Friday, August 14, 2009

Now, then, forever

Driving across the flatlands I turned one of the many ninety degree bends and ran straight into a wave of overwhelming nostalgia. On my left was field of half-dried hay being turned in the late summer sun. The grass lying like a loosely thrown duvet over the ground. The next sharp bend turned right before I could change up a gear and there was a wheat field, motionless. The early evening light throwing the Naples Yellow ears into chequerplate relief.

Nostalgia for England is not Bob Cratchet in the snow or Heathcliff on the rain-lashed moor, it's Constable, Housman and larks ascending in the brief, nameless period of low sun and still air between summer and autumn. I don't remember which route I took to the river. I was lost somewhere in the past that was also the now.

The river was flowing peacefully when I arrived to fish a spot EH had shown me on Tuesday. It had the vibe and I wanted to try it out. After struggling through the vegetation I took my time getting set up. A quick lead around and I knew it would be snaggy. Big rocks in the margins and cobbles on the river bed. With the flow pushing through under the rod ends I droppered out some pellets. I was trying a different rod for this. I was hoping that the nine footer would double as a rod for tight swims. It was a bit lacking for the dropper. Back to the drawing board - or I should say the blank pile.

Even while I was baiting up the mallards arrived. Not my friends from downriver, a more bolshy bunch. I chucked a couple of broken boilies in and the ducks dived for them. Bang went that idea. With the baits in place I sat down for the inevitable PVA bag tying session. The warm evening made this a piece of cake. Although not hot I was able to sit out in shirtsleeve order until gone eight. By which time the rod tips had already started twitching to the attentions of chub. I didn't expect any real action until the light had gone.

The swim was a comfortable one, and as I was sat a few feet above the waterline, fishing close in, I was able to keep the rods low. This positioned the tips at eye level, preventing neck ache, and the isotopes glowed brightly against the silhouette of the opposite bank as dusk turned to night proper. When the bite came I wasn't expecting it.

The downstream reel buzzed wildly and I found myself playing the fish before I knew what was going on. The marginal boulders made for a tense, interesting fight. I managed to clamber down to the water's edge and with the fish beaten drew it safely over the rocky jumble into the net. A fish of six or seven pounds was unhooked in the river and swam slowly back over the ledge to deeper water.

More taps and twitches were coming to both rods. It was almost an hour later when the upstream rod slack-lined repeatedly. This was no barbel, no chub either, but an eel. It was flicked off the hook into the water.

A clear blue evening sky heralded a starry night. And a starry night would mean a drop in air temperature that would allow a river mist to form. I was surveying the river for mist - a killer of sport - which was light and sparse, when I glanced upstream and saw the moon's orangey glow through the leaves of an ash, I think it was an ash, on the far bank. Not quite a half moon, not quite a crescent. A Samuel Palmer moment and the nostalgia swirled round me. The polythene wrapped silage bales opposite seemed as timeless as standing stones.

By eleven thirty the mist was thickening. For the first time this season my toes were feeling chilly. I tidied my gear away without interruption, climbed the grassy bank and loaded the car.