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The Fly Fishing Rogue                                A true story by Tim Gaunt-Baker 


“The Black Sheep is coming for a drink on Friday night before we go to the Hunt Ball,” called my grandfather to my mother and grandma, as he went out to milk the cows. 

As a seven year old I was somewhat puzzled by this remark; how could a black sheep come to the house for a drink? Surely they lived in Seven Hills, a large area of rough grazing where the sheep were wintered. There was defnitely a black one or maybe two there as I had helped George, the shepherd, count them on several occasions. I decided to wait until my gran went to feed the hens and I would ask her why we were having a sheep in the house on Friday. 

“Can I help you feed the hens Gran?” I asked hesitantly. Last time I helped I left the gate to the run open and they had got out and scratched up the peas and onion sets in the kitchen garden.

“Aye lad , you can but I’m shutting the gate this time; we don’t want old Tomlinson after us do we?” replied Gran. Tomlinson was our part time gardener, but anyone would think he owned the garden the way he protected it.

“Here you can carry this bucket of mash and I‘ll take the corn and water.” said Gran.

Off we went to the chicken run; up a track behind the house that led to the barn and the stables where the hunters were kept. To the right of the track was the beautifully laid out kitchen garden; all the lines of vegetables, cages for the soft fruit and my grandfather's pride and joy, the greenhouse.

“Gran, why is a black sheep coming for a drink on Friday night,” I ventured to ask.

“You’ll just have to wait and see son,” chuckled my grandmother. “It'll be a surprise for you and your mum.”

“But is it a real sheep,” I asked.

“Tha’ll know soon enough, young un,” my grandfather said as he approached with a pail of fresh milk for the house. I was no further forward and resolved to tackle farmer George the next day.

“Which one is coming for drinks tomorrow night, farmer George?” I asked, as we counted the sheep out of the holding pen the next morning,

“Now young Timmy, which yan would ya like ‘im to be, that skinny brown and  black ower there or yon girt fat black un by t’ash tree?” said George.

“Err, I don’t know,” I replied.

“I reckon it’ll be yo girt black un me’sel,” nodded George, the shepherd, “You’ll just have to wait see for thee sel'.” he smirked.

It seemed to me that most of my time I, “HAD TO WAIT AND SEE.” 

On Friday night after tea, I was to get ready for bed half an earlier than usual because of the drinks party.

“Can I come down and see everybody, Mum?” I shouted from half way up the stairs.

“Only if you hurry up in the bathroom; don’t play with those ships of yours!” mother said, sternly.

“And don’t forget to wash behind your ears! And do your teeth properly!”

I rushed through all this as fast as I could, I did not want to miss the guests arriving  - particularly the big black sheep. I wonder if he can speak and walk on his back legs. He certainly didn’t look as though he could when I saw him this morning!!

RAT-A-TAT-TAT!! on the front door proclaimed the first guests had arrived. I rushed to the landing and lay down peeping through the banisters to watch them arrive. 

Some drinks party!! My grandfather was dressed in his pink-tail coat with white lapels, Gran and Mother were in their evening gowns and Harry Good and his wife Josephine were greeted by all. He was dressed in a pink tail coat as he was Joint Master of Foxhounds with my grandfather. They were followed by Dr. Bobby and his wife and he was in the full dress of Macdonald, complete with kilt, sporran and a dagger in his socks. Other guests arrived after that, all in evening dress. I was wondering by now what on earth the black sheep would come in. 

Harry Good looked and spotted me. “Hey if it isn’t Tim hiding up there, come on down and say hello” he shouted.

“You don’t mind do you Margret,” addressing my mother.

“Well I suppose it won’t hurt for five minuets, but it is back to bed then my lad and no arguments!” Mother warned me.

I made my way down the stairs to the hall where they were all gathered. Mr. Good came in beaming all over his face, “Now look here Dick, you got to get this young man on a pony for the children's, meet next week,” he said to Grandfather.

Tim you would like that wouldn’t you?” He said, looking at me with a quick wink.

“Err yes please, “ I said somewhat hesitantly. I had ridden ponies since the age of three but never been out hunting.

“Good man; you can have Pixie, she'll look after you.” Said Mr.Good smiling all over his florid face.

“Thank you very much, Sir,” I replied, “Um, err do you know when the black sheep will arrive? Grandpa said he was coming here for drinks tonight; when I last saw him he was grazing with flock at Sevenhills.”

“Dick, what  nonsense have you been telling the lad about black sheep coming to drinks?” bellowed Mr. Good.

Before Grandfather could reply there were two loud knocks on the front door and it was thrown open with a bang! In walked a tall, well built man in full military dress complete with sword!! He had a square face with a ruddy complexion, a large black moustach and twinkling blue eyes.

“Good evening everybody,” the stranger roared.

“Dick you old rascal; how are you? Bertha you look stunning tonight, and Margret why you look so beautiful in that dress!” he went on greeting Grandfather, Grandmother and Mother respectively.

I couldn’t make out who this new guest could be, but he was very imposing in his black military dress complete with an impressive display of medal ribbons.

“Come over here, Tim, I would like you to meet Colonel Tom Gaunt, your great uncle. He is The Black Sheep you have been waiting for all week,” declared my grandfather.

“Hello young Timmy. The last time I saw you was in your mothers arms at your Christening,” said the big man, smiling.

