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Reflections

By Harold Stewart

Harold Stewart recounts the old Scots salmon fishing poem, Weelum Doo.


Weelum was a man o' wecht...
Weelum was a man o' wecht...


A’ ye wha gang wi’ rod and reel,
Wi’ gaff and net, wi’ cast and creel,
Come listen tae an angler’s sang –
Ah’II no’ detain ye very lang.

There were twa cronies in Duncloo –
Jake Paiterson and Weelum Doo.
Grand fishers baith and kent tae fame,
Far yont the borders o’ their hame.

For they had fished the Tweed, the Tay,
The Forth, the Findhorn and the Spey.
And ilka loch and burn atween,
Frae Annandale tae Achnasheen.

And what they didna ken aboot,
The wily salmon and the troot,
Could hae been written clear and plain
On ae side o’ a cherry stane!

Weelum was a man o’ wecht,
Near sixteen stane – he puffed and peched.
Jake was a brisk, wee wiry felly,
But – sakes! – his e’en were awfy skelly!

To look at ae thing or anither,
He gey near keekit ower his shooder.
But tho’ sae different were the twa,
Ye’d rarely hear them thriep or thraw.

On nearly a’ thing they’d agree,
Except the tying o’ a flee.
Jake was devoted first and last,
Tae orthodoxy in the cast.

A fancy notions he decried,
He trusted in the true and tried,
Gie me, he’d say, a trusted killer,
A Thunder & Lightning Dusty Miller.

A Siller Doctor or Jock Scott,
And ah’ll pit saumon in yer pot.
Weelum was o’ different bent,
He liked the bold experiment.

And aye was inventin’ lures
For temptin’ fishy epicures.
He’d busk ye bumbees, golochs horns –
Even tae the parin’s o’ yer corns.

Wi bits o’ tinsel, tufts, o’ ‘oo,
In ony shade from pink tae blue,
Ye’ flee he made his special pride,
He bragged its merits far an’’ wide.

Built frae a purple parrot’s feather,
A denty scrap o’ crimson leather,
A beetle case, and emraud bead.
The hale whupped on wi’ gowden threed.

It was a gay and gawdy sicht –
And Weelum ca’d it Doo’s Delicht!
He swore it would bring tae haund,
The dourest saumon ever spawned.

But Jake would ee the thing asklent,
And mutter words nae fit tae print,
Yer gyte, he’d say, yer Doo’s Delicht,
Would gie a bioomin’ whale a fricht.

Ae fatal day Jake catched a cauld,
It shook him sair – for he was auld.
And syne the village hung its heid,
Tae hear the news that Jake was deid.

Weelum’s loss was mair than maist,
A frien’ wha couldna be replaced.
And aften when he cast a flee,
The sad saut tear cam 'tae his ee.

And he would wonder if in Heeven,
The Crystal sea was like Loch Leven,
And whither Jakie wi’ his squint,
Was findin’ fifty punners in’t?

And grassin’ them wi’ efforts grim,
Applauded by the Seraphim.
Sae, musin’ ae day as he stood,
Beside the Gurly’s drummly flood,

He thocht conditions a’most richt,
Tae try oot his Doo’s Delicht.
He made his cast, and Glory Be –
A muckle saumon took his flee.

Then cam a struggle, fierce and fell,
An epic only bards could tell.
That fish kent every trick and wile
Heard o’ since Moses fished the Nile.

And mony mair forbye he played
While Weelum reeled and swat and prayed.
Lang hoors gaed by, until at length,
Cunnin’ gied in tae wecht and strength.

Wabbit, owerspent tae tug or traivel,
The big fush grundit on the graivel.
And lay there pechin’ on its belly –
And syne Wull saw its een were skelly!

Wild thochts gaed breen thro’ Weelum’s brain,
Notions fantastic and insane –
The Buddhist creed o’ transmigration,
The doctrine o’ reincarnation.

He gasped – “Oh fush, for ony sake,
Tell me, are ye ma’ auld frien’ Jake?”
The saumon hove a sort of sigh,
That had a weary soond like an “Aye!”

Said Weelum, “An’ will 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?”

Frien', dinna think yer bein’ coddit,
But, as shair as daith, that saumon noddit.
And like a body in a dream,
He threw that fish back in the stream.

He hasna touched a rod since then –
For fear o’ catchin' Jake again.

Factfile


Glossary
Weelum Doo – Black William; baith – both; stane – stone; o’ wecht – of weight; peched – puffed; felly – fellow; e-en – eyes; skelly – squint; keekit – peered; shooder – shoulder; flee – fly; pit – put; busk – dress, adorn; bumbees – bumble bees; golochs horns – earwigs; gowden threed – golden thread; sicht – sight; haund – hand; asklent – askew; fricht – fright; cauld – cold; sair – sore; syne – then; heid – head; maist – most; saut – salt; punners – pounders; drummly – muddy; A muckle saumon took his flee – A big salmon took his fly; mair – more; gied – gave; Wabbit – tired; traivel – travel; gaed breen thro’ – went through; doon – down; hale – whole; wrang – wrong; coddit – kidded; shair as daith – sure as death; noddit – nodded.

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