Caught by the River

Imaginary Bodies of Water

Ben Myers | 2nd March 2008

Soon enough, at a time not recorded in any diary, I began to see bodies of water that weren’t even there. Everywhere I went: flat surfaces like ponds and pools. Imaginary bodies of water.

They began to appear in the most unexpected places at times completely unconnected to fishing trips. Remember: I had a life outside of fishing. Remember: fishing only occupied 1% of my time but was beginning to occupy approximately 83 – 97% of my thoughts. In fact the further I was away from a fishing trip, the more I began to see these imaginary bodies of water. I was being haunted by twenty-first century water, but in a good way.

Maybe I’d be taking an overground train into the centre of London and down below amongst the tower blocks and the cluttered high streets something would catch my eye. An empty concrete yard tucked behind a scrap metal yard like a company imaginary body of water. But of course I wouldn’t see the scrap yard or the barking dogs guarding it – all I would see was the flat grey pool of solidified concrete like an unknown pond in the midst of the city, its surface only broken by a cluster of weeds poking through the cracks like reeds that disguise a school of perch below. And I would catch myself wondering whether that barren concrete yard in an area populated by one person ever square mere was fish-able.

I’d speculate as to what lay beneath that placid surface, by which train the grey surface that looked golden and shimmering to my fish-drunk eyes would be out of sight and every time I went past it again on the train it would have returned to its original form: a concrete tucked by a scrap yard guarded by barking dogs that would take your arm off at the shoulder as much as sniff your rapidly retracting balls.

Or maybe I’d be driving on the motorway and squinting through the blinding flash of the sunlight in my eyes I’d see a vast and empty industrial estate of metal corrugated buildings nestled up close to series of flat tarmac ponds where no-man would be foolish enough to set up his rod. At 70 mph with the wind in my hair and the radio tuned to songs conducive to the open road I’d see secret network of roads and forecourts and loading bays laid by Irish labourer hands in the 1970s now reinvented as secret water ways available to only the most imaginative of fishermen. And there I would temporarily drift into the outside lane of the motorway, my mind lost in this illusion of secret fishing spots.

Or maybe I’d be walking along a busy shopping street – any busy shopping street – and I would find myself stopping at road works to lean over the plastic barriers and peer into a hole in the road dug by workers laying cables to siphon television into the homes of the paying masses to see if there were fish circulating silently in that there hole.

I even considered carrying a hook-laden line with sinker in my back pocket in case I came across other such spots in amongst the urban sprawl which, to my eyes, was punctuated by prime spots that other people just couldn’t see. They couldn’t see them because they didn’t fish and therefore didn’t have the ability to see beyond the everyday façade of concrete, tarmac, glass and steel of the modern world.

It was as if fishing had given me the key to the fourth dimension and once laid upon my hand that key silently spoke the following words to me: go forth and find a hole. Sink and a line there and you will find peace and happiness and tranquillity. You may not find fish but you will find something equally as gratifying – maybe even more so.

To which I replied: Thank you, I might just do that, and went about my daily business with an added spring in my step, satisfied that good fishing existed in the mind as much as it did on the banks of a river crowded with bank holiday anglers

Taken from a work-in-progress by Ben Myers. Ben’s second novel The Missing Kidney is published Spring 2008 by Social Disease