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Ronan's report

Sunday March 4th 2012

We got some new-season stock in the shop this week. I loved it, opening big boxes filled with reels, lines, bags and gadgets. It felt just like Christmas, maybe even better.

There was all the excitement of big parcels to be unwrapped, with no guilt about acquiring yet more stuff to fill the house; all the fun of seeing what's inside, without worrying whether you were actually going to like it or not ("ooohh lovely, another mug with a fish cartoon on the side, just what I always wanted, I'll put it with the ones you got me last year...").

We all love messing around with new kit. Reels are particularly fun. Pick up the reel and heft it knowingly in the hand, possibly humming in a thoughtfully expert way. Then roll it over a few times to look at the workmanship Ð imagining that you really can tell the difference between die-cast and machined, aerospace grade aluminium and whatever else it is they use nowadays. Yup, feels good. More humming.

Then you give the handle a spin. Smooth. And now, your favourite bit: messing with the drag knob. Clickety-clickety-click. "Just like a Swiss watch" you say, even though you've never owned a Swiss watch in your life. Tighten up the drag until the spool won't budge. Slacken it off so the spool runs free. Half-way on, and rock the spool back and forwards Ð as if this tells you something deep and meaningful. Knit your eyebrows together a little, maybe raise one in a quizzical manner. Tighten up the drag again, slacken it off. Tighten it up, slacken it off. Tighten it up, and catch yourself acting like a two-year old with a new toy, loving the feel and the sound of the thing and not caring what it's actually for. Nice. More mmmm-ing.

When I was a very small child it was a special pleasure to sneak upstairs and rifle through Dad's fishing bag. The battered old Billington shoulder bag, was filled with strange treasure: Reels from Hardy and Sharpes, Wheatley fly boxes, home made plastic cast winders, brown glass bottles of floatant, red pots of Mucilin. These things had all the attraction of kids toys, but with the added frisson of knowing that they, you know, got used for grown-up stuff. I could imagine myself all grown up and actually getting to use this stuff for real. Fantastic!

Reverence for kit. I think it must be a deep-seated survival instinct. As social tool-users our ancestors' survival probably depended on their being interested in, and adept at evaluating new kit. And they say that play is really just kids rehearsing and practising skills they'll use in adulthood.

If Dad saw me playing with his reels, tangling his lines or getting ready to spill the floatant, he'd always utter the same lines: "Be careful with that, it's not a bloody toy you know!"

Well, I can understand his point. But he was wrong. Rods, reels, lines, bags and other gadgets were, and still are, the best toys in the world.


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