Pithecanthropus was the cruel soubriquet of the water bailiff at the Clypse reservoir. It is not clear whether it referred to his looks, his intelligence, or both.
The reference was to Pithecanthropus Pekinensis, one of the missing links between apes and man, known from fossils discovered in China in the 1920s.
The Clypse is one of the main sources of drinking water for Douglas, so fishing with bait such as worms and maggots is prohibited. Only artificial flies are permitted.
My father and his fishing friends Ken and Vic, all now long dead, were World War II veterans. They had little regard for petty rules which prevented them using the most effective bait. Besides, they did not live in Douglas. While they cast ostentatiously with their fly rods, the trout came in on a worm rod concealed in the grass.
Pithecanthropus appeared without warning and came first to Ken. He asked what fly Ken was using. Ken’s vigorous casting kept the bailiff at a distance as Ken boomed: “Blackbird’s Fancy”. The bailiff seemed to be satisfied and moved round to my father.
During the war my father had picked up four or five long and fluent sentences of Polish. When up against it he would repeat them in rotation, rolling his eyes in a Polish fashion, for as long as necessary. After a few minutes the bailiff gave up and moved round to Vic.
Vic was no fly fisherman. His fly line was in a tangle and the bailiff saw that it had no nylon cast or fly on the end of it. Then he spotted the concealed worm rod and demanded that Vic reel it in to show him the bait.
Vic said that he was happy to comply, but there was a problem. If Pithecanthropus forced him to reel in, Vic would have to throw him in the reservoir. Nothing personal, of course.
Vic was a large and physical man so the bailiff thought better of it and left the three of them to poach unmolested for the rest of the afternoon.
It would be good to report that anglers on Manx reservoirs today do not share the lax attitude of my father and his friends.