Many thanks to all who participated in the competition; it has been a pleasure to receive and read all entries and it is hoped that subsequent competitions will attract similar enthusiasm from Fishing Magic viewers. Altamash Kabir will now have his choice from the three awards. Ian Nesbitt will then choose from the remaining two. The remaining prize goes to Jack Croxall, but here’s the thing: they’re equally great prizes.
Runner-up, Ian Nesbitt
3rd Prize Winner, Jack Croxall
Our thanks go to Rapala who very generously donated a quality tackle-boxful of lures; to former angling guide, Graham Elliott, who will be overnight-hosting one of the winners and spending a day with him barbel fishing on the River Wye, and to Richard Hewitt of Fishingmagic for donating a Wychwood carp rod and reel.
Naturally, we reproduce the winning article here for your enjoyment once again.
Deola’s Pond by Altamash Kabir
No bivvies here…no buzzers, no big-pits, no on-site tackle-shop. Read Altamash Kabir’s intriguing tale of mystery and tragedy at Deola’s Pool…
If your ancestors lived in deep tropical forests where the sun never shone through and the ground was dark and wet and death lurked in innumerable ways in every shadowed corner and the carcasses of death disappeared through decay and forage so fast that there was no trace of a life having passed, just the immutable forest, then, ingrained deep in your ancestral memory is the certainty that each part of the earth is ruled by those of worlds beyond our ken, kindly or demonic, and it is well to propitiate all and to give their quirky ways due honour.
In one forgotten corner of the tea-estate there is a long rectangular tank with a collection of columns and a tin roof at one end. The columns are always whitewashed and the tin shiny new. Yet all this newness is but a cover to something so ancient that the oldest books and manuscripts merely record its existence without explanation. It is a shrine to the goddess Kali, the mother goddess of the Hindus but also in her most ancient incarnation, the goddess of annihilation.
The estate workers are Hindu and revere her but they will tell you that Kali rules over and is worshipped by more than those of the visible world for surely mere mortals cannot entirely fulfill the needs of the Mother. Thus, in her service, there is Deola, one of the spirit world, who lives, hidden from prying eyes beneath the waters of the tank. He brooks no violation of his abode and none may partake of its waters or its bounty, none that is, except the mother who owns it and her children and her children’s children, in accordance with the custom of the heavenly ones. Indeed no one will even wash their feet in the pond leave alone swim in it
Surendra worked on the estate more off than on for he was essentially a wayward soul. His passion was to poach the surrounding forests with bow and arrow and snare. He poached the jungle fowl on the estate with gay abandon. He was a past master at laying the gill net made of the finest monofilament and removing the fish in the estate ponds and lakes to the local markets for his personal gain. In this he was ably assisted by his unmarried sister who was something of a Diana with the ancient arc and feathered shaft herself. We followed his nefarious footsteps as hard as we could to bring him to book but he stayed a good step or two ahead of us. Like most wayward souls he was something of a sceptic but to all and sundry professed tremendous respect for the Deola.
Under the awesome protection of the Deola the denizens of the tank had waxed fat and were of fearsome proportions themselves. Indeed if you stood on the high banks on a dark night there would be a mighty swirl more felt than seen out in the middle of the pond and you would remark to your companion, for none ventured there without at least one and preferably several companions, that it was a great fish indeed. But that ancestral voice somewhere in that part of the mind which still communicates with those who came before us would set up an insistent peeping …. Is it a fish? ….is it? And you would turn and walk away trying to hide your haste.
