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A tale (tail) of a non-Troot 2

One of my favorite British expressions is “Arsey-versey”, or as it is paraphrased in the U.S., “Bass-ackwards”.   The States are a direct outgrowth of the former Empire, on which the sun never set on, and the two countries still have very close ties and some similarities in culture……..Some similarities, but not extending very much into the serious business of fishing.  Not commercial fishing so much, but even there are real differences.   We are, in the fishing universe, Arsey-Versey from one another in many ways, as follows.

Observed commercial differences – lobster fishing.

How different could it be?   You have a cage style trap, attached to the required fathoms of rope and surface buoy.  You put bait in the trap, throw it overboard and come back the next day or two and pick out your lobsters, crabs, conger eels, wolf fish and occasionally a monk fish before he has completely destroyed your trap.  The methods here and there are very similar, but the essential gear, the trap, not so much

<maine lob trap Hi-tech typical Maine lobster trap, wire mesh held together with Hog Rings…even the venerable entrance netting is being replaced with poly-plastic mesh.

uk lobster trapU.K. typical lobster pot…half round shape, the same as I started out with almost 40 years ago as a recreational lobsterman in Wells, Maine, but held together almost entirely of cordage and shredded tires holding the bottom onto the half-round structure.

Which one “fishes” better?  Neither, just different approaches to the same end.

Recreational fishing is where the Arse-verse becomes warped.

America.    (most parts) – never fish for ‘trash fish”, like carp, buffalo and most bottom feeders.  Revere and hold almost mystical the art of catching trout and salmon.  If trout are caught, in most instances one MUST release into the waters from which it was caught.  If carp are caught, they most often end up composted and put on a garden….or not.

U.K.   Fish fanatically, and often at great expense for the Great Olive Sport Fish, Cyprinidae!  Carp.  Never, under any circumstances keep the noble beast, but handle tenderly and release immediately back into the water as unscathed as possible.   If trout are accidentally caught, immediately immobilize it with a priest and never ever return to the water.

I noted in an earlier post that I struck out on trout this trip, hooked several and then loosing them for various reasons (all absolutely beyond my control!).   My host here in the U.K. and now friend, Chris privileged me with taking me along on a Coarse fishing trip.  No vulgarity, just an opportunity to catch the mighty fish of Europe, one or another of the Carp.  Having no good fortune with Troot, I more than willingly went along.

FISHING FOR CARP

U.S.   Grab almost any old pole, a hook or two, maybe a sinker and either some bread dough-balls, which are in extreme hard-core carping, sweetened with Karo corn syrup.  Cut a forked stick and jam into the mud – and there will be mud since you will be fishing in the direst swamps of lake or riverine waters.  Bait the hook and heave out gently, lest the doughball fly off the hook at touch-down.  Find the least damp spot and go to sleep.

U.K.   Find a good sized SUV with plenty of cargo room.  Drive any reasonable distance to the specimen lakes and begin the Getting Ready Game of purchasing a permit, driving to the chosen park-like setting and  begin ferrying gear to your chose spot. (None of this driving right up to the spot). It’s easy to choose a spot since they have been dug out in perfect squares, lined with clean wood chips, surrounded by railroad ties, solidly embedded and anchored into the soil.  Adjacent will be graceful willows and blooming hyacinth, whilst the whole time numerous species of ducks, geese and song birds parade before you.

Set up your gear.   Continue setting up your gear.  Set up your gear some more, and in our case yesterday, set up gear pretty much continually for the Yank who continues to loose it or cannot even see well enough tie it together in the first place.  Use made-for the purpose horizontal fishing rod holders, equipped audible alarm fish bite indicators and little visible buoys lightly attached so that if you can’t figure out which alarm is sounding, you can see the little buoy rising into the air as the mighty carp streaks away with your bait.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Oh, and don’t forget the really nice and very comfortable folding chair with telescoping legs.

Chris, acting as my personal Ghillie, got very little fishing in, as he was pretty much constantly coming back and forth from his spot to mine, as I hooked fish and they broke off and I needed to be re-geared up.  Finally, a short, but very muscular 10.5 lb “mirror” carp made it to the net…and then, of course, gently returned to the water.

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All jest aside, it was a terrific afternoon out- an early, short shower, then warm sunshine which let me drift off to sleep….till someone set off an alarm clock!  Oh, it was the buzzer on the “get up and reel in the hooked fish” alarm.  I managed to land another 7 or so pound specimen and then it was time to disassemble all the assembled gear, rods, nets, fish-on alarms, infrared motion detectors, clay-mores and the like and head home.

