The Fishing Widow
Neil Maidment takes a look at angling life...from a very different perspective.
We first met 40 years ago and have been married for 36 of those and yet I still don’t understand any of it. Even when we were ‘going out’ a lot of our dates involved fishing one way or another. Most weekends were taken up with competitions and indeed the weekday evenings seem to be reserved for all the preparation that that entailed.
No, I definitely do not and never will understand him and his fishing!
Even our honeymoon was interrupted by a Sunday match down on the Stour! I was left to fend for myself at the hotel while he and his mates caught bleak all day and then sat in The Kings Arms planning the following weekends’ match. I suppose I should have been grateful all the bait and tackle preparations were sorted out by his team mates. They even took all his gear down there for him, all he had to do was turn up for the start. Which he did, but he was late and missed the draw… don’t ask!
Talking of bait and preparation – why did we have to have two fridges in the garage and one in the garden shed? All of which were probably in better condition than the one I had in my kitchen. I could cope with that but very nearly killed him when I stumbled upon a couple of dead pigeons and some lamb’s hearts festering away in the shed. I still have no idea what the word ‘gozzers’ means but it’s forever etched into my memory.
Mind you I did get a new kitchen as a direct result of a ‘misunderstanding’ with the instructions on how to use a pressure cooker. I came home one evening to find the ceiling and large areas of the walls pebble dashed with little black seeds. The cooker was ruined, the kitchen stank of something decidedly illegal and the cat was on the missing list for three weeks. Give him credit though; he spent the weekend clearing it all up while I went home to my mother.
As the years ticked by things calmed down a bit, at least on the fishing front. Three children turned up somehow, all boys, and he actually seemed to have a career developing that required a lot of his attention. That was excellent as I and the boys did have expensive tastes. My boys never seemed to have any interest in fishing - mother knows best!
Although fishing took a bit of a back seat for a while, it was never that far away. On holiday in Florida he booked a nice boat trip ‘to see the dolphins’. Beautiful day out in the boat, lovely sunset and I wasn’t at all put off by the two chairs in the back of the boat and several rods that just happen to be set up for something called a tarpon. I think he did hook into something, not sure, I was reading my book and enjoying the sun, but when it jumped out of the water it just looked like a giant sardine to me, and anyway, you could hand feed some huge tarpon from the jetty where the boat was moored, so what was the point?
More recently he seems to have become very selective with his fishing, picking and choosing just when and where to go. Why is it he’s happy to drive the 150 miles roundtrip back to Dorset to fish the Stour when the local canal is just a five minute walk away? It’s just not logical.
He’s also got back into fly fishing (and I can see some sense in that as you get to keep what you catch). But then I get very confused. For the most part he comes home empty handed and when I ask if he’s had a good day, he says yes, great day, really enjoyable. Then again he brings home two absolutely huge trout and moans it was all too easy and not very challenging. What’s that all about?
And another thing! Increasingly he goes away on fish-ins with a group of mates he knows from the internet. These trips tend to be a whole weekend, involve a night in a tent and lots of beer. It seems the average fish-in involves very little fishing and certainly not a lot of catching yet he’s had an absolutely superb time and when’s the next one?
He’s definitely getting more and more nostalgic for the good old days. For the last few years around mid-March, he invariably disappears for a weekend, again with his internet mates, for an end of season celebration. Now I may not understand too much about fishing, but wasn’t the Close Season abolished some time ago? It seems the old codgers get together for a bit of fishing, a damn good meal with all the trimmings (incidentally, when was the last time he took me out for a meal?) and then they sit round the table with the port and brandy and discuss the merits of split cane rods and why centrepins will always outperform fixed spool reels (except the Mitchell Match apparently). He assures me the ‘old magazines’ that get revisited every year are Fishing Gazette, Angling News and suchlike, I’m not convinced!
Two years ago at Christmas I spent a huge amount of time and effort sorting out his present. I had to enlist the help of a few of his mates, who were strangely reticent, but I eventually found it on eBay and paid quite a tidy sum for it. After the customary Bucks Fizz on Christmas morning I presented him with a beautifully wrapped box, which took me several hours to do. It only took him a few seconds to destroy all that work but his anticipation was obvious. He then went very quiet. It turns out, so I found out later, he already had that particular Limited Edition Match Arial! Oh, and by the way, he still thinks I don’t know about his collection of centrepins – silly man!
I suppose I should be grateful he seems to only have one vice. But it’s usually to be found clamped to the dining room table surrounded by various bits of fur and feather. Apparently, to catch a trout on something you’ve made yourself is a lot more satisfying (but I refer you to the paragraph above!). It seems to take several attempts and lots of swearing to create just one little fly and I have to say the finished article rarely looks anything like the example in the magazine.
So here we are, 40 years later and we’re still at it (if you’ll pardon the expression). My boys have all left home and we’ve got two grandsons now. He’s already planning their first rod and reel and is talking about putting their name down for some syndicate or other. In his dreams!