Last Cast

Giles Catch­pole can't find a pri­est

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents -

IWAS WALK­ING DOWN THE STREET the other day when I saw a skip out­side a house that was be­ing ren­o­vated. In the skip was the usual as­sort­ment of builders’ de­tri­tus: bro­ken bricks, some plas­ter­board, sev­eral empty ce­ment bags, sundry odds and ends of skirt­ing and cov­ing, quite a lot of very elderly ca­bling and a length of lead pipe. paused for a mo­ment and looked. When I lived in south Lon­don many, many moons ago there were al­most as many skips in our street as there were Golf Gti-s and that is say­ing some­thing. Al­most ev­ery sin­gle Vic­to­rian cast-iron fire­place moved house in those days. Out of one ter­race, into a skip, that night out of the skip and into the back of a GTI, round the cor­ner and back into an­other house in the next street. We used to call it skip div­ing but now it’s called ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage and is a bil­lion-pound in­dus­try. How times change, eh? The point, how­ever, is this – my sis­ter, the one mar­ried to the an­gler with the de­cent bit of wa­ter, has taken to pickingup with her spaniel on a lo­cal shoot. How­ever, she has some­thing of a prob­lem with birds. She can man­age the dead ones but she’s not so com­fort­able with the not-so-dead ones. And the spaniel brings her plenty of those. That be­ing the point, rather, of hav­ing pick­ers-up about the place with spaniels. So I gave her a pri­est for the proper and ef­fec­tive despatch of the not quite mor­tally wounded par­tridges and so forth. I picked it up at a lo­cal game fair for a few pounds. It was a sim­ple thing, stain­less steel, de­cent heft, just the job. And it worked per­fectly well un­til she ad­dressed, quite vig­or­ously, a lively pheas­ant with it and man­aged to break it. So I set out to find her an­other. I went to the lo­cal an­gling em­po­rium, a place full of Shi­mano spin­ning reels and cam­ou­flage pop-up tents and aisle after aisle of the most ex­otic baits you could ever imag­ine. It’s a Willy Wonka shop for carp spe­cial­ists, you see, and when I en­quired about a pri­est they looked con­fused. When I ex­plained that it was for killing fish they looked at me as if I was from an­other planet. And a hos­tile planet, at that. Which I sort of am, when you think about it. Al­though even in our world now, we don’t kill fish, do we? I ex­pect priests on sal­mon rivers to­day are looked at in the same light as a spring-loaded gaff. Any­way I made it out in one piece, though it was a close-run thing, I reckon, and went round to the gun­shop in­stead. “We did have one,” they said. “It was a staghorn ver­sion. Hung about for ages. £49.99 it was. We could or­der one for you, if you want?” At 50 quid, I was less than en­thused. I mean, I’m fond of her cer­tainly, but 50 smack­ers fond? For a pri­est? I don’t think so. So I went round to the other gun­shop in the town – the good thing about liv­ing in the coun­try is that we still have proper shops, you see – and asked them if they could help me out. “Typ­i­cal,” says the gun­smith, “a year ago or so, a bloke came in here with a bunch of whack­ers that he’d made on his lathe and asked me if I would like to sell them. They just sat here gath­er­ing dust for months and months and I never sold a sin­gle one. I couldn’t give ’em away. So he came and took them back. Now you’re the sec­ond per­son this week look­ing for one. Just typ­i­cal.” But he hadn’t seen the bloke since and had no means of con­tact­ing him. I ac­tu­ally have a pri­est in my fish­ing bag. It isn’t a posh staghorn ver­sion, ei­ther, and nor is it a mod­est thing of stain­less steel. It is a fairly hefty brass tube that con­tains a spoon for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the con­tents of caught fish and also has a mea­sure, up to a foot, en­graved on the out­side. Which makes it rather more than a sim­ple pri­est and any­way I still use it for despatch­ing an oc­ca­sional trout for the ta­ble. Which means that I am loth to give it away. Es­pe­cially for use in the killing of game birds. So I was con­tem­plat­ing how times have changed and how it is the small things – like look­ing, un­suc­cess­fully, for a pri­est; I won­der how many peo­ple ac­tu­ally re­fer to it as a pri­est th­ese days? – that sig­nal po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant shifts in so­cial at­ti­tudes when I turned the cor­ner and found my­self con­fronted by the skip. And that lead pip­ing ly­ing in it. And I thought to my­self, “Four inches of lead pipe se­cured by a brass screw, top and bot­tom, to a handy length of broomhan­dle, leather boot­lace loop han­dle. Hang it from your belt or stick it in your boot. Made to mea­sure. Proper job!” And I had that lead pipe out of the skip and into my Bag for Life be­fore you could say Thomas à Beck­ett. Some things never change.

“...I ex­plained it was for killing fish.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.