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Ronan's report

Sunday February 26th 2012

I got my hair cut this week and shaved off my beard. IÕm not sure why.

I was down visiting my parents and, with a few hours free, had a jaunt down memory lane visiting some of the places I used to fish in the area. I walked around a country estate lake where I spent most of my college summers. Every step re-booted memories of tricky casts, fish caught, tents pitched, rain storms, and misty dawns.

It's a strange feeling, revisiting somewhere from your past. Everything is familiar, but strange. The same but different. Exactly like us in fact.

I found myself standing in the wood halfway down the south side of the pool. I remembered camping here for days on end, under the trees. Not these trees though.

In the spring of my last year's fishing here the estate cleared the wood. All the pine was felled, leaving stumps and huge piles of brush. By early summer the open ground was carpeted with bluebells and foxglove: A whole new ecosystem in just a few weeks. But the wood was no more.

And now here I am standing in the same spot, in a new wood. Mostly birch. The trees are well grown and probably more than thirty feet high. I'd have called them mature trees - they look like they've always been here. But they haven't. I remember them being planted.

I am older than the trees.

As I said, I got my hair cut this week and shaved my beard off. I'm not sure why.

A few months ago I mentioned that I fancied making a horsehair fly line. I got hold of some horsehair (replacement violin bow string), and found a brilliant article on the how to do it.

I whittled some twiddling sticks, colour coded them, and set to.

The instructions make it sound easy. Start off with 18 hairs (three bunches of six hairs - a twiddling stick for each bunch), and taper down to three. Just a question of twisting the right hand stick four or five times and then passing it over the other two. And repeat.

Then you read the fine print. To make the fly line taper evenly you need to stagger the hairs, cutting them so that each is one and one third of an inch shorter than the next. Every few twists, therefore, you need to add a new hair in to the twiddling stick. If you don't, well a horse's tail is only about 30" long and a 30" fly line is not much use. I'm aiming for 30 feet.

So it goes: twist, twist, twist, twist, pass it over the other two.

Twist, twist, twist, twist, pass it over... Oh there's an end, replace a hair.

But while you're struggling to replace the hair (two sticks in the left hand, and the new hair and third stick in the right Ð are you still with me?) you spot another end. Where did that come from, which stick? If I replace a hair in the wrong stick the bunches will be uneven and I might ruin the taper.

Beads of sweat start appearing on my forehead. Got to concentrate on keeping the sticks in order, the hairs replaced at the right time, and the tension even. The tension even? The tension's killing me!

After three hours I've done ten feet and I'm knackered.

In bed I close my eyes and all I can see is hair. Twirling, and plaiting. Tangling. Loose ends left dangling for ever. The backs of my eyelids are a blueprint for twisted tapers, fingers and thumbs, and hair, lots of hair.

I got my hair cut this week and shaved off my beard. I'm not sure why.


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