Monday, 12 March 2012

llamas carry the rarest uk fish up a mountain

Hey, it's Classic Angling time again! I've not been neglectful, exactly, just stymied by the fact that the British Library has been rearranging its catalogue.

Anyway, the above headline barely registers on the list of 2011's top stories. I was alerted to the year's great scandal by the headline: Edwin Rist, the highly-rated young tyer, has escaped a jail sentence for stealing rare bird capes.

You'd have to have a heart of weird not to read on from that. In a nutshell, Edwin Rist is a fishing-fly-tying phenom from upstate New York (I think), and he was winning international medals when he was seventeen. Then he came to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music, and he set up home in Willesden (which is very near Kilburn, geography fans), and he started to think...

In what has been described as a James Bond-style delusion by people who I doubt realise that 'James Bond' was a name Ian Fleming plucked from a guide to West Indian birds, Rist passed himself off as a doctoral student from Oxford, and got access to the vaults at the Natural History Museum's brilliant, brilliant taxidermy and specimen outpost at Tring. He stole 299 extremely valuable - in some cases irreplaceable - bird skins, and started selling the feathers to fellow fly-tiers.

He was caught and, ultimately, fined £125,000. The Museum spoke very highly of the help it had received from the international fly-tying community, but many skins are still missing, or, and this is pretty much as bad given that these are ur-specimens, unlabelled.

Rist was selling feathers so he could buy a new flute. Tell me you don't want to know more about this.

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