Caught by the River

The First Snows of Winter

John Andrews | 21st November 2007


the dog days of autumn are upon us, all the leaves nearly down and me and john richardson are out looking for roach on redundant chalkstreams. the carriers chucking it through and on the main river the flow slowing to a trotless halt. the roach we want so far out of reach, every handful of maggots attacked by starving trout careering out from under the bank. we fished 1930’s hardy roach rods and cursed the lack of coarse fish in a managed river. the water meadows like the commandant’s garden. we took a sackful of grayling on goose quills and left before sunset.

just beyond the imaginot line the pike bung factory is in full swing waiting for the big push come december 1st, every window in the allcocks advent calendar opening to reveal a transfer covered gazette bung in a new colour or a ripple where one has gone under. the whole world pike fishing in a tree with a partridge rod and a wire trace like a russian noose. mackerel heads wrapped in silver paper and hung on the tree, the conifers in the woods on frensham common dressed with candles, carols played on hunting horns by bivvy boys gone native on magic mushrooms. darkness at noon, starlings flocking and the brown jawed predator with its deathly smile lying up in the reeds.

at the weekend up to ludlow d and i went for the last big antique tackle auction of the year. through herefordshire into country where the hedgerows stand ten feet tall and the grass grows down the middle of the road. drinking hobsons mild and aspinall’s pilchard oil in pubs called the one eyed swan and listening to tales of salmon poaching and the last hangman in england. on sunday it started snowing at one and we left at six, the car laden with pheasants and japanned boxes full of treasure. into the ever whitening night the snow intensifying. we made it as far as clee hill before we turned back but the road back to ludlow was blocked so we took our last route out south and just made it before the roads froze and the lights went out on four thousand homes. back home over the cherwell and the kennet to a london that had been flooded by the low. behind us in the blackness, an ice fringed shropshire mere where at the stillest point of the night a float moved by the reeds.

dream of ted hughes’ pike on the birdtable