Editor’s Note: Our own Barry Mayer sends this poem he first heard recited by FFF Master Fly Fishing Instructor, author, and photographer, Ally Gowans, during a Deschutes trip he shared with Ally and fellow member, Jay Beckstead, years ago. The text is posted alongside a YouTube rendition that is difficult for this American to hear and understand. But the Scottish slang becomes more clear and rhythmic after reading the piece aloud a few times. It’s not a fly fishing shanty per se but a fushin tale ’tis. LKH
A’ye wha gae wi’ rod and reel,
Wi’ gaff and net, wi’ cast and creel,
Come listen tae an anglers sang I’ll no’ detain ye very lang.
There were twa cronies in Duncloo,
Jake Paiterson and Welum Doo.
Grand fushers baith, and kent tae fame,
Faur yont the borders o’ their hame,
Fur they had fushed the Tweed and Tay,
The Forth, the Findorn and the Spey,
And ilka lock and burn between,
Frae Annadale tae Achnesheen.
And what they didna ken aboot,
The wily Samon and the Troot
Could hae been written clean and plain
On ae side o’a cherry-stane.
But O the Salmon was their joy, and fushing for’t their dearest ploy.
Weelum he was a man o’wecht,
Neath saxteen stane he puffed and peched,
Jake was a brisk wee wiry fella,
But, sakes his e’en were awfu’ skelly,
Tae luik at ae thing or anither,
He gey near keekit owre his shither.
But though sae different were thae twa,
Ye’d rarely hear them thraip or thraw,
On nearly a’thing they’d agree,
Except–the tyin’ o’ a flee.
Jake was a devotit, first an last,
Tae orthodoxy in the cast,
A’ fancy notions he decried,
He trustit in the true an tried,
‘Gie me’, he’d say, a tested killer—
Thunder and Lichtnin’, Dusty Miller,
The Siller Doctor or Jock Scott—
an I’ll put Salmon in yer pot’
Weelum was o’ a different bent,
He liked the bold experiment,
And aye he was inventin’ lures
Fur temptin’ fushy epicures,
He’d busk ye bumbees, golechs’ horns,
Even the pairins o’ yer corns
Wi’ bits o’ tinsel, tufts o’ oo,
In ony shade frae pink tae blue.
Ae flee he made his special pride,
He bragged its merits faur and wide,
Built frae a purple paurrit’s feather,
A denty scrap o’ crimson leather,
A beetle-case, an emr’ld bead,
The hale whupped on wi’ gowden threid,
It was a gay an guady sicht,
And Weelum ac’d it Doo’s Delight
And swore that it would tae haund,
The dourest Salmon ever spawned.
But Jake wad ee the thing asklent,
And muter words no’ fit tae prent,
‘Ye’re Gyte,’ he’d say, ‘Yon’s Doo’s Delicht
Was gie a bloomin whale’ a fricht.’
Ae fatal day, Jake catcht a cauld,
It shook him sair, for he was auld,
And sune the village hung it’s heid,
Tae hear the news that Jake was deid.
Big Weelum’s loss was mair than maist—
A freen wha couldna be replaced,
And aften, as he coost a flee,
The said, saut tear cam’ till his ee,
And he wid wunder if in heevin,
The crystal sea was like Loch Leven,
And whether Jakie, wi’ his squint
Was findin’ fifty-pounders in’t
And grassing’ them wi’ efforts grim,
Applaudit by the seraphin.
Sae musin’ ae day, as he stood
Beside the curly’s drumlie flood,
He thoot condeentions a’ maist richt,
For tyain on his ‘Doo’s Delicht.
He made his cast and–glory–be—
A muckle Salmon took the lee
The cam’ a struggle fierce an fell,
An open only bards could tell,
The fush kent every trick and wile,
Heard o’ since Moses fushed the Nile,
And mony mair forbye he played
While Weelum reeled and swat an prayed.
Lang’ oors gayed bye, until at length,
Cunning gead in tae wecht and strength.
Wabbit, owre spent tae tug or traivel,
The big fush groondit on the graivel,
And lay there pechin’ on it’s belly,
And sune–Wull saw it’s een were skelly.
Wild thochts gaed breene through Weelum’s brain,
Notions fantastic and insane,
The buddhist creed o’ transmigration,
The doctrine o’ reincarnation.
He gasped ‘O fush for ony sake
Tell me , are ye ma auld freen Jake?
The Salmon hove a sort of sigh
That had a weary soond like ‘aye’
And wull ye gie in I was richt
In a’ I claimed for Doo’s Delicht?
Ye cried it doon yer hale life lang,
Dae ye admit noo ye were wrang,
Freen dinna think ye’re bein’ coddit,
But, shair as daith, that Salmon noddit,
And like a body in a dream,
He threw that fush back in the stream.
He hasna touched a rod since then,
For fear o’ catchin’ Jake again.
~ author unknown
And if you are wondering about all the fuss over Sea Shanties, this WBUR story gives some fun background.
Dr. Barry Mayer and Lisa Hansen