1984 was probably the last year that my enthusiasm for angling could be labelled ‘fanatical’; the all‑consuming desire to grab the best swim in search of another biggie began to wane at the tail‑end of that celebrated year – the consequence, maybe, of the conscience I’d developed for fishing so often during my daughter’s first twelve months. From then on, enjoyment became the name of the game; in other words, I was getting old!
Whatever, I began to derive most pleasure from experimenting in unusual swims – snaggy corners, night‑time shallows, one‑rod gaps and the like, and one such spot had had me wondering for weeks…
Eventually, I mustered the confidence to actually tackle‑up there and to very self‑consciously settle‑in for a session. With somewhere in the region of three miles of bank space at my disposal I must’ve looked odd to say the least, laid back in a deckchair in the most unlikely of ‘swims’, eyes fixed on a float not four feet from the bank! But the ‘swim’ was quiet and overgrown, home to a tangle of fallen trees and duckweed, deep enough to accommodate a large fish; I figured that was all I needed, tossed in a handful of corn, and hoped to be left undisturbed. Ever the optimist, the tripod and camera were set up and hidden under my coat; the Avons and weighing‑bag were similarly disguised for fear of attracting attention. Within thirty minutes, a walking tackle‑mountain came by and paused behind me, curious. My prayers were ignored and a conversation was struck up – I cannot be rude! When it (The tackle mountain) moved off to find a swim, I breathed a sigh of relief then asked myself why? I’d seen nothing here to get excited about, nothing at all, but my belief in the swim told me to keep as low a profile as possible.
I continued in the business of watching a float until – not fifteen minutes later – the sherpa returned for a progress report on my gap in the reeds; he was clearly most intrigued by my choice of pitch and eager to ‘suss‑out’ the attraction. My eyes remained fixed on the float as we spoke and I prayed for it to stay exactly where it was; I did NOT want to discover an angler’s Eldorado with a spectator at my side!
“Anyway” he said shortly “Good luck” and off he sauntered, a nice guy actually but unwelcome in the circumstances. No sooner had he disappeared behind the trees, the quill lifted then jabbed down and out of sight! Immediately, I was in combat with a ‘lump’ that relied more on its bulk than on any fighting qualities it may have possessed…doggedly it thumped around, with me – one eye up the bank – desperate to keep any commotion to a silent minimum! By dishing‑out a degree of ‘welly’, the “Oliver’s Tench” soon brought to the surface a thrashing, angry mirror carp; the net was slipped under and in a thunderous flap, a twenty‑two pound carp was hoisted onto the grass!
I looked around anxiously, certain I’d alerted The World and its Brother, and, of course, my ‘mate’ up the bank, but nobody appeared so the fish was swiftly unhooked and slipped into the sack for a pre‑photo ‘breather’; equally knackered, I frantically re-positioned the rod and landing-net and attempted to calm down with a coffee, to appear nonchalant – just in case. Blow me if he didn’t turn up again within seconds!
“Any joy?” He hadn’t noticed the sack staked in the margin and I prayed that its occupant was too knackered or bewildered to make a fuss. The standard denials and excuses were made, soon after which my friend turned back to his tackle with the promise to “see you later”. Bugger. What to do? I waited a full, suspicious minute before hurriedly positioning the tripod, focusing the camera then posing for a couple of shots with the mirror. That done, the fish was quickly slipped back and any evidence of the catch made good; the former cross-legged pose in the deckchair was re‑adopted and a Hamlet lit for best effect.
Not thirty seconds elapsed before a worried-looking matey drifted into view again… “Have you got a couple of hooks I could borrow? I’ve gone and left mine indoors’ Charged with relief and the satisfaction of my slick deception, I gladly presented him with a new pack of size eights and insisted that he keep ’em!
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