The Flux Capacitor
A short story by Andy Scholey in which the laws of time are temporarily suspended and the course of angling history is put back on track...or is it?
A funny thing happened next week!
I’d been fishing for about half an hour without luck. It was the calmest day we’d had for weeks so I was understandably surprised when a wind suddenly sprang up from nowhere like a mini-tornado, the birds startled from the trees and there was a strange noise. From behind me a voice said:
“Hey Andy! Come and check this out.”
This came as a bit of a shock as I had been the only angler on the bank for five hundred yards in either direction. I turned around to see the floating, bodiless head of Sean peering at me from what appeared to be a hole in the sky.
“Come on! This is gonna be great.”
And he beckoned me over to an opening that had appeared next to a small willow tree. I stepped through to find myself in a large chamber filled with pale blue light. The air was the freshest I’d ever breathed, both warm and refreshing at the same time. I looked at Sean for some explanation but he just shrugged,
“Let’s just go with it.”
A figure appeared from a darker corner. It was a tall, thin man dressed in a long robe, who seemed to glide over the floor effortlessly. He spoke in a soft and reassuring manner.
“Good, I think we are all here. We can proceed”
What’s going on Sean?” I asked.
“It’s like this’ Andy,” said Sean, “Professor Chronos has travelled back from the future in this time machine” he pointed to the flux capacitor on the wall “That’s what makes time-travel possible according to the Prof. He needs our help to repair some anomalies in the space-time continuum. Apparently, in the future the environment was on the verge of collapse and the only thing that averted catastrophe was the angling community’s vigilance and awareness. But something has gone wrong. It’s hard to explain but a rift in the fabric of time means that certain key events in angling do not take place as they should and the popularity of the sport, particularly the highly inventive nature of carp angling, does not reach critical mass, we’ve got to go back and help put things right.”
“But why us?”
“Well, apparently their archaeological archivists discovered some of our articles on FishingMagic. It was the only way they could know where each one of us would be alone at any given time.”
“Who else is here?”
Sean showed me to a small sitting area where he introduce me to FishingMagic stalwarts Peter, Matt, Ron, and Kevin. They looked a bit dazed, especially Kevin who looked completely baffled, “What’s going on?” he kept saying, shaking his head.
When we were all together Chronos explained that we had been chosen to ensure that history got back on the right track. His future associates didn’t have the experience or knowledge to interact with the important characters in angling history. We had to achieve our goals by persuasion only and reveal nothing about the future. There were three main targets: Izaak Walton; Hardy Brothers; and, finally, Dick Walker.
He explained about the clothing simulator and that we would be able to dress like the locals and we prepared for the 15th Century.
“Here we are” announced Chronos. “May 02 1616, on the banks of the River Lea. I’ll drop you off behind some bushes. Izaak Walton is fishing a bit downstream but he’s not having much luck. Actually he hasn’t had a bite in two weeks! It’s up to you to persuade him to carry on. Good luck”
Once outside, the first thing I noticed was the intense tranquillity. No traffic noise, no aircraft, no tractors, just birdsong; no vapour trails in the sky; it was wonderful. Sean got us together and we wandered down the meandering river until we came across a young chap patiently waiting for a bite.
“He’s fishing in the close season!” said Kevin under his breath; he was quickly shushed by everyone but we were struggling for an opening line.
“’Ave you ‘ad ‘owt?” said Sean to Izaak as I cringed. He turned round to face us, a deep depression written clearly on his sallow cheeks.
“I haven’t had a bite for ages” he sighed “I don’t know what to do.” We nodded not knowing what to say; he didn’t seem to know what he was doing
“Let’s ‘ave a look at your bait…er, Izaak is it?” asked Sean.
“They call me Wally” he said as he pulled his line out of the water revealing a rusty old hook impaling a large comedy-shaped radish!
“That’s no good… er Wally! You need to try a worm or something” said Sean and pulled up a sod of grass revealing a juicy lobworm. We put it on and dropped the float in the current. Wally’s head was still down; he needed to come out of this depression. “Anyone got any inspirational words to help here?” Everyone was struggling, then Kevin spoke up:
“I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows.
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows.
Every time I hear a new born baby cry, or touch a leaf, or see the sky.
Then I know why I believe.”
“That’s lovely” said Wally, visibly moved. Sean looked around for anyone else. “We need some more, come on!”
Peter chipped in rhythmically:
“Sun is shinin' in the sky,
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin'
Everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day.