“Hello Great-Uncle Tom,” I replied, “My name's Tim not Timmy; that’s a sissy name,” I let him know in a slightly softer voice.

“Good for you lad, stand up for yourself!” my uncle replied.

“Time for bed, Tim. Say goodnight to everybody,” my mother chimed in.

“Oh Mum, I want to know why Uncle is called a black sheep,” I whined.

“No nonsense now m’lad, get yourself off to bed,” squarked  my grandmother.

“ You can ask Uncle Tom tomorrow, can’t he, Tom?”

“Of course he can” Tom said, grinning.

“We can go down to the Beck and see if we can catch some of your grandfather's trout, eh Tim,” he said, winking at me. There was a loud “Huh!” from Grandfather. 

The next day I woke early and went down to the kitchen, to Louie, the cook and asked her about Uncle Tom. After all she had been with my grandparents since they were married and there was nothing she didn’t know about the family. 

The kitchen was filled with delicious smells of breakfast: smoked back bacon, big ol' pork sausages and fresh mushrooms, all sizziling away on the range.

“Now young Timmy, I ‘ope you 'aven’t come to myther me lad; I ‘ve got a lot to do this morning, with extra guests an all!” exclaimed Louie.

Why everybody wanted to call me TIMMY I don’t know. I ventured to correct the situation.

“Tim, Louie, NOT Timmy!”

“Yer’l be Timmy to me and that’s, that!” she replied, “ Now fetch yon slices o’bread o’er 'here, there’s a good lad”

“Louie, why is uncle Tom called The Black Sheep by Grandpa?” I asked hesitantly.

“Ah that’s between y're grandpa and Uncle Tom; but I tell y’re this for nought: there isn’t a braver man in Yorkshire than your uncle Tom. He was decorated twice on the Somme in the Great War.” Louie said, with pride. “Why don’t you ask ‘im, he’ll tell you why he’s called The Black Sheep.” 

After breakfast Grandpa suggested that we should go and see the trout down in the Beck. Rods, lines and some flies selected, we set off down the hill, through the orchard to the little bridge by the tennis court.

It was a late September day and the sun was shining through the trees; their foliage was still in that late summer green having not quite taken on the hues of early autumn. The breeze caused a few first leaves to fall. The Beck bubbled and gurgled it’s way round the moss covered rocks, over riffles into the pools where the trout lay in the current just off the bank, feeding on whatever the stream bought to them. We sat for a while watching them rise and take some tasty morsel just under the surface.

“ Uncle Tom, please tell me, why does Grandpa call you The Black Sheep?” I asked.

“Well Tim, it all happened a long time ago, long even before your mother was born. Your grandpa and I used to live in Bradford where our father ran several woollen mills. One summer we were invited to stay at High Warren Wold, a distant aunts estate in east Yorkshire, for three weeks. What a lovely time that was,” mused Tom. “We played tennis, rode across the wonderful rolling wolds to lunch at pubs in lost valleys; we took trips to the coast accompanied by our nieces and nephews of the Topham family: Bertha, Louisa, Jack, and Douglas. One day your grandpa, who was always a keen fly fisherman managed an invite to fish the famous Driffield Beck. We were both to go the next day. Now I am not as keen on fishing as your grandpa, but I liked to catch fish and fly fishing seemed to me only one method to achieve this. By now,  the girls had heard we were going and emplored us to bring them back at least a brace a piece for supper that night. Well, the next day we fished the fly all morning and no fish. They were there alright; great monsters idling in the current just like those fellows down there,” he said, pointing to two huge trout below the big Ash tree.

“Go on what happened then,” I asked eagerly.

“ I was sitting on the bank enjoying the sun when I spied to my left an old wasps nest that had been dug up by a badger or a fox the night before. I was curious to see what was left. There before my eyes was the answer to our problem. Wasp grubs!! I put a few in my fly box and went back to where I had seen the large trout. In no time at all I had two nice brown trout on the bank.

Later Dick came by to see how I was doing, he still hadn't caught a thing and he wanted know what fly I had used. I hadn’t a clue so I told him that I had used a Greywhistler, which of course he had never heard of. When he had gone up the river, I put on another wasp grub on the the hook of the fly I was using and dibbled it in front of another trout. Bang! I had another. Further out in the stream I saw another big fish and thought I would try and make up the brace a piece that Bertha wanted for supper. On went the wasp grub, out went the line and in came another fish. We had our two brace! Just as I was unhooking the fish I heard a loud gasp behind me.

“Tom, you blaguard you been using BAIT!” raged your grandpa.

He went off back to the pony and trap with a face like thunder, muttering something about sportsmanship. The journey home was very silent to say the least. Bertha greeted us at the stables and was most impressed by the catch. Dick fumed and stomped out the yard shouting, “Tom Gaunt, you're nothing but a black sheep, always spoiling every thing Bah! Bah! Bah!” and some words I won’t say to your tender ears. Since then I have always been The Black Sheep.

“What happened to Bertha, Louisa, Jack and Douglas.” I asked

“Ah well, just after that summer, I volunteered for the army and went to fight in France. When I came home five years later the whole world had changed. Dick had married Bertha. Jack had been killed at Jutland and Douglas was killed at Ypres, leading his men,” he replied.

“ Louisa, what happened to her?” I enquired.

“That’s another story,” The Black Sheep replied wistfully with a hint of tears appearing in his eyes.









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