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Fishy Yarns

A likely tale of old Yorkshire...

'twixt the moorland villages of Clapptrap and Skandal, there runs a lovely stretch of the Twaddle. The lively river flows through the limestone gorge at Poppycock Cut, and once past Yakking Mouth it discharges its clear waters in spectacular fashion at Fayrelady Falls. Tis a sight for sore eyes to behold such wild, foaming torrents - I courted my dear wife there and it's a good spot for trout.

I usually commence fishing at the foot of the falls and then make my way downstream until I reach a most dastardly stretch known as Snagg Bottom. Twas on passing one of the more challenging straights thereabouts that I chanced upon Wilbur Wilberforce, an angler of fine repute who could tempt the most fickle of brownies to take his handcrafted nymphs.

Although, to my astonishment, Wilberforce's tackle seemed remarkably light for Twaddle trout. His featherweight rod had very fine qualities, but unsuitable ones by my estimation. I took courage, therefore, and summoned the effrontery to challenge the river master's methods - after duly announcing my presence, of course.

"It's not Salmo trutta  I'm after, Sir." he declared.

"Then...?"

"Thymallus thymallus," he said, "I swear there's an exceptional specimen in yonder swirl."

"You mean grayling?" I said, "they barely reach a pound in these parts."

"Then stay awhile," he said, "and bear witness to a much finer sporting fish."

I did as Wilberforce requested, I perched on a convenient stump and thence observed the most precise casting exhibition I have ever seen. Time after time his wild fairy nymph chanced an overhanging leaf or two, but never once became entangled on such treacherous hazards. He fished where no one else dared to, and soon enough the Twaddle rewarded him for it.

"I'm in," he cried. "I'm in."

"By 'eck, Sir, but surely that's no grayling?"

"See for yourself, Sir, he's surely corkscrewing like one."

Ah yes, the familiar, fierce fighting action of Thymallus thymallus. By no means, a huge fish in Yorkshire and even the British all-time record is under four pounds, but the plucky fellows are well-respected nonetheless. They're handsome creatures too, and you'll not find many aquatic species that can match the grayling's good looks.

"He has the current in his favour," Wilberforce exclaimed. "If he makes the tree roots I'm done for."

"Then turn him, Sir, turn him."

Not a straightforward task on light tackle - and that's the sport of it! To save the day, Wilberforce had little choice other than to leap into the water, up to his waist he was, freezing his knackers, but he kept the line clear and such a thrilled expression came upon his face when he finally succeeded in turning his bold adversary.

Although the fight was far from won, line screamed from Wilberforce's reel on several more occasions and he couldn't much bully the fine fish for fear of a break. Every inch of line gained came with high risk and only skill and a measure of good fortune kept the fight ongoing. Until finally, the quarry tired and that uniquely shaped dorsal fin broke water.

"I think I'll require your assistance to net him," said Wilberforce.

"At your service, Sir."

I had no hesitation whatsoever in following Wilberforce's earlier desperate action. I grabbed the landing net and then I too plunged into the river. God struth the darned fish had us both in the wet, but I felt honoured to be part of the fracas, and soaked boots and britches were of no consequence.

My commitment to the cause was unquestionable and I took up position on the master fisherman's right flank. By then the primary challenge had become drawing the fish to the net without spooking him, he could still slip the hook at any moment, and a taut line and calm heads were key to success. The penultimate few seconds were the most testing of all, my heart was a pounding and...

"Easy does it," said Wilberforce. "Easy, easy..."

"Hurray!" I cried, "we have him, Sir."

Our previously silent suspicions were immediately confirmed, the net held something more than a very fine fish, it held the catch of a lifetime no less.

"I believe you have one for the record," I said.

"By the look of him," said Wilberforce, "I think you may very well be right."

The fish would have smashed the record by some measure I'd say. But alas, we had no scales to weigh the magnificent catch and the lack of such a mechanism gave the certain new champion an unfortunate dilemma. For it truly was a wonderful fish, a miracle of nature and what a loss to the Twaddle its ending would be.

"We could weigh him at Clapptrap Post Office." I solemnly suggested.

"No," said Wilberforce. "Honour before vanity, methinks."

A noble decision, but I knew only too well what my dearly beloved would say.

~

"So, the two of you let the record swim away?" she said.

"Yes, my dear, it seemed the right thing to do."

"Tis a nice ending," she said. "Although, it does remind me of your yarn about the pike."

"There was nothing nice about that massive fish, twas man versus monster; I tell ye."

"If you say so, my dear husband. I'm sure there's plenty of fishy monsters hereabouts."

As usual, my wife's scepticism was delivered with warmth and good humour, for she is a child of the moor and deep down her kind heart always recognises what's undoubtedly true about my so-called yarns.

Love the moor or lose it, protect and preserve, it's as simple as that when all else is said and done.

Tight lines.

~

The End

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