October 1 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

10-FISHERMAN

Take a fresh approach for unexpected results

Fr Eddie McGhee has been a priest of Galloway Diocese since 1972. A columnist for the SCO since 1991, his hobbies include fishing, pigeon-racing and poetry.

ONCE upon a time it was ‘cool’ to smoke. Now every cigarette packet carries a government health warning.  There has been a profound change in the way that we think about smoking over a relatively short period. ‘Five a day’ is a more recent focus for our thinking about health issues. I’m sure the message will get there eventually but it may take a bit longer than the message about smoking did. Fruit and vegetables are not top of the ‘exciting food’ list! The campaign for safety on our roads, ‘Don’t drink and drive!’ has made drink driving socially anathema except for a very few individuals.

These three examples suggest that it is perfectly possible to change the way that we think about important issues.  In some senses these are almost peripheral when compared to the problem of alcohol abuse in our society.  If radical new thinking is needed, it is on this one central concern.

Alcohol abuse blights lives. Everyone knows this and yet there is such acceptance of alcohol use, that it is difficult to shift the mentality away from the notion of recreation, to the shocking truth of devastation.  Change is possible. Bringing about change is the challenge. Those who risk ridicule for the sake of creativity are real instruments of change. Let me give you a light hearted but important example.

Big Wull shares a boat with me most Wednesdays. We fish and we yarn and sometimes we catch fish and sometimes we don’t. Fishing takes us away from the routine and gets us a new and differing slant on the world.  At 6ft 5in Big Wull takes up a lot of space, neither is he long and lean but like me, he is built for comfort, rather than speed. In his younger days Big Wull anchored a Scottish ‘tug

of war’ team, heavyweight of course. He is a man not to be trifled with.

Among his other incarnations, Big Wull is also a Crown warranted water bailiff. He runs the fish hatchery and manages the Boreland Reservoir on behalf of the Cumnock Angling Club. It seems he never has trouble with poachers. It is not just his size, but he has a beard of prophetic proportions, which would strike a chord of fear into anyone. At heart, of course, he is gentle. He also teaches any prospective flytyer the art of putting fur and feathers together in a way that will fool even the wiliest of trout.

It is at this point that the story really begins. For many years now the rainbow trout has been introduced to many of our stillwaters.  These are a non native species and are much more aggressive feeders than our natural wild brown trout so they grow larger much quicker and provide some stunning sport as well as a tasty meal. In historic terms, fishing for rainbow trout is well established but still relatively new.

There is a long and distinguished history of tying imitative patterns of flies to catch the native brown trout.  In tandem now there is a whole new process of tying flies that will fool rainbows.  Some of these rainbow flies and lures are garish beyond belief. The traditionalist fly fishers in the world of brown trout fishing look askance at them. Big Wull and I fish mostly for wild brown trout  and for a few weeks it has been tough going. The water level in the Daer Reservoir, where we fish, is very low. It can be frustrating trying fly after fly and still catching nothing.  Big Wull was catching nothing.

Many of us are convinced that, in his fishing bag, Big Wull may well be hiding Lord Lucan. We are talking about a huge fishing bag. It was into this fishing bag that Big Wull dipped, almost disappearing in the process and like some latter day Paul Daniels, produced a fluorescent pink rabbit.

Pink elephants are the product of too much alcohol, fluorescent pink rabbits are the creation of                  over imaginative rainbow fly enthusiasts. It is a rainbow lure tied on a strip of rabbit fur dyed fluorescent pink.

For the purists, this was a ‘shock horror’ moment. Flies for brown trout are supposed to be small and delicate and very, very imitative. This was lurid monstrosity. ‘You’re not putting that thing on?’ ‘I am so.’ was the  reply. This was a moment that would have had purists pulling their hair out. Big Wull tied it on and cast it out. In a few moments he had his first take of the day. A substantial number of wild brown trout later, Big Wull’s choice of the fluorescent pink rabbit was vindicated. Big Wull is a more successful angler than I am because he is prepared to try the seemingly impossible.

This is the whole point of this week’s Gospel. Jesus is inviting us not to settle for the predictable and the pedantic.

Faith is about more than a nod in the direction of tradition. Faith is something that has to be lived. If faith is lived then it will meet any challenge head on no matter how impossible the challenge seems.

Most of us never really achieve our potential because we are afraid to do things and see things differently. We are afraid of what people might think. We can, if we choose, settle for the terminally boring. On the other hand, we can invest in the unexpected and achieve seemingly impossible results. This week think fluorescent pink rabbit.

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