Winter Pike fishing
It was one of those crisp winter mornings where the air was unusually still and the river incredibly flat. The stillness soothed the senses and I sat in my chair bathing in a requiescence that you can only experience when fishing alone in a remote spot. This is usually punctuated by several false alarms, those glances where for a moment, you can't see your float and then suddenly, disappointingly, it appears in the place you always knew it was. The expectation is almost burdensome. Mrs P asks incredulously why I am tired after a day fishing, if only she knew what we all go through.
Then it happens. The float dips, dragging the water under surface tension with it until it pops back up. Perfectly concentric ripples move outwards from your float like an aquatic bellow. The physical attributes of the water spike the senses. The mind starts to race- How long should I wait? Just how big will it be? In an instant you double-check everything, this is the moment, the one moment where nothing else matters in the world but replacing that vision of a float tip with a fish in the net. Our prize for all that supposition.
A Caged Panther
The light was fading ever so slightly as the summer evening sun lowered slowly in the sky, its bottom edge just kissing the horizon. I looked to my right where Andy was watching his motionless rod tips intently as he had been for the previous three hours, maybe three and a half. Mrs P had just left for home with the dogs. "I hope he catches something, he's come a long way," I said as she went. "He's a grown man, he can handle it," she replied as she disappeared over the dunes.
Fishing in company can be incongruous. I spent almost as much time observing my comrade as did my own rod tips. Time dragged on, tugging on my conscience as Andy sat motionless. I could almost see the angling fervour in his head packing its bags and heading back to the car. Nothing was happening, a mannequin challenge before the term was even invented. He was too far away to speak to over the lapping waves. Certainly too far to throw an arm around his slowly drooping shoulders.
Andy sat staring up at his rod tip. Without the slightest warning it suddenly hooped over. His rod butt lifted off the floor, big pit reel and all. Andy's body tensed and he readied himself to pounce. As his rod reached the horizontal there was a slight pause. Andy hesitated while his rod teetered on its axis. A split second later the rod was clean off the rest and being dragged down to the waters edge, the reel handle ploughing a small but alarming furrow in the soft sand. Far from slowing it down the outfit seemed to be actually gathering pace as it neared the point of never seeing it again. That is probably a bite I thought to myself as the shell-shocked Andy finally sprang from his seat and gave chase.
In search of Bass
The serenity was shattered that day by a my good self and the chaos twins. In a melee of licked sandwiches, wet noses, wagging tales and a heavily laden breathless angler we made our presence felt. Being Labradors the twins were cute enough to placate the sun worshippers, I however was looked upon with suspicious eyes. He's not going to carry all that stuff all the way to the sea surely? He must be mad. Little did they realise I was on a very important mission.
With the dune behind me I cursed my ridiculously impractical flip-flops as the fine mud sucked them off my feet at every opportunity. A rugby field sized patch of samphire was slowly negotiated before we reached firmer ground and continued on towards the still distant shore line. Not many people come here that's for sure I thought to myself. A place where you can see almost nothing in every direction. A beguiling tract of land. I stopped briefly, arrested by rapturous solitude.
Just my luck
I crept into place as stealthily as I could. The river was quite low and clearer than I would normally prefer. Through the surface glare of the early morning sun I could just make out some dark shapes in the shallow water. They were holding in the flow, waiting to pounce on any morsel of food that came their way. I couldn't quite make out what they were but experience told me they were either Roach or Dace, some big ones too. I trickled some maggots in upstream while setting my float rod up with a small wire-stem stickfloat. The silence was deafening. I was careful to the the extreme, even down to carefully opening boxes and the like. The fish were close and one wrong move would see them scatter. I was hunkered down in my low chair, at the bottom of the bank. They wouldn't see me against the skyline but my movements were still very slow and deliberate. Finally I was ready. Everything was in place and the next lot of maggots would have my hook bait among them. I catapulted a few out and was just ready to cast over the top.
"Caught owt mate?" shouted someone behind me.
I nearly jumped from my chair, bow waves dominated my swim as any fish within ten yards departed, at speed. I turned around to see an old man standing on top of the bank right behind me. Lovely old fella he was. Completely ruined that particular peg but there were plenty more to go at. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, these things occasionally occur I comfortingly kidded myself.