I can’t remember a more relaxing and fun fishing trip and want to thank Chris Peatroy of Lois Barn Courtyard Farms (I never get that right), for not only being an excellent host, friend but ultimate Ghillie.  I’ve seen big game outfitters in Namibia that were not so well supplied and certainly not as pleasant!    You can find the Peatroys and their truly excellent rental, self-catering unit here:  https://www.loisbarns.co.uk/booking.html.

As a postscript – the below, protected photo of a fellow carp enthusiast and his Ghillie can be found for purchase on my on-line art gallery at:  https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/1-max-bowermeister.html

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Of Faires, Fete’s and Festivals

sherborurne fair

Americans  are fond of, and even nutso about festivals – almost every town has a festival annually to celebrate the harvest of watermelons or strawberries or whatever the area is noted for growing.   It’s a big gas for a day or two and then all the plywood watermelons with holes cut where the seeds would be for melon-slimed kid’s faces to peer through are packed away until the day next year.   The sleepy little town goes back to normal until, perhaps, the Autumn festival or the Thanksgiving day parade.

We Yanks don’t hold a candle to the Brits.   A small village here may have a dozen festivals in a year, sponsored by the village itself, churches, Irish-jumping Dancer’s Societies or just about any excuse.  Fetes’ are chance to enjoy “all sorts” as our English friends are wont to say.  We, American’s, also don’t have any generic holidays as an excuse for a festival – the Brits have the classic “Bank Holiday” multiple times a year – perfect for a fete’.  (Though America is gaining ground with such enriching examples as National Doughnut Day and Talk like a Pirate Day – no festivals yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

Sherbourne, home of the Castles by the same name, once owned and developed by Sir Walter Raleigh, is a very classically “pretty village”.  With a year round population, including the outlying rural areas of under 10,000 and many building dating back to 600 to 1600 A.D. (and with these buildings still inhabited and in use), it’s a great place to visit.

sherbourne villagesherbourne castle

The annual Festival attracts every thing that our county fairs do back home, but with some differences.  #1 would have to be orderly crowds.  I’d estimate that the population of Sherbourne almost doubled for the day – it wasn’t the noticeable lack of fighting after someone has made multiple visits to the gin tasting tent, but the good nature and civility of every single person we encountered.

Also, in the States we don’t typically have:

Dragon Boat RacesP5270156 (2).JPG

Our own pet dogs at the fair, but here there were so many as parts of various dog show and a very great many that were just out for the day

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP5270158 (2).JPGOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                    (above)     A judged pack of beagles     (below)  Just a bunch of random dogs                                                                                           P5270160.JPG

P5260130.JPGA hunting pack of judged bloodhounds

Ancient livestock breeds that go back to the Stone ageP5270164.JPG

Irish Jumping (folk) Dancers  and Drum, fife and bagpipes (ye canna nae hae a faire           wi’ out bagpipes, laddie”P5260144.JPG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                                                                        The Blackrock School of Irish (jumping) Dancers                                                                                                                       The Wessex Highlanders                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 and Downton’s Carson the butler as a Shire horse judge……………                                            .”would that be the best horse you have on show, m’lord?”P5260101.JPGNot really the actor Jim Carter in guise as Carson, but a strong resemblance in profile to this livestock judge who was sartorially excellent!

No country fair would dare present itself with the roots of the whole idea; (barring the rites of fertility, of course!), live stock on show.

Horses:P5260089.JPGNote the well dressed judge with his very nice bowler and staff

P5260093.JPGMom with a really nice foal

 

P5260097.JPGBeribboned horses and tweed for the handlers were the order of the day

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And cattle

P5260087 (1).JPGJust a wee lad..er, maybe not!

highland20cowHair color by Trump

 

Sheep

Swaledale ram                                    A Swaledale ram…for the uninitiated, this is a male sheep, not a goat

and goats,  P5260092.JPG  Face on, this goat looked rather like Donald Trump with a hard gel in his hair…no offense intended, just an observation.

And for their obvious love of all animals, domestic and wild, the folks from the U.K. are very pragmatic about their animal companions – two shots from the same sheep promoting stall………

P5260108.JPG andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the U.K., PETA might be an acronym for People Eating Tasty Animals (?)

