Archie was just thinking how lucky he’d been to fill up before the latest petrol price rise. £7.48 per litre, not bad these days! Thank goodness for Tesco; he’d called in at the supermarket to buy some fishing sundries before his afternoon on the river. Since the demise of the independent tackle shop he’d been obliged to buy his bits and pieces at Tesco as they took over ever more high street duties: it always troubled him when he tried to engage the shop assistants about how the fishing was and which pegs were fishing well only to be greeted with stony silence and the occasional offer to sell him some tackle insurance. Still, the Clubcard points were handy.
For some while he’d been trying to find time for a visit to his favourite river and today he had managed to squeeze in three hours in the late afternoon. Arriving at the river bank car park he quickly gathered his tackle together; filled in the risk assessment form that allowed him entry to the river bank, and set off for an available swim, any swim would do. It was a pleasant autumn afternoon; a warm breeze ruffled the surface of the river as if from an invisible fan, and the willow leaves rustled softly; creamy sunshine dripped through breaks in the low, grey clouds.
At last he was ready for his first cast. He placed his proto-pellet in the Bite-Every-Time® module and added some river water. The synthesiser silently analysed the sample; temperature, pH, minerals and trace elements. The screen flashed the question “Species?” and Archie scrolled down to Barbel and pressed “Enter”. A few moments later the prepared pellet appeared in the tray. He deftly glued his hook to the line with No-More-Knots™, and cast out about fifteen yards into the centre of the stream. He allowed everything to settle before placing the rod securely in its rest; carefully engaged the Never-Miss™ switch and the Auto-Play™ button before settling down to pour a cup of coffee and enjoy a biscuit.
“This new gear is great!” he thought, as he relaxed. He’d been fishing with the E-Z-Fish® stuff for years now and was confident that he’d have a fish on the bank soon, well within the guaranteed thirty minutes. Even so he missed the bite when it came, but never mind, the self striking mechanism kicked in and the fish was hooked. He heard the gearing growl as the fish made its first impetuous run, the clutches first paying line out, and the micro-motor retrieving line before he grabbed the rod and took over. Ninety seconds later the barbel was on the bank, fifteen pounds of solid fighting fish. He scanned for the chip ID behind the dorsal fin and was surprised to discover it was a fish he hadn’t caught before – another one to underline in red. Fifty coded fish had been introduced into this section and he’d now caught thirty-three of them. This fish was identical to the first one he had caught six months ago, as one might expect considering the introduction of the “Dolly” strain of cloned barbel a few years ago. The strain had been chosen for their excellent fighting qualities and their defencelessness against Bite-Every-Time™ bait systems.
He recast another transformed pellet into the water and relaxed back into his chair. His thoughts drifted onto the myriad of devices that were available to the modern angler. Vari-Strength™ line; Never-Bend™ hooks; Marine Halibut Lite™,(developed when overweight fish were suffering heart attacks when landed); The ‘Corker Jobby-Gon®’ (a portable, solar powered, freeze drier and compacter, for anglers involved in long sessions). Things have certainly come a long way he said to himself. His thoughts were interrupted by another bite. The Auto-Play™ mechanism, based on Formula 1 traction control technology, had once again taken over; two minutes later another identical barbel was in the net.
“Yes!” he said to himself whilst shaking his head just a little. “Things have certainly come a long way.” Who could have imagined that ever since the political parties realised that there were millions of angling votes in marginal constituencies they would start handing out political honours; first a place in the Upper House for Lord Shimano of Hampton Loade, and his fishing buddy could now legitimately be called Sir Michael!
He repeated the routine another couple of times over the next thirty minutes, each time with success. He sighed as he reeled in his fourth identical barbel; he’d already caught this one four times this year.
Settling down after his fifth cast his mind drifted back to when he was a youngster; to the days when the only baits he could afford were worms, bread and, occasionally, a few maggots. When his fibre glass rod and his centre pin reel were considered state of the art; you only replaced your line when there was thirty yards left; when a good barbel was a five pounder! And when a good day’s fishing was a four or five pounds mixed bag of dace, perch, gudgeon, the odd chub and a few Tommies! Tommies! He hadn’t seen one for twenty years; he doubted whether Ruffe were on the list of species attracted by Bite-Every-Time®.
The reddening evening sun was in his eyes through a break in the clouds and he closed them briefly to avoid the glare. He continued his daydream; he was remembering his favourite trip to the river when he was just sixteen. One morning in June, accompanied by his friend Derek, they had fished together, on a bend, on the river Wharfe. The water level was just coming down after being high for a week; the colour was perfect, the flow just right. It was one of those warm summer mornings; dragonflies whirred by; skylarks were chirruping high in the sky and there was the sweet, agreeable smell of newly mown hay.
The previous evening they had collected a bucket full of worms from the local park. They had cut a few of them in half and tossed them into the river, establishing two separate swims from the same peg. The combination of the water conditions, the natural bait and their youthful enthusiasm triggered a feeding flurry. They caught fish all day long, dace; roach; chub; a few small trout; perch; an occasional beautiful grayling. When they let their stick floats drift into the slack water they caught more dace and roach plus some large gudgeon and a few slimy eels; it had turned into a red letter day.
Towards the end of their session, whilst Derek was swigging the last of his bottle of Dandelion and Burdock and finishing an Aztec Bar he’d brought with him, Archie was trotting his stick float as far as he could see, about thirty or forty yards away. He saw the float dip away out of sight and he struck instantly. At first he thought he was stuck on the bottom but soon he realised he was into something big. After several heart-stopping minutes his companion slid the net under a glorious barbel, at 4½ pounds, his biggest yet. As he stared into the landing net at the beautiful bronze flanks, red fins and defiant orange eye of the fish he heard the sound of a fire engine in the distance and looked around to see if he could spot anything but the sound just got louder and louder.
Archie woke from his dream to the noise of his bite alarm beeping away, the mechanism already releasing line to the fish as it battled against the Auto-Play™ device. It took him a few minutes to land the fish, another fifteen pounder; he gazed at it for a long time in the net. The fish was quiet, fin perfect but devoid of expression, its eyes glassy and cold. He returned his last fish of the evening with little feeling of satisfaction and started to pack away. He’d been looking forward to this trip for quite a while but somehow it hadn’t fulfilled his expectations. As he made his way back to the car he couldn’t quite banish the nagging suspicion that he’d actually enjoyed his daydream more than the actual fishing, and he wondered why?