These people who see UFOs when there’s no one else around…the ones who encounter panthers in the Cornish or Welsh countryside when they’re out walking, alone…I believe them!
There seems to be a natural conspiracy to discredit those who witness the strangest and most remarkable phenomena and this is no more evident than in the world of angling. As it happens I was accompanied the night I saw my UFO many years ago and I am yet to come across a Super-Felix on my travels, but oh! How often I’ve yearned for someone to turn up and witness an outstanding fishy experience.
I was fishing the middle Wye courtesy of a farmer-friend who had granted me access to a rather nice pool. My small cube of pink-indispensable hadn’t been in the water more than a few minutes before I espied a slow but deliberate bend appearing in the tip of my nine and a half foot light leger rod; I crouched in readiness and on seeing a positive tap I struck and pulled into something heavy…very heavy indeed!
Immediately I wished I’d been accompanied but the job in hand soon dominated my thoughts. Whatever I’d hooked was big, weighty and ponderous before it decided to distance itself from my station with a forty or even fifty yard downstream surge: I thought it’d never stop! But eventually it did stop so slowly, carefully, calmly I eased the living weight toward me, against the flow, and wondered what the hell I’d latched into: might it merely be a decent chub and a hundredweight of weed, I wondered.
Keen to discover the mystery I would have expressed a little optimism when, at long last, my line entered the water at ‘six o’clock’ to the trembling rod tip; I attempted a tentative lift only to see the rod arc nervously, alarmingly – and with no discernible change in the fish’s position. It was still deep and I strained my eyes for a tell-tale glimpse of colour or fin but the fish kept low, dogged and out of sight…then it suddenly bolted with terrifying speed towards its original position downstream and kept going…and going…and going!
I was fishing ‘blind’ and unable to see around the out-sized blackberry bush that wholly marred my view of the river downstream; I only knew that I was alone, unaided and doing battle with the fish of a lifetime.
I could, by now, feel the fish to be unhindered by weed or other flotsam; I was straight through to the jaw of a very big water animal and praying for it to stop. When, eventually, it did abandon its plan for a day at the seaside, I tightened the clutch just a fraction and repeated the painstaking process of pulling my adversary upstream and back into my swim. It took an age.
At long last she was here again: deeply out of sight, stubborn and testing my 8lb line to the limit. I slackened the clutch this time and wound down in order to lift…slowly she started to rise. I quickly wound down again and resumed the treacle-slow haul…up, up, slowly up…until I saw the distinctive ‘white’ of a mega-pike’s fins!
I just knew my wand of a rod wouldn’t have tired her one iota so I braced myself for more jet-powered fireworks and desperately looked around for a witness to the imminent surge of raw energy. Of course, there was nobody, so I thrilled alone to the impossibly long, unwavering scream of my Shimano as the pike sought to rid itself of the irksome size 8 in its jaw…jeeez, did it go!
Again, the rod formed a half-circle as four feet of water-wolf surged without pause toward the sea and there was no break in my reel’s protestation, its agonized lament the stuff of anglers’ dreams…if they could see me now, I thought; if ONLY Mick or His Wyeness Geoffrey Maynard of Hay could see me now! But I was, of course, utterly alone and unseen between the brambles at the base of a high bank in the middle of nowhere. With a good sixty-plus yards of line between us the pike stopped and allowed me to cautiously haul it back upstream in painfully small increments to my swim. It took another age. How everything held together was a small miracle – or perhaps I was actually doing a very skilful job!
I eventually found myself, once more, with the fish in front of me but unseen in the dark, deep water. Some fifteen minutes had passed since the Queen of the Pool had deigned my humble piece of spam fit for her palate and I was beginning to worry: could the gear hold out?
Again I checked the drag and began to lift slowly…very slowly, half expecting my hook to ping out and leave me with a straightened rod and a broken heart. On the second or third excruciating haul my opponent sobered-up again and headed for the mountains, slowly, and with genuinely awesome power. But I now felt in control and confident enough to make it work harder for its freedom, so I tightened-up a fraction and watched the line rise dripping and lightly weeded from the water’s surface. Then the pike was there with fresh air and sunshine on its back! For three or four seconds she wallowed, taking stock of her predicament like all big pike at this stage of the fight; then she erupted within a thunderous and profoundly worrying explosion of displacement. I was winning.
I fleetingly considered whipping out the mobile and calling somebody to ‘hear’ me bank a biggie but good sense prevailed; I applied myself to the exacting job in hand and eventually eased my marbled monster within netting distance – then I remembered! I’d come prepared for the smaller species and had brought the tiniest, tattiest, triangular net I possessed! With just fourteen inches of tubular plastic ‘draw-cord’ from arm to arm you might imagine the overall netting area of its frame! But necessity is the mother of invention and somehow, some way, with experience and the imperative to succeed on my side, I managed to insinuate forty-five inches of solid Esox lucius into that ludicrously tiny net. When I lifted and pulled so the arms collapsed-in to enclose and secure my unplanned prize; I then bit the line and clambered up the near vertical bank, breathless and aching with twenty-two minutes’ excitement and sheer fatigue. What a fish! She turned the needle to 24lb exactly and again I stupidly wished for a witness to materialize, but no…I would, again, have no satisfactory record of a remarkable capture, only a ‘ground’ shot with the ubiquitous fag-packet for scale.