The festival had activityies for every one- archery:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Young Sir Louis Hobden of Pewsey taking aim

And to round the day out, there was Sporting clays-(Yikes, using real over and under shot guns – but don’t fret folks, they were reworked with batteries and lasers and there was “absolutely no danger of a random shooting!” (so said the lady as she waved a very nice looking shotgun directly in my face – clearly having never handled a real firearm.)

There were racing ferrets (missed this!), Morris dancers, who as it turns out did not originate with the Druids banging their, uh, well “sticks” together, but instead started up during the 15th century and were the original organized Black Face performers as in the Moorish tradition and today, after a period of little interest, are now back in vogue throughout the U.K., Europe and former possessions, sans the blackened face, of course….P5270161.JPGThe Wessex Morris Men

I haven’t been to a county fair in many years back in the States, but would go all the time if they were conducted like this one..I’m shooting for the Buckham Fair next time over.

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A Wale(s) of a time was had by all

Unless you were intentionally driving from west England into Wales and knew that the River Severn was the border, (there’s no missing the bridge on the M-4), you wouldn’t notice any difference in the landscape.   And while on the subject of the bridge, “Good on whoever scrapped the tolls on using it!”

.River Severn Bridge

But even if you didn’t know you were leaving one country and entering another, if that can be said of any part of the United Kingdom, you won’t miss the signs-wales sign

– AND –

P5240104 (1).JPG                                                    So of course, we knew exactly where we were

One of great points of the day, was our visit to Raglan (Rhaglan in Welsh) Castle located just a few miles off the M-4.

P5240079.JPG  Warning: brief history lesson ensues:

Raglan Castle is one of the last true castles to be built in Wales. Its construction began in the 1430s by Sir William ap Thomas, the Blue Knight of Gwent who fought at the Battle of Agincourt with King Henry V in 1415.  Sir William’s family line, after his son William took the surname Herbert, flows through the ages following to include George Herbert, currently the 8th Earl of Carnavon.  So what?   He’s also the gentleman who is the current “tenant owner”  and inhabitant of modest little place called Highclere Castle – or more familiarly, “Downton Abbey”   Apparently, apples don’t fall far at all from the English trees.   But that’s not the only Herbert of note.   A later Lord Raglan, a Herbert, was also CIC of the disastrous British Army’s Charge of the Light Brigade….ultimately being beheaded for the little miscommunication…”Hof a league, hof a league, hof a league onward…..”(British accent with apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson).

The ruins, as extensive as they are, do not convey just how large this castle was…or how luxuriousraglan02.jpgraglan04.jpg

If ever you happen to be just driving into Wales, , the Castle is within 15 minutes from the River Severn and cost less than £15 for two for entry.

 

Other misc. photos from the day –

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P5240085.JPGYou can lock me up, but don’t throw my phone in the briar patch, B’rer Fox

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Visit this place and Wale away on your own!

 

 

 

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On British Domesticity…

Travelers who have been anywhere outside the U.S. and certain Caribbean islands know that they will likely need to bring power adapters to use devices made in the States – fortunately for the untutored, our plugs just won’t fit in the wall power receptacles. Particularly since in many places, the wall power is 220 or 240 volts, instead 120v as in the U.S.  If you could plug your hair blow dryer in, it would get really hot, really fast and then die in a literal blaze of glory!

What  brought all of this to mind was the shape of both the receptacles here in the U.K. and the adapters we use – they remind me of a little, cartoon face from my youth…

P5250080.JPG  The business end of a power adapter

On other electrical matters about our self-catering house, the 200 y.o. pig barn, learning on your own to operate the various appliances allows you a bit of fun – and one most certainly does not ask for help from the landlords- that would ruin all the cool moments of, “how could I have been so dumb!”

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When we first came to this rental home a year ago our first thought was that we would be washing dishes by hand.  Fair enough, that’s what foam plates are for.  But, voila, (which is French for……”and then we found out”), this was the built-in dishwasher.   Being quick to load the thing, I failed to notice where the controls were.  In our colonial home, back in Nawth Carolina, y’all, we have a dial and switches on the face of the washer.   The Bride was the one who opened the dishwasher and found the controls on the top edge of the door…..

P5250084.JPG  A simple thing and no doubt a great many people at home are pleased to be able to say, “well I knew that!”, but I didn’t, colonial yokel that I am.

