January 2008

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A while back I was musing about the great fly tying problem of `waste stuff’. Every time I tie a deer hair emerger a great plume of trimmed deer hair finds its way down onto my bedroom floor. This is not exactly a universe-ending disaster. However, with my new-fangled portable fly tying system, I know I’m going to be doing a lot more tying on the road. That means my tying bench will be B&Bs, campsites and my car steering wheel. With all that waste, I could end up causing a kind of world war with the neighbors, and that’s definitely not cricket. What was needed was a catcher. A Catcher in the Hookeye, in fact.

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Take one coat hanger, one old teeshirt, a little inventiveness and a friend with a sewing machine. Boil together in a large pan with garam masala, tomatoes and a Saturday afternoon. Add a chunk of metal, sprinkle with a little Disney magic and out pops this wee gem.

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The Catcher in the Hookeye is my version of the waste material bin. It fits snuggly onto most vice shafts with that wee chunk of metal I mentioned, which I found lying around my lab at work. I’m not sure what it’s called, but I call it `the wee chunk of metal’. The frame is made of a bent coat hanger. Of course, coat hangers are normally bent when you buy them, so the idea of bending one is almost ironic. Bending the bent. It’s like asking a duck to quack with a Swedish accent. It’s a bent idea that.

The catching bit is the back of one of my oldest teeshirts. My mother tried for about five years to get me to chuck it, but my line was always “Ma, there will be some use for it eventually, I’m just not sure what it is yet.” Well Ma, here it is. The catcher of the Catcher in the Hookeye.

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I like the fact that all my waste gets trapped now. I’ve always found that waste fly tying material is a bit like a dream: if you don’t grab it whilst it’s fresh, it’s lost forever. And that, my friends, is a little sad. Now there’s a right and proper place for waste, and it’s in the Catcher. Every now and then I’ll delve into the bowls of this humble servant, and it’s amazing the bits and bobs of old material that can be used for other flies. As I am an ethnic mix of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scotland, I’m about as tight as they come. So don’t blame me, it’s genetic.

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The Catcher falls nicely in line with my increasingly obsessive policy of home-made fly tying paraphernalia. It functions perfectly well, and cost -£2.50 (that’s the money I saved by not wasting time and petrol on taking my old teeshirt and coat hanger to the recycling joint). I tried for about three months to find something similarly decent in the fishing tackle shops, and the cheapest thing I found was almost a tenner. Ridiculous. Get yourselves a flaming coat hanger and a good old fashioned chunk of metal. Take half an hour on a Saturday afternoon (other days are less reliable) and churn one out for yourself. Then get down to the local newsagent and spend your saved cash on 250 penny sweets. Glorious.

Well folks, as if writing insightful, humorous and curry-pumping blog posts wasn’t enough, there’s now a new and exciting Gallery page to behold. I’m hoping to greatly expand this section of the site in the coming months (with the tiniest possibility of offering some of them for sale as prints..) so watch oot.

At the moment there are six sections covering a wee selection of my photographs. Most of the photos won’t have appeared on the main blog either, so why not head over and check it out.

I’ve also updated the About page so you can learn all you need to know about your hard-working blogger. Have a great weekend.

The Pool

There’s a pool I know. Get into the river by the bridge, and go past the grey tree. The water deepens and is slightly brown and opaque. Look for the shopping trolly in the mud by the broken wall, and the orange traffic cone twenty yards further on. Take a look around you. The fresh green leaves, the twinkling new spring sunshine. Feel the early breeze pinch at your face.

Now you’re close.

Find the bush which wears the supermarket bags as leaves. Bright red and blue, a flash of the rainforest in the central belt.

Now you’re very close.

The water is clearer here. It gurgles and slides around two jagged rocks, then slows and dives a little deeper. Glance upstream. A little blue thunderbolt streaks across your line of sight. A deepening furrow in your brow. Kingfishers, here?

A bus thunders along the road, beyond the trees that hide your river. A thousand engines churn in neutral. Two million people take a breath, exhale, and continue their work. You feel like a sneaky twelve year old truant going into town, peering past the school gate whilst everyone else learns to conjugate verbs. The furrow is a smile now. You know a secret, and it’s very, very close.

The pool. It’s the best one anywhere on this river. It’s like ten pools really, full of streamy seams and pockets and little bathtub hollows. It’s the kind of place that might take two seasons to explore. A true hidden gemstone, in between crumbling walls and flowing through an unknowing city. There are trout here. Wild brown trout with red spots that eat dark olives, kebabs and grey dusters. You gratefully oblige and tie on a size 16. A favourite fly, perfect for searching the foamy runs. If things get desperate there’s a good chippy a hundred yards along the road. The urban river is an amazing place.

Happy new year.