Mr. Theodore Castwell
MR. THEODORE CASTWELL, having devoted a long, strenuous
and not unenjoyable life to hunting to their doom innumerable
salmon, trout, and grayling in many quarters of the globe,
and having gained much credit among his fellows for his many
ingenious improvements in rods, flies, and tackle employed
for that end, in the fullness of time died and was taken
to his own place.
By G. E. M. Skues
St. Peter looked up from a draft balance sheet at the entry
of the attendant angel.
"A gentleman giving the name of Castwell. Says he is a fisherman,
your Holiness, and has 'Fly-Fishers' Club, London' on his card."
"Hm-hm," says St. Peter. "Fetch me the ledger with his account."
St. Peter perused it.
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "Show him in."
Mr. Castwell entered cheerfully and offered a cordial right
hand to St. Peter.
"As a brother of the angle—" he began.
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter. "I have been looking at your account
"I am sure I shall not appeal to you in vain for special
consideration in connection with the quarters to be assigned
to me here."
"Hm-hm," said St. Peter.
"Well, I've seen worse accounts," said St. Peter. "What sort
of quarters would you like?"
"Do you think you could manage something in the way of a
country cottage of the Test Valley type, with modern
conveniences and, say, three quarters of a mile of one
of those pleasant chalk streams, clear as crystal, which
proceed from out the throne, attached?"
"Why, yes," said St. Peter. "I think we can manage that
for you. Then what about your gear? You must have left
your fly rods and tackle down below. I see you prefer a
light split cane of nine foot or so, with appropriate
fittings. I will indent upon the Works Department for
what you require, including a supply of flies. I think
you will approve of our dresser's productions. Then you
will want a keeper to attend you."
"Thanks awfully, your Holiness," said Mr. Castwell. "That
will be first-rate. To tell you the truth, from the
Revelations I read, I was inclined to fear that I might
be just a teeny-weeny bit bored in heaven."
"In h-hm-hm," said St. Peter, checking himself.
It was not long before Mr. Castwell found himself alongside
an enchantingly beautiful clear chalk stream, some fifteen
yards wide, swarming with fine trout feeding greedily: and
presently the attendant angel assigned to him had handed
him the daintiest, most exquisite, light split-cane rod
conceivable—perfectly balanced with the reel and line—with
a beautifully damped tapered cast of incredible fineness
and strength, and a box of flies of such marvelous tying
as to be almost mistakable for the natural insects they
were to simulate.
Mr. Castwell scooped up a natural fly from the water,
matched it perfectly from the fly box, and knelt down
to cast to a riser putting up just under a tussock ten
yards or so above him. The fly lit like gossamer, six
inches above the last ring; and next moment the rod was
making the curve of beauty. Presently, after an exciting
battle, the keeper netted out a beauty of about two and
a half pounds.
"Heavens," cried Mr. Castwell. "This is something like."
"I am sure his Holiness will be pleased to hear it,"
said the keeper.
Mr. Castwell prepared to move upstream to the next riser
when he noticed that another trout had taken up the
position of that which he had just landed, and was rising.
"Just look at that," he said, dropping instantaneously to
his knee and drawing off some line. A moment later an
accurate fly fell just above the neb of the fish, and
instantly Mr. Castwell engaged in battle with another
lusty fish. All went well, and presently the landing
net received its two and a half pounds.
"A very pretty brace," said Mr. Castwell, preparing to
move on to the next string of busy nebs which he had
observed putting up around the bend. As he approached
the tussock, however, he became aware that the place
from which he had just extracted so satisfactory a brace
was already occupied by another busy feeder.
"Well, I'm damned," said Mr. Castwell. "Do you see that?"
"Yes, sir," said the keeper.
The chance of extracting three successive trout from
the same spot was too attractive to be forgone, and
once more Mr. Castwell knelt down and delivered a
perfect cast to the spot. Instantly it was accepted
and battle was joined. All held, and presently a third
gleaming trout joined his brethren in the creel.
Mr. Castwell turned joyfully to approach the next
riser round the bend. Judge, however, his surprise
to find that once more the pit beneath the tussock
was occupied by a rising trout, apparently of much
the same size as the others.
"Heavens," exclaimed Mr. Castwell. "Was there ever
anything like it?"
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"Look here," said he to the keeper, "I think I really
must give this chap a miss and pass on to the next."
"Sorry, it can't be done, sir. His Holiness would not like it."
"Well, if that's really so," said Mr. Castwell, and knelt
rather reluctantly to his task.
Several hours later he was still casting to the same tussock.
"How long is this confounded rise going to last?" inquired
Mr. Castwell. "I suppose it will stop soon."
"No, sir," said the keeper.
"What, isn't there a slack hour in the afternoon?"
"No afternoon, sir."
"What? Then what about the evening rise?"
"No evening rise, sir," said the keeper.
"Well, I shall knock off now. I must have had
about thirty brace from that corner."
"Beg pardon, sir, but his Holiness would not like that."
"What?" said Mr. Castwell. "Mayn't I even stop at night?"
"No night here, sir," said the keeper.
"Then do you mean that I have got to go on catching these
damned two-and-a-half pounders at this corner forever
The keeper nodded.
"Hell!" said Mr. Castwell.
"Yes," said his keeper. ~ G.E.M.Skues
Credit: Mr. Theodore Castwell is an excerpt from Fisherman's
Bounty, by Nick Lyons, published in 1970 by Crown. In the
Acknowledgments he credits the source as "taken from Sidelines,
Sidelights, and Reflections by G.E.M. Skues. Copyright
1947 by G.E.M. Skues." The original story appears in that book,
(first edition) on page 347 as "Some Letter," with the notation
"Fly-Fishers' Club Journal, vol. 19, No. 73. Spring, 1930.
Lighter Side Archive