Surendra encouraged all to fear the Deola. He told them tales of how his gill nets, and he had extra strong ones specifically for the pond , had been rent and left in such tatters that it surely was not the work of mere fish. All heard and nodded sagely and left the pond alone and that cunning sprite and his sister rubbed their hands in glee. Having failed with their gill nets they took to patrolling the edges with a many pronged fish spear. They speared a few of the smaller fish but the larger ones remained frustratingly out of range. They came up with a plan for that too. Surendra wound strong monofilament round the back end of an arrow and tied the free end to his wrist. On cold winter nights when mist shrouded everything our merry poacher would, accompanied by his sister, stalk the banks of the pond. The larger fish would often cruise the surface taking food particles off it and many a time they saw the large gaping mouths opening and closing just below the top of the water. Surendra mastered the art of compensating for refraction and had taken two or three large fish with his bow and arrow and line holding on for dear life till the fish tired.
“The beam of the flashlight in my hand fell on the most enormous mouth opening and closing just below the dark surface. This was no ordinary fish, the shoulders stuck up out of the water and the dorsal was like a great sail. My brother, without hesitation, let fly and his arrow sped true piercing the great fish through the shoulders. With a mighty heave that cleft the waters the fish dived into the depths and, before I could react, my brother was up to his waist and then his chest and then he disappeared under. He came up lunging for the bank but was pulled back again. This happened once, twice, three times, when getting my wits together, I bounded down the bank and as he came up at last I grabbed his hand and with one slash of my curved knife severed the line to the arrow. Then, the two of us, shivering and stumbling went back to our house where, as you all know, my beloved brother lay down and passed into the next world!”
The entire population turned out the next day to stare at the pond. But the surface remained undisturbed. They were confirmed in their suspicions that it was no fish for “look you”, they said, “If it had been a fish it would surely have died and floated to the surface by now. No fish can live with an arrow through both shoulders.”
Surendra is not with us anymore but it is common knowledge that he now lives in the pond in thrall to the Deola.
As I am one of the children of the very human mother who actually owns the pond I pay a visit or two to see what the Deola has to offer but the occasions are rare and sometimes a whole year goes by without wetting a line in the waters. It is a little out of the way and I prefer to selfishly fish the pond alone and not with my usual companions.
Last week, when Uday, Jibon (the two boys who always accompany me when fishing) and I stood on the near bank from the shrine looking at the waters, all seemed placid as usual. But Uday, with a little exclamation, pointed out a slight disturbance some ten yards out and in a direct line with the shrine. There was a firm little whirlpool sucking the waters and the debris relentlessly down like a mini maelstrom.
Given this is a rectangular tank with no flow although very deep it seemed a little extraordinary. My explanation that it was a great fish, standing on its head trying to feed off the bottom and that it’s broad tail waving too and fro was the cause of the whirlpool was met with silence.
We elected to fish from the far bank.
The last of the light had long faded without even a flicker from my little red tipped float.
Uday fished out the pewter hip flask from the fishing bag and poured a healthy slug of malt whisky into a plastic cup and handed it to me. Jibon adjusted the weak beam of the cheap rechargeable Chinese flashlight to illuminate the float a little better and poured two cups of tea for Uday and himself.
I had just taken a sip from the cup when with a seeming great reluctance, and ever so slowly, my float crept out of sight. I carefully put the cup down and struck, somewhat halfheartedly, with the most alarming results. The little one handed fly rod, pressed into service for want of a more suitable weapon, locked into something way past its normal battle curve. The single action fly reel, loaded only with monofilament, tortured beyond restraint, howled in pain, and the line, with its very own rooster tail, disappeared into the night. Then, moved by some powerful force from deep within, the waters began to lap and tremble, plashing in angry little waves all along the banks of the pond.
I held on to the oppressed and creaking fly rod and watched for nine, ten, eleven minutes as whatever was at the other end did as it pleased while my wrist slowly began to scream in anguish. The line suddenly snaked right and all went solid. I held for the inevitable and in time the rod straightened and I began to wind in the frayed and broken line.
Jibon and Uday without a word and with great determination packed up the gear and relieved me of the rod and herded me towards home. I walked in silence swearing to come back with more effective tackle, all the while trying to calm my still hammering heart – the aftermath of the battle. Or was it? The peeping ancestral voice was there again for my ears had picked up the mutter on the lips of the two boys: