Thursday, 14 December 2017

"The last hurrah!"

I fish in winter for a similar reason to the one that compelled Sir Edmund Hilary to climb Everest: "because it's there." To fish in freezing weather (even with the advantages of modern outdoor clothing) for fish rendered semi-comatose and ill inclined to feed sometimes threatens my self definition as a "pleasure angler", but I resolutely determine to be a year round angler out of a mixture of obduracy and the belief that to only fish in sunny weather is to be a dilettante, "someone who fishes" as opposed to a "fisherman" or an "angler".
And so it was, that in the company of regular angling companions Pete, Greg, David and Roger, I arrived at the small pool on a day when the finger-like branches of the trees stretched and reached, bare of leaves and  naked, for the hazy grey of the winter's sky. The previous night had seen a flurry of snow, in a week when snow was becoming monotonously predictable, and the first challenge presented to us on arriving at the lake was finding it entirely frozen over, which ensured that the day's first task was to break enough of the ice to create a small fishable area for each of us. It didn't take the wisdom of Walton, the intuition of Chris Yates or the technical ability of Martin Bowler to realise that  the next few hours were going to prove unremittingly challenging from a piscatorial perspective.

Roach were the target, with optimism and realism vying for supremacy in our spirits, as we tackled up in the early morning chill. Pete and I shared a swim and managed to create enough clear water to drop our light waggler rigs into the alarmingly clear water, although the shadow created by the marginal overhanging branches looked likely to provide some sense of security and cover  for any fish that might be in the area.

David, Pete and Greg had also won their own minor battles with the ice that fringed the margins, and with just enough water to present a bait in they, like me and Pete sat and waited (and waited), enjoyed the snowy grandeur of the rural backdrop and attempted to stare motionless floats into disappearance.

And then the unthinkable happened. The thin insert tip of my waggler danced and shuddered as a prerequisite to slowly and deliberately sinking beneath the surface , and my sharp flick of the wrist was met with the unmistakeable wriggling sensation of a hooked fish. I suspect that I was more surprised by the float's disappearance than the fish was to find a hook in its lip, and in seconds a miniscule perch was in my hand. Certainly no leviathan or giant of the deep, but success in angling is always relative, and in the hostile climactic conditions the juvenile stripy I was clutching felt like a hard-earned triumph.

When all's said and done, we all fish for different reasons. Some to catch fish, others to find an existential peace that's hard to find elsewhere amid the chaos of modern life, some to chase PB's and monsters that they then reduce to a number on a set of scales. I've fished for and landed some sizeable fish over the years, many of which I have a photographic record of, all of which are etched in my memory, but these days I fish for the pleasure of using aesthetically pleasing vintage tackle, for the challenge of pitting my wits against any fish, but most of all to enjoy the beauty of God's rich creation and the company of my fishing friends, and today's session was more about the latter than any of the former. Mince pies, bacon butties, cigars for some (I plead "guilty") and good coffee were shared, and conversation sat lightly in the frosty air.

Mine, unsurprisingly in view of the temperature and extreme conditions, was the only fish caught, and the quality roach that inhabit the lake, and which we caught aplenty on our last visit in September, were entirely conspicuous by their absence, however, the camaraderie and scenery more than compensated for the non-compliance of the water's piscine inhabitants, and the curtain was brought down on another angling year, and with hope springing eternal we left the lake talking about our plans for 2018.
I don't want to give too much away, but "Fenland pike: you have been warned- we're coming for you."

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