We take electrical receptacles for granted, world wide- need something done, just plug it in and go to work.  Aside from the Kilroy Was Here shaped power receptacles in Britain, they all come with their on/off switches.  Which again, if you don’t read the introductory booklet provided with your lodging, you get to discover on your own.  And never, ever, ask!P5250082.JPG

Which leads me, finally, to the touchstone of this piece – “Hoovering”.

Hoovering is synonymous with vacuuming.   It’s not a proper noun, it’s a verb, here in the U.K.  One does not use a Hoover vaccuum, one “hoovers” the stairs.P5250078.JPG

The one pictured above, a Numatic International, is just as pleasing to use as it appears.  A simple rocker on/off switch, regular sturdy casters (no giant, filter containing roller balls like vacuum at home) and voila, (there’s that word again), a winch to rewind the power cord when you’re done.  Think of the non-mechanicality of a fly reel.  No springs to wear out when the cord is only 40% wound back in.  Turn the crank and up she rises, to paraphase the old deck-hand’s anchor retrieval song.

It is the big things to see and do that makes us travel, particularly to return to the same part of our world again, but watch for and enjoy the more mundane as well!

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Well done Wincaton- Butchers, Bakers and real life Cobblers

Wincanton, Somerset in the southwest of England, is a typical English market village.  Wool was once important here, but like many areas, wool has been passed up for the ever-lovely polyester and derivatives.

We spent a little time this morning walking up the gentle slopes in and around the village and found it really relaxing to overlook and visit some of the small shops on the High Street.  And what would be not to like- small streets lined with shops run by the owners, rather than some giant conglomerate piping in mangers concerned only with the bottom line, at any cost.

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Wincanton’s main drag at noon on a Friday
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Wincanton Village from the hilltop on the North East

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  The Cobblers

One highlight was a visit to a shop that was recommended by our hosts/friends/landlords, the Peatroys of Lois Barn Farms.   They have thoughtfully provided a guide to the area with all the usual needed info – where the pharmacy is, where the pubs are and also, where the best butcher shop in the area is…and that’s exactly what we found at “Andrew Barclay- Traditional Family Butchers”.    The shop is presided over by – Andrew Barclay, owner.  Stepping through the door was like a trip back in time in some respects.  Sparkling clean counters and display cases, literally stuffed with almost every conceivable cut and type of meat – and with game meats available as well.

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There were two very noticeable changes from the butchers shops of my youth…well actually several differences.  There was no “meat” odor, the giant mounds of ground meat of indeterminate origin were missing, and the suspicion that the meat on, display was the shuffled around meat that had been on display the end of the week before.

Barclay’s was none of that and obviously to even the most uneducated shoppers, this shop is a cut above – literally and figuratively.

Take, as an example, the garb of the butchers on duty – clean, even pressed and dare I say it, stylish.  Missing were the soda shop jerk paper hats worn where I grew up in Ohio, replaced with clean fedoras – touch of class!P5230091.JPG

The only unfortunate thing about my visit was that I was on my way out of town instead of back to the rental, otherwise I would have stocked up the spot.   But, like MacArthur, I shall return.

Some other random photos taken today in Wincanton, Wells and Cheddar (of cheese fame):

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Don’t forget your canes to get in….

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And so, to sum up, it was a great day and a very pheasant time was had by all…<g>

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“….Is it Troot or Salmon ye’re after?

In Ford’s 1952 classic, “The Quiet Man”, John Wayne, portraying Sean Thornton, goes back to his ancestral roots in Innisfree on  the Mayo-Galway border in western Ireland.   At the outset of the film, JW disembarks the train he arrived on in Castletown, not knowing that is Innisfree is five or more miles “…down the road…”.   The local, who is looking him over, sees that he has neither camera aroond his neck (which would mark him as tourist) and what’s worse, no fishing rod!   Getting past all the cordial speech, the local asks the title question of Wayne, “So tell me Yank, is it Troot or Salmon ye’re after?”

On this jaunt to the U.K., friend Bart, his wife Carol and Sister Sarah (still with no mules) and I returned to the excellent Rockbourne Trout Fishery, http://www.rockbournetroutfishery.co.uk/ , in Hampshire to wave our fly rods to and fro (mostly without the poetry described by an accomplished flyfisher’s casts) in search of Troot.  And for uninformed, Rockbourne’s operation is NOT one of those places where they feed the fish by broadcasting shrimp pellets on the water, resulting in a boiling mass of fish that you could catch with a bare hook.  You must fish.

