, those onions don’t pick themselves you know.”
“No, I am sure they don’t,” I said, “goodbye.”
He nodded to me but not to Grus who was still watching the snake closely, neck sunk into his shoulders.

“So,” I said after the snake departs, “this is good water all through here. Those nice pockets over there often produce a fish and then the deep slot there and along the far bank there, especially under those overhanging branches, they’re all holding lies.”
Grus nodded.
“There’s a large rock right there,” I pointed it out, “another there, and just there again where the water creases just like that. A fly,” I hesitated momentarily, “or spinner, or whatever, coming across the front of that stone there at the right depth can often conjure a fish up to take a look.”
Grus nodded but again kept his own council.
“Right, well then, I’ll just go down to the next pool and have a poke around,” I continued feeling it would be better to let the bird get on with his fishing. “Give us a shout if you should need anything.”

From his heritage and also from his, albeit somewhat eccentric but undoubtedly excellent kit, I had assumed that Grus would be a consummate fisherman. He wasn’t. When I looked back from the top of the next pool downstream I could see him in action. For every cast he made that successfully landed the spinner within six feet of the supposed target, he put two in the trees and bushes on the far bank; two in the teasel behind and any number that simple splashed at his feet. It wasn’t that he didn’t seem to know how to use the kit, it was just that he had no sense of timing whatsoever. Finally, all the misplaced casts were too much for one resident. Grus made a particularly appalling cast and the spinner stuck in the branches of an overhanging Ash tree ten feet above the river. Grus gripped the line, jerking on it vigorously, first down then up, left then right, adjusting the rhythm and strength of each wrench as he did so in attempt to free the lure. The tree shook as if in a gale and clearly annoyed Sciurus niger, a calm laid back and popular fellow in these woods (even if his activities are often under police scrutiny), who would under most other circumstances have weathered the storm with equanimity. But this was clearly too much and with considerable aplomb he slid down the taut fishing line stretching from the snagged lure to Grus’s rod tip, soundly berated the tall bird before climbing back up to disappear amongst the leaves. It’s a shame I couldn’t hear what he said but the slow drawing of a rigid index finger across his throat was clear enough.

Grus looked completely unperturbed however and having freed the spinner dropped the next cast almost in the right place, engaged the bail arm, turned the handle a couple of times and a fish hit in a great whorling splash. Grus reeled in hard, rod bending and bucking to the struggles of what looked like a marvellous brown trout of some fourteen inches. However, once the crane had brought the fish close he didn’t scoop it out with a wing or make use of the small landing net I could see strapped across the top of his bag, but suddenly lunged at the trout with his bill, missed, flapped and stepped to steady himself and then did it again. And again. Each time the bird attempted to spear the fish the slack his forward movement imparted to the line allowed the fish to dart off again. Grus danced after it wings held out stabbing left and right leaping around the glide following the fish anew after each desperate attempt. Finally with an even wilder lunge than any before, Grus caught the fish in his beak, straightened slowly, surprisingly deftly removed the hook, then quickly tossed his prize into the air caught it again so that the fish was facing head down and swallowed, not without a little gagging at first given the poor animal’s size, and then a bulge in his neck appeared oozing slowly down in a smooth peristaltic wave. When it was gone Grus blinked a few times, hooked the spinner into one of the rod rings and stalked carefully to the bank where he drew one foot up into his belly feathers and closed his eyes contentedly.

I was aghast, and looked round quickly. No one near that I could see and so I hurried upstream to have a word in his shell-like.
Grus,” I said on reaching him, “look, you can’t, look, I mean, well it’s a catch and release river. You can’t keep anything you catch. Or eat it for that matter.”
He opened one eye, burped softly and said, “don’t be silly, who on earth would want to go fishing, catch a delicious tasty fish and then let it go again. Ridiculous. And poor fish. If you don’t want to eat it why bother it in the first place?” And having dismissed my protest from his mind then added softly, “ah, that was delicious, so long since I have had a nice trout,” then with more animation shaking himself and putting both feet on the ground, “that was a most enjoyable trip. Ready to go?”
So we went.

Bos phoned shortly after I got home.
“How did it go?” he asked
“Fuck right off you.” I replied.
“What’s the problem?”
“I thought you said he could fish?”
“No, no I never did say that,” he rumbled down the line at me, “I said he’s a bloody Crane, meaning he ain’t a bleedin’ Heron you twat.” He paused and I could almost hear a smile spreading across his face, “Why what happened?”
“He can’t wade, he can’t cast and the little he caught he ate.”
Bos began to laugh, slowly at first and then with increasing energy. “You didn’t,” he tried to get out between guffaws, “you didn’t take him to a catch and release section did you?”
“Yes actually, the Boulder road section.”
Bos went hysterical.
I rang off.
The bastard.

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Kit includes book containing ‘The Word’, uniform complete with hat, relics and symbols of your new religion.

See sellers other listings for ready to go acolytes and disciples. No refund.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Letters to Donald - IV

Dear Wife of Donald

I am in receipt of yours of the 7th inst. I read it while jerking off a quid.

Many thanks for the wishes and I do wholly agree that the use of “hillbilly” is a worrying development.

Still it was only a matter of time was it not? This insinuation of the vernacular. This pervasive accumulation of ancient English that persists here was always going to worm its way into your other half’s consciousness. And you are to blame too. Ever since you dragged him into the wilds of upstate New York and he gotten sat on a hos at a ranch. What did you expect? Especially when you went to the extreme of a ten gallon hat.

No, I’ve seen this waiting in the wings for quite some time now. His skeeter hunting, his interest in correctional facilities and the colour orange, the way in which he finds things to snuck up on and the fact that he is beginning to appreciate beans as a major food source. I am much afraid that soon, far from eventually agreeing to the cat you so ardently desire, you’ll find, on returning from a day spent caressing the rich and sometimes famous, to find he has gotten himself a coonhound which will be draped over your cream sofa, shedding and slobbering in the heat all the while looking at you with rheumy, dippity-dawg eyes. And even if he hasn’t got himself a horse yet he’ll almost certainly start to wear a neckerchief, plaid shirt and chaps as he rides his blue, two-wheeled bronco to work, draping his saddle with a black and white cow hide cover and changing the mundane tinkle of the bell for a set of speakers wired to his ipod so that at the press of a button he can blare out Rawhide! (… ride ‘em in, let ‘em out, cut ‘em out, ride ‘em in …) every time he meets the slightest check to his galloping progress through the badlands of the financial district.

I mean lets face it. It was only a matter of time what with his upbringing. All those early experiences with Simmnental’s, Braunvieh’s and going auf to the Alpwirtschaft for a summer of … well, we’ll draw a veil over that shall we.

I don’t envy you. The next few months are critical. The only cure is for you to wander round the apartment every weekend clad in those puffy blouses, tight corsets and flowery dresses, hair braided behind while you yodel significantly. It is ok though because to relieve the tension you can always indulge in a bit of traditional Schwingen which should cure him entirely of any desire to go native.

Yours thinking of Maria

PS Could you ask Donald about the Rhine. I am beginning to think it is Swiss.