Snowdrops and sausages
Gary Cullum stops and smells the flowers on the way...
Who was it who first coined the phrase… make sure you stop and smell the flowers along the way? Well, I’m not sure but certainly legendary US golfer Walter Hagan, who won the US open for the first time when he was only 21, is on record as saying in 1928:
“You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”
I seem to recall it was also said by one of our fishing greats, but maybe they were borrowed words. Indeed I recall as a nipper watching dear old Jack Hargreaves in his shed on a Sunday lunchtime in that fabulous Southern TV programme ‘Out of Town’
Uncle Jack, everyone’s grandad, was such a gentle man, a countryman and a knowledgeable man on all things country, and all things fishing.
I recall also as he ambled down the banks of some southern chalk stream, fly rod in hand, pipe in mouth, floppy hat ahead, that he spent as much time studying the flora and fauna as he did watching for the next rise. And the cameraman focused in on the marginal plants
They were marvellous moments for a fisher boy, and, along with reading the exploits of Mr Crabtree, who explained where to find fish in every type of swim, were part of a wonderful childhood.
The fact that I am writing about my childhood heroes, my childhood memories, shows, I think what a huge impact countrymen like Hargreaves and Venables had on the youth of the late fifties and sixties. These men were, in their own imitable way, giants – as were the legends : Walker, Ingham, Thomas, Taylor brothers, Stone and another dozen Redmire names at least. I wonder if today’s twenty somethings crowded around their lakes this Easter weekend have even heard of these giants of fishing. I do hope so.
Suffice to say, 45 years on from starting my fishing with Dad (see Dads, Dawns and Dusk) I still stop to smell the flowers along the way with my angling buddies. Indeed it was Barbel Dave, who I was fishing with, along with Bristol Bob, on a cherished late season Grayling Grin day who coined the phrase 'snow-drops and sausages'. Or was it sausages and snowdrops? Either way, we decided it was a super name for a late season or early spring article. Especially as I had managed the first pounder of the day on a Kennet tributary and photographed it among a most gorgeous bed of snowies. Add the waft of Tesco’s finest sizzling in the pan – and you could at least smell my words.
Our annual grayling pilgrimage to the Berkshire stream is now not complete without a late breakfast or early lunch (for we will have been up since 5am to travel), most usually of Pork and Leek.
It seems the theme pervaded to seasons’s end, for following a fabulous fry up with Crinkley Caneheads on the Test, I eclipsed my grayling best in style. I had hoped for a magical two pounder, to a piece of corn trotted under a Cooky Avon. But, after some pork and garlic and herb sustenance, sandwiched between granary baps with oodles of a magnificent vintage mustard, my float dipped. I‘d taken ladies of a pound and eight, 1-09, 1-11 and 1-13 from the swim earlier in the day and was quite confident a two might show. Vintage Avon Perfection cane, courtesy of Mr James, of Ealing, whole cane butt, three pieces of narrow gauge Tonkin, a ‘special reel’, for that's all my critics would wish me to say and a ‘special’ float – one of my favourite Cooky Fat Tops.
One grain of the Jolly Green, in a fast run, fishing over-depth with plenty of weight above the size 16, and holding back hard to tease the grain along, close to my marginal bank, in a viciously icy cold and near spate condition weirpool less than a week after the big thaw.
As I have already written. The float dipped. And there was a solid thump and resistance. Hooked bottom? No it’s shaking it’s head, another rebellious brown. Then it moved, twizzled – all lady chasers know the meaning of the word, then reversed and twisted as only a grayling knows how. Game on. A beautiful curve in the soft actioned cane before a Tea Clipper’s sail rose and broke surface. Enormous, Red, Rainbow. A male. A lady boy. Why is it we panic and fish like a moron when we see that a big fish is hooked? Well, speak for yourself – I do at least. And I play it with kid gloves. Take care. A full five minutes of battle in strong flow. A dark coloured back and flank, not the lighter coloured flesh of a smaller grayling. This was a good fish and my heart raced. Fellow fishers had gathered behind me by the time I brought Her Ladyship to the net. A PB for sure, a beautiful, betwixing, beguiling, fabulous fish. Oh yes! Snow drops and Sausages!
It scaled in at a magnificent one and a half ounces. Under three pounds. I still see that dorsal break surface in my dreams. My season was complete.
But there was time for more sausages, a full fry up, a veritable feast. March 13th, time running out, on the Lea near Hertford. A day’s chubbing, with Dave, after a wondrous breakfast – Dave's words not mine, for that day I was the chef. Best Danish bacon, bangers – Tesco Finest again, pork and caramelised red onion, and farm fresh eggs, plucked that morning by the fishery owner from the hen coop behind my swim. Again all sandwiched in double bap. "One of the best breakfasts we have ever had,” quipped Dave. Stomachs full, we were destined each to catch a six pound chubby chevin.
We fished hard all day, in all corners, margins and centre of the wierpool for our 96 ounce quarry. Dave had a five pound bream – a wonderful golden, brassy flanked superb conditioned river bream - and I managed a last knockings stripey of just over two pounds. But no chub.
But it didn’t matter, for on our adventures from the previous June 16, boy did we smell some flowers, and saw some sights – red kites, a huge buzzard, owls, fallow deer, muntjaks, tits and warblers and on that day on the Lea, a nuthatch working the underside of a river bank willow.
Dave caught his first two pound roach in style and with six ounces to spare and he notched another four or five Pbs. I upped my barbel best and live on the memory of that grayling.
We dined like kings, fished for fun, enjoyed the company of many of our fishy friends. And yes, we smelled many, many flowers along the way….
Stop and Smell the Flowers
By Sherri Blaylock
Fort Gibson, Oklahoma
Riding across the country
Feeling the horse between your knees
In the shadow of the boulder
And the cool shade of the trees
Along clear bubbling streams
Hillsides and flat grassy plains
I gaze at all the wildlife
And the flowers that have no name
Thinking how it must have been
One hundred years before
When you could count on your friends
You never locked your door.
You knew the folks that you could trust
If you ever needed a hand
Just call and they came on the run
And backed you to a man
Now this thing called progress
Has ruined this way of life
Instead of peace and harmony
The world is filled with strife
People keep getting smarter
But they've forgotten how to live
Thinking of no one but themselves
It's all take and no give
Every one is in a hurry
Traveling wagon roads now paved
I don't know what the rush is
They're just going to the grave
Give me back the old days
Good friends, a horse and saddle
A rope that seldom misses
When tossed at ornery cattle
Give me lots of open spaces
So that in my final hours
As life slowly slips away
I can say I've smelled the flowers
© 2002, Sherri Blaylock