Wally started smiling “What agreeable words you speak”
“There was young lady from Uppingham…” started Matt, but Sean stopped him short. Kevin and Peter’s words had done the trick. Wally had lifted his head and started to see the river, trees, birds and butterflies.
Peter, Matt and I found a few more worms and threw them in as loose offerings. Wally watched. After a couple of minutes his cork and quill float tugged under and Wally played an enthusiastic perch to the side of the river where we helped with its capture. He thanked us profoundly and asked who we were.
“We’re brothers of the angle, like you” said Sean. “You will make an angler in a short time, with advice and practice” borrowing a phrase from The Compleat Angler. We talked a bit more and suggested that what was needed was a good fishing book to assist other anglers who needed help and advice. Wally looked pensive as he thanked us.
“By Jove you’re right! I’ll write a book about fishing; about friendship and about the love of nature. We’d succeeded.
We left Wally and made our way back to the time-machine and reported to Chronos what had happened.
“Well done! Your next assignments should be a bit easier.”
We visited the Hardy brothers in 1873, where Peter persuaded them to build high quality hexagonal split-cane rods for the gentry, rather than their planned mass production of cheap greenheart rods; as Peter put it rather persuasively: “You wouldn’t want the riff-raff buying them!”
Then the Fly Fishers Club in February, 1938 where the great ‘Nymphing Debate’ was getting out of order. G.E.M. Skues was just ‘squaring-up’ to Sir Joseph Ball when Sean and Kevin appeared to calm things down. Matt didn’t help when he said that he thought they were all a load of shirt-lifting fluff-chuckers, but things settled down.
Racing through time we steered angling back on track until, finally, Chronos said:
“Right lads!” he was beginning to sound a bit like Sean “This is the last event that absolutely must go right if the future for angling is to run along the correct time-line. We have to ensure Dick Walker catches his famous record carp on 13 September 1952, from Redmire Pool. The only problem is he’s planning to fish at Mapperley Reservoir. There was a pregnant pause:
“What!” exclaimed Ron “We can’t let this happen”.
Chronos transported us to the Pub where ‘The Carp Catchers’ Club’ met and wished us good luck. Sean gathered us round like a pre-game ‘huddle’ and stressed the importance of this final mission, and then we entered the pub. It was dark and very smoky; we could see the great man at a table with Maurice Ingham and Denys ‘BB’ Watkins-Pitchford. We moved closer so we could overhear what they were discussing; Matt ordered six pints of stout (even though Peter wanted a dry white wine and Perrier), and started chatting-up the barmaid.
“Mapperly Reservoir, Dick” said Maurice “that’s the place” and ‘BB’ nodded in agreement. Dick Walker also nodded
“I’ll give it a go” he said. It seemed that we were too late until, in a moment of rare inspiration, Ron spilt his beer over Maurice Ingham.
“I’m so sorry, let me get you another” said Ron.
“I’m soaked, you clumsy clot” said Maurice, “I’ll have to go and get changed, can you give me a lift home, Denys?” and they left the pub abandoning the great man to his own company. There was an awkward silence then Ron said:
“It’s Dick Walker isn’t it?” and I thought I almost saw him curtsy. “May I sit down?” The two of them started talking about fishing. Kevin called over to Ron in a loud stage whisper:
“Have you told him about that great big carp we saw in Herefordshire? You know - the one at Redmire Pool?” which was dazzling bit of quick thinking for Kevin, if a bit heavy handed, but it seemed to get the conversation turning in the right direction. After twenty minutes Ron came up to the bar for a couple more pints.
“I think it’s working” he said “He’s fished Redmire a few times this year and not caught anything over twenty pounds, but I’ve persuaded him that the fish have just started feeding and that the rumours of record breaking carp are well founded.”
He returned to Dick and continued chatting. After another ten minutes Sean nudged me and said “Look Andy! Look at that” and we all turned to look at Ron and Dick. I could not believe my eyes. On the table were half a dozen pineapple boilies and the diagram of a hair-rig sketched on the back of beermat! What about our instructions? Only persuasion; leave no evidence behind; causality; grandfather paradoxes and all that? We agreed not to tell Chronos, after all he might not use them!
Chronos opened a bottle of the 2166 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which will be a very good year apparently, and we celebrated a successful mission. He placed us all back in the exact point in time he had picked us up, although I arranged a quick detour so I could get this piece into Fishing Magic before the end of May deadline for the Chapel Baits writing competition.