Thursday, 11 August 2016

Fishing "where the heart is"

To William Blake it was a "green and pleasant land", for Shakespeare's John of Gaunt "this other Eden" and after a week on holiday in France I was itching to reacquaint myself with the English countryside in the best possible way, by sitting next to a green and pleasant tree lined lake and chasing a few of Eden's fish.
With a busy first week back at work, time was at a premium and so, accompanied by my son and daughter, it was off to Beeby, one of my favourite local lakes, and one that over the years has proved generous in giving up its fish.

In the event, the fishing was a disappointment, but the evening itself was thoroughly enjoyable. Although James regularly accompanies me on my angling travels, Ruth (once an enthusiastic angler) has discovered a plethora of other ways of enjoying her spare time, and so her company on the bank was a rare occurrence to be cherished.

The plan- to the extent that there was one- was for Ruth and James to pole fish with maggots for whatever was biting, while I would float fish with worms and sweetcorn with the intention of sorting out the larger fish. To complete the piscine assault a Method rod was cast a couple of rod lengths out with the agreement that if the bite alarm sounded we'd take it in turns to play any fish that had engulfed the banded pellet, although the eventual non-compliance of the carp and silence of the bite alarm rendered the agreement unnecessary.

Ruth and James were soon swinging in a succession of small, but greedy, perch and rudd with the bristles of their pole floats dipping and disappearing with great rapidity. My floatfished worm approach, as anticipated, saw a slower response from the fish but failed to provide the improvement in size and quality of fish caught that the size 12 hook and lobworm was intended to ensure. Small perch have large mouths and even bigger appetites, and a procession of juvenile stripeys set about the task of reminding me of said facts to my increasing frustration.

Switching to sweetcorn proved unsuccessful. The bait, so successful on my last visit when it accounted for a nice carp as well as a decent haul of silver fish couldn't raise even the slightest of trembles on the float. Worms continued to provide small perch, interspersed by the occasional roach or rudd of equally unimposing stature.

After just over three hours of fishing, and with dusk approaching we decided to accept defeat with as much grace as we could muster. Sometimes, as the Old Testament prophet Zechariah said, it's best "not to despise the day of small things", and although the fish we'd caught were indisputably small, they were each of them perfectly formed, and we'd enjoyed a splendid evening in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.

Henry David Thoreau reckoned that "some men fish their entire lives without realising it wasn't the fish that they were really after", and while I suspect that even he would admit that without fish the pastime would lose the major part of its enduring appeal and raison d'etre , the fact is that there's a whole load more to fishing than the capture of finned creatures of leviathanesque proportions. Time spent in special places with special people is its own reward, and tonight the fish were incidental to the enjoyment. Like the prophet said small isn't to be despised, and as the old adage has it "small can be beautiful." Tell you what, though: while all of that is true and central to my own fishing creed, I'm hoping for bigger when I visit the famous Marsh Farm fishery in Surrey next month. Even my magnanimity has its limits.


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