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The Beck-“Bring ‘im ower t’net!”

A short story by Tim Gaunt-Baker about his very first fly fishing experience! 


The other day I was going through some of my Grandfather’s fishing records and one particular entry caught my eye. It read as follows:

17th May 1947. Burniston beck: Weather: Cloudy/ bright. 560 F. Time: Evening. 151/4oz brown trout. Fly: Grey Duster. Taken from the Bomb Hole pool by Tim (my Grandson) his first trout on a fly!!

These words, in copperplate handwriting, brought the memory of that day flooding back to me.

“The fish are splashing on the Bomb Holes pool, Grandpa, please can we go and catch one!” I cried breathlessly, having run up the hill from the beck.

“I am grown up now, aren’t I?” I said, having just started at the village school.

“We’ll see,” replied Grandfather, “Maybe after tea, lad. We got the kale to drill yet,” he added.

I was convinced if we did not go at once, the fish would all swim away and our chance would be lost. At lunch I tried to enlist the help of my Grandmother, who was also a keen fisherwoman.

“Now, young man, there's no point in wittering on; the farm work has to done. If we don’t get that kale sown we’ll have nothing tasty for the cows come winter,” was her reply to my pleadings.

The hours seemed like days as they do when you are 5 years old. To pass the time I soaked a cast in a saucer as I'd been taught. The casts were cat gut in those days, nylon was unheard of.

I kept on going down the hill and through the pine trees with dark green branches that created shady a tunnel over the path. The path twisted through a splendid rockery to the summerhouse by the tennis court. On the other side of the court the beck splashed and gurgled it’s way over rough, moss topped  boulders and between high banks covered in cowslips and daises, rushing on into deeper pools shaded by Alders, Ash and the odd Beech tree. This was a place of mystery and myth, of giant fish that would leap at the fly as soon as it was cast. The fish were still there!!

The grind of metal on stone and the clink of the harness told me that at last the men were home. I ran into the yard to greet them. George and my grandfather, covered in dust from the field work, were riding on the farm cart pulled by Tobias, one of the farms Shire horses -  my favourite, in fact. He was a gentle giant; over 17 hands, dark bay with a white blaze down his face and great big  hooves the size of dinner plates.

“Now then young un, yer Granddad says you’re taking him to catch a trout. Mind they don’t pull ya in!!” George growled in a broad North Yorkshire accent. The tools were put away and Tobias was stabled. I took in his oats and farmer George helped me tip it to his manger. The sweet smelling meadow hay was laid in the hay rack. "It MUST be time to go and catch those fish!" I thought to myself. But the two men were still stacking bags of seed into the cart.

“Is it time to go to catch those trout Grandpa?” I asked, longingly.

“When we have finished here we are going back to the house to have some tea. Then if you are very good and stop blathering on about the trout we may go and see if we can catch one!” replied Grandpa.

I knew then it was going to be ages before we went to the Beck. Tea didn’t mean a cup of tea, it meant the works: cold ham salad , homemade bread and butter, cakes and so on........absolutely ages!

At last it was time to go. I could hardly contain my excitement as we walked down the hill to the beck, my Grandfather carrying his favourite split cane rod with Hardy Perfect reel ( his pride and joy), a silk line and the gut leader I had soaked earlier in the day. This was it! We really were going to catch a fish!

“Now lad, be VERY quiet and follow me! We are going to cross the bridge, work our way up stream so the fish won’t see us.” Said Grandpa, in a confidently.

“Alright.” I whispered. We moved up the bank to the intake pool.

“Stay up there and watch,”  ordered Grandfather, as Old Dick (as he was affectionately called by his friends) crept down to the waters edge.

The first cast went upstream. The fly landed like thistledown and floated down towards Grandfather. Suddenly the water erupted. A flash of gold and the line went tight and soon the trout was in the net; a fine fish of just over a pound in weight. I marvelled at the lovely colours: butter yellow flank with red spots changing to a greenery black on its back.

“I reckon he will make a fine breakfast if we can catch a couple more. Where did you see those monster fish this morning?”  Grandfather asked.

“In the Bomb Hole right under the Bank” I replied, itching to run over there.

“We will have to be very careful; we need to creep up to the edge and lie on our stomaches so we can just peep over the edge, then you may be able to drop this fly on the water just in front of them.” he advised.

We did just that, we approached to edge on hands knees and for the last few yards we wiggled up on our tummies until we could peer over the edge and look down into the water. Sure enough there they were my monster trout, three of the finning just off the main current; the largest of the three a couple of feet in front of other the other two.

“Now I ‘m going cast up stream. You can hold the rod, watch the fly and lift the rod when a fish comes to it and turns.” Grandpa instructed. The fish came for the fly but I lifted too soon and nothing happened.

“Right this time when the fish comes to the fly say to yourself, “God save the King,” then and lift and keep the rod up high this time." he continued. I did just that! The fish rose, took the fly and I said 'God Save the King' as the rod jerked and bounced about in my hands.

“Keep the rod tip up! Keep it higher!” shouted Grandfather with excitement. The line went slack and the fish had gone. Crestfallen I handed back the rod.

“Never mind we’ll give the pool a rest and come back here before we go.” he said.

We fished another two pools and caught a couple more fish but by now the light was starting to fade.

“Right, young man, it’s time to go home, it’s past your bed time, we’ll just have one try in the Bomb Hole and then its home to bed young fellow.”

Back at pool the cast as made, this time further upstream near the neck of the pool in the fast water that swirled round an old tree stump. The fly bobbed and weaved and suddenly a pair of white jaws enveloped the fly and turned down into the deep black water. “God save the King!” I cried.

“Keep the line tight! Keep the rod up! Keep the line tight,” shouted Grandfather as he crossed the Beck in the shallows below the pool.

He placed the net in the stream just below the fish.

“Right, Tim bring im ower t'net.” he said.

I did just that and the rest is just history.

Do I still say “God Save the King” when I lift into a trout? That’s for me to know you to wonder about.


Tim Gaunt-Baker
12th September, 2008












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