On fishing and funk from Elmore Leonard


The Shed is a place where old men become familiar with tools they should have mastered as boys.
For the past four years, in small lessons, this has included fishing gear.
Fishing starts with the art of imposing temporary order on tools which are only ever a second away from illustrating chaos theory. Drop a length of line and pick it up and it has done things you would have thought were mathematically impossible. Do it a few times and you see straight fishing line for the miraculous tool that it is. It is Shed policy to seek enlightenment by disentangling and to recommend it to teachers as a detention activity for kids – tell em to give you that back wound nicely onto a toilet roll and then they can go home.
A pair of pliers for getting hooks out of gorse is an essential pocket tool. Every reel you own will, until you have reloaded it several times, have line which has been sat there so long it has stuck; or has been wound the wrong way for best performance; or is missing a washer.
This year it is a little easier. Like they say, if you want to tie good knots, tie lots. And we have perfected a pottering rig … can’t help thinking of it as our poaching rod.
Lashed up a five foot length of cane from an old broken rod with a light spinning reel taped to the handle. Line goes through a short length of bamboo, which doubles as casting weight and float. Pack the bamboo with toothpicks and you can move it along the line and go straight to hook, for ultimate simplicity. Or finish with a light swivel and dangle anything you want from that. You can flip the float in under bushes and trail a lure down the current without all the arse of trying to use a fly line on banks which have not been maintained for years.
We want to try some little chamois leather worms – cut a thin strip of leather, tie a knot at one end and thread the hook through the knot. Bacon rind, which used to catch trout when we were young, performs well in the water and we’ve always got a bit in the freezer. And this season’s Shed favourite is Haribo prawns. They keep forever and you can mould them a bit. Do they work? Can’t say yet, but the bad man’s way to catch a salmon is to use a big pink prawn and a sugar imitation looks like an interesting ticket in the lottery.
All probably illegal, of course, but it is getting very hard to chase fish without breaking a rule. Even if your lure is okay, and it’s the right time of the year, your landing net is probably illegal. It has to be made of knotless material, which costs about £100 more than anything which has done the job for the past thousand years.
The Environment Agency poses as a friend to fishing as a learning activity and is forever organising free taster days and kit giveaways. But they are all at stocked ponds and lakes. The old idea of tracking down a wild beast in its native waters and taking it home to cook is more or less out of bounds in most of England now. The river clubs have given up arguing that it won’t make any difference unless you crack down on the professional poaching gangs and their heavily restricted permits now look pretty useless to the low-rent angler.
The music slot of Notes From The Shed comes in here.
For a while, we are picking up on musical references in Elmore Leonard books and the first pick is Let It Whip by the Dazz Band, a Motown funk outfit. It was a hit in 1982 and Elmore referenced it in his novel Stick, published the same year. Elmore liked his funk. Google Dazz Whip to find this …

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