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Trebles all Round!

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Trebles All Round - A Pike Fisher's Lament

H.T. Sheringham

Extract from An Open Creel

In the United States, we are told, there is a movement afoot for the abolition of the treble - not the drink (though one can imagine supporters for even so fierce a scheme as that), but the piscator’s. There are times when that movement, as reported, has my sympathy, and this is one of them. I endeavoured a while back to get my pike tackle into some sort of order before a contemplated expedition with Caradoc, who is a sceptic in the matter of pike-fishing. To that end I cleared a table, and placed upon it - (A) a long cardboard box purporting to hold spinning flights; (B) another long card-board box supposed to contain livebait tackles; (C) a third cardboard box - contents doubtful, but heavy, and therefore to be inspected; (D) a tin box holding spoons; (E) another tin box of more spoons; (F) another tin box containing Phantoms, a big Devon or so, and ‘assorted’ baits; (G) a very large cardboard box holding cobbler’s wax, silk, wire, thread, swivels, spare hooks, and other necessities for tackle-making; (H) an India-rubber fish armed with three trebles. These things represent the accumulation of years, and I have often thought of them with pride during the trout season. It was a real comfort to know that, though my fly-boxes were a miracle of disorder and confusion, the pike tackle was thoroughly well arranged, and ready for use at any moment. The India-rubber fish, it is true, has always been of some little anxiety. It began by having a cardboard box of its own, but that disintegrated very soon, since when the fish has had no home, and has been lying about in the tackle-drawer loose, except when it has come out attached to my sleeve, which has only been now and then.

Having arranged everything, I procured (I) a new long cardboard box to hold the few things I should want to take with me - just enough for three days. Into it I put the fish, to get it out of the way. It was very unwilling to leave the tablecloth. Then I opened (A). The first object that met my view was a large spoon, with a tassel made of red and brown wool. At once I remembered. That tassel was the first step in an experiment - the trial of a colour sequence on pike. There were to have been blue tassels, yellow tassels, rainbow tassels, and other ingenious devices eked out with enamel and sealing-wax. The only drawback was that the spoon utterly refused to spin with the wool on its treble, and so it was put away - into the wrong box. I pulled it out, and, oh, horror! all the other things in the box followed it lovingly. ‘Things,’ do I say? The spinning flights, of which I had often fondly thought no longer deserved such consideration as entities their own right, were just a conglomeration of wire, swivel, gimp, and trebles, made up as nearly into a ball as such material could be. Still, in the box remained a few bits of paper - the wrappings that at one time inclosed the flights and kept them distinct. I set my teeth and proceeded to wrestle with the mass. After about ten minutes I succeeded in extricating a single flight of the Thames sort, three trebles and a lip-hook, which I transferred to (I).

Turning back to my work, I suddenly became aware of an impediment: the India-rubber fish had taken the opportunity of getting out of (I), and was now grasping the tablecloth with one treble and my sleeve with another. I patiently unhooked it and put it back, and as I did so marked the condition of the disentangled flight, which was really quite unfit for service. Its struggles in (A) - there must have been great struggles there - had grievously affected its whippings, varnish being nearly gone, and silk in one place being cut. I pondered a while, looked again at the conglomeration, and finally with great firmness replaced the whole lot, the free flight included, back in its box, covered it with a decent veil of paper, and put on the lid; then, having put the tasselled spoon to keep the fish company in (I), I turned to (B), the box of livebait tackles.
I will not swear that there were - are - no livebait tackles there, but I could see none; perhaps they were, or are, in the middle of the tangle. What I chiefly noticed were the spike of an Archer spinner, the big round hook which is at the tail of Mr Pennell’s old pattern of spinning flight, a lead which I use for snap-trolling, and trebles - always trebles. I replaced the lid of (B) silently and passed on to (C). Here I found some more leads, a brass oil-bottle, a reel of copper-wire, two swivels, a Dusty Miller, and a solitary Jardine snap-tackle. I do not understand (C) at all, and I have no explanation to offer; but, taking out the bottle and the fly, I let it pass for pike tackle, and replaced the lid.

(D) really did hold spoons - one of them with a yellow tassel, by the way; and (E) had some also, besides two or three very rusty wire traces and some spinning leads. (F) was a horrid sight - Phantoms, Devons, wagtails, and the like, all jumbled up and inextricable, with trebles everywhere. The only inspiration the spectacle gave me was a sound one, so far as it went. I took the India-rubber fish out of (I), placed it in (F), and then put the spoon with the brown and red tassel on top of it to keep it down. Then I shut the lid quickly, and tied a piece of string round the box. I am glad to say I have not seen the fish since. Into (G) I did not look; it is so large, and has had so much put into it at one time or another, that its interior would unnerve anybody in a town. In the country one would feel more able for the task. I just put it into a kitbag with the other boxes, so that it should be there if ever wanted it. Then I went straight out to them that sell and purchased a new stock of spinning flights, some livebait tackles, wire, swivels, leads, and everything which should make me independent of my old stock.

When Caradoc and I next day reached the little country inn, I got all my gear out and placed it on the sitting-room table. He looked at the stack of boxes and then at me. “No man,” he said reprovingly, “possesses so much tackle as that.” He little knows, for I did not enlighten him. The new acquisitions were all that was required. I have heard that dustmen object to finding trebles among the household ashes, and I do not know what to do with the debris that will ensue when I have a few weeks to devote to those boxes. I once asked a very famous and resourceful angler what he did about it. “My dear fellow,” he said, with an air of great mystery, “I will tell you. I collect it all in a box, and then go for an ocean voyage; three days out from port I drop it overboard.” An ocean voyage! I have only one thing to add: after all the trouble I have taken and the sufferings I have borne - I hope not ill - I am now returned to town without having caught a single pike. Caradoc did not catch one either, and I fear he is quite pleased about it, because that’s exactly what he prophesied. He takes a gloomy joy out of being right.
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