December 2008

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Time in Tamanawis land doesn’t run like it does on the rest of the planet. For example, while my posts may appear to have been sparse in recent months, in fact that’s simply a consequence of unsynchronised clocks. This means that the new blog layout I’ve been working on for the upcoming year has arrived a day early.

If you’re a Google Reader junkie, this obviously makes nae difference to your life. However, for the more refined folks who like to take in the magnificence that is the frontpage, I’ve changed the look a bit with a new theme. I’ve got rid of most side bar related junk, and tried to streamline things a bit. If you’re on a post page, such as here, you’ll get nice wee links at the top of the page to direct you to the previous and next posts. It’s also quicker to see the number of comments on posts, and the dates etc. I find it easier to look at, if not read.

Up at the top of every page there is now a nice navigation bar to help you get around the site quickly, to places like the gear reviews and favourite books pages. Joyous.

So, happy new (Tamanawis) year. Back on earth, happy new year on Thursday.

Good single malt whisky is a truly wonderful thing to behold. I’ve mentioned a few nice whiskies in posts gone by, and now I reckon it’s time to start talking about more of the really nice ones I’ve tried.

I am absolutely not an expert on whisky, by any stretch of the imagination. However, I do love the stuff, so as and when I come across a belter, I’ll put mention of it up here.

tobemory_15

I’m going to start off with a whisky I don’t own, but which I have tried a number of times recently, thanks to the generosity of other folks’ cabinets. It’s a new, special edition Tobermory 15 year old. Have a look here on Loch Fyne Whiskies page. The presentation is pretty amazing, including a nicely finished wooden box with a cutout of the isle of Mull on the front. This is, of course, inconsequential to the incredible experience of drinking the stuff.

Following distillation at the Tobermory distillery on the isle of Mull, the whisky has been matured for 14 years in oak casks on the mainland. It has then been transfered back to the island for maturation in sherry casks for the final year.

The simplest description I can come up with is that it’s like drinking toffee apples sprinkled with dark chocolate, lightly smoked with simmering peat. The finish is long and warming, the toffee melting into soft chocolate and spice. I could still taste it after more than half an hour, and the glorious smell lingered in the glass for much longer. It’s pretty sensational actually, like nothing I’ve tried before. I’d hope so too, at fifty quid a pop. Definitely one for the back of the whisky cabinet, reserved for quiet personal contemplation, or perhaps sharing with the closest of friends.

Whenever I finally get around to tying up some flies, I like to do it mass-production style. In the case of DHEs, this means tying up loads of hooks with wings and trailing thread for ribbing. I find that this way it’s easier to get the wings consistently good, by which I mean positioned correctly, and standing erect. It also lets me apply a little dob of varnish on the thread wraps around the wing. It takes a few minutes for the varnish to harden properly, but makes an already bullet-proof fly into something bordering on nuclear-armageddon-proof. When working on half a dozen or so at a time, by the time the last hook has been winged, the first one is ready for its body and thorax.

dhes

As a tying note with these flies, I find it essential to wack a whole load of thread wraps on the eye side of the wing, as a way to prop it up properly. I like to have the profile of the fly perfected before adding a body or thorax. These days I also tend to make a few turns of thread around the base of the wing, a bit like when posting a wing for a parachute fly. Again, it’s just a wee thing I’ve found to help with consistency in tying, and ultimately in presentation.

dhes2

My final step before putting on the body or thorax is to check that the wing is reasonably centred. I find it’s quite common for the wing to be slightly biased towards the blind side (as seen from my tying position), so a wee bit of pruning is sometimes required to even things out. I find this to be important in terms of the final presentation on the water. An uneven wing often results in the fly sitting on its side on the water, rather than with the hook point and body under water.

Other flies I’m tying are terrestrial bugs, made from foam sheets and rubber legs. These are fun to tie, and pretty easy as well. The crucial thing I’ve discovered is to always add a wee bit of poly-yarn as a wing, to help with sighting. Without such a visual target, it’s very difficult to spot the fly on the water, as it sits very low. Indeed, one might say a level of ultra-stealth camo has been achieved, which fools both angler and fish. I tend to use white yarn, but I’ve seen other folks using yellow or pink. The wing is usually cut short and thus hidden when seen from underwater, so I don’t suppose it makes any difference to the fish.

Between the vertical walls of the gully I looked out as though between blinkers. Yet that very restriction had merit. It gave to the hills, arrayed in keen edges against a pale green sky, and flaring a more fiery pink with each passing moment, a framed and focussed power to strike for all time to the mind. The broader and more splendid panorama, prevailing all daylong, confuses the eye with too great a mass of detail – suffers from a diffused interest that too readily fades with time and is forgotten. Moreover, that panorama is not lost through a gully-climb. It comes at the top, a sudden revelation; thus more memorable.

For a few minutes the mountains burned, white and red upon a field of green and gold. In low country one may see so rich and full a glow of colour in the cavernous nave of Chartres Cathedral, when the forenoon sun floods the stained glass and the vast brown flags are flecked by shafts of ruby and blue. But Chartres is not matched elsewhere. To seek such depth of colour, and to find it in yet more noble forms, one must go to mountains.

Autumn colours

There have been some wonderful, and some extremely dreary days in the last couple of months. Whatever the weather, it’s a great time of year to photograph. The sun is low in the sky all day, and when it shines it’s beautiful.

I’ve been out a lot recently with my yee oldee camera, a Yashicamat. It’s metal, simple and brilliant. This post’s gallery was all photographed with old fashioned slide film, and I have to say the colours and tones are a lot nicer than I’ve ever got with my digital SLR. Modern life is rubbish. Except for nice film scanners.