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The Mackerel Skies, the Salmon-Crowded Seas William Greenway I've always wanted to catch a fish in Britain. Not necessarily one of those huge trout they always catch in movies in Scodand whüe wearing a tweed cap and waders, just a fish. Fish are not very far from sight since every vülage and High Street has its own fish store, the windows fuU ofwhite metal trays on snow holding cockles—soft, wet tiger claws of translucent pearl, orange rooted—red smoky kippers, shiny as sheUacked boards, bones woodburned black, Uke fern shadows, fossüs. In another tray wül be a chevron of rainbow trout, sulking. Through the ice between the trays twine conger eels thick as fire hoses. We've never quite understood how fish get into the stores, because for aU the time we've spent on the harbors of the coast, the only boats we've seen are wrecked, sticking out ofthe sand like sugar scoops, or decorative, brightly painted and covered in nets, full of lobster traps, lying on picturesque shingle beaches, puUed up next to thatched cottages. Their names seem either ironic—Uke Success, Victory, Providence, Industry, Diligence, Perseverance, or appropriate , like Blind Fortune, Happy Return, or Marie Antoinette. Only twice have my wife and I seen anybody come in with any fish. In CornwaU we saw them unload some skate onto the stone cob of the harbor , their white undersides like clown faces with the giUs like sad, downturned eyes. On the docks in Portree, Isle ofSkye, we finaUy caught a fuU fishing boat. GuUs swirled, watching the men as they worked on a board cleaning their catch, hovered, eyeing particular bits, tiU the yeUow mackintoshed, watchcapped fishermen raised one end oftheir board and slid the remains offinto the bay, the way a body is buried. When we asked them questions, they wouldn't answer direcdy "What have you caught?" we asked, and they just looked quickly, shyly at us and smüed. But when we asked, "Are those prawns?" they said "Oh, aye."To everything we asked they'd say "Oh, aye," 79 80Fourth Genre never stopping tearing heads off, separating into buckets. A local restaurant owner came out of his shop on the dock and bought the prawns, and for the next week we saw prawn salad advertised on his chalk board, a direct lesson in simple economy. Although I have always been a salt-water fisherman, what I had seen of salt-water fishing in Britain hadn't been encouraging. Someone once said you're never more than forty mues from the coast in Britain, so I guess it's not unusual to have so many kinds of fishing cheek by jowl. On the pier along the coast, they fish with huge rods they cast with both hands, flipping the heavy weights a country mile. The weights sit on the bottom whüe the treble hook, a mass of bloodworms, catches the dab, sole, flounder, cod, whatever. There's a little beU on the rod tip to teU them when they have a bite. The wind seems to be blowing every day, and they huddle in oüskins waiting for a bite. I never saw anyone catch anything, though the chalk boards at the entrances to the piers always listed as the catch of the month something I never recognized, Uke a five pound cocUing, which must be a cross between a ling and a cod. The fish they catch in these northern waters seem strange to me, more prehistoric than the fish of the Gulf of Mexico where I have always fished. No swordfish, pompano, tuna, or red snapper for them; the salt-water fishermen hold up for the camera things coelacanthine , pelagic, bony, Uke shark, skate, tope, plaice, dab, and sole, their eyes goggled or on one side of their body, ice-water fish. Scottish salmon or Welsh sewin (sea trout) aside, they seem aU bones and scales, and when I eat them I feel Uke I'm grappUng with them—they don't go down smoothly like the sauced seafood of New Orleans. So I was after freshwater fishing in the beautiful ponds, lakes, and...


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