It was a very late afternoon in November, a gloomy day and rather waterlogged affair, each footstep accompanied by muddy slurps and the constant search for balance as I slid my way to the riverbank.
The river swollen, a multitude of currents, debris dancing back and forth as if possessed, forced to dance a savage ballet before disappearing downstream. Swims that were once visible are now submerged and almost unrecognizable save for the landmarks an angler stores at the back of his mind.
Every so often I stop to fixate upon the river and ruminate a while, in some swims this is more protracted than others, I begin to talk to myself, thought processes tumbling from my lips as I reason with choice, taking time to debate my options almost to the point of argument.
Further downstream I find the area I'm looking for, a bottleneck with numerous bits of debris clinging to a tired looking tree, the current weakened by one of natures natural barriers. I slowly take my time to settle in the swim and despite trying to be as silent as possible, I'm still a bit too bearish for my liking. Eventually I'm at peace, listening to the rush of water on a rising river in the darkness, as time passes my mind begins to fill with colourful thoughts of barbel snuggling up under the tree roots in front of me, I savour this thought, lingering on each vivid
detail, for those roots are where my bait is placed and along with it a modicum of hope.
Late evening the rain finally abates, clouds melting away to reveal a blue canvas dappled by numerous stars, my breath now visible, thick plumes rising up, every exhalation illuminated by the light of a lopsided moon. A warming is called for, a short rummage around and the pungent smell of stewed coffee is wafting invitingly under my nose, I'm soon heated from the core outward.
An owl appears out of nowhere and attempts to land in the tree next to me, pulling up in close proximity above my head, we startle one and other, eventually settling in a tree on the opposite bank. It's safe to say our feathers are equally ruffled, it stays for a while, perhaps to look across enquiringly at the rotund intruder into its world and then vanishes, leaving only the sound of wing-beats in its wake.
By now the rod tip is rocking back and forth in slow agreement almost admitting that it has become something akin to a washing line, debris strewn along its length, another nod soon follows, but this one does not exhibit the same repetition, it lurches forward and springs back into position, my digits twitch uncontrollably, urging me to ready myself, my more verbal half muttering to remain calm and reign in the building adrenaline. The moments that follow all melt into one as the hook is set and that intense connection between angler and fish is made. Powerful runs follow, each one aided by the swollen waterway, I find myself trying to swallow, a few hasty gulps are taken but no saliva is forthcoming. I move further down the bank to gain a better angle, palpitations follow as vibrations from unseen obstacles travel along the rod length, a swirl mid-water reveals a good fish and all types of possible disaster scenarios begin toying with my mind.
After what feels like far too long she slips into the waiting net, my nervous energy is all but expended and I find myself fighting back a rising urge to retch. After much recuperation, needed more for this angler than the fish, I calm myself and peer into the net, it's an old friend, a visitor I had during summer and in fine fettle she looks too.
|15.6 personal best|
As I pack up the river is still rising, the colour becoming thicker and like something you might pour over a sunday roast, not to matter though for here it is all gravy.