In this world which appears to be hurtling toward oblivion, any small success feels disproportionally satisfying to me. Saturday was a day of many small successes including the discovery of long lost treasure.
Working away from home again has meant dropping back into a rigid cycle of mental highs and lows. That alarm going off early on Monday mornings is the obvious low point where the week ahead stretches to the horizon and just getting out of the warm bed takes a Herculean effort on my part. Long miles heading away from Mayo, the inevitable plethora of work issues to be dealt with emptiness of my room at my digs all combine to make Mondays much more challenging than if I was still at home. From there though the countdown to Friday afternoon commences; solace is to be had in the knowledge time will pass and the reverse journey from the heart of Ireland is inching closer. Having spent many years at this game the feelings around leaving and returning hold no fears but they have certainly deepened as I get older. A couple of hours behind the wheel now assume the proportions of a flight half way around the world.
In an effort to at least partially assuage the loneliness of Interim Manager I took some fly tying gear with me to my abode in the midlands. Vice and tools, some fur and feathers sufficient to tie a few patterns packed into an old plastic box with a faded blue top. My work night routine now consists of an hour or so of tying flies sandwiched in between a dinner of variable gastronomic quality and an early night so I’m rested for the early morning start. The set up is far from ideal with the old computer table I’m using being a tad too high for me, leading to tired shoulders after a while, but I happily churn out a few flies most evenings, taking my mind off any negative thoughts and giving me something to look forward to as I plan which patterns to tie. Of course the meager few materials which were stowed in the blue topped box proved to be wholly inadequate and each weekend I grab some more fur and feather to add to it. So this Saturday saw me rummaging through my hoard of gear once more. I never did find that spool of thick black thread I use for ribbing spent mayflys but I literally struck gold instead.
One of the boxes in the press has a faded label on one end with my scrawl stating simply ‘wings’. Sure enough, once opened there were a selection of paired wings of all sorts in carefully sealed poly bags. I have trolled through this box many, many times, fetching hen pheasant or woodcock usually but many and varied are the species within. Oddities I have picked up over the years from limp bodies our cats have brought in or discovered while out fishing or walking were carefully cleaned and preserved, so birds like thrush, blackbird and french partridge are in sealed polythene packets. I was actually just looking for a pair of waterhen wings to make those nice waterhen and black variants I like so much for sea trout fishing when I happened on an unmarked brown paper envelope. That was odd, I have no recollection of that envelope being in this box and no idea of its contents. Peeping inside revealed something I doubted I’d ever see again.
Golden Plovers are utterly gorgeous little waders which are now as rare as they are beautiful. Black undersides meet the golden spangled top along an undulating line. As a young man I would see them quite frequently on the Scottish hills and in the Autumn they would appears as migrants mixed in with the vast flocks of Dunlin and Knot on the local estuaries. The old fly tyers knew the value of their plumage and many northern spider pattern utilised the pretty feathers from the top of the wings as hackles. Well over forty years ago I bought 5 pairs of wings as part of a large order of materials from Veniard (then at their Thornton Heath address) but over the decades I had used them all, or so I thought. Golden plovers are rightly protected these days as they cling on in ever decreasing numbers, so replacements are simply not available any more. To find a pair of wings like this really felt like I had unearthed treasure. Out of the envelope the colours of those feathers could be admired, that cloudy gold mottling is simply stunning. Despite their age, the wings are in excellent condition and will be put to use this very week when I tie my favourite spiders. I’m already salivating like one of Pavlov’s pups at the thought of making more Plover and Hare’s Lug!
That afternoon saw the good and the great of the Glenisland Coop gather in a downpour to take all ten boats off the lough and tuck them up for the coming winter. Despite the weather there was a great turn out and I rowed the boats over to the new ramp from where the strong young fellas lifted them out and turned them over. There was a moment of pure Monty Python’s when 4 of the lads set about moving the port-a-loo so it would not get washed away in the flood, with orders being barked at them as they tried in vain to find a sheltered spot for it. This morning it was the turn of my own boat and she was retrieved from a rapidly rising lough Conn, her work for another year done. Almost full to the gunnels, bailing and rowing over to the slipway took some time but the old gal is safely ashore now for another winter, another small positive for me.
Dressing for the Plover and Hare’s Lug
If you are fortunate to own or come across some Golden Plover feathers here is my take on the spider;
Hook: sizes 12 to 18 but a 14 is by far the best in my opinion
Tying silk: olive or yellow Pearsall’s, well waxed
Rib: fine oval gold tinsel
Body: fur from a hare’s ear dubbed on to the tying silk. Sometimes I add a couple of turns of flat gold tinsel as a tag
Hackle: from the knuckle of the wing on a golden plover, not too many turns