It's a Sunday afternoon in 1993. A Passion for Angling is being beamed into millions of living rooms. I actually watched one episode in a nightclub that was the base for a match I'd just fished. I digress, with Hugh Miles' stunning camera work and the watchable japery of Messrs Yates and James it transported us into a different world. A world where the warming tones of the inimitable Bernard Cribbins told us 'that sometimes just being there is enough'. It captured a moment, it was exquisite, for we wanted to be there too. Fast forward twenty-three years and that phrase accompanies every (usually rubbish) fishing photograph people take when they aren't catching anything. The phrase has been reduced to nothing but a platitude. The next time you are out fishing and you think that just being there is enough wind in and see if you feel the same. If just being there was enough we'd all be ramblers, or worse, play golf or something. Being there is nice, it can be magical, serene, biblical or any number of superlatives, it can never be enough.
The walk to the waters edge from the dusty car park was short. It was ridiculously early but even though the very tip of the sun was barely visible it was still t-shirt warm. As the sun rose the scene became illuminated, lightened a shade with every passing second. Hues of blues, pinks and oranges slowly dominated the sky. A laser beam tract of light shimmered on the surface of the water, a scintillating white path formed, starting at my feet and ending beyond the limits of my imagination.
The body of water in front of me that morning is vast. Two friends of mine have recently joined a large water. At a little over two hundred acres they could happily fish it for the next ten years and still enjoy a certain amount of mystery surrounding its occupants. This water is roughly eight hundred and fifty thousand times bigger than that. If you could it walk across it and briskly paced for twelve hours a day you would not reach the far bank for nearly ten days.
Luckily I had some help that morning in the shape of our friend Lee. With the baits out we pontificated at length, trying to keep each others spirits up. An hour passed without incident. Deep into the second hour something finally happened, something rather magical. I watched agog as my rod tip thumped over (it is worth bearing in mind that in my sixteen previous visits I hadn't seen any bites whatsoever).
After the initial hit the tip sprang back and I rushed over to the rod, by the time I had covered the short distance the tip had taken an alarming curve. My eyes fixed momentarily on the spool as it spun, the twenty pound braid being pulled as if it were cotton from a reel and the metallic noise of the drag pierced the still morning air.
I knew Archie was trouble as soon as I saw him. He was far too interested in what I was doing, nosy bugger.........
I'd travelled fifty miles to fish a Perch venue for a couple of hours. It was a fact finding mission for an upcoming project. The plan was to walk along the stretch with a lure rod to try and find some fish. Being a canal type venue I took the Chaos twins, my Labradors Daisy and Harriet. They never stray very far and are well used to the fishing regime, keep quiet, no paddling and most importantly- definitely no swimming.
We had walked about half a mile and left the towpath to fish a secluded spot behind some thick undergrowth next to a bridge. "Sorry, sorry, he loves fishing. He's obsessed with it" came a voice from the bridge above. I felt something on my leg and looked down to find a young Collie by my side, ridiculously excited. His name? Archie. He craned his neck with every cast, teetering over the water. His owner was a nice enough chap but had no control over him. None.
For the next twenty minutes Archie was a right royal pain in the arse. The Chaos twins barely noticed him. Being typical Labradors they view these jaunts as food hunts, looking for anything remotely edible (Goose poo anyone?). Eventually I decided to head back to the car. The water was as clear as I have ever seen it and just as I was about to head into the carpark I saw some dark shapes near the far bank.
The first cast produced a Perch of around a pound. The next cast saw a slightly bigger one come to the net. I soon hooked another one and this one was better still. It put up a respectable fight but was soon on the surface ready to be netted. At that moment Archie came bounding down the bank. He could see the Perch in the water and without hesitation launched himself at it, doing a huge belly flop as he hit the water. With my help the Perch escaped. Archie had a frantic swim all over the canal before he had to be rescued by two passers by. The owner was all of a fluster. I didn't have another bite.
On the long journey home with just the sound of snoring Labradors emanating from the back seat for company I consoled myself with the thought that no matter how many more times I go fishing in my life, save for personal injury, no other session will be as disastrous as that.
Till next time