by Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Christmas was looming and I didn’t have a clue as to what to offer my husband for a gift. I made the mistake the year before of gifting him with a Princess Reel from Farlow’s in London. He was very rude about accepting it, saying he had already ordered one himself.
I guess you are not allowed to have 2 of the same reel! Who knew? We sent mine back.
I was taking a watercolour class privately in our art teacher’s kitchen. Each week one of the 4 other students was allowed to bring some items to set up as a still life, which we all would paint.
It was my turn. I gathered together my khaki canvas fishing bag, a brown suede reel case and reel, the new fly rod I myself had painstakingly made a few months earlier and two wooden fly boxes with a colourful assortment of flies I had hand-tied and a copy of “The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton, c. 1897, hand-bound in green leather with gilt tooling.
I had a photo of a rainbow trout I had caught during the summer at our fly fishing lodge earlier in the summer on the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, the river that flows through my pasture in Arlington, Washington. Our beloved “Stilly.”
I set everything up and we spent a lovely afternoon painting my “nature morte” in Helen’s kitchen.
I gifted my husband with the framed watercolour for Christmas that year. He was delighted and hung it in the flyfishing craft room in our 1930s Spanish duplex.
Here’s the story of the rainbow trout:
I caught him with the fly rod I had made, on a fly I had tied. I cleaned him myself and stuffed him with herbs from my garden that grew from seeds I planted in Spring. I added a bit of salt and pepper and some thinly sliced lemons, then wrapped him in grape leaves picked in my neighbour’s garden. I cooked him on a Tuscan grill in the fireplace over the coals of a burnt log from a Maple tree my cousin Alice and I had felled when none of the men would, because they claimed it would fall on the lodge. The tree was threatening to fall on the lodge anyway…
I asked Alice if she was sure she knew what we were doing. She replied, “I grew up with 5 brothers. If I can’t cut down a tree without it hitting a house I don’t imagine there is much else I can do!”
The tree was then cut up into logs and we still have a stockpile to burn on a cold winter day when we spend time at Brown Hackle Lodge.
Eighteen months after I gifted my husband with the Princess reel that he declined to accept, the one he ordered from Scotland still had not arrived!
Was I smug? You Betcha!