Bart fish 1.jpg                                                                       One of Bart’s fish, a 3 +lb Rainbow

I modestly consider myself a fairly accomplished fisherman.  I’ve caught virtually every species, multiple times, indigenous to North America, marine and freshwater alike.           I’ve used Pepperidge Farm Gold Fish Crackers to catch baby tarpon in St. Kitts, on a Zebco 202 reel and a 5′ rod.  I’ve caught and eaten fire barbecued piranha from the Rio San Juan between  Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and taken arm sized trout from streams a foot wide in the Ecuadorian Andes.  I’ve flyfished for Browns and Brookies and Atlantic Salmon in Maine, bone fish in the Keys and Belize and too many more fish and places to mention.  I’ve spent some time on the waters, and more often than not, successful not only in the enjoyment of the day, but caught a few fish.

This day at Rockbourne was not one of those days.   I had a lot “follows”, a couple of missed strikes and hooked and lost no fewer than 5 fish.  My only consolation, slight tho it might me was that I was using flies tied in…..wait for it………China.  On these two fish, one of which, and no fish tale, was easily 7-8 lbs, the hook in the fly broke …completely off, leaving me with the fly still on the shank, but no hook.  I’ve saved the flies for practice casting with The Bride (who didn’t go fishing this day, opting for a lie-in, as our Brit friends call sleeping late.  Bottom line – I’ve about 25 Chinese flies for sale…really cheap!

Sister Sarah, with the very kind assistance from Simeon, the fisheriers manager at Rockbourne, not only caught her first trout, a very nice 3.5lb Rainbow, on a fly, but her first fish ever by any means.

It was Bart’s day, no doubt about it.  We had each purchased, for GBP 40, a two fish ticket.  20 minutes after we started, Bart landed a 5 lb rainbow. on a black nymph with a flash of red in the very small tail.Bart fish 2.jpg  Bart’s first Rainbow Trout on a fly…5.5lb rainbow

His next catch, about 35 minutes later, was another really nice Rainbow in the same weight class

Bart fish 3.jpg

In all, Bart caught both his two fish ticket, -AND- both of mine.  It was a little embarrassing, I’ll admit.  Bart’s never really fly fished before and much less for trout, but my embarrassment was more than made up for by my pleasure that both he and Sarah did so well.

We traded our smallest fish, Sarah’s, for two packs of hot and cold smoked trout- which Rockbourne will routinely do as they smoke the trout right there.  We gave a five-pounder to our hosts at Lois Barn Farm, where we rent the 200 y.o. pig sty (which is now anything but!).  Then teaching Sister Sarah the whole fishing experience, butterflied one and broiled it with lemon, butter, garlic, salt and pepper.  We also steaked one of the 5 lb fish and Bart turned the steaks in egg, rolled in Panko bread crumbs and quick sauteed on both sides til just crunchy – a very elegant Mrs. Paul’s!  If you know Sarah, be sure to compliment her on learning to scale, gut, behead and remove the fins from a heavy, slippery fish!

I’m not worried about not landing any fish – as the saying goes, “some days the bear gets you, and some days, you get the trout”…or something like that.  We’re off to Wales  tomorrow..who knows, maybe that’ll be my day.   My now fondest dream might even be realized if a Gaelic sort wanders up and asks, “Well tell me, Yank, is it Troot or Salmon ye’re after?”

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A shift in the (art) wind….

I’ve been, since the beginning of my interest in whacking paint about on canvas, been primarily painting fish or landscapes.  I find the feel of both to have a lot in common – background to foreground transitions, textures and densities.

Lately though, I’ve begun to shift subject matter more frequently and am painting smaller subjects or at least a small part of a whole.  That’s likely what all painters do and come to recognize, at least if they’re not still life painters- the orange lying next to a knitting needle impaled ball of yarn.  So far, I’ve only done one of those, at the request of my Mom, a few red and yellow roses in a square glass jar.   Below is an example of what I’m writing about.  Two tree trunks, Leyland Cypress in  a mass of a couple dozen, in my back yard.  I was struck by the sky and fields beyond just peeking through breaks in the foliage  and the intertwining of the branches and their shadows.   This piece, measuring 20″X 16″, turned out to be a study for a 44″X 40″ work presently in progress.   Viva la revolucion.

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