With a plop, my bait is swallowed by the murk. This is what I have been missing. This is what no amount of peering into pools and gazing into brooks has been able to replace. No matter that the sound was far too loud, my technique too unpractised and clumsy. The quarry may all have fled, but at least I am finally fishing.
Throughout the lockdown, fishing is what I have missed the most. People who don’t like to fish are prone to question the purpose of disturbing the peace of a river or lake by casting a line into it. Why, they ask, can’t you just look at it? For the past three months I have put this question to the test. Banned from fishing as well as everything else, I have been walking. Often my walks have taken me past ponds and streams, and I spent happy hours plotting and planning where I might fish. But I have been nothing but a spectator, unable to penetrate the sparkling surface and interact with the alien corner of creation that lies beneath.
Today I am a spectator no longer. As the water closes over my lure, my senses descend with it, intruding into a world that is so close yet never seen. The retrieve brings the lure to life, twitching and twirling in mimicry of an injured fish. In my mind I watch as it glides past logs, plunges through reed beds and slips under snaking tendrils of water crowfoot. For a hopeful moment I imagine the scrutiny of a perch, all sergeant-major stripes and prickly fins, as the bait flickers past its lair. In reality, as it nears the bank I spot the lure and nothing but a cloud of tiny minnows following in its wake, perhaps concerned to see one of their fellows in distress. At least I’ve managed to fool them.
Having thrashed the water long enough, I move on. My friend in the neighbouring swim has caught a nice chub, stoking the embers of optimism. We walk on together, always keeping half an eye on the river, hunting out the next likely spot. We see an egret and it sees us, waiting until we are unbearably close before lifting off the river and onto an overhanging ash, from which it urges us to move along. A grass snake, enormous by the standards of its kind, ripples across our path. Do these things usually happen when out for a walk? To me, at any rate, they only happen when I’m out fishing. And there’s the answer to that question: I can’t “just look” at the water, because if I just look, I don’t see nearly so much.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.