We’ve all done it at some point. Golfer, Walker, Mountain biker, Snowboarder, Comic Book collector, fly fisher – We’ve all done it. Now so have I, and I’m feeling guilty as hell about it.
In my defence, I walked in with honest intentions. I had a couple of very simple needs, just a minor itch that needed a little scratch. Not much, just a couple of small things to get me through.
But, an enthusiasts shop is a truly mysterious and magical place, or at least to an enthusiast of a particular obsessive sport/hobby a proper shop is. To a fly fisher a proper tackle shop is like catnip, just embed a mental image in your head of Olivanders wand shop from Harry Potter, switch around the stock a bit and make Olivander wear a ubiquitous khaki sage, greys, hardy or orvis shirt and we’re almost there. Boxes need to be piled up, higgledy-piggledy, almost to the ceiling. Flies need to be ever so slightly mixed up in their wooden drawers. The shop, like a good surfing shop, needs to be unapologetically closed if the conditions are epic. A customer of a shop like this should just get it, should understand that some things are more important than opening up to make money. Behind the counter, the mystical Mr Olivander sits like the shopkeeper from Mr Benn. Always keen to talk fishing, not to increase sales, but because well, talking about fishing is almost as good as fishing itself.
With my little box containing the four flies I’m too lazy to tie myself this week in hand I’m heading calmly towards Mr Olivander, being lured in by the familiar khaki shirt when I’m diverted by a tube of Loon floatant. OK, not so bad, I’m almost to the till and I’m on the home straight. Almost out with nothing more than the floatant more than what I came in for. Then it happens.
Like excalibur rising from the lake in the clutches of some watery tart, the net catches my eye, glimmering in a jumble of other nets and a couple of umbrellas. There’s a perfect silky smooth swoop to its butter coloured bamboo, a delicate curve to the honeyed handle. It begs to me to be picked up and once I have succumbed to the wanton merchandising and hold it in my hands I know that I am undone. My purse strings caught on a nail and unravelled.
I put the net back into the jumble of cherry and walnut handles but it doesn’t look right. It doesn’t fit. I take it out again almost immediately. Ten minutes pass as I repeat this ridiculous dance, enjoying every second of the silky feel of the bamboo, even though I know I shouldn’t. Enjoying the simple tactile pleasure and uncomplicated beauty of this new relationship. I know I’m going to succumb and buy the stupid net right from the moment I pick it up but I insist on going through the whole will-I-won’t-I thing.
You see, although I love a good tackle shop, I’m something of an anti-tackle-tart. Not because I don’t like good stuff you understand, not because I don’t appreciate the beauty of craftsmanship. I just have quite simply been unable to afford nice tackle for so long, all my money having been spent on Joe’s education and on presents for the ghost of relationships past, that now if I do spend money on myself I just feel guilty. I know that probably seems really silly, but it is what it is.
So here I stand outside the tackle shop, Large Dark Olives are fluttering over the stream that runs along the high street and the sun is shining in my eyes. My hands are caressing a swoop of beautiful lightweight bamboo and I’m marvelling at the aesthetic perfection of what is after all just a tool, a crude implement. But, on the inside. On the inside I feel dirty.