There is an idea that we can only ever ‘live’ in the past. In the fractions of milliseconds it takes our brain to process the present, that moment we were in has already gone. It seems like the present but it’s a memory of it. I like that notion.
This week I made my first cast into a river I had wanted to fish ever since I was a small child. On the day the conditions were pretty horrendous. For fishing that is. It was cold. One of those colds that seem to cut straight through you. Later, as a gentle but northerly wind sprang up, the mercury plummeted even further. The rivers’ water was pure and clear. I could see for feet down into the deep margins. A heavy mist hung around all day. The tiny water droplets of which softened the edges of the drenched trees and completely masked more distant objects. It was just me and a section of river. Upstream and downstream, whatever I imagined them to be. Only to be proved or disproved by walking further. Leaving one perfect scene behind for another.
I was here to fish of course but by now catching had become secondary. Maybe even further away than that. Tertiary? I had minimal tackle with me and just one bait. Cheesepaste. A bait befitting of the setting and one so linked with the species I hoped to catch. Chub. I knew that my tactics would have to be adapted slightly on a river much larger than my usual small river haunts. The river a merciless stealer of lead that ‘wanders’ in the flow. Time to find a weight that would just hold bottom then. I began by presenting a generous lump of paste a third of the way across the river, just out of the main flow. With a generous bow let out the lead held no problem and I was confident I would not fall foul to its snags. But would the rig be a delicate enough presentation for wary chub? Would I get a bite at all? The prospect of not getting one didn’t disappoint. I was totally in awe of this beautiful river and the conditions I had first witnessed it in. Happy with the presentation, for now at least, I settled into my chair. Time to keep a steady supply of warm coffee coming and hide away behind layers of warm clothing.
The afternoon flew by. As is often the case when you are lost in a moment. A long moment, I concede. I was really enjoying the ambience of the place. I felt at home as soon as I arrived. A few casts had been made to the same spot on the crease in the interim. I was sure it would hold a chub or two but no signs had materialised. In between I dreamt of the fish I hoped to catch on future visits. Brassy chub and powerful, autumn barbel. Dace and roach aplenty and maybe a winter pike or two. For now though these ideas were simply that. Ideas. First, I would have to build up a better knowledge of the rivers moods and idiosyncrasies. I would have to experience it in drought and in flood. In Winter and in Summer. It is something I am looking forward to embracing. Just before dusk one of these daydreams was rudely interrupted by a savage pull on the quiver tip. Followed by a much more pronounced movement in the same direction a second later. It felt like a shadow of me that made the strike. My first fish. Both of the day and from the river. A very plump and welcomed chub.
With the chub returned and the rod re-cast, the night quickly took over. All too quickly everything was plunged into darkness. Time to enjoy another hour or so soaking up the atmosphere, whilst secretly hoping for the rod tip to pull around once more. It never moved though and that was quite ok by me. My day had already been made. Not so much by the capture of the chub but the way the late afternoon sun illuminated its flank in an orange warmth. In stark contrast to the steely blue hue of the cold, clear water. It was the fly angler I had spotted wading in amongst the rapids and the mist on my arrival. It was planning how to catch the special fish I know will create future memories. It was the slight panic as I tried to find my way back to the car in the dark on this unfamiliar stretch.
Did I say unfamiliar? Well, maybe a little less so than it had been just a few hours ago.
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