Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Antique Fly Fishing Equipment -Gut Leaders

Part of the enjoyment in fly fishing is a study of the traditions of the craft. Most of us have read the classics of angling literature and day dreamed about the good old days when North America was an angler’s paradise. I still occasionally gear up a bamboo rod with an antique reel and un-tapered, braided fly line.
There is a sense of peace and serenity that comes from placing an old fashioned fly pattern in front of a rising trout. The grace of the relaxed, slow, stroke required of natural materials when casting is good for the soul in some way.

About the only component of an antique kit that I have never been able to find is an original gut leader. I am not sure that many of us even know any more what a gut leader is.

Gut leaders are actually strands of pure silk. The process used in their manufacture was amazing. Silk comes from a caterpillar called a silk worm. It secretes a fluid from long, bag-like organs in its abdomen called “guts” which it uses to spin its cocoon.

To make a gut leader was a highly skilled and messy business. The silk worm was dropped into a pickling solution just before it began spinning its cocoon. The worm was then torn open by hand and the fluid in its silk making organs was pulled like taffy, into two thick threads. These threads hardened as soon as they were removed from the gut.

The threads were graded according to thickness and some were “drawn” through holes in metal plates to achieve desired diameters. This is exactly how jewelers “draw” fine wire today. Drawing was the best way to produce the necessary uniformity.


Because no single strand was very long, there were by necessity several knots in each leader. We still use the same Blood Knots today when building special purpose leaders by hand from different components.

Silk worm gut is brittle when dry and had to be soaked in water or glycerin before fishing. It also broke down over time.
One can picture the oft repeated heartbreak of trying to get one more trip out of an old, expensive leader only to finally get a strike from the king of the pool.
I am betting even purists like Halford or old George La Branche would have gladly used Maxima.

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Friday, 24 October 2008

A Labrador Guide Story

The remarkable self sufficiency of the guides who take sports fishing in the wilderness of Labrador is legendary. They are a breed of men skilled in everything from fixing pumps and motors to whipping up a gourmet meal with the fish they help their clients catch.

One day as the lunch hour approached, the guide put the kettle on the fire to boil the smoke flavoured tea so beloved by all outdoorsmen. While the soot blackened pot steamed, the guide gathered up the two fresh trout retained for lunch and started to prepare them.

His client offered to filet the fish while the guide peeled some potatoes and onions. They chatted while working and the guide mentioned some health problems he was having that were obviously worrying him, made observations on the weather, life in general and the state of their cooking fire. The potatoes finished he reached for the trout and without comment walked back to the river and proceeded to try and repair the fish preparation job done by the “sport”.

Over the delicious, traditional shore lunch the two men got to know each other. The conversation inevitably turned to what each did for a living when not salmon fishing. The Sport revealed that in the real world he was a surgeon.

The guide continued chewing, paused to remove yet another fishbone before swallowing his food, and remarked on how much better he was feeling now that lunch was here.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Possibility of a McCain/Palin Election Prompting Illegal Immigration to Canada

More from the mailbag. This from Bob down in Texas.

Subject: Illegal Immigration to Canada
From the MANITOBA HERALD, Canada

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.
The possibility of a McCain/Palin election is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota .
The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken.

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking water." They did have a nice little Napa Valley Cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives.
Rumors have been circulating about the McCain administration establishing re-education camps in which liberals will be forced to shoot wolves from airplanes, deny evolution, and act out drills preparing them for the Rapture.

In recent days, liberals have turned to sometimes-ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have taken to posing as senior citizens on bus trips to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs.

After catching a half-dozen young vegans disguised in powdered wigs, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizen passengers on Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney hits to prove they were alive in the '50s.

"If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we get suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies.

"I feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said.
"How many art history and English majors does one country need?"

Monday, 6 October 2008

Arrowheads and Mushrooms

Not far from my cottage, just across the road and down a little, is a field that was a campsite and gathering place for the aboriginal peoples who roamed the woods and waters of pre-colonial Nova Scotia.

It made sense to me that this bluff overlooking Bear Falls would be a major destination.

Open to the river breezes, flies and mosquitoes are not much of a nuisance. Salmon ran in the river from early May until late July or August. There was even a run of big salmon in the dead of winter if the old stories are true. Shad were in the lower river and the silver Kiack, the Mi'kmaq name for Alewives, ran from early spring until the water got too warm.

At Bear Falls, cracks in the bedrock make a natural trap where Kiack, in their thousands, are still dipped today.

As I said, it made sense to me that the first peoples would congregate here in this beautiful land of plenty. They were there I thought for the same reason I was, the fishing.

That was until one afternoon a few weeks ago when a late summer rain drove me indoors to read and shift pots under the wandering leaks in my roof before finally dozing-off in front of the last glowing embers in my fireplace.

The next morning I awakened to the most amazing sight, the ground for as far as I could see was dotted with a multitude of tiny, perfect mushrooms.

I suspect a quick Google Search for “psilocybin” might provide some clues as to what really made this a gathering place.

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Friday, 3 October 2008

On the Passing of a Friend

For all of the times we rail about the base nature of our fellow man, there are also many times when unremarked we witness acts of generosity of spirit, courage, or nobility.
A simple philosophy I have adopted over the years has been tested and re-enforced in the past few weeks. It is to celebrate those good and pleasing things encountered in daily life, no matter how small, with at least the same vigour as I bemoan the bad or merely vexing.

Granted, this is a simplistic credo. It does not explain, justify, or attempt to define which are the good things or for that matter the bad. It merely works to draw one’s attention to simple things, to pleasant things, those things that create balance and the awareness that perception often determines our reality.

Here is an example of what I mean:

It was not unusual for me to simmer with anger and frustration while negotiating downtown traffic yet not pause to give a second thought to, at the end of the journey, finding a parking spot with a dollar still on the meter.

Now, I really try to take a moment and bring this pleasant thing to the forefront of my awareness, to celebrate in a tiny way and be conscious of the choice; to be in a negative mood because of the traffic or a positive mood because of the parking spot.

Trivial, I know and yet the truth is that while bad things can overwhelm us, good things rarely clamour for attention.